Purpose: External counterpulsation (ECP) has previously been used to treat cardiac patients via compression of the lower extremities during diastole to increase venous return and coronary perfusion. However, the effects of ECP on exercise performance and markers of recovery in elite athletes are largely unknown. Methods: On 2 separate occasions, 48 h apart, 7 elite National Rugby League players performed an identical 60-min field-based conditioning session followed by a 30-min period of either regular ECP treatment or placebo. Power measures during repeated cycle bouts and countermovement jump height and contraction time derivatives were measured at rest and 5 h postexercise. Saliva samples and venous blood samples were taken at rest, postexercise, and 5 h postexercise to assess stress, inflammation, and muscle damage. Results: After ECP treatment, cycling peak power output (P = .028; 11%) and accumulated peak power (P = .027; 14%) increased compared with the placebo condition. Postexercise plasma interleukin 1 receptor antagonist only increased after ECP (P = .024; 84%), and concentrations of plasma interleukin 1 receptor antagonist tended to be higher (P = .093; 76%) 5 h postexercise. Furthermore, testosterone-to-cortisol ratio was increased above baseline and placebo 5 h postexercise (P = .017–.029; 24–77%). The ratio of postexercise salivary α-amylase to immunoglobulin A decreased after treatment (P = .013; 50%) compared with the placebo control. Conclusions: Exercise performance and hormonal indicators of stress were improved and inflammation markers were reduced following acute ECP.
Llion A. Roberts, Johnpaul Caia, Lachlan P. James, Tannath J. Scott and Vincent G. Kelly
Lachlan P. James, Emma M. Beckman, Vincent G. Kelly and G. Gregory Haff
To determine whether the maximal strength, impulse, and power characteristics of competitive mixed-martial-arts (MMA) athletes differ according to competition level.
Twenty-nine male semiprofessional and amateur MMA competitors were stratified into either higher-level (HL) or lower-level (LL) performers on the basis of competition grade and success. The 1-repetition-maximum (1RM) squat was used to assess lower-body dynamic strength, and a spectrum of impulse, power, force, and velocity variables were evaluated during an incremental-load jump squat. In addition, participants performed an isometric midthigh pull (IMTP) and 1RM bench press to determine whole-body isometric force and upper-body dynamic strength capabilities, respectively. All force and power variables were expressed relative to body mass (BM).
The HL competitors produced significantly superior values across a multitude of measures. These included 1RM squat strength (1.84 ± 0.23 vs 1.56 ± 0.24 kg BM; P = .003), in addition to performance in the incremental-load jump squat that revealed greater peak power (P = .005–.002), force (P = .002–.004), and velocity (P = .002–.03) at each load. Higher measures of impulse (P = .01–.04) were noted in a number of conditions. Average power (P = .002–.02) and velocity (P = .01–.04) at all loads in addition to a series of rate-dependent measures were also superior in the HL group (P = .005–.02). The HL competitors’ 1RM bench-press values approached significantly greater levels (P = .056) than the LL group’s, but IMTP performance did not differ between groups.
Maximal lower-body neuromuscular capabilities are key attributes distinguishing HL from LL MMA competitors. This information can be used to inform evidenced-based training and performance-monitoring practices.