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Angelo Sabag, Ric Lovell, Neil P. Walsh, Nick Grantham, Mathieu Lacome, and Martin Buchheit

Purpose: During heavily congested schedules, professional soccer players can experience exacerbated fatigue responses, which are thought to contribute to an increased risk of injury. Given that match-induced residual fatigue can last up to 72 hours, many coaches naturally prioritize recovery in the days immediately following match day. While it is intuitive for coaches and training staff to decrease the amount of auxiliary training practices to focus on recovery, prescribing upper-body resistance training on the day after match play has recently emerged as a specific training modality in this context. While these sessions may be implemented to increase training stimulus, there are limited data available regarding the efficacy of such a practice to improve recovery kinetics. Methods: In this narrative review, the authors look at the theoretical implications of performing upper-body resistance training on the day after match play on the status of various physiological and psychological systems, including neuromuscular, metabolic, hormonal, perceptual, and immunological recovery. Results: The available evidence suggests that in most cases this practice, as currently implemented (ie, low volume, low intensity), is unlikely to be complementary (ie, does not accelerate recovery) but is potentially compatible (ie, does not impair recovery). Conclusion: Overall, because the perception of such sessions may be player dependent, their programming requires an individualized approach and should take into account match dynamics (eg, fixture scheduling, playing time, travel).

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Cédric Leduc, Julien Robineau, Jason C. Tee, Jeremy Cheradame, Ben Jones, Julien Piscione, and Mathieu Lacome

Purpose: To explore the effects of travel related to international rugby sevens competition on sleep patterns. Methods: A total of 17 international male rugby sevens players participated in this study. Actigraphic and subjective sleep assessments were performed daily during 2 separate Sevens World Series competition legs (Oceania and America). The duration of each competition leg was subdivided into key periods (pretour, precompetition, tournament 1, relocation, tournament 2, and posttour) lasting 2 to 7 nights. Linear mixed models in combination with magnitude-based decisions were used to assess (1) the difference between preseason and key periods and (2) the effect of travel direction (eastward or westward). Results: Shorter total sleep time (hours:minutes) was observed during tournament 2 (mean [SD], 06:16 [01:08]), relocation (06:09 [01:09]), and the pretour week (06:34 [01:24]) compared with the preseason (06:52 [01:00]). Worse sleep quality (arbitrary units) was observed during tournament 1 (6.1 [2.0]) and 2 (5.7 [1.2]), as well as during the relocation week (6.3 [1.5]) than during the preseason (6.5 [1.8]). When traveling eastward compared with westward, earlier fall-asleep time was observed during tournament 1 (ES − 0.57; 90% CI, −1.12 to −0.01), the relocation week (−0.70 [−1.11 to −0.28]), and the posttour (−0.57 [−0.95 to −0.18]). However, possibly trivial and unclear differences were observed during the precompetition week (0.15 [−0.15 to 0.45]) and tournament 2 (0.81 [−0.29 to 1.91]). Conclusion: The sleep patterns of elite rugby sevens players are robust to the effects of long-haul travel and jet lag. However, the staff should consider promoting sleep during the tournament and relocation week.

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Bruno Marrier, Alexandre Durguerian, Julien Robineau, Mounir Chennaoui, Fabien Sauvet, Aurélie Servonnet, Julien Piscione, Bertrand Mathieu, Alexis Peeters, Mathieu Lacome, Jean-Benoit Morin, and Yann Le Meur

Purpose: Preconditioning strategies are considered opportunities to optimize performance on competition day. Although investigations conducted in rugby players on the effects of a morning preconditioning session have been done, additional work is warranted. The aim of this study was to monitor changes in physical and psychophysiological indicators among international Rugby-7s players after a priming exercise. Methods: In a randomized crossover design, 14 under-18 international Rugby-7s players completed, at 8:00 AM, a preconditioning session consisting of a warm-up followed by small-sided games, accelerations, and 2 × 50-m maximal sprints (Experimental), or no preloading session (Control). After a 2-h break, the players performed a set of six 30-m sprints and a Rugby-7s match. Recovery–stress state and salivary stress-marker levels were assessed before the preloading session (Pre), immediately after the preloading session (Post 1), before the testing session (Post 2), and after the testing session (Post 3). Results: Experimental–Control differences in performance across a repeated-sprint test consisting of six 30-m sprints were very likely trivial (+0.2, ±0.7%, 3/97/1%). During the match, the total distance covered and the frequency of decelerations were possibly lower (small) in Experimental compared with Control. Differences observed in the other parameters were unclear or possibly trivial. At Post 2, the perceived recovery–stress state was improved (small difference) in Experimental compared with Control. No difference in salivary cortisol response was observed, while the preconditioning session induced a higher stimulation of salivary testosterone and α-amylase. Conclusions: The players’ ability to repeat sprints and physical activity in match play did not improve, but their psychophysiological state was positively affected after the present preconditioning session.

