A scientific study of trials athletes

Trials is a relatively recent sport, compared to other cycling disciplines such as road biking or XC. This is obvious in various aspects, one of which is scientific research on both the bicycle and the athlete. However, something is starting to move in our world too!

In this article, I present the data obtained from a series of jump tests carried out on athletes of the Italian national trials team. I carried out the tests in October 2019 at the occasion of the world cup stage in Il Ciocco, Italy.

Comparing trials to other sports
The main objective of the study (you can find the complete paper here: https://efsupit.ro/images/stories/november2019/Art%20316.pdf) was to compare the results obtained by trials athletes to those from other sports, the tests also provided important information regarding the jumping ability, explosive strength and reactive strength of our athletes.

How the tests were done
The tests carried out were the squat jump (to assess explosive strength) and the countermovement jump (to assess reactive strength), data were acquired using Optojump technology, a tool designed specifically for this type of test.

A few clarifications
Allow me just a little clarification on the difference between explosive and elastic strength. The explosive strength is what we express starting from a fixed position, therefore from a standstill (Squat jump, SJ, in the graph below), while the reactive strength usually requires a loading movement to exploit the elastic energy that accumulates in the muscles (Counter movement jump, CMJ, in the graph below). To be precise, in the connective structures such as the tendons. To give an example, the explosive strength is what we use when performing a start from the blocks in athletics, while the reactive strength is what we use when performing a sidehop in trials

From the collected data we have discovered that trials athletes have good strength (explosive and reactive) and as we can also see from the graphs, they are very similar to volleyball athletes.

Trials athletes have good jumping skills
It must be said that often research does not discover anything new and simply serves to quantify and confirm what were previously opinions, in short, as long as we do not verify something experimentally, it remains a simple “for me, it works like this”, after which if the studies confirm the hypothesis, it becomes “it works like this!”. This is just to say that we have always thought that a trials athlete had good jumping skills, but it had never been measured how good.

How to use this knowledge?
What do we do with this information now? Basically testing athletes give us information on their physiological characteristics, in this case, thanks to these tests we started to collect information on the strength characteristics in the lower limbs and this translates to “if the elite Italian athletes have certain characteristics, it means that if you want to compete at that level you have to have those characteristics”.

Obviously excelling in a sport is not just a matter of strength, competing at high levels requires a mix of both physical and mental characteristics in the right doses, which contribute to making the champion. So in the future, it may be interesting to be able to perform the same tests on other high-level athletes to compare the data and perform further different tests in order to get a more complete picture of the characteristics of the high-level trials athlete.

I discovered trials in 2007 and since then I have been passionate about it. I do research on human movement and in this way, I want to make my contribution to the development of this sport.

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