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Classifying Winning Performances in International Women’s Rugby Union

Georgia A. Scott, Ollie Edwards, Neil E. Bezodis, Mark Waldron, Eifion Roberts, David B. Pyne, Jocelyn Mara, Christian Cook, Laura Mason, M. Rowan Brown, and Liam P. Kilduff

Purpose: The efficacy of isolated and relative performance indicators (PIs) has been compared in rugby union; the latter more effective at discerning match outcomes. However, this methodology has not been applied in women’s rugby. The aim of this study was to identify PIs that maximize prediction accuracy of match outcome, from isolated and relative data sets, in women’s rugby union. Methods: Twenty-six PIs were selected from 110 women’s international rugby matches between 2017 and 2022 to form an isolated data set, with relative data sets determined by subtracting corresponding opposition PIs. Random forest classification was completed on both data sets, and feature selection and importance were used to simplify models and interpret key PIs. Models were used in prediction on the 2021 World Cup to evaluate performance on unseen data. Results: The isolated full model correctly classified 75% of outcomes (CI, 65%–82%), whereas the relative full model correctly classified 78% (CI, 69%–86%). Reduced respective models correctly classified 74% (CI, 65%–82%) and 76% (CI, 67%–84%). Reduced models correctly predicted 100% and 96% of outcomes for isolated and relative test data sets, respectively. No significant difference in accuracy was found between data sets. In the relative reduced model, meters made, clean breaks, missed tackles, lineouts lost, carries, and kicks from hand were significant. Conclusions: Increased relative meters made, clean breaks, carries, and kicks from hand and decreased relative missed tackles and lineouts lost were associated with success. This information can be utilized to inform physical and tactical preparation and direct physiological studies in women’s rugby.

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Performance Science Domains: Contemporary Strategies for Teams Preparing for the Rugby World Cup

Liam P. Kilduff, David B. Pyne, and Christian J. Cook

Purpose: As the start of the 10th Rugby Union World Cup approaches, performance staff will be working on the final elements of their teams’ preparation. Much of this planning and preparation will be underpinned by the latest performance science research. In this invited commentary, we discuss contemporary performance science research in rugby union centered around 4 key performance domains. First, we outline a systematic approach to developing an overall understanding of the game demands and how performance staff can enhance the players’ preparedness for competition. We then move on to outline our understanding of the training science domain, followed by a brief overview of effective recovery strategies at major tournaments. Finally, we outline research in the area of competition-day strategies and how they can positively impact players’ readiness to compete. Conclusions: Evaluating a team’s preparation for the Rugby Union World Cup can be achieved by mapping their performance plan based on the 4 domains outlined above.

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The Physical Preparation of Players for the Rugby World Cup

David B. Pyne, Christian J. Cook, and Liam P. Kilduff

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Erratum. Hematological Adaptations Following a Training Camp in Hot and/or Hypoxic Conditions in Elite Rugby Union Players

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

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Change-of-Direction and Deceleration Deficits in National-Team Female Rugby Sevens Players: Interrelationships and Associations With Speed-Related Performance

Tomás T. Freitas, Lucas A. Pereira, Santiago Zabaloy, Pedro E. Alcaraz, Ademir F.S. Arruda, Valter P. Mercer, Chris Bishop, and Irineu Loturco

Purpose: To investigate the relationships between a series of direct and indirect measures of linear and multidirectional speed performance in elite female rugby sevens players. Methods: Nineteen players from the Brazilian national team performed 40-m linear sprint and 505 change-of-direction (COD) tests on the same day. Based on the linear sprint and COD test performances, the COD deficit (CODD) and deceleration deficit (DD) were also obtained. A Pearson product–moment correlation analysis was used to determine the relationships between linear sprint and COD-derived variables. Results: Linear sprint and 505 COD velocities were not significantly associated (P > .05). Large to very large significant associations (r values ranging from .54 to .78; P < .05) were detected between linear sprint velocity for the different distances tested (10, 15, 30, and 40 m) and CODD. The COD velocity presented a very large inverse significant correlation with CODD and DD (r = −.77 and −.79 respectively; P < .05). A large and significant correlation was identified between CODD and DD (r = .79; P < .05). Conclusions: Significant associations were observed between linear sprint and CODD, suggesting that faster players are less efficient at changing direction. No relationship was found between sprint velocity and DD, highlighting the independent nature of linear sprints and deceleration capabilities. A comprehensive and detailed analysis of multidirectional speed performance should consider not only linear sprint and COD performances but also complementary COD-derived variables such as the CODD and DD.

