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Scott R. Brown, Matt Brughelli and Seth Lenetsky

Our aims were to assess single-leg balance in rugby union athletes and compare the stability indices between legs and between positions. Thirty athletes, forwards and backs (n = 15/15), performed single-leg balance measured at two difficulty levels (Level 8: more stable and Level 2: less stable) using the Biodex Balance SD System. The backs’ nonpreferred leg had worse scores in medial–lateral and overall indices (effect size = 1.05 and 0.63) compared with the preferred leg on Level 8 stability. Backs had better scores in all indices in the preferred (effect size = −1.20 to −1.82) and nonpreferred (effect size = −0.66 to −1.36) legs compared with the forwards at both stability difficulties. Asymmetry between the two legs is also present between forwards and backs when examined on an individual basis. This study illuminates the importance of single-leg balance screening among rugby athletes to detect individuals with asymmetries in balance that may increase the risk of lower-extremity injury.

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Scott R. Brown, Matt Brughelli and Lee A. Bridgeman

Context:

Muscle imbalances aid in the identification of athletes at risk for lower-extremity injury. Little is known regarding the influence that leg preference or playing position may have on lower-extremity muscle strength and asymmetry.

Purpose:

To investigate lower-extremity strength profiles in rugby union athletes and compare isokinetic knee- and hip-strength variables between legs and positions.

Methods:

Thirty male academy rugby union athletes, separated into forwards (n = 15) and backs (n = 15), participated in this cross-sectional analysis. Isokinetic dynamometry was used to evaluate peak torque, angle of peak torque, and strength ratios of the preferred and nonpreferred legs during seated knee extension/flexion and supine hip extension/flexion at 60°/s.

Results:

Backs were older (ES = 1.6) but smaller in stature (ES = –0.47) and body mass (ES = –1.3) than the forwards. The nonpreferred leg was weaker than the preferred leg for forwards during extension (ES = –0.37) and flexion (ES = –0.21) actions and for backs during extension (ES = –0.28) actions. Backs were weaker at the knee than forwards in the preferred leg during extension (ES = –0.50) and flexion (ES = –0.66) actions. No differences were observed in strength ratios between legs or positions. Backs produced peak torque at longer muscle lengths in both legs at the knee (ES = –0.93 to –0.94) and hip (ES = –0.84 to –1.17) than the forwards.

Conclusions:

In this sample of male academy rugby union athletes, the preferred leg and forwards displayed superior strength compared with the nonpreferred leg and backs. These findings highlight the importance of individualized athletic assessments to detect crucial strength differences in male rugby union athletes.

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Matt R. Cross, Matt Brughelli, Pierre Samozino, Scott R. Brown and Jean-Benoit Morin

Purpose:

To ascertain whether force-velocity-power relationships could be compiled from a battery of sled-resisted overground sprints and to clarify and compare the optimal loading conditions for maximizing power production for different athlete cohorts.

Methods:

Recreational mixed-sport athletes (n = 12) and sprinters (n = 15) performed multiple trials of maximal sprints unloaded and towing a selection of sled masses (20–120% body mass [BM]). Velocity data were collected by sports radar, and kinetics at peak velocity were quantified using friction coefficients and aerodynamic drag. Individual force–velocity and power–velocity relationships were generated using linear and quadratic relationships, respectively. Mechanical and optimal loading variables were subsequently calculated and test–retest reliability assessed.

Results:

Individual force–velocity and power–velocity relationships were accurately fitted with regression models (R 2 > .977, P < .001) and were reliable (ES = 0.05–0.50, ICC = .73–.97, CV = 1.0–5.4%). The normal loading that maximized peak power was 78% ± 6% and 82% ± 8% of BM, representing a resistance of 3.37 and 3.62 N/kg at 4.19 ± 0.19 and 4.90 ± 0.18 m/s (recreational athletes and sprinters, respectively). Optimal force and normal load did not clearly differentiate between cohorts, although sprinters developed greater maximal power (17.2–26.5%, ES = 0.97–2.13, P < .02) at much greater velocities (16.9%, ES = 3.73, P < .001).

Conclusions:

Mechanical relationships can be accurately profiled using common sled-training equipment. Notably, the optimal loading conditions determined in this study (69–96% of BM, dependent on friction conditions) represent much greater resistance than current guidelines (~7–20% of BM). This method has potential value in quantifying individualized training parameters for optimized development of horizontal power.

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Matt R. Cross, Matt Brughelli, Scott R. Brown, Pierre Samozino, Nicholas D. Gill, John B. Cronin and Jean-Benoît Morin

Purpose:

To compare mechanical properties of overground sprint running in elite rugby union and rugby league athletes.

Methods:

Thirty elite rugby code (15 rugby union and 15 rugby league) athletes participated in this cross-sectional analysis. Radar was used to measure maximal overground sprint performance over 20 or 30 m (forwards and backs, respectively). In addition to time at 2, 5, 10, 20, and 30 m, velocity-time signals were analyzed to derive external horizontal force–velocity relationships with a recently validated method. From this relationship, the maximal theoretical velocity, external relative and absolute horizontal force, horizontal power, and optimal horizontal force for peak power production were determined.

