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  • Author: Christian J. Cook x
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Christian J. Cook, Liam P. Kilduff and C. Martyn Beaven

Purpose:

To examine the effects of moderate-load exercise with and without blood-flow restriction (BFR) on strength, power, and repeated-sprint ability, along with acute and chronic salivary hormonal parameters.

Methods:

Twenty male semiprofessional rugby union athletes were randomized to a lower-body BFR intervention (an occlusion cuff inflated to 180 mmHg worn intermittently on the proximal thighs) or a control intervention that trained without occlusion in a crossover design. Experimental sessions were performed 3 times a week for 3 wk with 5 sets of 5 repetitions of bench press, leg squat, and pull-ups performed at 70% of 1-repetition maximum.

Results:

Greater improvements were observed (occlusion training vs control) in bench press (5.4 ± 2.6 vs 3.3 ± 1.4 kg), squat (7.8 ± 2.1 vs 4.3 ± 1.4 kg), maximum sprint time (−0.03 ± 0.03 vs –0.01 ± 0.02 s), and leg power (168 ± 105 vs 68 ± 50 W). Greater exercise-induced salivary testosterone (ES 0.84–0.61) and cortisol responses (ES 0.65–0.20) were observed after the occlusion intervention sessions compared with the nonoccluded controls; however, the acute cortisol increases were attenuated across the training block.

Conclusions:

Occlusion training can potentially improve the rate of strength-training gains and fatigue resistance in trained athletes, possibly allowing greater gains from lower loading that could be of benefit during high training loads, in competitive seasons, or in a rehabilitative setting. The clear improvement in bench-press strength resulting from lower-body occlusion suggests a systemic effect of BFR training.

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Liam P. Kilduff, Charlotte V. Finn, Julien S. Baker, Christian J. Cook and Daniel J. West

Sports scientists and strength and conditioning professionals spend the majority of the competition season trying to ensure that their athletes’ training and recovery strategies are appropriate to ensure optimal performance on competition day. However, there is an additional window on the day of competition where performance can be acutely enhanced with a number of preconditioning strategies. These strategies include appropriately designed warm-up, passive heat maintenance, postactivation potentiation, remote ischemic preconditioning, and, more recently, prior exercise and hormonal priming. The aim of this review was to explore the potential practical use of these strategies and propose a theoretical timeline outlining how they may be incorporated into athlete’s precompetition routine to enhance performance. For the purpose of this review the discussion is confined to strategies that may enhance performance of short-duration, high-intensity sports (eg, sprinting, jumping, throwing).

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Christopher M. Gaviglio, Blair T. Crewther, Liam P. Kilduff, Keith A. Stokes and Christian J. Cook

Purpose:

To assess the measures of salivary free testosterone and cortisol concentrations across selected rugby union matches according to game outcome.

Methods:

Twenty-two professional male rugby union players were studied across 6 games (3 wins and 3 losses). Hormone samples were taken 40 min before the game and 15 min after. The hormonal data were grouped and compared against competition outcomes. These competition outcomes included wins and losses and a game-ranked performance score (1–6).

Results:

Across the entire team, pregame testosterone concentrations were significantly higher during winning games than losses (P = 5.8 × 10−5). Analysis by playing position further revealed that, for the backs, pregame testosterone concentrations (P = 3.6 × 10−5) and the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio T:C (P = .038) were significantly greater before a win than a loss. Game-ranked performance score correlated to the team’s pregame testosterone concentrations (r = .81, P = .049). In backs, pregame testosterone (r = .91, P = .011) and T:C (r = .81, P = .05) also correlated to game-ranked performance. Analysis of the forwards’ hormone concentrations did not distinguish between game outcomes, nor did it correlate with game-ranked performance. Game venue (home vs away) only affected postgame concentrations of testosterone (P = .018) and cortisol (P = 2.58 × 10−4).

Conclusions:

Monitoring game-day concentrations of salivary free testosterone may help identify competitive readiness in rugby union matches. The link between pregame T:C and rugby players in the back position suggests that monitoring weekly training loads and enhancing recovery modalities between games may also assist with favorable performance and outcome in rugby union matches.

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Mark Russell, Aden King, Richard. M. Bracken, Christian. J. Cook, Thibault Giroud and Liam. P. Kilduff

Purpose:

To assess the effects of different modes of morning (AM) exercise on afternoon (PM) performance and salivary hormone responses in professional rugby union players.

Methods:

On 4 occasions (randomized, crossover design), 15 professional rugby players provided AM (~8 AM) and PM (~2 PM) saliva samples before PM assessments of countermovement-jump height, reaction time, and repeated-sprint ability. Control (passive rest), weights (bench press: 5 × 10 repetitions, 75% 1-repetition maximum, 90-s intraset recovery), cycling (6 × 6-s maximal sprint cycling, 7.5% body mass load, 54-s intraset recovery), and running (6 × 40-m maximal sprints, 20-s intraset recovery) interventions preceded (~5 h) PM testing.

Results:

PM sprint performance improved (P < .05) after weights (>0.15 ± 0.19 s, >2.04% ± 2.46%) and running (>0.15 ± 0.17 s, >2.12% ± 2.22%) but not cycling (P > .05). PM jump height increased after cycling (0.012 ± 0.009 m, 2.31% ± 1.76%, P < .001) and running (0.020 ± 0.009 m, 3.90% ± 1.79%, P < .001) but not weights (P = .936). Reaction time remained unchanged between trials (P = .379). Relative to control (131 ± 21 pg/mL), PM testosterone was greater in weights (21 ± 23 pg/mL, 17% ± 18%, P = .002) and running (28 ± 26 pg/mL, 22% ± 20%, P = .001) but not cycling (P = .072). Salivary cortisol was unaffected by AM exercise (P = .540).

Conclusions:

All modes of AM exercise improved at least 1 marker of PM performance, but running appeared the most beneficial to professional rugby union players. A rationale therefore exists for preceding PM competition with AM exercise.

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Benjamin G. Serpell, Barry G. Horgan, Carmen M.E. Colomer, Byron Field, Shona L. Halson and Christian J. Cook

Purpose: To examine changes in, and relationships between, sleep quality and quantity, salivary testosterone, salivary cortisol, testosterone-to-cortisol ratio (T:C), and self-reported muscle soreness during a residential-based training camp in elite rugby players. Methods: Nineteen male rugby players age 26.4 (3.9) years, height 186.0 (9.4) cm, and weight 104.1 (13.4) kg (mean [SD]) participated in this study. Wrist actigraphy devices were worn for 8 nights around a 4-d training camp (2 nights prior, during, and 2 nights after). Sleep-onset latency, sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and waking time were measured. Participants provided saliva samples during camp on waking and again 45 min later, which were then assayed for testosterone and cortisol levels. They also rated their general muscle soreness daily. Results: Little variation was observed for sleep quality and quantity or testosterone. However, significant differences were observed between and within days for cortisol, T:C, and muscle soreness (P < .001). Few relationships were observed for sleep and hormones; the strongest, an inverse relationship for sleep efficiency and T:C (r = −.372, P < .01). Conclusions: There may be no clear and useful relationship between sleep and hormone concentration in a short-term training camp context, and measures of sleep and testosterone and cortisol should be interpreted with caution because of individual variation. Alterations in hormone concentration, particularly cortisol, may be affected by other factors including anticipation of the day ahead. This study adds to our knowledge that changes in hormone concentration are individual and context specific.