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Competitive Cross-Country Skiers Have Longer Time to Exhaustion Than Recreational Cross-Country Skiers During Intermittent Work Intervals Normalized to Their Maximal Aerobic Power

Eivind Holsbrekken, Øyvind Gløersen, Magne Lund-Hansen, and Thomas Losnegard

Purpose: To investigate differences in time to exhaustion (TTE), O2 uptake ( V ˙ O 2 ), and accumulated O2 deficit ( O 2 def ) between competitive and recreational cross-country (XC) skiers during an intermittent-interval protocol standardized for maximal aerobic power (MAP). Methods: Twelve competitive (maximal V ˙ O 2 [ V ˙ O 2 max ] = 76.5 ± 3.8 mL · kg 1 · min 1 ) and 10 recreational ( V ˙ O 2 max = 63.5 ± 6.3 mL · kg 1 · min 1 ) male XC skiers participated. All tests were performed on a rollerski treadmill in the V2 ski-skating technique. To quantify MAP and maximal accumulated oxygen deficit (MAOD), the skiers performed a steady-state submaximal test followed by a 1000-m time trial. After a 60-minute break, TTE, V ˙ O 2 , and accumulated O 2 def were measured during an intermittent-interval protocol (40-s work and 20-s recovery), which was individually tailored to 120% and 60% of each subject’s MAP. Results: During the 1000-m time trial, the competitive skiers had 21% (95% CI, 12%–30%) shorter finish time and 24% (95% CI, 14%–34%) higher MAP (all P < .01) than the recreational skiers. No difference was observed in relative exercise intensity (average power/MAP; P = .28), MAOD (P = .18), or fractional utilization of V ˙ O 2 max . During the intermittent-interval protocol, the competitive skiers had 34% (95% CI, 3%–65%) longer TTE (P = .03) and accumulated 61% (95% CI, 27%–95%) more O 2 def (P = .001) than the recreational skiers during work phases. Conclusions: Competitive XC skiers have longer TTE and accumulate more O 2 def than recreational XC skiers during an intermittent-interval protocol at similar intensity relative to MAP. This implies that performance in intermittent endurance sports is related to the ability to repeatedly recharge fractions of MAOD.

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A Systematic Review on the Physical, Physiological, Perceptual, and Technical–Tactical Demands of Official 3 × 3 Basketball Games

Pierpaolo Sansone, Daniele Conte, Antonio Tessitore, Ermanno Rampinini, and Davide Ferioli

Purpose: To systematically review the physical, physiological, perceptual, and technical–tactical demands of official 3 × 3 basketball games. Methods: The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed. Three electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science) were systematically searched to identify studies assessing physical, physiological, perceptual, and technical–tactical demands of 3 × 3 games. Data were also coded according to player sex and tournament phase. Quality assessment of the included studies was performed using a modified Downs and Black checklist. Results: Thirteen articles were finally included, with a mean quality of 8.6 (1.1) out of 11. Three-by-three basketball games have an intermittent profile (1:1 work–rest ratio), with a duration of ∼15 minutes, and are characterized by short (6–8 s) ball possessions and considerable physical (17–33 accelerations, 24–44 decelerations, 62–94 changes of directions, and 17–24 jumps per game) and physiological (lactate: ∼6.2 mmol·L−1) demands. Overall, the game performance profile is similar in males and females, with minor changes happening across tournament phases. Several key technical–tactical indicators were identified as discriminating winning and losing teams, such as better shooting and defensive efficiency, low number of turnovers, and implementing tactical actions involving more players, passing first, and ending possessions with shots from outside of the arch from the top of the key. Conclusions: Three-by-three basketball is an intermittent, physically demanding sport characterized by quick plays and specific tactical constraints. This review provides information that should be considered by performance staff to improve training prescription, game tactical plans, and for player selection and talent identification.

