The Effect of Arm and Body Position on Respiratory Ventilation in High School Athletes: A Pilot Study

in International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training
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  • 1 Institute for Scholastic Sports Science and Medicine
  • | 2 Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
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A commonly encountered clinical scenario in athletic training is determining what body position is best for pulmonary recovery after strenuous training. Coaches often advise athletes to put their hands behind their heads following rigorous training, but this practice has no scientific support.


The purpose of this study is to determine how arm and body position affects ventilation in high school athletes. Our hypothesis is that a position in which the athlete is bent forward with the hands on the knees maximizes ventilation.


Case series.


Seventeen healthy members of a high school track team, 8 females and 9 males with a mean age of 16.3 years (range: 14.6–18.5 years), performed a maximal voluntary ventilation (MVV) test using a portable spirometer in three different positions: standing with (1) hands behind the head, (2) arms at the sides, and (3) leaning forward with hands resting on the knees.


The MVV performed with hands on knees (120.2 ± 5.9 L/min) was significantly higher than the MVV performed with hands at sides (109.3 ± 7.0 L/min; p = .004) and with hands behind head (114.1 ± 5.9 L/min; p = .03). The MVV performed with hands behind head and with arms at side did not differ significantly (p = .20).


This is the first study examining the best body position to maximize ventilation in athletes. Leaning forward and placing the hands on the knees led to a significantly greater MVV compared with standing with the arms at the side and standing with the hands behind the head.