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Monitoring Readiness to Train and Perform in Female Football: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Practitioners

Marco Beato, Esben Elholm Madsen, Jo Clubb, Stacey Emmonds, and Peter Krustrup

Purpose: Monitoring player readiness to train and perform is an important practical concept in football. Despite an abundance of research in this area in the male game, to date, research is limited in female football. The aims of this study were, first, to summarize the current literature on the monitoring of readiness in female football; second, to summarize the current evidence regarding the monitoring of the menstrual cycle and its potential impact on physical preparation and performance in female footballers; and third, to offer practical recommendations based on the current evidence for practitioners working with female football players. Conclusions: Practitioners should include both objective (eg, heart rate and countermovement jump) and subjective measures (eg, athlete-reported outcome measures) in their monitoring practices. This would allow them to have a better picture of female players’ readiness. Practitioners should assess the reliability of their monitoring (objective and subjective) tools before adopting them with their players. The use of athlete-reported outcome measures could play a key role in contexts where technology is not available (eg, in semiprofessional and amateur clubs); however, practitioners need to be aware that many single-item athlete-reported outcome measures instruments have not been properly validated. Finally, tracking the menstrual cycle can identify menstrual dysfunction (eg, infrequent or irregular menstruation) that can indicate a state of low energy availability or an underlying gynecological issue, both of which warrant further investigation by medical practitioners.

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Validity and Reliability of Finger-Strength Testing in 6 Common Grip Techniques for the Assessment of Bouldering Ability in Men

Karl Söderqvist, Fredrik Identeg, Jonas Zimmerman, Eric Hamrin Senorski, Mikael Sansone, and Henrik Hedelin

Objective: To determine the criterion validity and test–retest reliability of isometric finger-strength testing in 6 differentiated grip techniques for the assessment of bouldering ability among male climbers. Methods: We recruited participants at climbing gyms in Sweden and through online advertisements. We included climbers over 15 years of age with a minimum bouldering performance level of 17 International Rock Climbing and Research Association (IRCRA) for men and 15 IRCRA for women. We tested unilateral, maximal isometric peak finger strength in the front 3 drag, half crimp, closed crimp, 35 sloper, 45 × 90-mm, and 90 × 90-mm pinch through maximal force deloaded of a force plate. We analyzed criterion validity, test–retest reliability, and capacity to determine bouldering performance ability using a stepwise multivariable regression model. Results: Women were excluded from the analysis due to insufficient sample size (n = 16). Thirty-two male participants were included in the primary analysis. The median (interquartile range) age in the advanced and elite group was 27 (25; 35) and 23 (22; 32) years, respectively. The half crimp for the participants’ weak and strong hand displayed the highest ability to determine bouldering grade performance, explaining 48% to 58% of the variance. In the stepwise regression, maximal strength in the half crimp and the front 3 drag collectively explained 66% of the variance for performance. Conclusion: Strength in the half crimp proved the most important performance indicator. The results of this study provide a reliable and valid framework for maximal isometric peak finger-strength testing in advanced and elite male boulderers.

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Effects of Load and Focus of Attention on Mechanical Parameters During Bench-Press Throw in Resistance-Trained Men

Olaf Prieske, Vidar Andersen, Tom A. Moberg Johansen, and Atle H. Saeterbakken

Purpose: Power output is dependent on the load used during exercise such as bench-press throw (BPT). Attentional focus (external [EXT] vs internal [INT]) during exercise significantly modulates power performance. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of load and attentional focus on mechanical parameters during BPT. Methods: In a crossover study, 31 resistance-trained men (mean age 23.5 [3.0] y) performed BPT at 30% (light), 50% (moderate), and 70% (heavy) of 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) using an INT or EXT focus of attention in randomized order. A linear encoder was used to identify barbell vertical displacement, throw time, peak/average velocity, force, and power during the concentric lifting phase. Results: Statistical analysis revealed significant load × focus interaction effects for velocity and vertical displacement (P ≤ .045; 0.66 ≤ d ≤ 0.89). Post hoc analyses indicated significantly larger velocities and displacements at 30% and 70% of 1-RM in favor of EXT (P ≤ .038; 0.79 ≤ d ≤ 1.13) but similar values at 50% of 1-RM (P > .05). Furthermore, significant main effects of load were found for throw time, force, and power (P < .001; 4.20 ≤ d ≤ 14.0). While time and force gradually increased with higher loads (P < .001; 1.45 ≤ d ≤ 14.0), power output was larger at 50% compared with 30% and 70% 1-RM (P < .001; 3.09 ≤ d ≤ 7.07), irrespective of attentional focus. Conclusions: The present findings indicated that practitioners may use EXT over INT attentional focus to enhance velocity and vertical displacement during BPT at light and heavy loads (ie, 30% and 70% 1-RM). At moderate loads (ie, 50% 1-RM), mechanical bench-press parameters appear to be less affected by attentional focus.

