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Study information

Physiological Determinants of Exercise Performance

Module titlePhysiological Determinants of Exercise Performance
Module codeESS3707
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Bert Bond (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


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 disease may play a major role in exercise limitation in humans, before you explore the effect of extreme environments (e.g., heat, high-altitude and space) as well as the potential impact of sleep on exercise performance. You will also develop critical thinking skills in order to consider the weight of evidence behind certain interventions for the promotion of exercise performance. Specifically, you will learn to identify what is, and what is not, known regarding priming interventions for acute ergogenic benefit, and consider how to formulate and answer a pertinent research question in this field as part of your coursework. This summative work will also involve data handling, analysis, interpretation and dissemination. 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. Scheduled lectures may be replaced by short pre-recorded videos for each topic (i.e. 20 minutes) and/or brief overview lectures delivered via MS Teams/Zoom. Lecture material will be consolidated by self-directed learning resources and activities, as well as synchronous (“live”) seminars performed either online or in class where appropriate. The module will include at least one hour of synchronous teaching activities per week on average.

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 critical thinking, data management and data analysis skills through your involvement in a series of seminars designed to guide you through the scientific research process from conception to completion.

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

  • Team work through involvement in the coursework seminar sessions and the formative assessment task
  • Critical application of knowledge in the interpretation of data provided 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 management and analysis 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. Synthesise the available evidence and identify a pertinent research question regarding priming and 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. Defend a protocol design form a conceptual and practical standpoint
  • 8. Plan 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

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
  • Sleep and exercise performance
  • 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 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 Teaching22Seminar 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 experimental data – 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
Examination603 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
  • Williams and Ratel (2009). Human Muscle[PH1]  Fatigue. Routledge.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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