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Anthony Couderc, Claire Thomas, Mathieu Lacome, Julien Piscione, Julien Robineau, Rémi Delfour-Peyrethon, Rachel Borne, and Christine Hanon

Purpose:

To investigate the running demands and associated metabolic perturbations during an official rugby sevens tournament.

Methods:

Twelve elite players participated in 7 matches wearing GPS units. Maximal sprinting speed (MSS) and maximal aerobic speed (MAS) were measured. High-intensity threshold was individualized relative to MAS (>100% of MAS), and very-high-intensity distance was reported relative to both MAS and MSS. Blood samples were taken at rest and after each match.

Results:

Comparison of prematch and postmatch samples revealed significant (P < .01) changes in pH (7.41–7.25), bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3]) (24.8–13.6 mmol/L), and lactate concentration ([La]) (2.4–11.9 mmol/L). Mean relative total distance covered was 91 ± 13 m/min with ~17 m/min at high-intensity. Player status (whole-match or interchanged players), match time, and total distance covered had no significant impact on metabolic indices. Relative distance covered at high intensity was negatively correlated with pH and [HCO3] (r = .44 and r = .42, respectively; P < .01) and positively correlated with [La] (r = .36; P < .01). Total distance covered and distance covered at very high intensity during the 1-min peak activity in the last 3 min of play were correlated with [La] (r = .39 and r = .39, respectively; P < .01).

Conclusions:

Significant alterations in blood-metabolite indices from prematch to postmatch sampling suggest that players were required to tolerate a substantial level of acidosis related to metabolite accumulation. In addition, the ability to produce energy via the glycolytic energy pathway seems to be a major determinant in match-related running performance.

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Bruno Marrier, Julien Robineau, Julien Piscione, Mathieu Lacome, Alexis Peeters, Christophe Hausswirth, Jean-Benoît Morin, and Yann Le Meur

Peaking for major competition is considered critical for maximizing team-sport performance. However, there is little scientific information available to guide coaches in prescribing efficient tapering strategies for team-sport players.

Purpose:

To monitor the changes in physical performance in elite team-sport players during a 3-wk taper after a preseason training camp.

Methods:

Ten male international rugby sevens players were tested before (Pre) and after (Post) a 4-wk preseason training camp focusing on high-intensity training and strength training with moderate loads and once each week during a subsequent 3-wk taper. During each testing session, midthigh-pull maximal strength, sprint-acceleration mechanical outputs, and performance, as well as repeated-sprint ability (RSA), were assessed.

Results:

At Post, no single peak performance was observed for maximal lower-limb force output and sprint performance, while RSA peaked for only 1 athlete. During the taper, 30-m-sprint time decreased almost certainly (–3.1% ± 0.9%, large), while maximal lower-limb strength and RSA, respectively, improved very likely (+7.7% ± 5.3%, small) and almost certainly (+9.0% ± 2.6%, moderate). Of the peak performances, 70%, 80%, and 80% occurred within the first 2 wk of taper for RSA, maximal force output, and sprint performance, respectively.

Conclusions:

These results show the sensitivity of physical qualities to tapering in rugby sevens players and suggest that an ~1- to 2-wk tapering time frame appears optimal to maximize the overall physical-performance response.

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Bruno Marrier, Yann Le Meur, Julien Robineau, Mathieu Lacome, Anthony Couderc, Christophe Hausswirth, Julien Piscione, and Jean-Benoît Morin

Purpose:

To compare the sensitivity of a sprint vs a countermovement-jump (CMJ) test after an intense training session in international rugby sevens players, as well as analyze the effects of fatigue on sprint acceleration.