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Enhancing the Initial Acceleration Performance of Elite Rugby Backs. Part II: Insights From Multiple Longitudinal Individual-Specific Case-Study Interventions

James J. Wild, Ian N. Bezodis, Jamie S. North, and Neil E. Bezodis

Purpose: This study implemented 18-week individual-specific sprint acceleration training interventions in elite male rugby backs based on their predetermined individual technical needs and evaluated the effectiveness of these interventions. Methods: Individual-specific interventions were prescribed to 5 elite rugby backs over an 18-week period. Interventions were informed by the relationships between individual technique strategies and initial acceleration performance, and their strength-based capabilities. Individual-specific changes in technique and initial acceleration performance were measured at multiple time points across the intervention period and compared with 3 control participants who underwent their normal training. Results: Of the technique variables intentionally targeted during the intervention period, moderate to very large (|d| = 0.93–3.99) meaningful changes were observed in the participants who received an individual-specific intervention but not in control participants. Resultant changes to the intervention participants’ whole-body kinematic strategies were broadly consistent with the intended changes. Moderate to very large (|d| = 1.11–2.82) improvements in initial acceleration performance were observed in participants receiving individual-specific technical interventions but not in the control participants or the participant who received an individual-specific strength intervention. Conclusions: Individual-specific technical interventions were more effective in manipulating aspects of acceleration technique and performance compared with the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach adopted by the control participants. This study provides a novel, evidence-based approach for applied practitioners working to individualize sprint-based practices to enhance acceleration performance.

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In-Season Resisted-Jump Training Enables Power, Agility, and Jump-Ability Maintenance in University-Level Male Rugby Players

Cobus Oosthuizen and Mark Kramer

Purpose: To determine the effects and transferability of a resisted-jump training program on strength, speed, power, and agility maintenance during the in-season phase of rugby training. Methods: Thirty high-level male rugby players (age: 21.78 [1.86] y; height: 1.83 [0.10] m; mass: 95.17 [10.45] kg) participated in a crossover, within-subject study design. Participants were randomly assigned to treatment groups (resistance band [VertiMax, VM] or control [Con]) and evaluated on jumping, sprinting, agility, and strength over a 4-week period. A 10-week wash-out period was initiated, followed by a crossover that incorporated randomization of the treatment sequence (ie, receiving VM during the first or second phase of the testing period). Within- and between-groups differences for each variable of interest were evaluated using a linear mixed-effects model. Results: No significant treatment (VM vs Con) or time (pre vs postintervention) effects were evident across all variables (all P > .197), although the order or treatment allocation may play a role for strength (P = .037) and jumping (P = .003). Power, agility, and countermovement-jump height were statistically equivalent for the intervention period. Following the VM treatment, changes in strength seem to transfer favorably to changes in agility (r = −.54, P < .05) but no other variables, and no significant associations were evident for the Con treatment. Conclusion: Regardless of treatment, power, agility, and jump height were conserved throughout the treatment period. Although changes in mean sprint and strength were not significantly different from zero, it was not possible to conclude whether performance decrements could be eliminated.

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Hematological Adaptations Following a Training Camp in Hot and/or Hypoxic Conditions in Elite Rugby Union Players

Julien D. Périard, Olivier Girard, Nathan Townsend, Pitre Bourdon, Scott Cocking, Mohammed Ihsan, Mathieu Lacome, David Nichols, Gavin Travers, Mathew G. Wilson, Julien Piscione, and Sebastien Racinais

Purpose: To investigate the effects of a training camp with heat and/or hypoxia sessions on hematological and thermoregulatory adaptations. Methods: Fifty-six elite male rugby players completed a 2-week training camp with 5 endurance and 5 repeated-sprint sessions, rugby practice, and resistance training. Players were separated into 4 groups: CAMP trained in temperate conditions at sea level, HEAT performed the endurance sessions in the heat, ALTI slept and performed the repeated sprints at altitude, and H + A was a combination of the heat and altitude groups. Results: Blood volume across all groups increased by 140 mL (95%CI, 42–237; P = .006) and plasma volume by 97 mL (95%CI 28–167; P = .007) following the training camp. Plasma volume was 6.3% (0.3% to 12.4%) higher in HEAT than ALTI (P = .034) and slightly higher in HEAT than H + A (5.6% [−0.3% to 11.7%]; P = .076). Changes in hemoglobin mass were not significant (P = .176), despite a ∼1.2% increase in ALTI and H + A and a ∼0.7% decrease in CAMP and HEAT. Peak rectal temperature was lower during a postcamp heat-response test in HEAT (0.3 °C [0.1–0.5]; P = .010) and H + A (0.3 °C [0.1–0.6]; P = .005). Oxygen saturation upon waking was lower in ALTI (3% [2% to 5%]; P < .001) and H + A (4% [3% to 6%]; P < .001) than CAMP and HEAT. Conclusion: Although blood and plasma volume increased following the camp, sleeping at altitude impeded the increase when training in the heat and only marginally increased hemoglobin mass. Heat training induced adaptations commensurate with partial heat acclimation; however, combining heat training and altitude training and confinement during a training camp did not confer concomitant hematological adaptations.