Bloomfield, J., Blanksby, B. A., Ackland, T. R., & Elliott, B. C. (1985). The anatomical and physiological characteristics of pre-adolescent swimmers, tennis players and non-competitors. The Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17, 19-23.

Children (7-12 years of age) comprising competitive swimmers (N = 37), tennis players (N = 61), and non-competitive individuals (N = 104) were matched according to socio-economic status. Each child was measured for morphology, body composition, joint mobility, isometric strength, lung function, and physical exercise capacity. The three groups were compared over age and gender classification.

Competitors did not differ to non-competitors in height, body mass, body composition, somatotype, forced expiratory volume in the first second, or flexibility scores. Competitive swimmers were superior in leg-extension strength but not in other strength measures and were superior in forced vital capacity and the PWC170 test.

Implication. In pre-adolescent individuals, stage of development, physical size, body shape, body composition, and flexibility do not discriminate between high or low levels of performance. That only one strength measure produced a significant difference in swimmers suggests that strength development in pre-adolescent children is not a highly profitable activity. Development of skill would be a better program emphasis.

The better endurance capacities of swimmers indicated that it is endurance which should be the emphasis of age-group training programs as opposed to flexibility and strength. The lack of an endurance emphasis in tennis did not produce any endurance development over that which existed in non-competitive individuals.

For many years investigators have suggested that endurance training in pre-adolescents produces a greater increase in the size of the cardiorespiratory system organs than training later in life. [Astrand, P. O., Engstrom, L., Eriksson, B. O., Karlberg, P., Nylander, I., Saltin, B., & Thoren, C. (1963). Girl swimmers. Acta Pediatrica Scandinavica, Supplement 147; and Eriksson, B. O. (1972). Physical training, oxygen supply and muscle metabolism in 11-13 year old boys. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, Supplement 384.]

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