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Durability and Underlying Physiological Factors: How Do They Change Throughout a Cycling Season in Semiprofessional Cyclists?

Jens G. Voet, Robert P. Lamberts, Aitor Viribay, Jos J. de Koning, and Teun van Erp

Purpose: To investigate how cycling time-trial (TT) performance changes over a cycling season, both in a “fresh” state and in a “fatigued” state (durability). Additionally, the aim was to explore whether these changes are related to changes in underlying physiological factors such as gross efficiency, energy expenditure (EE), and substrate oxidation (fat oxidation [FatOx] and carbohydrate oxidation [CarbOx]). Methods: Sixteen male semiprofessional cyclists visited the laboratory on 3 occasions during a cycling season (PRE, START, and IN) and underwent a performance test in both fresh and fatigued states (after 38.1 [4.9] kJ/kg), containing a submaximal warm-up for the measurement of gross efficiency, EE, FatOx, and CarbOx and a maximal TT of 1 (TT1min) and 10 minutes (TT10min). Results were compared across states (fresh vs fatigued) and periods (PRE, START, and IN). Results: The average power output (PO) in TT1min decreased (P < .05) from fresh to fatigued state across all observed periods, whereas there was no change in the PO in TT10min. Over the course of the season, the PO in TT1min in the fatigued state improved more compared with the PO in TT1min in the fresh state. Furthermore, while EE did not significantly change, there was an increase in FatOx and a decrease in CarbOx toward the fatigued state. These changes diminished during the cycling season (IN), indicating a greater contribution of CarbOx in the fatigued state. Conclusions: TT1min performance is more sensitive to fatigue compared with TT10min. Also, during a cycling season, durability improves more when compared with fresh maximal POs, which is also observed in the changes in substrate oxidation.

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Relationship Between External Training Load and Session Rating of Perceived Exertion Training Impulse in Elite Sprinters

Matthew Thome, Sophia Nimphius, Matthew J. Jordan, and Robin T. Thorpe

Purpose: To quantify the change in session rating of perceived exertion training impulse (RPE-TRIMP) that may occur in response to increased running distance at 3 running velocity ranges in elite sprinters. Methods: We monitored training load in elite sprinters (women: n = 7; men: n = 11) using wearable Global Positioning System technology and RPE-TRIMP for a total of 681 individual training sessions during a 22-week competition-preparation period. Internal training load was operationalized by RPE-TRIMP, and external training load was operationalized by distance covered in 3 velocity ranges. A linear mixed-effects model with athlete as a random effect was fit to RPE-TRIMP with total distance covered at ≤69.99% (low-velocity running [LVR]), 70% to 84.99% (high-velocity running [HVR]), and 85% to 100% (very-high-velocity running [VHVR]) of individual maximum velocity. Results: Increased running distance in all 3 velocity ranges (LVR, HVR, and VHVR) resulted in a significant (P < .001) increase in RPE-TRIMP. Coefficients (95% CIs) were .10 (.08–.11) for LVR, .23 (.18–.28) for HVR, and .44 (.35–.53) for VHVR. A 50-m increase in running distance covered in the LVR, HVR, and VHVR velocity ranges was associated with increases in RPE-TRIMP of 5, 11.5, and 22 arbitrary units, respectively. Conclusions: Internal training load, calculated as RPE-TRIMP, increased with increases in total distance covered in the LVR, HVR, and VHVR velocity ranges (P < .001). RPE-TRIMP can be a practical solution for monitoring global training-session load in elite sprinters.

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Sex Differences in Self-Reported Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery Strategies Associated With Underperformance in Endurance Athletes

Aarón Agudo-Ortega, Rune Kjøsen Talsnes, Hanna Eid, Øyvind Sandbakk, and Guro Strøm Solli

Purpose: This study investigated sex differences in self-reported causes, symptoms, and recovery strategies associated with underperformance in endurance athletes. Methods: A total of 82 athletes (40 women) meeting the inclusion criteria (performance level ≥tier 3, used training diaries, and experienced 1 or more periods of underperformance during their career) completed an online questionnaire. The questionnaire encompassed inquiries regarding load monitoring and experiences with underperformance, focusing on causes, symptoms, and recovery strategies. Results: The most frequently reported symptoms associated with underperformance included psychological (31%), physiological (23%), and health-related (12%) symptoms. Notably, female athletes were more likely to report psychological symptoms associated with underperformance (38% vs 25%, P = .01) compared with male athletes. The leading causes of underperformance comprised illness (21%), mental/emotional challenges (20%), training errors (12%), lack of recovery (10%), and nutritional challenges (5%). Female athletes reported nutritional challenges more frequently as the cause of underperformance compared with males (9% vs 1%, P = .01), whereas male athletes more often attributed underperformance to training errors (15% vs 9%, P = .03). Overall, 67% of athletes reported recovering from underperformance, with a tendency for more male than female athletes to recover (76% vs 58%, P = .07). Furthermore, a higher proportion of male than female athletes reported implementing changes in the training process as a recovery strategy (62% vs 35%, P = .02). Conclusions: This study offers valuable insights into sex differences in experiences with underperformance in endurance athletes. The findings could inform coaches and athletes in both the prevention and treatment of such incidents.

