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Jonathan M. Taylor, Tom W. Macpherson, Iain R. Spears and Matthew Weston

The ability to repeatedly perform sprints has traditionally been viewed as a key performance measure in team sports, and the relationship between repeated-sprint ability (RSA) and performance has been explored extensively. However, when reviewing the repeated-sprint profile of team-sports match play it appears that the occurrence of repeated-sprint bouts is sparse, indicating that RSA is not as important to performance as commonly believed. Repeated sprints are, however, a potent and time-efficient training strategy, effective in developing acceleration, speed, explosive leg power, aerobic power, and high-intensity-running performance—all of which are crucial to team-sport performance. As such, we propose that repeated-sprint exercise in team sports should be viewed as an independent variable (eg, a means of developing fitness) as opposed to a dependent variable (eg, a means of assessing fitness/performance).

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Jonathan M. Taylor, Tom W. Macpherson, Shaun J. McLaren, Iain Spears and Matthew Weston

Purpose:

To compare the effects of 2 repeated-sprint training programs on fitness in soccer.

Methods:

Fifteen semiprofessional soccer players (age: 24 ± 4 y; body mass: 77 ± 8 kg) completed 6 repeated-sprint training sessions over a 2-week period. Players were assigned to a straight-line (STR) (n = 8; 3–4 sets of 7 × 30 m) or change of direction (CoD) (n = 7; 3–4 sets of 7 × 20-m) repeated-sprint training group. Performance measures included 5-, 10-, and 20-m sprints, countermovement jump, Illinois agility, and Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test level 1 (YYIRTL1) performance. Internal (heart rate) and external (global positioning system-derived measures) training loads were monitored throughout. Data were analyzed using magnitude-based inferences.

Results:

Internal and external loads were higher in the STR group than in the CoD group with large differences in maximum velocity (28.7%; ±90% confidence limits, 3.3%), moderate differences in mean heart rates (7.0%; ±1.4%) and PlayerLoad (17.6%; ±8.6%), and small differences in peak heart rates (3.0%; ±1.6%). Large improvements in 5-m (STR: 9.6%; ±7.0% and CoD: 9.4%; ±3.3%), 10-m (STR: 6.6%; ±4.6% and CoD: 6.7%; ±2.2%), and 20-m (STR: 3.6; ±4.0% and CoD: 4.0; ±1.7%) sprints were observed. Large and moderate improvements in YYIRTL1 performance were observed in the STR (24.0%; ±9.3%) and CoD (31.0%; ±7.5%), respectively. Between-groups differences in outcome measures were unclear.

Conclusions:

Two weeks of repeated-sprint training stimulates improvements in acceleration, speed, and high-intensity running performance in soccer players. Despite STR inducing higher internal and external training loads, training adaptations were unclear between training modes, indicating a need for further research.