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Physiological Determinants of Exercise Performance

Module titlePhysiological Determinants of Exercise Performance
Module codeESS3707
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Bert Bond (Convenor)

Professor Francis Stephens (Lecturer)

Professor Andy Jones (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The principle objective of this module is to provide a detailed and critical review of the physiological factors that determine, and thus limit, exercise performance in humans. During the module you will analyse the factors related to peripheral and central fatigue that ultimately limit exercise performance across the duration-intensity spectrum. You will also critically examine the physiological mechanisms by which pacing strategies, ergogenic aids and training interventions (e.g., traditional aerobic or resistance based training, high-intensity interval training, and blood flow restriction) can lead to improved exercise performance. You will then evaluate how healthy ageing and the stresses placed on the respiratory system play a major role in exercise limitation in humans, before you explore the effect of extreme environments (e.g., heat, high-altitude and space) on exercise performance. You will also develop practical laboratory based data collection, handling and analysis skills during this module. The Stage 2 module, Exercise Physiology (ESS2001) is a pre-requisite.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your understanding of the key physiological determinants of exercise in healthy humans. The majority of material delivered in the lecture sessions will be research lead. That is, each lecture will provide a detailed and critical review of a factor (or factors) that affect performance in the context of the most relevant and recent scientific literature.

The module also has an applied focus and aims to provide a critical examination of how the theory matches the practice. In particular, the module aims to develop your practical data collection, data management and data analysis skills through your involvement in the laboratory based practical experiments that focus on directly assessing one or more of the factors that affect performance identified during the lecture sessions.

On completion of this module you are expected gain and develop the following skills:

  • Team work through involvement in the laboratory sessions and the formative assessment task
  • Critical application of knowledge in the interpretation of data collected for the laboratory report (formative & summative assessment)
  • Strategic thinking and problem solving in designing data collection.
  • Build confidence as a communicator in discussing own experiments and scientific literature in seminar settings.
  • Interpersonal skills in communicating with peers and module teaching team.
  • Data collection, management and analysis management skills
  • To effectively communicate complex physiological concepts through the writing of short scientific laboratory reports (formative and summative assessment)

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and explain the concept of peripheral and central fatigue
  • 2. Critically evaluate the key physiological determinants of athletic performance
  • 3. Conduct a laboratory-based experiment assessing exercise performance
  • 4. Synthesise, integrate and critically interpret experimental data you have collected

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Analyse and evaluate new experimental data objectively
  • 6. Extensively read and critically interpret research literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Work within a laboratory setting as part of a team
  • 8. Plan and implement a scientific investigation, analysing data and solving problems
  • 9. Take responsibility for own learning and own data collection, and develop independent thinking, time-management and prioritisation

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to the module
  • Physiological models of fatigue; peripheral fatigue
  • Physiological models of fatigue; central fatigue
  • Enhancing exercise performance: critical power
  • Enhancing exercise performance: prior exercise and pacing
  • Enhancing exercise performance: traditional vs. new training strategies
  • Exercise limitation in extreme environments: temperature
  • Exercise limitation in extreme environments: altitude
  • The physiological challenges of space flight
  • Enhancing exercise performance: ergogenic aids
  • Effect of ageing and disease on exercise and sport performance
  • What can we learn from animals: adaptive physiology

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lead lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Laboratory practical and seminar sessions
Guided Independent Study40Preparation for weekly lectures and seminars through reading journals, textbooks and/or web based resources
Guided Independent Study66Completion of formative assessment and preparation for summative assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Laboratory report (written summary of experiment conducted in the laboratory practical sessions – small group based work)600 words3-9Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual laboratory report401500 words3-9Written
Examination602 hours1-2, 6, 9Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual laboratory reportIndividual laboratory report3-9August/September assessment period
ExaminationExamination1-2, 6, 9August/September assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Tipton CM, Sawka MN, Tate CA & Terjung RL (Ed) (2006) ACSM’s Advanced Exercise Physiology.  Lippincott Williams & Williams.
  • Hargreaves M & Hawley J (2003). Physiological Bases of Sports Performance. McGraw-Hill Companies

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Human performance, exercise limitation, fatigue, extreme environments

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

ESS2001 Exercise Physiology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date