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Preparatory heart rate deceleration occurs in tasks with an external focus of attention and is often assumed to facilitate balance performance. However, its effects upon sport-related complex balance movements have not been studied. Heart rate patterns during the preparation period of an acrobatic element (flic-flac) on the balance beam were studied in 14 female gymnasts (M age 13.2 years). A significant heart rate deceleration was found in attempts with a fall in the consecutive acrobatic element, but not in attempts without a fall. These data suggest that preparatory heart rate deceleration may be detrimental to the performance of complex movements on the balance beam.
Cottyn, De Clercq, and Lenoir are with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, and Crombez is with the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Services, Department of Experimental, Clinical, and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.