Our quest for evidence: the evidence-based practice straightjacket

By Ian Jeffreys, University of South Wales

*Ian is professor of strength and conditioning at the University of South Wales, and the proprietor and performance director of All-Pro Performance. He is a former board member of the UKSCA and an assessor and tutor with the Association. He is currently a board member of the NSCA


Throughout its evolution, the fitness industry has always had an element of commercialisation and experimentation attached to it. Consequently, although many effective training protocols have emerged from this, there have also been many questionable approaches: some weird and wonderful pieces of equipment promising the world have emerged, often failing to deliver any worthwhile results and subsequently rapidly falling out of fashion to be replaced by the next big thing.
If the strength and conditioning profession was to be different and grounded in best practice, it was clear that there needed to be a concerted effort to put the industry on a more scientific standing. Science held the answer and the concept of evidence-based practice (EBP) has become totemic as a way of ensuring that methodologies used in the industry have a sound grounding in evidence.
Undoubtedly, this has been a major step forward for the industry, enabling practitioners to increasingly utilise methods that have a proven scientific basis.

However, whenever a method is introduced into the world, there are often unintended consequences, many of which could not have been foreseen when the original idea was mooted. In this way, although EBP and the development of strength and conditioning as an academic subject has produced a much more robust industry, and one built on a relatively sound theoretical basis, there have been some less than positive effects. This article questions whether an unintended
consequence of the development of EBP and the increasingly academic nature of the profession is that it has unwittingly created a straitjacket to original thought and to creative solutions on an individual, organisational and even a whole profession basis.

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Our Quest for evidence the evidence based practice straight-jacket