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Volume 19 (2024): Issue 3 (Mar 2024)

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Effects of a 6-Week Repeated-Sprint Training With Voluntary Hypoventilation at Low and High Lung Volume on Repeated-Sprint Ability in Female Soccer Players

Mounir Ait Ali Braham, Youva Ouchen, and Xavier Woorons

Purpose: To investigate the effects of repeated-sprint training with voluntary hypoventilation at low (RSH-VHL) and high (RS-VHH) lung volume on repeated-sprint ability (RSA) in female athletes. Methods: Over a 6-week period, 24 female soccer players completed 12 sessions of repeated 30-m running sprints with end-expiratory breath holding (RSH-VHL, n = 8), end-inspiratory breath holding (RS-VHH, n = 8), or unrestricted breathing (RS-URB, n = 8). Before and after training, a running RSA test consisting of performing 30-m all-out sprints until exhaustion was implemented. Results: From before to after training, the number of sprints completed during the RSA test was increased in both RSH-VHL (19.3 [0.9] vs 22.6 [0.9]; P < .01) and RS-VHH (19.3 [1.5] vs 20.5 [1.7]; P < .01) but not in RS-URB (19.4 [1.3] vs 19.5 [1.7]; P = .67). The mean velocity and the percentage decrement score calculated over sprints 1 to 17 were, respectively, higher (82.2% [1.8%] vs 84.6% [2.1%] of maximal velocity) and lower (23.7% [3.1%] vs 19.4% [3.2%]) in RSH-VHL (P < .01), whereas they remained unchanged in RS-VHH and RS-URB. The mean arterial oxygen saturation recorded during training at the end of the sprints was lower in RSH-VHL (92.1% [0.4%]) than in RS-VHH (97.3% [0.1%]) and RS-URB (97.8% [0.1%]). Conclusions: This study shows that female athletes can benefit from the RSH-VHL intervention to improve RSA. The performance gains may have been limited by the short sprinting distance with end-expiratory breath holding, which provoked only moderate hypoxemia. The increase in the number of sprints in RS-VHH seems to show that factors other than hypoxia may have played a role in RSA improvement.

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Sequential Mapping of Game Patterns in Men and Women Professional Padel Players

Rafael Conde-Ripoll, Diego Muñoz, Adrián Escudero-Tena, and Javier Courel-Ibáñez

Purpose: This study analyzed the sequences of actions in professional men and women padel players to identify common game patterns. Methods: The sample comprised 17,557 stroke-by-stroke actions (N = 1640 rallies) of the championship World Padel Tour. Multistep Markov chains were used to calculate the conditional probabilities of occurrence of actions during the rally. Results: Results revealed that men’s and women’s padel is mainly defined by 36 patterns constituting 55% and 63% of all actions in the game, respectively, with the 10 most common sequences accounting for 42% to 45% of the game. There were recurrent technical–tactical actions with specific offensive and defensive functions that were constantly reiterated during the rallies. In men, the use of smash, volley, bandeja, direct, back wall, back-wall lobs, and direct lobs followed a foreseeable pattern up to 8 lags, whereas women described predictable interactions for volley, bandeja, direct, lobs, and direct lobs up to 5 lags and for smash and back wall up to 4 lags. Conclusions: The ability of padel players to recall these patterns and enhance their anticipation skills may potentially improve their performance. These findings contribute to a better knowledge of professional padel game dynamics while providing coaches and players with useful information to optimize training and decision-making strategies.

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Academic Life: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Robert P. Lamberts and N. Tim Cable

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Predicting Soccer Players’ Fitness Status Through a Machine-Learning Approach

Mauro Mandorino, Jo Clubb, and Mathieu Lacome

Purpose: The study had 3 purposes: (1) to develop an index using machine-learning techniques to predict the fitness status of soccer players, (2) to explore the index’s validity and its relationship with a submaximal run test (SMFT), and (3) to analyze the impact of weekly training load on the index and SMFT outcomes. Methods: The study involved 50 players from an Italian professional soccer club. External and internal loads were collected during training sessions. Various machine-learning algorithms were assessed for their ability to predict heart-rate responses during the training drills based on external load data. The fitness index, calculated as the difference between actual and predicted heart rates, was correlated with SMFT outcomes. Results: Random forest regression (mean absolute error = 3.8 [0.05]) outperformed the other machine-learning algorithms (extreme gradient boosting and linear regression). Average speed, minutes from the start of the training session, and the work:rest ratio were identified as the most important features. The fitness index displayed a very large correlation (r = .70) with SMFT outcomes, with the highest result observed during possession games and physical conditioning exercises. The study revealed that heart-rate responses from SMFT and the fitness index could diverge throughout the season, suggesting different aspects of fitness. Conclusions: This study introduces an “invisible monitoring” approach to assess soccer player fitness in the training environment. The developed fitness index, in conjunction with traditional fitness tests, provides a comprehensive understanding of player readiness. This research paves the way for practical applications in soccer, enabling personalized training adjustments and injury prevention.

