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Adrien M. Buttram – Student, University of North Georgia

Robert L. Herron – Doctoral Student, United States Sports Academy

Supriya G. Reddy – Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia

Jason C. Casey, PhD, CSCS*D – Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia


Body size and composition are important anthropometric and physiological components of physical fitness that influence athletic performance and health. However, limited research is available examining longitudinal changes of body composition during preparatory and competitive seasons in female athletes, especially female NCAA gymnasts. PURPOSE: The intent was to assess longitudinal body composition and anthropometric changes in female NCAA Division-1 gymnasts over the course of two preparatory and competitive seasons. METHODS: Ten (n = 10) female, NCAA gymnasts (Mean ± SD; Age: 19 ± 1 y, Height: 158.5 ± 5.0 cm) participated in this study. Participants visited the laboratory seven times over the course of two preparatory and competitive seasons. Season one consisted of measurements in August (A1), October (O1), January (J1), March (M1). Season two had measurements in September (S2), November (N2), and February (F2). Each visit, body weight (BW), body fat percentage (BF%), fat mass (FM), and fat-free mass (FFM) were measured using air displacement plethysmography (BODPOD). Changes in each variable were analyzed with repeated measures analysis of variance and, as needed, post-hoc Fisher’s Least Significant Difference (LSD). RESULTS: Body size and composition values can be found in Table 1. BW significantly increased between A1 and O1 (p = 0.008) but subsequently remained constant thereafter. FFM significantly increased from A1 to O1 (p < 0.001) and from O1 to N2 (p = 0.045). There were no other statistical differences found. CONCLUSIONS: This investigation indicated that female Division-1 gymnasts observed an increase in BW during the preparatory season, primarily due to an increase in FFM. Furthermore, FFM increased from the preparatory phase of season one to the preparatory phase of season two without a statistically significant change in any other metric. BF% and FM remained unchanged throughout both seasons. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Monitoring longitudinal changes in body composition can be useful for athletes and strength and conditioning specialists. Over the course of multiple seasons, gymnasts can be expected to maintain their FM and BF% while increasing BW and FFM.


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