The long-term athlete development model: physiological evidence and application

J Sports Sci. 2011 Feb;29(4):389-402. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.536849.


Within the UK, the "Long Term Athlete Development" (LTAD) model has been proposed by a variety of national governing bodies to offer a first step to considering the approach to talent development. The model, which is primarily a physiological perspective, presents an advancement of understanding of developing athletic potential alongside biological growth. It focuses on training to optimize performance longitudinally, and considers sensitive developmental periods known as "windows of opportunity". However, it appears that there are a number of problems with this theoretical model that are not necessarily transparent to coaches. Principally, the model is only one-dimensional, there is a lack of empirical evidence upon which the model is based, and interpretations of the model are restricted because the data on which it is based rely on questionable assumptions and erroneous methodologies. Fundamentally, this is a generic model rather than an individualized plan for athletes. It is crucial that the LTAD model is seen as a "work in progress" and the challenge, particularly for paediatric exercise scientists, is to question, test, and revise the model. It is unlikely that this can be accomplished using classical experimental research methodology but this should not deter practitioners from acquiring valid and reliable evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Sports / physiology*