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Mixed-Method Precooling Enhances Self-Paced 20-km Cycling Time-Trial Performance When Apparent Temperature Is >46 °C but May Not Be a Priority in <46 °C

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

Purpose: Precooling (PreC) may only benefit performance when thermal strain experienced by an individual is sufficiently high. We explored the effect of mixed-method PreC on 20-km cycling time-trial (CTT) performance under 3 different apparent temperatures (AT). Methods: On separate days, 12 trained or highly trained male cyclists/triathletes completed six 20-km CTTs in 3 different ATs: hot-dry (35 °C AT), moderately hot-humid (40 °C AT), and hot-humid (46 °C AT). All trials were preceded by 30 minutes of mixed-method PreC or no PreC (control [CON]). Results: Faster 2.5-km-split completion times occurred in PreC compared with CON in 46 °C AT (P = .02), but not in 40 °C AT (P = .62) or 35 °C AT (P = .57). PreC did not affect rectal and body temperature during the 20-km CTT. Skin temperature was lower throughout the CTT in PreC compared with CON in 46 °C AT (P = .01), but not in 40 °C AT (P = 1.00) and 35 °C AT (P = 1.00). Heart rate had a greater rate of increase during the CTT for PreC compared with CON in 46 °C AT (P = .01), but not in 40 °C AT (P = .57) and 35 °C AT (P = 1.00). Ratings of perceived exertion (P < .001) and thermal comfort (P = .04) were lower for PreC compared with CON in 46 °C AT only, while thermal sensation was not different between PreC and CON. Conclusion: Mixed-method PreC should be applied prior to 20-km CTTs conducted in hot-humid conditions (≥46 °C AT). Alternatively, mixed-method PreC may be a priority in moderately hot-humid (∼40 °C AT) conditions but should not be in hot-dry (∼35 °C AT) conditions for 20-km CTT.

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The Day-by-Day Periodization Strategies of a Giro d’Italia Podium Finisher

Gabriele Gallo, Manuel Mateo-March, Andrea Fuk, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Roberto Codella, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: The aim of this study was to describe the day-by-day training and racing characteristics in preparation for the Giro d’Italia of 1 world-class road cyclist who achieved a place on the podium in the final general classification of the Giro d’Italia. Methods: Day-by-day power meter training and racing data of 1 study subject (road cyclist; age 25 y; relative maximum oxygen consumption 81 mL·min−1·kg−1; relative 20-min record power output 6.6 W·kg−1) covering the 152 days leading up to the podium in the Giro d’Italia final general classification were retrospectively analyzed. Daily load, daily volume, and intensity distribution were considered. Results: During training a pattern alternating “hard days” versus “easy days” was observed, as significant amounts of medium or high intensity, or load, were not performed for more than 2 consecutive days This pattern was achieved combining high volume (>4 h) with a significant amount of medium and high intensity within the same training sessions. During training, when training load and intensity increased, the density of “easy days” augmented. In 1-week stage races and the Giro d’Italia, 3 to 8 consecutive days with significant amounts of medium and high intensity were performed. A high number of training sessions with small amounts of medium- and high-intensity volume was observed: 38 days accumulating 3 to 10 minutes at medium intensity and 29 days spending 1 to 9 minutes at high intensity. Conclusion: These data provide novel insights about the day-by-day periodization strategies leading to a top 3 in the Giro d’Italia general classification.

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Effect of Acute Sodium Bicarbonate and Caffeine Coingestion on Repeated-Sprint Performance in Recreationally Trained Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Carmen Ferragut, Paola Gonzalo-Encabo, Álvaro López-Samanes, David Valadés, and Alberto Pérez-López

Introduction: The acute and isolated ingestion of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and caffeine (CAF) improves performance and delays fatigue in high-intensity tasks. However, it remains to be elucidated if the coingestion of both dietary supplements stimulates a summative ergogenic effect. This study aimed to examine the effect of the acute coingestion of NaHCO3 and CAF on repeated-sprint performance. Methods: Twenty-five trained participants (age: 23.3 [4.0] y; sex [female/male]: 12/13; body mass: 69.6 [12.5] kg) participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo (PLA) -controlled, crossover study. Participants were assigned to 4 conditions: (1) NaHCO3 + CAF, (2) NaHCO3, (3) CAF, or (4) PLA. Thus, they ingested 0.3 g/kg of NaHCO3, 3 mg/kg of CAF, or PLA. Then, participants performed 4 Wingate tests (Wt), consisting of a 30-second all-out sprint against an individualized resisted load, interspersed by a 1.5-minute rest period between sprints. Results: Peak (Wpeak) and mean (Wmean) power output revealed a supplement and sprint interaction effect (P = .009 and P = .049, respectively). Compared with PLA, NaHCO3 + CAF and NaHCO3 increased Wpeak performance in Wt 3 (3%, P = .021) and Wt 4 (4.5%, P = .047), while NaHCO3 supplementation increased mean power performance in Wt 3 (4.2%, P = .001). In Wt 1, CAF increased Wpeak (3.2%, P = .054) and reduced time to Wpeak (−8.5%; P = .008). Plasma lactate showed a supplement plus sprint interaction (P < .001) when NaHCO3 was compared with CAF (13%, P = .031) and PLA (23%, P = .021). Conclusion: To summarize, although the isolated ingestion of CAF and NaHCO3 improved repeated-sprint performance, the coingestion of both supplements did not stimulate a synergic ergogenic effect.

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Volume 19 (2024): Issue 2 (Feb 2024)

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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.