The question of when an athlete hits their peak has been much debated for many years because there are examples of elite and amateur competitors enjoying the most successful periods of their careers at each end of the spectrum and everywhere in between.
Knowing when that might be can be useful in developing long-term training strategies.
There are, however, various sources of well-researched data available that points to common points in life when best results are generally achieved.
A review carried out in New Zealand that was published back in 2015, for example, explored a huge amount of estimates about the age at which elite athletes peak, and asserted ages for a number of different disciplines in swimming and athletics.
For sprints, jumps, and throws, men and women hit their peak around 25 years of age while triathletes peak at 27.
The longest endurance events profiled an older age though, with marathoners peaking at 30 and 29 for men and women respectively while Ironman athletes hit their prime even older at 32 and 34.
In terms of strength, it is generally accepted that muscle mass naturally declines over the age of 40, and the evidence seems to suggest 25 is when athletes are at their strongest.
Research from the University of Toronto found exactly that, and suggested that
there is a plateau in strength around 35-40 before an accelerating decline.
By 65, the study found strength declines by 25 per cent.
But there is still hope for older athletes. The statistics won’t be true for every individual. In fact, American journalist Brett Bercovici is a champion of the theory that prime age in sport is becoming older because of developing technologies.
“We’re living at a really interesting moment,” he said in an interview with The Verge in 2018. “We’re seeing the Tom Bradys and Serena Williams and we’re saying how amazing it is that they’re doing what they’re doing.
“Of course it makes sense that older athletes are better. The advantages that accrue from experience and maturity are so great that if you can subtract physical decline from the equation - or push back that horizon - it makes sense that the best players are going to be 35 or 40.”