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Validity of the Training-Load Concept

Louis Passfield, Juan M. Murias, Massimo Sacchetti, and Andrea Nicolò

Training load (TL) is a widely used concept in training prescription and monitoring and is also recognized as as an important tool for avoiding athlete injury, illness, and overtraining. With the widespread adoption of wearable devices, TL metrics are used increasingly by researchers and practitioners worldwide. Conceptually, TL was proposed as a means to quantify a dose of training and used to predict its resulting training effect. However, TL has never been validated as a measure of training dose, and there is a risk that fundamental problems related to its calculation are preventing advances in training prescription and monitoring. Specifically, we highlight recent studies from our research groups where we compare the acute performance decrement measured following a session with its TL metrics. These studies suggest that most TL metrics are not consistent with their notional training dose and that the exercise duration confounds their calculation. These studies also show that total work done is not an appropriate way to compare training interventions that differ in duration and intensity. We encourage scientists and practitioners to critically evaluate the validity of current TL metrics and suggest that new TL metrics need to be developed.

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Maximal Lactate Steady State Versus the 20-Minute Functional Threshold Power Test in Well-Trained Individuals: “Watts” the Big Deal?

Erin Calaine Inglis, Danilo Iannetta, Louis Passfield, and Juan M. Murias

Purpose: To (1) compare the power output (PO) for both the 20-minute functional threshold power (FTP20) field test and the calculated 95% (FTP95%) with PO at maximal lactate steady state (MLSS) and (2) evaluate the sensitivity of FTP95% and MLSS to training-induced changes. Methods: Eighteen participants (12 males: 37 [6] y and 6 females: 28 [6] y) performed a ramp-incremental cycling test to exhaustion, 2 to 3 constant-load MLSS trials, and an FTP20 test. A total of 10 participants returned to repeat the test series after 7 months of training. Results: The PO at FTP20 and FTP95% was greater than that at MLSS (P = .00), with the PO at MLSS representing 88.5% (4.8%) and 93.1% (5.1%) of FTP and FTP95%, respectively. MLSS was greater at POST compared with PRE training (12 [8] W) (P = .002). No increase was observed in mean PO at FTP20 and FTP95% (P = .75). Conclusions: The results indicate that the PO at FTP95% is different to MLSS, and that changes in the PO at MLSS after training were not reflected by FTP95%. Even when using an adjusted percentage (ie, 88% rather than 95% of FTP20), the large variability in the data is such that it would not be advisable to use this as a representation of MLSS.

Open access

Training Load: Differentiating Training Volume and Training Dose

Louis Passfield, Juan M. Murias, Massimo Sacchetti, and Andrea Nicolò

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Pacing Strategy and Tactical Positioning During Cyclo-Cross Races

Arthur H. Bossi, Ciaran O’Grady, Richard Ebreo, Louis Passfield, and James G. Hopker

Purpose : To describe pacing strategy and competitive behavior in elite-level cyclo-cross races. Methods: Data from 329 men and women competing in 5 editions (2012–2016) of Union Cycliste Internationale Cyclo-Cross World Championships were compiled. Individual mean racing speeds from each lap were normalized to the mean speeds of the whole race. Lap and overall rankings were also explored. Pacing strategy was compared between sexes and between top- and bottom-placed cyclists. Results: A significant main effect of laps was found in 8 out of 10 races (4 positive, 3 variable, 2 even, and 1 negative pacing strategies), and an interaction effect of ranking-based groups was found in 2 (2016, male and female races). Kendall tau-b correlations revealed an increasingly positive relationship between intermediate and overall rankings throughout the races. The number of overtakes during races decreased from start to finish, as suggested by significant Friedman tests. In the first lap, normalized cycling speeds were different in 3 out of 5 editions—men were faster in 1 and slower in 2 editions. In the last lap, however, normalized cycling speeds of men were lower than those of women in 4 editions. Conclusions : Elite cyclo-cross competitors adopt slightly distinct pacing strategies in each race, but positive pacing strategies are highly probable in most events, with more changes in rankings during the first laps. Sporadically, top- and bottom-placed groups might adopt different pacing strategies during either men’s or women’s races. Men and women seem to distribute their efforts differently, but this effect is of small magnitude.

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Optimizing Interval Training Through Power-Output Variation Within the Work Intervals

Arthur H. Bossi, Cristian Mesquida, Louis Passfield, Bent R. Rønnestad, and James G. Hopker

Purpose: Maximal oxygen uptake ( V ˙ O 2 max ) is a key determinant of endurance performance. Therefore, devising high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that maximizes stress of the oxygen-transport and -utilization systems may be important to stimulate further adaptation in athletes. The authors compared physiological and perceptual responses elicited by work intervals matched for duration and mean power output but differing in power-output distribution. Methods: Fourteen cyclists ( V ˙ O 2 max 69.2 [6.6] mL·kg−1·min−1) completed 3 laboratory visits for a performance assessment and 2 HIIT sessions using either varied-intensity or constant-intensity work intervals. Results: Cyclists spent more time at > 90 % V ˙ O 2 max during HIIT with varied-intensity work intervals (410 [207] vs 286 [162] s, P = .02), but there were no differences between sessions in heart-rate- or perceptual-based training-load metrics (all P ≥ .1). When considering individual work intervals, minute ventilation ( V ˙ E ) was higher in the varied-intensity mode (F = 8.42, P = .01), but not respiratory frequency, tidal volume, blood lactate concentration [La], ratings of perceived exertion, or cadence (all F ≤ 3.50, ≥ .08). Absolute changes (Δ) between HIIT sessions were calculated per work interval, and Δ total oxygen uptake was moderately associated with Δ V ˙ E (r = .36, P = .002). Conclusions: In comparison with an HIIT session with constant-intensity work intervals, well-trained cyclists sustain higher fractions of V ˙ O 2 max when work intervals involved power-output variations. This effect is partially mediated by an increased oxygen cost of hyperpnea and not associated with a higher [La], perceived exertion, or training-load metrics.

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Development of Perfectionism in Junior Athletes: A Three-Sample Study of Coach and Parental Pressure

Daniel J. Madigan, Thomas Curran, Joachim Stoeber, Andrew P. Hill, Martin M. Smith, and Louis Passfield

Perfectionism predicts cognitions, emotions, and behaviors in sport. Nonetheless, our understanding of the factors that influence its development is limited. The authors sought to address this issue by examining the role of coach and parental pressure in the development of perfectionism in sport. Using 3 samples of junior athletes (16–19 years; cross-sectional n = 212, 3-month longitudinal n = 101, and 6-month longitudinal n = 110), the authors examined relations between coach pressure to be perfect, parental pressure to be perfect, perfectionistic strivings, and perfectionistic concerns. Mini meta-analysis of the combined cross-sectional data (N = 423) showed that both coach pressure and parental pressure were positively correlated with perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns. In contrast, longitudinal analyses showed that only coach pressure predicted increased perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns over time. Overall, our findings provide preliminary evidence that coaches may play a more important role in the development of junior athletes’ perfectionism than parents.