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Martin Buchheit, Ben M. Simpson, Esa Peltola, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

The aim of the present study was to locate the fastest 10-m split time (Splitbest) over a 40-m sprint in relation to age and maximal sprint speed in highly trained young soccer players. Analyses were performed on 967 independent player sprints collected in 223 highly trained young football players (Under 12 to Under 18). The maximal sprint speed was defined as the average running speed during Splitbest. The distribution of the distance associated with Splitbest was affected by age (X 2 3 = 158.7, P < .001), with the older the players, the greater the proportion of 30-to-40-m Splitbest. There was, however, no between-group difference when data were adjusted for maximal sprint speed. Maximal sprint speed is the main determinant of the distance associated with Splitbest. Given the important disparity in Splitbest location within each age group, three (U12-U13) to two (U14-U18) 10-m intervals are still required to guarantee an accurate evaluation of maximal sprint speed in young players when using timing gates.

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Hani Al Haddad, Ben M. Simpson, Martin Buchheit, Valter Di Salvo, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

This study assessed the relationship between peak match speed (PMS) and maximal sprinting speed (MSS) in regard to age and playing positions. MSS and absolute PMS (PMSAbs) were collected from 180 male youth soccer players (U13–U17, 15.0 ± 1.2 y, 161.5 ± 9.2 cm, and 48.3 ± 8.7 kg). The fastest 10-m split over a 40-m sprint was used to determine MSS. PMSAbs was recorded using a global positioning system and was also expressed as a percentage of MSS (PMSRel). Sprint data were compared between age groups and between playing positions. Results showed that regardless of age and playing positions, faster players were likely to reach higher PMSAbs and possibly lower PMSRel. Despite a lower PMSAbs than in older groups (eg, 23.4 ± 1.8 vs 26.8 ± 1.9 km/h for U13 and U17, respectively, ES = 1.9 90%, confidence limits [1.6;2.1]), younger players reached a greater PMSRel (92.0% ± 6.3% vs. 87.2% ± 5.7% for U13 and U17, respectively, ES = –0.8 90% CL [–1.0;–0.5]). Playing position also affected PMSAbs and PMSRel, as strikers were likely to reach higher PMSAbs (eg, 27.0 ± 2.7 vs 23.6 ± 2.2 km/h for strikers and central midfielders, respectively, ES = 2.0 [1.7;2.2]) and PMSRel (eg, 93.6% ± 5.2% vs 85.3% ± 6.5% for strikers and central midfielders, respectively, ES = 1.0 [0.7;1.3]) than all other positions. The findings confirm that age and playing position affect the absolute and relative intensity of speed-related actions during matches.

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Luis Suarez-Arrones, Julio Tous-Fajardo, Javier Núñez, Oliver Gonzalo-Skok, Javier Gálvez, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

Purpose:

To examine the effect of repeated-sprint training (RST) vs combined RST and resistance training with superimposed vibrations on repeated-sprint ability (RSA) and lower-body power output in male rugby players.

Methods:

Players were divided into 2 training groups. One group performed RST (n = 10) 2 d/wk and the other performed RST 1 d/wk and squat resistance training with superimposed vibrations on the second day (RS+ST; n = 10). The squat training was carried out with a volume similar (ie, number of sets and repetitions) to that of the RST. The training period lasted 6 wk, and it was carried out as a supplement to the regular rugby training sessions.

Results:

Substantial improvements in RSA mean time (RSAmean; +2.3%/ES: 0.77 vs +4.1%/ES: 0.91), RSA percent decrement (%Dec; –25.6%/ES: 1.70 vs –23.2%/ES: 0.99), and squat absolute power output (+5.0%/ES:0.36 vs +17.2%/ES: 0.93) were obtained in RST and RS+ST, respectively. Substantial improvements in RSA best time (RSAbest; +2.6%/ES: 0.61) and squat power output normalized to body mass (+18.6%/ES: 0.76) only occurred in RS+ST. Both pretest and posttest RSAmean were largely correlated with the RSAbest. However, there were only unclear, small to moderate correlations between individual changes in squat power output and either RSAmean or RSAbest.

Conclusion:

Combined RST and resistance training induced improvements of greater magnitude in both repeated-sprint performance and muscle power output than the RST alone. The lack of substantial correlations between individual changes in repeated-sprint and muscle-power performance suggests that the same subjects were not systematically low or high responders to both RST and strength training.

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Luis Suarez-Arrones, Javier Núñez, Diego Munguía-Izquierdo, Javier Portillo, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

Purpose:

To examine the effects of several matches per day on running performance and cardiovascular stress in referees during a national Rugby Sevens championship.

Methods:

Seven referees, who refereed 3 matches/day, were monitored by GPS during 21 matches.

