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Tom W. Macpherson and Matthew Weston

Purpose:

To examine the effect of low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) on the development (part 1) and subsequent maintenance (part 2) of aerobic fitness in soccer players.

Methods:

In part 1, 23 players from the same semiprofessional team participated in a 2-wk SIT intervention (SIT, n = 14, age 25 ± 4 y, weight 77 ± 8 kg; control, n = 9, age 27 ± 6 y, weight 72 ± 10 kg). The SIT group performed 6 training sessions of 4–6 maximal 30-s sprints, in replacement of regular aerobic training. The control group continued with their regular training. After this 2-wk intervention, the SIT group was allocated to either intervention (n = 7, 1 SIT session/wk as replacement of regular aerobic training) or control (n = 7, regular aerobic training with no SIT sessions) for a 5-wk period (part 2). Pre and post measures were the YoYo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 (YYIRL1) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).

Results:

In part 1, the 2-week SIT intervention had a small beneficial effect on YYIRL1 (17%; 90% confidence limits ±11%), and VO2max (3.1%; ±5.0%) compared with control. In part 2, 1 SIT session/wk for 5 wk had a small beneficial effect on VO2max (4.2%; ±3.0%), with an unclear effect on YYIRL1 (8%; ±16%).

Conclusion:

Two weeks of SIT elicits small improvements in soccer players’ high-intensity intermittent-running performance and VO2max, therefore representing a worthwhile replacement of regular aerobic training. The effectiveness of SIT for maintaining SIT-induced improvements in high-intensity intermittent running requires further research.

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Shaun J. McLaren, Michael Graham, Iain R. Spears, and Matthew Weston

Purpose:

To investigate the sensitivity of differential ratings of perceived exertion (dRPE) as measures of internal load.

Methods:

Twenty-two male university soccer players performed 2 maximal incremental-exercise protocols (cycle, treadmill) on separate days. Maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max), maximal heart rate (HRmax), peak blood lactate concentration (B[La]peak), and the preprotocol-to-postprotocol change in countermovement-jump height (ΔCMJH) were measured for each protocol. Players provided dRPE (CR100) for breathlessness (RPE-B) and leg-muscle exertion (RPE-L) immediately on exercise termination (RPE-B0, RPE-L0) and 30 min postexercise (RPE-B30, RPE-L30). Data were analyzed using magnitude-based inferences.

Results:

There were clear between-protocols differences for V̇O2max (cycle 46.5 ± 6.3 vs treadmill 51.0 ± 5.1 mL · kg−1 · min−1, mean difference –9.2%; ±90% confidence limits 3.7%), HRmax (184.7 ± 12.7 vs 196.7 ± 7.8 beats/min, –6.0%; ±1.7%), B[La]peak (9.7 ± 2.1 vs 8.5 ± 2.0 mmol/L, 15%; ±10%), and ΔCMJH (–7.1 ± 4.2 vs 0.6 ± 3.6 cm, –23.2%; ±5.4%). Clear between-protocols differences were recorded for RPE-B0 (78.0 ± 11.7 vs 94.7 ± 9.5 AU, –18.1%; ±4.5%), RPE-L0 (92.6 ± 9.7 vs 81.3 ± 14.1 AU, 15.3%; ±7.6%), RPE-B30 (70 ± 11 vs 82 ± 13 AU, –13.8%; ±7.3%), and RPE-L30 (86 ± 12 vs 65 ± 19 AU, 37%; ±17%). A substantial timing effect was observed for dRPE, with moderate to large reductions in all scores 30 min postexercise compared with scores collected on exercise termination.

Conclusion:

dRPE enhance the precision of internal-load measurement and therefore represent a worthwhile addition to training-load-monitoring procedures.

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Matthew D. Wright, Francisco Songane, Stacey Emmonds, Paul Chesterton, Matthew Weston, and Shaun J. Mclaren

Purpose: To understand the validity of differential ratings of perceived exertion (dRPE) as a measure of girls’ training and match internal loads. Methods: Using the centiMax scale (CR100), session dRPE for breathlessness (sRPE-B) and leg muscle exertion (sRPE-L) were collected across a season of training (soccer, resistance, and fitness) and matches from 33 players (15 [1] y). Differences and associations between dRPE were examined using mixed and general linear models. The authors’ minimal practical important difference was 8 arbitrary units (AU). Results: Mean (AU [SD] ∼16) sRPE-B and sRPE-L were 66 and 61 for matches, 51 and 49 for soccer, 86 and 67 for fitness, and 45 and 58 for resistance, respectively. Session RPE-B was rated most likely harder than sRPE-L for fitness (19 AU; 90% confidence limits: ±7) and most likely easier for resistance (−13; ±2). Match (5; ±4) and soccer (−3; ±2) differences were likely to most likely trivial. The within-player relationships between sRPE-B and sRPE-L were very likely moderate for matches (r = .44; 90% confidence limits: ±.12) and resistance training (.38; ±.06), likely large for fitness training (.51; ±.22), and most likely large for soccer training (.56; ±.03). Shared variance ranged from 14% to 35%. Conclusions: Practically meaningful differences between dRPE following physical training sessions coupled with low shared variance in all training types and matches suggest that sRPE-B and sRPE-L represent unique sensory inputs in girls’ soccer players. The data provide evidence for the face and construct validity of dRPE as a measure of internal load in this population.

