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Hayden J. Pritchard, Matthew J. Barnes, Robin J. Stewart, Justin W. Keogh and Michael R. McGuigan

Purpose: To investigate the effects of strength-training tapers of different intensities but equal volume reductions on neuromuscular performance. Methods: Eleven strength-trained men (21.3 [3.3] y, 92.3 [17.6] kg, relative 1-repetition-maximum deadlift 1.9 [0.2] times bodyweight) completed a crossover study. Specifically, two 4-wk strength-training blocks were followed by a taper week with reduced volume (∼70%) involving either increased (5.9%) or decreased (−8.5%) intensity. Testing occurred pretraining (T1), posttraining (T2), and posttaper (T3). Salivary testosterone and cortisol, plasma creatine kinase, a Daily Analysis of Life Demands in Athletes questionnaire, countermovement jump (CMJ), isometric midthigh pull, and isometric bench press were measured. Results: CMJ height improved significantly over time (P < .001), with significant increases from T1 (38.0 [5.5] cm) to both T2 (39.3 [5.3] cm; P = .010) and T3 (40.0 [5.3] cm; P = .001) and from T2 to T3 (P = .002). CMJ flight time:contraction time increased significantly over time (P = .004), with significant increases from T1 (0.747 [0.162]) to T2 (0.791 [0.163]; P = .012). Isometric midthigh-pull relative peak force improved significantly over time (P = .033), with significant increases from T1 (34.7 [5.0] N/kg) to T2 (35.9 [4.8] N/kg; P = .013). No significant changes were found between tapers. However, the higher-intensity taper produced small effect-size increases at T3 vs T1 for isometric midthigh-pull relative peak force, CMJ height, and flight time:contraction time, while the lower-intensity taper only produced small effect-size improvements at T3 vs T1 for CMJ height. Conclusions: A strength-training taper with volume reductions had a positive effect on power, with a tendency for the higher-intensity taper to produce more favorable changes in strength and power.

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Christos K. Argus, Nicholas D. Gill, Justin W.L. Keogh, Michael R. McGuigan and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose:

There is little literature comparing contrast training programs typically performed by team-sport athletes within a competitive phase. We compared the effects of two contrast training programs on a range of measures in high-level rugby union players during the competition season.

Methods:

The programs consisted of a higher volume-load (strength-power) or lower volume-load (speed-power) resistance training; each included a tapering of loading (higher force early in the week, higher velocity later in the week) and was performed twice a week for 4 wk. Eighteen players were assessed for peak power during a bodyweight countermovement jump (BWCMJ), bodyweight squat jump (BWSJ), 50 kg countermovement jump (50CMJ), 50 kg squat jump (50SJ), broad jump (BJ), and reactive strength index (RSI; jump height divided by contact time during a depth jump). Players were then randomized to either training group and were reassessed following the intervention. Inferences were based on uncertainty in outcomes relative to thresholds for standardized changes.

Results:

There were small between-group differences in favor of strength-power training for mean changes in the 50CMJ (8%; 90% confidence limits, ±8%), 50SJ (8%; ±10%), and BJ (2%; ±3%). Differences between groups for BWCMJ, BWSJ, and reactive strength index were unclear. For most measures there were smaller individual differences in changes with strength-power training.

Conclusion:

Our findings suggest that high-level rugby union athletes should be exposed to higher volume-load contrast training which includes one heavy lifting session each week for larger and more uniform adaptation to occur in explosive power throughout a competitive phase of the season.