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Relationship Between Objective and Subjective Markers of Muscle Recovery in Professional Handball Players

Alexander-Stephan Henze, Lynn Matits, Jochen Huth, and Frieder Mauch

Purpose: To evaluate the relationship between items of the Short Recovery and Stress Scale (SRSS) related to physical stress and recovery and the biomarker creatine kinase (CK) in professional handball. Methods: CK and SRSS items (physical performance capability, overall recovery, muscular stress, and overall stress) were assessed in an observational study of 16 adult male professional handball players from a team in the highest German league during the 2019–20 preseason. Their preseason training schedule included several microcycles, each consisting of 3 consecutive days of intense training followed by a rest day. On 5 of these rest days, when players were classified as nonrested, and the 5 immediately following days, when players were classified as rested, players completed the SRSS between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, followed by blood sampling. Correlations between SRSS items were performed using Kendall τ. The relationship between each SRSS item and CK levels over time was examined using a mixed-effects model with a random intercept. Results: CK levels and SRSS stress items were significantly higher and SRSS recovery items were significantly lower in nonrested players. SRSS items were significantly positively or negatively correlated (all items: P < .001) and showed a significant effect indicating lower CK levels in rested players (all items: P ≤ .001; η p 2 = .1 .32 ). Conclusions: The investigated SRSS items may be a viable option for assessing muscle recovery in adult male professional handball players in a cost-effective and noninvasive manner. They can be used as a single monitoring tool or as part of a multimodal approach.

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Sleep Quality in Team USA Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Travis Anderson, Natalia Galan-Lopez, Lee Taylor, Eric G. Post, Jonathan T. Finnoff, and William M. Adams

Adequate sleep is crucial for elite athletes’ recovery, performance readiness, and immune response. Establishing reference ranges for elite athletes enables appropriate contextualization for designing and targeting sleep interventions. Purpose: To establish sleep-quality reference ranges for Olympic and Paralympic cohorts using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and explore differences based on sex and sport types. Methods: Team USA athletes (men = 805, women = 798) completed the PSQI as part of a health-history questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were used to create reference ranges and linear models, and χ 2 test of independence determined differences in PSQI global and component scores between sex, games, season, and participation. Results: Six hundred thirty-two (39.43%) athletes reported poor sleep (PSQIGlobal ≥ 5). Men displayed later bedtimes (P = .006), better global PSQI scores, shorter sleep latency, less sleep disturbance, and less use of sleep medication than women (all P < .001). Winter Games participants had later bedtime (P = .036) and sleep offset time (P = .028) compared with Summer Games athletes. Team-sport athletes woke earlier than individual-sport athletes (P < .001). Individual-sport athletes were more likely to have low (P = .005) and mild (P = .045) risk for reduced sleep duration than team-sport athletes. Conclusion: These data provide PSQI-specific reference ranges to identify groups at greatest risk for poor sleep, who may benefit most from targeted sleep interventions.

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Combining Heat and Altitude Training to Enhance Temperate, Sea-Level Performance

Olivier Girard, Peter Peeling, Sébastien Racinais, and Julien D. Périard

Background: Repeated exposure to heat (ie, plasma volume expansion) or altitude (ie, increase in total hemoglobin mass), in conjunction with exercise, induces hematological adaptations that enhance endurance performance in each respective environment. Recently, combining heat and altitude training has become increasingly common for athletes preparing to compete in temperate, sea-level conditions. Purpose: To review the physiological adaptations to training interventions combining thermal and hypoxic stimuli and summarize the implications for temperate, sea-level performance. Current Evidence: To date, research on combining heat and hypoxia has employed 2 main approaches: simultaneously combining the stressors during training or concurrently training in the heat and sleeping at altitude, sometimes with additional training in hypoxia. When environmental stimuli are combined in a training session, improvements in aerobic fitness and time-trial performance in temperate, sea-level conditions are generally similar in magnitude to those observed with heat, or altitude, training alone. Similarly, training in the heat and sleeping at altitude does not appear to provide any additional hematological or nonhematological benefits for temperate; sea-level performance relative to training in hot, hypoxic, or control conditions. Conclusions: Current research regarding combined heat and altitude interventions does not seem to indicate that it enhances temperate, sea-level performance to a greater extent than “traditional” (heat or hypoxia alone) training approaches. A major challenge in implementing combined-stressor approaches lies in the uncertainty surrounding the prescription of dosing regimens (ie, exercise and environmental stress). The potential benefits of conducting heat and altitude exposure sequentially (ie, one after the other) warrants further investigation.

