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Christian Cook, C. Martyn Beaven, Liam P. Kilduff and Scott Drawer

Introduction:

This study aimed to determine whether caffeine ingestion would increase the workload voluntarily chosen by athletes in a limited-sleep state.

Methods:

In a double-blind, crossover study, 16 professional rugby players ingested either a placebo or 4 mg/kg caffeine 1 hr before exercise. Athletes classified themselves into nondeprived (8 hr+) or sleep-deprived states (6 hr or less). Exercise comprised 4 sets of bench press, squats, and bent rows at 85% 1-repetition maximum. Athletes were asked to perform as many repetitions on each set as possible without failure. Saliva was collected before administration of placebo or caffeine and again before and immediately after exercise and assayed for testosterone and cortisol.

Results:

Sleep deprivation produced a very large decrease in total load (p = 1.98 × 10−7). Caffeine ingestion in the nondeprived state resulted in a moderate increase in total load, with a larger effect in the sleep-deprived state, resulting in total load similar to those observed in the nondeprived placebo condition. Eight of the 16 athletes were identified as caffeine responders. Baseline testosterone was higher (p < .05) and cortisol trended lower in non-sleep-deprived athletes. Changes in hormones from predose to preexercise correlated to individual workload responses to caffeine. Testosterone response to exercise increased with caffeine compared with placebo, as did cortisol response.

Conclusions:

Caffeine increased voluntary workload in professional athletes, even more so under conditions of self-reported limited sleep. Caffeine may prove worthwhile when athletes are tired, especially in those identified as responders.

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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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Francisco Tavares, Martyn Beaven, Júlia Teles, Dane Baker, Phil Healey, Tiaki B. Smith and Matthew Driller

Purpose: Although the acute effects of cold-water immersion (CWI) have been widely investigated, research analyzing the effects of CWI over a chronic period in highly trained athletes is scarce. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of CWI during an intense 3-wk preseason phase in elite rugby athletes. Methods: A total of 23 elite male rugby union athletes were randomized to either CWI (10 min at 10°C, n = 10) or a passive recovery control (CON, n = 13) during 3 wk of high-volume training. Athletes were exposed to either CWI or CON after each training day (12 d in total). Running loads, conditioning, and gym sessions were kept the same between groups. Measures of countermovement jump, perceived muscle soreness, and wellness were obtained twice a week, and saliva samples for determining cortisol and interleukin-6 were collected once per week. Results: Although no significant differences were observed between CWI and CON for any measure, CWI resulted in lower fatigue markers throughout the study as demonstrated by the moderate effects on muscle soreness (d = 0.58–0.91) and interleukin-6 (d = −0.83) and the small effects (d = 0.23–0.38) on countermovement jump in comparison with CON. Conclusions: CWI may provide some beneficial effect by reducing fatigue and soreness during an intense 3-wk training phase in elite rugby athletes.

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C. Martyn Beaven, Will G. Hopkins, Kier T. Hansen, Matthew R. Wood, John B. Cronin and Timothy E. Lowe

Introduction:

Interest in the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid has increased since the International Olympic Committee lifted the partial ban on its use. Caffeine has beneficial effects on various aspects of athletic performance, but its effects on training have been neglected.

Purpose:

To investigate the acute effect of caffeine on the exercise-associated increases in testosterone and cortisol in a double-blind crossover study.

Methods:

Twenty-four professional rugby-league players ingested caffeine doses of 0, 200, 400, and 800 mg in random order 1 hr before a resistance-exercise session. Saliva was sampled at the time of caffeine ingestion, at 15-min intervals throughout each session, and 15 and 30 min after the session. Data were log-transformed to estimate percent effects with mixed modeling, and effects were standardized to assess magnitudes.

Results:

Testosterone concentration showed a small increase of 15% (90% confidence limits, ± 19%) during exercise. Caffeine raised this concentration in a dose-dependent manner by a further small 21% (± 24%) at the highest dose. The 800-mg dose also produced a moderate 52% (± 44%) increase in cortisol. The effect of caffeine on the testosterone:cortisol ratio was a small decline (14%; ± 21%).

Conclusion:

Caffeine has some potential to benefit training outcomes via the anabolic effects of the increase in testosterone concentration, but this benefit might be counteracted by the opposing catabolic effects of the increase in cortisol and resultant decline in the testosterone:cortisol ratio.

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C. Martyn Beaven, Christian Cook, David Gray, Paul Downes, Ian Murphy, Scott Drawer, John R. Ingram, Liam P. Kilduff and Nicholas Gill

Rugby preseason training involves high-volume strength and conditioning training, necessitating effective management of the recovery-stress state to avoid overtraining and maximize adaptive gains.

Purpose:

Compression garments and an electrostimulation device have been proposed to improve recovery by increasing venous blood flow. These devices were assessed using salivary testosterone and cortisol, plasma creatine kinase, and player questionnaires to determine sleep quality, energy level, mood, and enthusiasm.

Methods:

Twenty-five professional rugby players were assigned to 1 of 2 treatments (compression garment or a concurrent combination of electrostimulation and compression) in a crossover design over 2 × 2-wk training blocks.

Results:

Substantial benefits were observed in self-assessed energy levels (effect size [ES] 0.86), and enthusiasm (ES 0.80) as a result of the combined treatment when compared with compression-garment use. The combination treatment had no discernable effect on salivary hormones, with no treatment effect observed. The electrostimulation device did tend to accelerate the return of creatine kinase to baseline levels after 2 preseason rugby games when compared with the compression-garment intervention (ES 0.61; P = .08).

Conclusions:

Electrostimulation elicited psychometric and physiological benefits reflective of an improved recovery-stress state in professional male rugby players when combined with a lower-body compression garment.

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Jorg Teichmann, Edin K. Suwarganda, C. Martyn Beaven, Kim Hébert-Losier, Jin Wei Lee, Florencio Tenllado Vallejo, Philip Chun Foong Lew, Ramlan Abdul Aziz, Yeo Wee Kian and Dietmar Schmidtbleicher

Context: Sensorimotor training is commonly used in a rehabilitative setting; however, the effectiveness of an unexpected disturbance program (UDP) to enhance performance measures in uninjured elite athletes is unknown. Objective: To assess the impact of a 3-wk UDP program on strength, power, and proprioceptive measures. Design: Matched-group, pre-post design. Setting: National sport institute. Participants: 21 international-level female field hockey athletes. Intervention: Two 45-min UDP sessions were incorporated into each week of a 3-wk training program (total 6 sessions). Main Outcome Measures: 1-repetition-maximum strength, lower-limb power, 20-m running speed, and proprioception tests were performed before and after the experimental period. Results: Substantial improvements in running sprint speed at 5-m (4.4 ± 2.6%; effect size [ES]: 0.88), 10-m (2.1 ± 1.9%; ES: 0.51), and 20-m (1.0 ± 1.6%; ES: 0.23) were observed in the UDP group. Squat-jump performance was also clearly enhanced when compared to the control group (3.1 ± 6.1%; ES: 0.23). Small but clear improvements in maximal strength were observed in both groups. Conclusions: A 3-wk UDP can elicit clear enhancements in running sprint speed and concentric-only jump performance. These improvements are suggestive of enhanced explosive strength and are particularly notable given the elite training status of the cohort and relatively short duration of the intervention. Thus, the authors would reiterate the statement by Gruber et al (2004) that sensorimotor training is a “highly efficient” modality for improving explosive strength.