Cardiff Metropolitan University
20240520_Jonpaul_Nevin_PhD_Thesis_FINAL.pdf (2.59 MB)

The optimisation of competitive recumbent handcycling performance

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posted on 2024-06-04, 13:51 authored by Jonpaul Nevin


Handcycling has become a popular recreational and competitive form of Para-cycling. Like their abled-bodied cycling counterparts, competitive handcyclists continue to explore ways by which to gain a performance edge. Whilst our collective understanding as to the influence of handbike design and configuration, handcycling technique, and the physiological determinants of competitive handcycling has improved over the past 20-years, there still remains several gaps in our scientific knowledge as to the most effective approach by which to optimise handcycling performance capabilities. Therefore, the following PhD thesis summarises five thematically linked publications, and two related conference presentations which aimed to investigate the development and implementation of appropriate training interventions designed to enhance the performance of recumbent handcyclists across the spectrum of competitive events including road races, time-trials, and ultra-endurance challenges. Publication 1 (Chapter 3) represents a pilot research project which aimed to investigate the effectiveness of concurrent strength and endurance training on handcycling performance. Whilst demonstrating that concurrent training was more effective than endurance training alone this study generated several pertinent research questions. These included what are the physiological determinants of real-world handcycling performance? What is the relationship between upper-body strength and handcycling performance? and would a long-term concurrent training intervention elicit greater improvements in performance capabilities? To address these questions Publication 2 (Chapter 4) and Publication 3 (Chapter 5) build upon the published literature and identify the physiological determinants of handcycling performance. However, for the first time in the literature these studies also investigate the relationship between upper-body strength measures, anaerobic capacity and identified determinants of handcycling performance. Based upon these findings Publication 4 (Chapter 6) reports upon the effectiveness of a 30-week concurrent training program based upon a block periodisation model. Furthermore, this study reports the performance profile of an elite handcyclist during a 1407-km ultra-endurance handcycling challenge. Building upon this body of work, Publication 5 (Chapter 7) represents a holistic narrative review led by the author and written in conjunction with a group of international researchers in the field of handcycling. This piece aims to translate handcycling specific research and provide useful insights to riders, coaches and sports scientists as to the history of handcycling, functional classification levels, handbike configuration, the physiological determinants of handcycling performance, and the best approach by which to develop handcycling performance capabilities. In summary, the body of work presented within this PhD thesis has added to our collective knowledge in regard to understanding the physiological determinants of handcycling performance including the importance of quantifying anaerobic capacity and upper-body strength. Furthermore, from an applied perspective the work presented demonstrates that concurrent strength and endurance training based upon a block periodisation model appears to be an effective approach by which to develop both TT and ultra-endurance handcycling performance. Taken collectively this knowledge adds to the existing body of literature and will positively impact upon the ability of riders, coaches, and sport scientists to optimise recumbent handcycling performance capabilities. Future studies should aim to use classifiable handcyclists with the intent of translating their findings to the wider handcycling community with the goal of not only enhancing handcycling performance but also improving the functional capabilities of a valued but often under represented section of society. 



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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