Results:

While differences in maximal velocity were unclear between codes, rugby union backs produced moderately faster split times, with the most substantial differences occurring at 2 and 5 m (ES 0.95 and 0.86, respectively). In addition, rugby union backs produced moderately larger relative horizontal force, optimal force, and peak power capabilities than rugby league backs (ES 0.73−0.77). Rugby union forwards had a higher absolute force (ES 0.77) despite having ~12% more body weight than rugby league forwards.

Conclusions:

In this elite sample, rugby union athletes typically displayed greater short-distance sprint performance, which may be linked to an ability to generate high levels of horizontal force and power. The acceleration characteristics presented in this study could be a result of the individual movement and positional demands of each code.

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Matt R. Cross, Farhan Tinwala, Seth Lenetsky, Scott R. Brown, Matt Brughelli, Jean-Benoit Morin and Pierre Samozino

The assessment of horizontal force during overground sprinting is increasingly prevalent in practice and research, stemming from advances in technology and access to simplified yet valid field methods. As researchers search out optimal means of targeting the development of horizontal force, there is considerable interest in the effectiveness of external resistance. Increasing attention in research provides more information surrounding the biomechanics of sprinting in general and insight into the potential methods of developing determinant capacities. However, there is a general lack of consensus on the assessment and computation of horizontal force under resistance, which has resulted in a confusing narrative surrounding the practical applicability of loading parameters for performance enhancement. As such, the aim of this commentary was twofold: to provide a clear narrative of the assessment and computation of horizontal force in resisted sprinting and to clarify and discuss the impact of methodological approaches to subsequent training implementation. Horizontal force computation during resisted sleds, a common sprint-training apparatus in the field, is used as a test case to illustrate the risks associated with substandard methodological practices and improperly accounting for the effects of friction. A practical and operational synthesis is provided to help guide researchers and practitioners in selecting appropriate resistance methods. Finally, an outline of future challenges is presented to aid the development of these approaches.

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Asier Los Arcos, Javier Yanci, Jurdan Mendiguchia, Juan J. Salinero, Matt Brughelli and Carlo Castagna

Purpose:

The aim of this study was to compare the effects of 2 strength and conditioning programs involving either purely vertically oriented or combining vertically and horizontally oriented exercises on soccer-relevant performance variables (ie, acceleration, jumping ability, peak power, and endurance).

Methods:

Twenty-two professional male soccer players were randomly assigned to 2 training groups: vertical strength (VS, n = 11) and vertical and horizontal strength (VHS, n = 11). Players trained 2 times per week during all the preseason (5 wk) and 3 weeks of the competitive season. The effect of the training protocols was assessed using doubleand single-leg vertical countermovement jumps (CMJ), half-squat peak power (PP), sprint performance over 5 and 15 m, and blood lactate concentration at selected running speeds.

Results:

Both groups obtained significant improvements in PP (P < .05; ES = 0.87 and 0.80 for VS and VHS, respectively) and small practical improvements in 5-m- (P < .05; ES = 0.27 and 0.25 for VS and VHS, respectively) and 15-m-sprint time (P < .05; ES = 0.19 and 0.24 for VS and VHS, respectively). The CMJ performance showed a small improvement (P < .05, ES = 0.34) only in the VHS group. Submaximal aerobic-fitness changes were similar in both groups (P < .05; ES = 1.89 and 0 .71 for VS and VHS, respectively).

Conclusion:

This study provided a small amount of practical evidence for the consideration of preseason training protocols that combine exercises for vertical- and horizontal-axis strength development in professional male soccer players. Further studies using more aggressive training protocols involving horizontally oriented conditioning exercises are warranted.

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Scott R. Brown, Matt Brughelli, Peter C. Griffiths and John B. Cronin

Purpose:

While several studies have documented isokinetic knee strength in junior and senior rugby league players, investigations of isokinetic knee and hip strength in professional rugby union players are limited. The purpose of this study was to provide lower-extremity strength profiles and compare isokinetic knee and hip strength of professional rugby league and rugby union players.

Participants:

32 professional rugby league and 25 professional rugby union players.

Methods:

Cross-sectional analysis. Isokinetic dynamometry was used to evaluate peak torque and strength ratios of the dominant and nondominant legs during seated knee-extension/flexion and supine hip-extension/flexion actions at 60°/s.

Results:

Forwards from both codes were taller and heavier and had a higher body-mass index than the backs of each code. Rugby union forwards produced significantly (P < .05) greater peak torque during knee flexion in the dominant and nondominant legs (ES = 1.81 and 2.02) compared with rugby league forwards. Rugby league backs produced significantly greater hip-extension peak torque in the dominant and nondominant legs (ES = 0.83 and 0.77) compared with rugby union backs. There were no significant differences in hamstring-to-quadriceps ratios between code, position, or leg. Rugby union forwards and backs produced significantly greater knee-flexion-to-hip-extension ratios in the dominant and nondominant legs (ES = 1.49–2.26) than rugby union players.

Conclusions:

It seems that the joint torque profiles of players from rugby league and union codes differ, which may be attributed to the different demands of each code.