Results:

Referees’ movement patterns were relatively stable from the 1st to the 2nd match, although a substantial decrease was observed in the 2nd match for maximal and average sprint distance. A substantial decrease in the number of sprints, maximal speed, walking, distance covered at medium intensity, total and >14 km/h distance covered per minute was observed in the 3rd match in comparison with the 2nd. Compared with the 1st match, in the 3rd game referees showed a substantial decrease in maximal and average sprint distance, total walking at medium intensity, distance covered >14 km/h, and high-intensity running distance. Referees exhibited a substantial decrease in average heart rate (HR), percentage of time at >70%HRmax, and percentage of time at >90%HRmax in the 2nd match compared with the 1st. Referees’ HR responses were relatively stable from the 2nd to the 3rd match except for the HR zones of 71–80%HRmax and 81–90%HRmax and performance-efficiency index (Effindex). Substantial differences were observed in the 3rd match compared with the 1st in average HR, 81–90%HRmax, >90%HRmax, and Effindex.

Conclusion:

This study provides evidence of reduced overall running performance and pronounced reduction in high-intensity running performance during the last match in Rugby Sevens referees refereeing 3 matches in the same day.

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Martin Buchheit, Alberto Mendez-Villanueva, Marc Quod, Thomas Quesnel, and Said Ahmaidi

Purpose:

The aim of the current study was to compare the effects of speed/agility (S/A) training with sprint interval training (SIT) on acceleration and repeated sprint ability (RSA) in well-trained male handball players.

Methods:

In addition to their normal training program, players performed either S/A (n = 7) or SIT (n = 7) training for 4 wk. Speed/agility sessions consisted of 3 to 4 series of 4 to 6 exercises (eg, agility drills, standing start and very short sprints, all of <5 s duration); each repetition and series was interspersed with 30 s and 3 min of passive recovery, respectively. Sprint interval training consisted of 3 to 5 repetitions of 30-s all-out shuttle sprints over 40 m, interspersed with 2 min of passive recovery. Pre- and posttests included a countermovement jump (CMJ), 10-m sprint (10m), RSA test and a graded intermittent aerobic test (30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test, VIFT).

Results:

S/A training produced a very likely greater improvement in 10-m sprint (+4.6%, 90% CL 1.2 to 7.8), best (+2.7%, 90% CL 0.1 to 5.2) and mean (+2.2%, 90% CL –0.2 to 4.5) RSA times than SIT (all effect sizes [ES] greater than 0.79). In contrast, SIT resulted in an almost certain greater improvement in VIFT compared with S/A (+5.2%, 90% CL 3.5 to 6.9, with ES = –0.83).

Conclusion:

In well-trained handball players, 4 wk of SIT is likely to have a moderate impact on intermittent endurance capacity only, whereas S/A training is likely to improve acceleration and repeated sprint performance.

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Luis Suarez-Arrones, Carlos Arenas, Guillermo López, Bernardo Requena, Oliver Terrill, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

Purpose:

This study describes the physical match demands relative to positional group in male rugby sevens.

Methods:

Ten highly trained players were investigated during competitive matches (N = 23) using GPS technology, heart rate (HR), and video recording.

Results:

The relative distance covered by the players throughout the match was 102.3 ± 9.8 m/min. As a percentage of total distance, 35.8% (36.6 ± 5.9 m/min) was covered walking, 26.0% (26.6 ± 5.5 m/min) jogging, 10.0% (10.2 ± 2.4 m/min) running at low intensity, 14.2% (14.5 ± 4.0 m/min) at medium intensity, 4.6% (4.7 ± 1.6 m/min) at high intensity, and 9.5% (9.7 ± 3.7 m/min) sprinting. For the backs, a substantial decrease in total distance and distance covered at low, medium, and high intensity was observed in the second half. Forwards exhibited a substantial decrease in the distance covered at medium intensity, high intensity, and sprinting in the 2nd half. Backs covered substantially more total distance at medium and sprinting speeds than forwards. In addition, the maximum length of sprint runs was substantially greater for the backs than forwards. On the contrary, forwards performed more tackles. The mean HR during the match in backs and forwards was similar, with the exception of time spent at HR intensities >90%HRmax, which was substantially higher in forwards.

Conclusion:

These findings provide a description of the different physical demands placed on rugby sevens backs and forwards. This information may be helpful in the development of positional and/or individualized physical-fitness training programs.

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Asier Los Arcos, Alberto Méndez-Villanueva, Javier Yanci, and Raúl Martínez-Santos

Purpose:

The aim of this study was to assess the respiratory and muscular session ratings of perceived exertion (PE) after official soccer matches over an extended period of time (ie, 2 competition seasons) in relation to playing time (>20, 20–45, 45–70, and >70 min) and to determine the between-matches variability of both scores in young professional soccer players.

