Sports Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 15, pp 1035–1050 | Cite as

Single-Subject Research Designs and Data Analyses for Assessing Elite Athletes’ Conditioning

  • Taisuke Kinugasa
  • Ester Cerin
  • Sue Hooper
Leading Article


Research in conditioning (all the processes of preparation for competition) has used group research designs, where multiple athletes are observed at one or more points in time. However, empirical reports of large inter-individual differences in response to conditioning regimens suggest that applied conditioning research would greatly benefit from single-subject research designs. Single-subject research designs allow us to find out the extent to which a specific conditioning regimen works for a specific athlete, as opposed to the average athlete, who is the focal point of group research designs. The aim of the following review is to outline the strategies and procedures of single-subject research as they pertain to the assessment of conditioning for individual athletes. The four main experimental designs in single-subject research are: the AB design, reversal (withdrawal) designs and their extensions, multiple baseline designs and alternating treatment designs. Visual and statistical analyses commonly used to analyse single-subject data, and advantages and limitations are discussed. Modelling of multivariate single-subject data using techniques such as dynamic factor analysis and structural equation modelling may identify individualised models of conditioning leading to better prediction of performance. Despite problems associated with data analyses in single-subject research (e.g. serial dependency), sports scientists should use single-subject research designs in applied conditioning research to understand how well an intervention (e.g. a training method) works and to predict performance for a particular athlete.


Randomisation Test Elite Athlete Serial Dependency Multiple Baseline Design Imagery Training 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge Professor Will G. Hopkins, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, for his invaluable contribution to this manuscript.

The authors have provided no information on sources of funding or on conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Movement StudiesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Population HealthThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science ResearchQueensland Academy of SportSunnybankAustralia

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