Using Submaximal Exercise Heart Rate for Monitoring Cardiorespiratory Fitness Changes in Professional Soccer Players: A Replication Study

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To assess the value of monitoring changes in fitness in professional soccer players, using changes in heart rate at submaximal intensity (HR12km/h) over the velocity at a lactate concentration of 4 mmol/L (v4mmol/L). The authors reexamined (1) a range of threshold magnitudes, which may improve detecting substantial individual changes and (2) the agreement between changes in these 2 variables. Methods: On at least 2 occasions during different moments of the season, 97 professional soccer players from Germany (first, second, and fourth division) completed an incremental test to determine HR12km/h and v4mmol/L. Optimal thresholds for changes in HR12km/h and v4mmol/L were assessed, using various methods (eg, smallest worthwhile change + typical error [TE], successive reiterations approach). Agreement between both variable changes was examined for the whole sample (225 comparisons), 4 different subgroups (depending on the moment of the season), and in an individual over 6 years (n = 23 tests). Results: Changes of 4.5% and 6.0% for HR12km/h and v4mmol/L, respectively, were rated as optimal to indicate substantial changes in fitness. Depending on the (sub)groups analyzed, these thresholds yielded 0% to 2% full mismatches, 22% to 38% partial agreements, and 60% to 78% full agreements in terms of fitness change interpretation between both variables. Conclusions: When lactate sampling during incremental tests is not possible, practitioners willing to monitor adult professional soccer players’ (Germany; first, second, and fourth division) training status can confidently implement short, 3-minute submaximal runs, with 4.5% changes in HR12km/h being indicative of true substantial fitness changes, with 60% to 78% accuracy. Future studies should investigate the potential role of confounding factors of HR12km/h to improve changes in fitness prediction.

Altmann is with the TSG ResearchLab gGmbH, Zuzenhausen, Germany. Altmann and Neumann are with the Dept for Performance Analysis, Inst of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Inst of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. Neumann is also with the Inst of Movement and Sport, University of Education Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany. Härtel is with the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Zuzenhausen, Germany. Woll is with the Dept for Social and Health Sciences in Sport, Inst of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Inst of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. Buchheit is with the Performance Dept, Paris Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.

Altmann (stefan.altmann@tsg-researchlab.de) is corresponding author.
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