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Single Session Intermittent Heat Exposure With More Frequent and Shorter Cooling Breaks Facilitates Greater Training Intensity and Elicits Physiological Responses Comparable to Continuous Heat Exposure

Julian A.P. Ramos, Kagan J. Ducker, Hugh Riddell, Grant Landers, Olivier Girard, and Carly J. Brade

Purpose: To investigate the influence of shorter, more frequent rest breaks with per-cooling as an alternative heat-acclimation session on physiological, perceptual, and self-paced maximal cycling performance, compared with continuous heat exposure. Methods: Thirteen participants completed 1 continuous and 3 intermittent-heat-exposure (IHE) maximal self-paced cycling protocols in a random order in heat (36 °C, 80% relative humidity): 1 × 60-minute exercise (CON), 3 × 20-minute exercise with 7.5-minute rest between sets (IHE-20), 4 × 15-minute exercise with 5-minute rest between sets (IHE-15), and 6 × 10-minute exercise with 3-minute rest between sets (IHE-10). Mixed-method per-cooling (crushed-ice ingestion and cooling vest) was applied during rest periods of all IHE protocols. Results: Total distance completed was greater in IHE-10, IHE-15, and IHE-20 than in CON (+11%, +9%, and +8%, respectively), with no difference observed between IHE protocols. Total time spent above 38.5 °C core temperature was longer in CON compared with IHE-15 and IHE-20 (+62% and +78%, respectively) but similar to IHE-10 (+5%). Furthermore, a longer time above 38.5 °C core temperature occurred in IHE-10 versus IHE-15 and IHE-20 (+54% and +69%, respectively). Sweat loss did not differ between conditions. Conclusion: IHE with per-cooling may be a viable alternative heat-acclimation protocol in situations where training quality takes precedence over thermal stimulus or when both factors hold equal priority.

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Physiological Profiles of Male and Female CrossFit Athletes

Gommaar D’Hulst, Deni Hodžić, Rahel Leuenberger, Janik Arnet, Elena Westerhuis, Ralf Roth, Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss, Raphael Knaier, and Jonathan Wagner

Objective : To (1) establish extensive physiological profiles of highly trained CrossFit® athletes using gold-standard tests and (2) investigate which physiological markers best correlate with CrossFit Open performance. Methods : This study encompassed 60 participants (30 men and 30 women), all within the top 5% of the CrossFit Open, including 7 CrossFit semifinalists and 3 CrossFit Games finalists. Isokinetic dynamometers were employed to measure maximum isometric and isokinetic leg and trunk strength. Countermovement-jump height and maximum isometric midthigh-pull strength were assessed on a force plate. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) was measured by a cardiopulmonary exercise test, and critical power and W′ were evaluated during a 3-minute all-out test, both on a cycle ergometer. Results: Male and female athletes’ median (interquartile range) VO2peak was 4.64 (4.43, 4.80) and 3.21 (3.10, 3.29) L·min−1, critical power 314.5 (285.9, 343.6) and 221.3 (200.9, 238.9) W, and midthigh pull 3158 (2690, 3462) and 2035 (1728, 2347) N. Linear-regression analysis showed strong evidence for associations between different anthropometric variables and CrossFit Open performance in men and women, whereas for markers of cardiorespiratory fitness such as VO2peak, this was only true for women but not men. Conventional laboratory evaluations of strength, however, manifested minimal evidence for associations with CrossFit Open performance across both sexes. Conclusions : This study provides the first detailed insights into the physiology of high-performing CrossFit athletes and informs training optimization. Furthermore, the results emphasize the advantage of athletes with shorter limbs and suggest potential modifications to CrossFit Open workout designs to level the playing field for athletes across different anthropometric characteristics.

