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Comparative effect size distributions in strength and conditioning and implications for future research: a meta-analysis.

Swinton, Paul Alan; Murphy, Andrew



Controlled experimental designs are frequently used in strength and conditioning (S&C) to determine which interventions are most effective. The purpose of this large meta-analysis was to quantify the distribution of comparative effect sizes in S&C to determine likely magnitudes and inform future research regarding sample sizes and inference methods. Baseline and follow-up data were extracted from a large database of studies comparing at least two active S&C interventions. Pairwise comparative standardised mean difference effect sizes were calculated and categorised according to the outcome domain measured. Hierarchical Bayesian meta-analyses and meta-regressions were used to model overall comparative effect size distributions and correlations, respectively. The direction of comparative effect sizes within a study were assigned arbitrarily (e.g. A vs. B, or B vs. A), with bootstrapping performed to ensure effect size distributions were symmetric and centred on zero. The middle 25, 50, and 75% of distributions were used to define small, medium, and large thresholds, respectively. A total of 3874 pairwise effect sizes were obtained from 417 studies comprising 958 active interventions. Threshold values were estimated as: small = 0.14 [95%CrI: 0.12 to 0.15]; medium: 0.29 [95%CrI: 0.28 to 0.30]; and large = 0.51 [95%CrI: 0.50 to 0.53]. No differences were identified in the threshold values across different outcome domains. Correlations ranged widely (0.06 ≤ r ≤0.36), but were larger when outcomes within the same outcome domain were considered. The finding that comparative effect sizes in S&C are typically below 0.30 and can be moderately correlated has important implications for future research. Sample sizes should be substantively increased to appropriately power controlled trials with pre-post intervention data. Alpha adjustment approaches used to control for multiple testing should account for correlations between outcomes and not assume independence.


SWINTON, P.A. and MURPHY, A. 2022. Comparative effect size distributions in strength and conditioning and implications for future research: a meta-analysis. SportRxiv [online]. Available from:

Deposit Date Jan 30, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2023
Keywords Sample size; Power; S&C; Applied statistics; Bayesian
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