It has been acknowledged throughout sporting research that movement adaptability in training can be favorable providing it allows for consistent performance outcomes. Sian Barris and colleagues touched on this theoretical concept in their earlier study in springboard diving (see link for overview).
However, as a practitioner or coach, you may be thinking: Can I apply the theoretical concept of movement adaptability in the real-world training environment?
Having observed that elite springboard divers in Australia traditionally removed movement variability in training, this study investigated if elite divers could functionally adapt their training behaviours rather than baulk.
Baulking is when a diver aborts a dive after walking onto the board (hence, they do not complete the aerial somersault of the dive). In competition, divers are penalised for baulking. For this reason, divers might attempt a dive in competition that they would otherwise baulk during training.
This study sought to encourage divers to complete dives in training regardless if the board walk felt imperfect (providing it was safe to do so). The aim was to introduce the notion of functional variability in training.
A 12-week intervention program was designed, with performance assessed pre-training and post-training. Performance of each elite athlete were monitored to record any baulks that occurred during training.
Following training, divers were able to adapt their board walk for the reverse-dive take-off while maintaining stable performance outcomes (e.g. good entry in the water). There was also an increase in the number of completed dives, a decrease in the number of baulked take-offs, and greater stability of performance outcomes. These findings also coincided with greater consistency in training dives scored by qualified judges.
The findings suggest that divers should practice dives regardless of how they feel during the board walk. In doing so, divers are likely to learn to functionally adapt their movements for any situation, which should be beneficial when performing in competition.
Barris, S., Farrow, D., & Davids, K. (2014). Increasing functional variability in the preparatory phase of the takeoff improves elite springboard diving performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85(1), 97-106.