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Cardiorespiratory Markers Relate to Change-of-Direction Performance During Incremental Endurance Tests and Friendly Matches in Professional Male Handball Players

Leonard Achenbach, Christoph Zinner, Florian Zeman, and Matthias Obinger

Purpose: To compare the standard Yo-Yo intermittent recovery (IR) test and an agility Yo-Yo IR test with a higher number of change-of-direction movements to cardiorespiratory match performance. Methods: The study included 11 professional male handball players (age 24.5 [4.6] y) of a German second-league team. The performance parameters of the players of the seasons 2016–17 to 2018–19 were analyzed. The Yo-Yo IR test was compared to a Yo-Yo IR test with multiple multidirectional changes of direction in response to visual stimuli, which was conducted on a SpeedCourt (Yo-Yo SC IR). Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and maximum heart rate (HRmax) were measured. Between-methods differences of individual athletes were quantified with Bland–Altman plots. Results: HRmax was not statistically different during the Yo-Yo SC IR test compared to the Yo-Yo IR test (181 [10] vs 188 [8] beats·min−1; P = .16). Agreement between the 2 tests was moderate for HRmax and good for heart rates >180 beats·min−1. Mean average VO2peak was 51.7 (3.9) and 50.9 (2.8) mL·min–1·kg–1 for the Yo-Yo SC IR test and the Yo-Yo IR test (P = .693), respectively. Conclusions: A Yo-Yo test with multidirectional changes of direction in response to visual stimuli yielded good agreement with the frequently used linear running tests and can be used to assess players’ VO2peak. The HRmax achieved during this test should be used with caution.

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Reliability of Three Landmine-Punch-Throw Variations and Their Load–Velocity Relationships Performed With the Dominant and Nondominant Hands

Dan Omcirk, Tomas Vetrovsky, Cian O’Dea, Alan Ruddock, Daniel Wilson, Jan Maleček, Jan Padecky, Martin Tino Janikov, and James J. Tufano

Purpose: This study assessed the reliability and load–velocity profiles of 3 different landmine-punch-throw variations (seated without trunk rotation, seated with trunk rotation, and standing whole body) with different loads (20, 22.5, and 25.0 kg), all with the dominant hand and nondominant hand. Methods: In a quasi-randomized order, 14 boxers (24.1 [4.3] y, 72.6 [10.1] kg) performed 3 repetitions of each variation with their dominant hand and their nondominant hand, with maximal effort and 3 minutes of interset rest. Peak velocity was measured via the GymAware Power Tool (Kinetic Performance Technologies). The interclass correlation coefficients and their 95% CIs were used to determine the intrasession reliability of each variation × load × hand combination. Additionally, a 2 (hand) × 3 (variation) repeated-measures analysis of variance assessed the load–velocity profile slope, and a 3 (variation) × 2 (hand) × 3 (load) repeated-measures analysis of variance assessed the peak velocity of each variation. Results: Most variations were highly reliable (intraclass correlation coefficient > .91), with the nondominant hand being as reliable or more reliable than the dominant hand. Very strong linear relationships were observed for the group average for each variation (R 2 ≥ .96). However, there was no variation × hand interaction for the slope, and there was no main effect for variation or hand. Additionally, there was no interaction for the peak velocity, but there were main effects for variation, hand, and load (P < .01). Conclusion: Each variation was reliable and can be used to create upper-body ballistic unilateral load–velocity profiles. However, as with other research on load–velocity profile, individual data allowed for more accurate profiling than group average data.

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The Role of Musculoskeletal Training During Return to Performance Following Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport

Richard C. Blagrove, Katherine Brooke-Wavell, Carolyn R. Plateau, Carolyn Nahman, Amal Hassan, and Trent Stellingwerff

Background: Relative energy deficiency in sport (REDs) is a condition that is associated with negative health and performance outcomes in athletes. Insufficient energy intake relative to exercise energy expenditure, resulting in low energy availability, is the underlying cause, which triggers numerous adverse physiological consequences including several associated with musculoskeletal (MSK) health and neuromuscular performance. Purpose: This commentary aims to (1) discuss the health and performance implications of REDs on the skeletal and neuromuscular systems and (2) examine the role that MSK training (ie, strength and plyometric training) during treatment and return to performance following REDs might have on health and performance in athletes, with practical guidelines provided. Conclusions: REDs is associated with decreases in markers of bone health, lean body mass, maximal and explosive strength, and muscle work capacity. Restoration of optimal energy availability, mainly through an increase in energy intake, is the primary goal during the initial treatment of REDs with a return to performance managed by a multidisciplinary team of specialists. MSK training is an effective nonpharmacological component of treatment for REDs, which offers multiple long-term health and performance benefits, assuming the energy needs of athletes are met as part of their recovery. Supervised, prescribed, and gradually progressive MSK training should include a combination of resistance training and high-impact plyometric-based exercise to promote MSK adaptations, with an initial focus on achieving movement competency. Progressing MSK training exercises to higher intensities will have the greatest effects on bone health and strength performance in the long term.

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Volume 19 (2024): Issue 6 (Jun 2024)

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A Biopsychosocial Framework for Sport Science: “A Jack of All Trades Is Oftentimes Better Than a Master of One”

Kerry McGawley