Methods:

Thirteen international rugby sevens players completed two 30-m sprints and a set of 4 repetitions of CMJ before and after a highly demanding rugby sevens training session.

Results:

Change in CMJ height was unclear (–3.6%; ±90% confidence limits 11.9%. Chances of a true positive/trivial/negative change: 24/10/66%), while a very likely small increase in 30-m sprint time was observed (1.0%; ±0.7%, 96/3/1%). A very likely small decrease in the maximum horizontal theoretical velocity (V0) (–2.4; ±1.8%, 1/4/95%) was observed. A very large correlation (r = –.79 ± .23) between the variations of V0 and 30-m-sprint performance was also observed. Changes in 30-m sprint time were negatively and very largely correlated with the distance covered above the maximal aerobic speed (r = –.71 ± .32).

Conclusions:

The CMJ test appears to be less sensitive than the sprint test, which casts doubts on the usefulness of a vertical-jump test in sports such as rugby that mainly involve horizontal motions. The decline in sprint performance relates more to a decrease in velocity than in force capability and is correlated with the distance covered at high intensity.

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Bruno Marrier, Yann Le Meur, Cédric Leduc, Julien Piscione, Mathieu Lacome, Germain Igarza, Christophe Hausswirth, Jean-Benoît Morin, and Julien Robineau

Purpose: To describe the training periodization in rugby sevens players competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series during a non-Olympic season. Methods: Workload data were collected over a 33-wk period in 12 male players participating in a full competitive season. Workload was quantified using session rating of perceived exertion and global positioning system–derived data during training and competition. Self-reported well-being was assessed using a questionnaire. Each variable was analyzed weekly and through 5 mesocycles (preseason, in-season 1–4), each of which ended with competition blocks. Results: The perceived load decreased throughout the season for the full squad (−68% [26%] between preseason and final competitive block, large effect) and when unavailable players were removed from the analysis (−38% [42%], moderate). Weekly perceived load was highly variable, with a typical periodization in 4 phases during each mesocycle (regeneration, training overload, taper, and competition). During the preseason, the workload was higher during the overload training phase than during the competitive period (range: +23% to +59%, large to very large, for the distance covered above individual maximal aerobic speed and the number of accelerations). This observation no longer persisted during the season. The well-being score decreased almost certainly from in-season 3 (moderate). Conclusions: These results highlighted the apparent difficulty in maintaining high-load training periods throughout the season in players engaged on the World Rugby Sevens Series despite ∼4–7 training weeks separating each competitive block. This observation was likely explained by the difficulties inherent to the World Rugby Sevens Series (risk of contact injury, calendar, and multiple long-haul travel episodes) and potentially by limited squad-rotation policies.

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

Purpose: To investigate whether including heat and altitude exposures during an elite team-sport training camp induces similar or greater performance benefits. Methods: The study assessed 56 elite male rugby players for maximal oxygen uptake, repeated-sprint cycling, and Yo-Yo intermittent recovery level 2 (Yo-Yo) before and after a 2-week training camp, which included 5 endurance and 5 repeated-sprint cycling sessions in addition to daily rugby training. Players were separated into 4 groups: (1) control (all sessions in temperate conditions at sea level), (2) heat training (endurance sessions in the heat), (3) altitude (repeated-sprint sessions and sleeping in hypoxia), and (4) combined heat and altitude (endurance in the heat, repeated sprints, and sleeping in hypoxia). Results: Training increased maximal oxygen uptake (4% [10%], P = .017), maximal aerobic power (9% [8%], P < .001), and repeated-sprint peak (5% [10%], P = .004) and average power (12% [14%], P < .001) independent of training conditions. Yo-Yo distance increased (16% [17%], P < .001) but not in the altitude group (P = .562). Training in heat lowered core temperature and increased sweat rate during a heat-response test (P < .05). Conclusion: A 2-week intensified training camp improved maximal oxygen uptake, repeated-sprint ability, and aerobic performance in elite rugby players. Adding heat and/or altitude did not further enhance physical performance, and altitude appears to have been detrimental to improving Yo-Yo.