Why is Peak Height Velocity important for athletic development?
Before, during, and after PHV there appears to be certain periods in time in which young athletes are more sensitive to particular types of training (e.g. strength, speed, hypertrophy) (9). These time periods have previously been referred to as “windows of opportunity” (10), though this term has caused some degree of turmoil amongst exercise scientists as it implies these opportunities can be missed, thus suggesting that athletes may miss a vital opportunity to maximise their athletic potential. It also suggests that there is a ceiling for athletic potential, and if these windows are missed, then that ceiling may be lower than if they were to train throughout that time.
Put simply, it suggests that athletes who exploit these “windows of opportunity” have a higher ceiling for their athletic potential than those who do not – though this does not appear to be true (1). Consequently, this has led to the development of the term “periods of accelerated adaptation” (1), as this suggests these time periods are simply opportunities for athletes’ to make greater improvements in athleticism than otherwise possible. These periods of accelerated adaptation have many implications for training programme design, including training content, intensity, volume, frequency, periodisation, coaching style, and training group segregation.
Therefore, it is believed that calculating a child’s onset of PHV can enable the strength and conditioning coach or sports scientist to tailor the training programme in synchronisation with the athlete’s biological age as opposed to their chronological age – this may result in a better suited and more effective training programme (1). For example, evidence has suggested that preadolescents benefited most from training modes which require a high-levels of neural activation (sprint training and plyometrics), whereas adolescents responded better to training types which target both neural and structural development (strength training and plyometrics) (11).
It is also relatively well-understood that adolescents respond more favourably to muscle hypertrophy training than preadolescents due to the higher concentrations of certain hormones – namely testosterone and growth hormone (12, 13). Furthermore, upon the onset of the adolescent growth spurt, boys typically experience greater maturational improvements in all aspect of fitness than girls (e.g. strength and power) – except from flexibility (14). Providing these ‘periods of accelerated adaptation’ truly exist, they would help sports scientists to maximise the physical capacity/potential of their athletes’.
Though this information expresses some of the primary factors associated with the PHV and its importance to athletic development, it does not discuss how training should be manipulated in order to optimise athletic development. For a more in-depth discussion on that topic click here to read about youth strength & conditioning.