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Effects of In-Exercise Carbohydrate Supplementation on Prolonged High-Intensity Exercise Performance in Oral Contraceptive Users

Serene J.L. Lee, Fleur E.C.A. Van Rens, and Jeremiah J. Peiffer

Purpose: To examine the impact of oral contraceptive (OC) phases on performance, physiological, and subjective responses to prolonged, intensive exercise when carbohydrate (CHO) stores are reduced. Methods: Ten well-trained female cyclists using monophasic OC completed 4 identical trials (>150 min) under conditions of in-trial 60-g·h−1 CHO supplementation (CHO+) or placebo (CHO−) during the sugar- (SUG) and active-pill (ACT) phases of their OC cycle. Each trial comprised two 400-kcal time trials (TT) separated by 1 hour of submaximal cycling at first ventilatory threshold. Results: Change in completion time from TT1 to TT2 was minimized in CHO+ compared with CHO− (4.06 [2.55] vs 6.08 [5.33] min; P = .019, effect size = −0.36). An interaction effect of OC and CHO was observed for time to complete TT (P = .006), mean TT power (P = .002), mean TT heart rate (P = .002), and posttrial emotional balance (P = .020) and negative emotional state (P = .033). In ACT, mean TT power and heart rate were higher in CHO+ when compared with CHO−, resulting in faster TTs in CHO+ and improved posttrial emotional well-being. When CHO was not supplemented, TT power and heart rate were higher in SUG when compared with ACT, resulting in faster TTs in SUG and improved posttrial emotional balance. Conclusion: CHO depletion during ACT negatively influenced TT performance and emotional well-being when compared with SUG. Irrespective of OC pill phase, CHO supplementation should be prioritized to sustain performance and improve postexercise recovery–stress balance.

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From Mentorship to Sponsorship in Sport Science

Iñigo Mujika and Peter Leo

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Individualizing Basketball-Specific Interval Training Using Anaerobic Speed Reserve: Effects on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptations

Chenhang Wang and Mingliang Ye

Purpose : We compared the adaptive responses to supramaximal high-intensity interval training (HIIT) individualized according to anaerobic speed reserve (ASR), the 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test (V IFT), and velocity associated with maximum oxygen uptake (MAS) to determine which approach facilitates more identical adaptations across athletes with different profiles. Methods : Thirty national-level basketball players (age = 28.4 [5] y; body mass = 88.9 [6.3] kg; height = 190 [4.8] cm) were randomly assigned to 3 training groups performing 2 sets of 4, 6, 8, 6, 8, and 10-minute runs (from first to sixth week, respectively), consisting of 15-second running at Δ%20ASR (MAS + 0.2 × ASR), 95%V IFT, and 120%MAS, with 15 seconds recovery between efforts and a 3-minute relief between sets. Results : All 3 interval interventions significantly (P < .05) enhanced maximum oxygen uptake ( V ˙ O 2 max ), oxygen pulse ( V ˙ O 2 / HR ), first and second ventilatory threshold (VT1 and VT2), cardiac output ( Q ˙ max ), stroke volume, peak and average power output, testosterone levels, and testosterone-to-cortisol ratio following the training period. Different values of interindividual variability (coefficient of variation) for the percentage changes of the measured variables were observed in response to HIITASR, HIITv IFT, and HIITMAS for V ˙ O 2 max (8.7%, 18.8%, 34.6%, respectively), V ˙ O 2 / HR (9.5%, 15.0%, 28.6%), VT1 (9.6%, 19.6%, 34.6%), VT2 (21.8%, 32.4%, 56.7%), Q ˙ max (8.2%, 16.9%, 28.8%), stroke volume (7.9%, 15.2%, 23.5%), peak power output (20%, 22%, 37.3%), average power output (21.1%, 21.3%, 32.5%), testosterone (52.9%, 61.6%, 59.9%), and testosterone-to-cortisol ratio (55.1%, 59.5%, 57.8%). Conclusions : Supramaximal HIIT performed at Δ%20ASR resulted in more uniform physiological adaptations than HIIT interventions prescribed using V IFT or MAS. Although hormonal changes do not follow this approach, all the approaches induced an anabolic effect.

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Why Should Athletes Brake Fast? Influence of Eccentric Velocity on Concentric Performance During Countermovement Jumps at Different Loads

Jose L. Hernández-Davó, Rafael Sabido, Manuel Omar-García, and Daniel Boullosa

Purpose: The aim of the present study was to analyze the effect of different eccentric tempos on eccentric kinetics and kinematics and the subsequent concentric performance when performing countermovement jumps against different loads. Methods: After 1-repetition-maximum assessment and 2 familiarization sessions, 13 well-trained participants performed, in randomized order, 12 sets (4 tempos × 3 loads) of 4 repetitions of the loaded countermovement-jump exercise. The eccentric tempos analyzed were 5 and 2 seconds, as fast as possible, and accelerated (ie, without pause between repetitions), while the loads used were 30%, 50%, and 70% of 1-repetition maximum. Several kinetic and kinematic variables during both phases were recorded by linking a linear position transducer to the barbell. Results: The eccentric work was greater in the accelerated condition despite no changes in the eccentric depth. The peak and mean propulsive velocities were greater in the as-fast-as-possible and accelerated conditions. Correlation analysis showed that, compared with the 5-second condition, the increased concentric performance in the accelerated condition was related to the difference in eccentric work performed in the last 100 milliseconds of the eccentric phase (r > .770). Conclusions: Contrary to current practices, the current study highlights the need for performing the eccentric phase of loaded countermovement jumps, a common exercise performed by athletes for both training and evaluation purposes, as fast as possible. This allows not only a greater eccentric work but also improved concentric performance.