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Kinesiology Graduate Student Challenges Perceptions, Wins Award for Outstanding Research

Tyler MoffitAs an undergraduate student athlete on Cal State Fullerton’s Track and Field team, Tyler Moffit wondered if his passion for strength training gave him an edge on the track. Today, the kinesiology graduate student is sharing the results of his master’s thesis that disputes long-standing views on how runners and other endurance athletes should train for their sport.

In recognition of the scholarly excellence of his study, Moffit was awarded the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects’ 2018 Outstanding Student Scholarly or Creative Activities Award. The award is presented to one undergraduate and graduate student per college who are working independently or in collaboration with a faculty member.

“I like to work hard, so the award came as a bit of a surprise. It’s an honor to be recognized for my work, and it’s great for the sports community as well,” says Moffit.

HHD Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Dr. Derek Pamukoff oversaw Moffit’s master’s thesis. Their partnership began more than two years ago when Moffit served as an undergraduate research assistant on a study that examined how strength, gait, and running mechanics contribute to knee osteoarthritis in individuals with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Moffit co-authored papers published in the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American College of Sports Medicine’s Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and other scholarly journals. He also co-wrote numerous abstract presentations.  

“I would not have been able to conduct this and related projects without Tyler’s contributions,” says Pamukoff. “The quantity and quality of Tyler’s work is reflected in the presentations and publications that are coming from these projects. In 2017, his research was recognized with an award from one of our major professional organizations – the American College of Sports Medicine Biomechanics Interest Group.”

Moffit’s master’s thesis set out to understand how strength affects performance and injury risk for long distance runners. Using the skills he honed collaborating with Pamukoff and other HHD faculty, Moffit prepared all of the testing methodology and associated documentation. He also led participant recruitment—collegiate track and field athletes from Cal State Fullerton and local Division 2 and 3 schools—and conducted all data collection and analysis in HHD’s biomechanics laboratory.

HHD Biomechanics LabResults of the study show that runners with greater lower body power, specifically runners with greater back squat strength, record faster finish times. Their forms parallel the running mechanics of runners who are less likely to suffer injuries on the track. These findings challenge the widely held view that maximal strength and resistance training are not necessary in the exercise regimens of runners and other endurance athletes.

Moffit’s findings also have substantial implications for injury prevention and performance enhancement among elite and recreational runners.

“We often compartmentalize ‘cardio’ and ‘strength’ training as if they should be separate. However, the reality is that maximal strength is still important even for endurance activities like distance running. Tyler’s findings emphasize that improving strength may be useful for all runners,” says Pamukoff.

In addition to his work with Pamukoff, Moffit collaborates with HHD kinesiology faculty on performance testing for the Anaheim Ducks’ and the Los Angele Sherriff’s department. This semester, he was tapped by Cal State Fullerton’s strength and conditioning coach Isaac Salazar to design a training program for the University’s Track and Field team. Moffit teaches undergraduate kinesiology classes between research projects, coaching duties, and his graduate coursework.

“One of my mottos through grad school has been ‘when the opportunity comes up, take it and worry about other things later.’ We have one of the best kinesiology programs on the West Coast, so this motto has given me the chance to do some really cool things,” says Moffit.