Methods:

Forty players belonging to the same reserve team of a Spanish La Liga club participated in this study. Respiratory and muscular PE were collected 10 min after every game. A total of 841 individual PE ratings were undertaken on outfield players.

Results:

The differences between match respiratory and muscular load differ depending on the playing time, the respiratory PE being greater for the players that competed less than 45 min (effect size = –0.45 ± 0.45 for the 20- to 45-min group) and the muscular PE greater for players that played more than 45 min (effect size = 0.23 ± 0.30, for the 45- to 70-min group). Match-to-match PE variability was considerable (CV = 14–54%) for all levels of participation, but it was lower the longer the players participated.

Conclusions:

Playing time influenced the relative exertion that players’ respiratory and leg musculature were exposed to during a game, suggesting that differential PE scores might provide a more accurate evaluation of match-imposed internal load. However, the small-magnitude differences between respiratory and muscular session ratings of PE observed in the current study might question the practical relevance of assessing both scores.

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Wassim Moalla, Mohamed Saifeddin Fessi, Sabeur Nouira, Alberto Mendez-Villanueva, Valter Di Salvo, and Said Ahmaidi

Purpose: To investigate the optimal pretaper duration on match running performance in a professional soccer team. Methods: The training load was monitored during daily training sessions and matches during 2 seasons according to different periodization strategies. Matches’ running distances were collected using match analysis system. The data were analyzed in 3 types of mesocycle blocks of 5 (M5), 4 (M4), and 3 weeks (M3), concludes all of them by 1 taper week. Results: Significant decreases in the training load during the taper weeks compared to standard weeks were observed in 3 types of mesocycle blocks (d ≥ 5; P < .01). An increase in overall match running performance was observed in matches played after the taper weeks compared to matches played after the standard weeks during M4 for all speed ranges (d ≥ 1.3; P < .05). The increase was only observed in low-intensity running (d = 1.3; P < .04) and total distance, low-intensity running, and intense running (d ≥ 1.3; P < .05) in M5 and M3, respectively. Match running performance following the taper weeks between the 3 different mesocycle durations was significantly higher in M4 for the number of high-speed running, sprinting, and high-intensity running (P < .05). The greatest enhancement of match running performance was observed at M4 when the training load was decreased by approximately 18% during the tapering period. Conclusion: This study suggests that a period of 3 standard weeks of training followed by 1 taper week is the optimal taper strategy when compared to different pretaper durations.

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F. Javier Núñez, Luis J. Suarez-Arrones, Paul Cater, and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

The aim of this study was to examine the kinematics and kinetics (force, velocity, and acceleration) and blood lactate concentration with the VersaPulley (VP) device in comparison with free-weight (FW) exercise at a similar external load. Fifteen rugby players randomly performed 2 training sessions of 6 sets of 6 repetitions with 20 s of recovery between sets of the high-pull exercise with the VP and the FW. The training sessions were separated by 72 h. Barbell displacement (cm), peak velocity (m/s), peak acceleration (m/s2), mean propulsive velocity (m/s), mean propulsive acceleration (m/s2), propulsive phase (%), and mean and maximal force (N) were continuously recorded during each repetition. Blood lactate concentration was measured after each training session (end) and 3 min and 5 min later. Barbell displacement (+4.8%, small ES), peak velocity (+4.5% small ES), mean propulsive acceleration (+8.8%, small ES), and eccentric force (+26.7, large ES) were substantially higher with VP than with FW. Blood lactate concentration was also greater after the VP exercise (end +32.9%, 3 min later +36%, 5 min later +33.8%; large ES). Maximal concentric force was substantially higher with FW than VP during the 6th set (+6.4%, small ES). In the cohort and exercise investigated in the current study, VP training can be considered an efficient training device to induce an accentuated eccentric overload and augmented metabolic demands (ie, blood lactate concentration).

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Alberto Mendez-Villanueva, Martin Buchheit, Sami Kuitunen, Tsz Kit Poon, Ben Simpson, and Esa Peltola

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between maximal sprinting (MSS) and aerobic (MAS) speeds in a cohort of highly-trained young male soccer players with the influence of body mass controlled for using allometric scaling. MSS and MAS were obtained in 14 pre-age at peak height velocity (APHV) players (12.3 ± 0.7 years), 21 circum-APHV players (14.3 ± 0.9 year) and 26 post-APHV players (16.9 ± 0.7 years). The three groups showed similar positive correlations between MSS and MAS (r = 0.73 to 0.52; p < .01). In conclusion, our results suggest that the relationship between MSS and MAS is not affected by maturation.