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Matthew Weston, Warren Gregson, Carlo Castagna, Simon Breivik, Franco M. Impellizzeri, and Ric J. Lovell

Athlete case studies have often focused on the training outcome and not the training process. Consequently, there is a dearth of information detailing longitudinal training protocols, yet it is the combined assessment of both outcome and process that enhances the interpretation of physical test data. We were provided with a unique opportunity to assess the training load, physical match performance, and physiological fitness of an elite soccer referee from the referee’s final season before attaining full-time, professional status (2002) until the season when he refereed the 2010 UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup finals. An increased focus on on-field speed and gym-based strength training was observed toward the end of the study period and longitudinal match data showed a tendency for decreased total distances but an increased intensity of movements. Laboratory assessments demonstrated that VO2max remained stable (52.3 vs 50.8 mL-kg–1-min–1), whereas running speed at the lactate threshold (14.0 vs 12.0 km-h-1) and running economy (37.3 vs 43.4 mLkg–1min–1) both improved in 2010 compared with 2002.

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

Purpose: To quantify changes in differential ratings of perceived exertion (dRPE) across a 2-wk repeated-sprint-training intervention that improved high-intensity intermittent-running ability and linear speed of semiprofessional soccer players. Methods: Thirteen players completed 3 (sessions 1–3) or 4 (sessions 4–6) sets of 7 sprints (group 1 [n = 7]: 30-m straight; group 2 [n = 6]: 2 × 10-m shuttle), with 20 s and 4 min of recovery between sprints and sets, respectively. Postset perceptions of breathlessness (RPE-B) and leg-muscle exertion (RPE-L) were rated using the CR100 scale. Results: Overall, RPE-B (mean [SD]: 46 [13] arbitrary units [AU], “hard”) was most likely higher than RPE-L (39 [13] AU, “somewhat hard,” mean difference: 8 AU; 90% confidence limits [CLs]: ±2). Set-to-set increases in dRPE (in AU; 90% CL: approximately ±2) were large in session 1 (RPE-B: 15; RPE-L: 14), moderate in sessions 2–5 (RPE-B: 7–10; RPE-L: 7–8), and small (RPE-B: 6) to moderate (RPE-L: 7) in session 6. Across the intervention, RPE-B reduced moderately in sets 3 (−13; 90% CL: ±4) and 4 (−12; 90% CL: ±12) and RPE-L reduced by a small magnitude in set 3 (−5; 90% CL: ±6). The set 4 change in RPE-L was unclear (−11; 90% CL: ±13). Conclusions: The authors observed systematic intrasession and intersession changes in dRPE across a 2-wk repeated-sprint-training intervention, with a fixed prescription of external load that improved semiprofessional soccer players’ high-speed-running abilities. These findings could support dRPE as a measure of internal load and highlight its usefulness in evaluating repeated-sprint-training dose–response.

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Matthew Weston, Angela E. Hibbs, Kevin G. Thompson, and Iain R. Spears

Purpose:

To quantify the effects of a 12-wk isolated core-training program on 50-m front-crawl swim time and measures of core musculature functionally relevant to swimming.

Methods:

Twenty national-level junior swimmers (10 male and 10 female, 16 ± 1 y, 171 ± 5 cm, 63 ± 4 kg) participated in the study. Group allocation (intervention [n = 10], control [n = 10]) was based on 2 preexisting swim-training groups who were part of the same swimming club but trained in different groups. The intervention group completed the core training, incorporating exercises targeting the lumbopelvic complex and upper region extending to the scapula, 3 times/wk for 12 wk. While the training was performed in addition to the normal pool-based swimming program, the control group maintained their usual pool-based swimming program. The authors made probabilistic magnitude-based inferences about the effect of the core training on 50-m swim time and functionally relevant measures of core function.

Results:

Compared with the control group, the core-training intervention group had a possibly large beneficial effect on 50-m swim time (–2.0%; 90% confidence interval –3.8 to –0.2%). Moreover, it showed small to moderate improvements on a timed prone-bridge test (9.0%; 2.1–16.4%) and asymmetric straight-arm pull-down test (23.1%; 13.7–33.4%), and there were moderate to large increases in peak EMG activity of core musculature during isolated tests of maximal voluntary contraction.

Conclusion:

This is the first study to demonstrate a clear beneficial effect of isolated core training on 50-m front-crawl swim performance.

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Daniel Castillo, Matthew Weston, Shaun J. McLaren, Jesús Cámara, and Javier Yanci

The aims of this study were to describe the internal and external match loads (ML) of refereeing activity during official soccer matches and to investigate the relationship among the methods of ML quantification across a competitive season. A further aim was to examine the usefulness of differential perceived exertion (dRPE) as a tool for monitoring internal ML in soccer referees. Twenty field referees (FRs) and 43 assistant referees (ARs) participated in the study. Data were collected from 30 competitive matches (FR = 20 observations, AR = 43 observations) and included measures of internal (Edwards’ heart-rate-derived training impulse [TRIMPEDW]) ML, external (total distance covered, distance covered at high speeds, and player load) ML, and ML differentiated ratings of perceived respiratory (sRPEres) and leg-muscle (sRPEmus) exertion. Internal and external ML were all greater for FRs than for ARs (–19.7 to –72.5), with differences ranging from very likely very large to most likely extremely large. The relationships between internal-ML and external-ML indicators were, in most cases, unclear for FR (r < .35) and small to moderate for AR (r < .40). The authors found substantial differences between RPEres and RPEmus scores in both FRs (0.6 AU; ±90% confidence limits 0.4 AU) and ARs (0.4; ±0.3). These data demonstrate the multifaceted demands of soccer refereeing and thereby highlight the importance of monitoring both internal and external ML. Moreover, dRPE represents distinct dimensions of effort and may be useful in monitoring soccer referees’ ML during official matches.

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Jamie Salter, Mark B.A. De Ste Croix, Jonathan D. Hughes, Matthew Weston, and Christopher Towlson

Purpose: Overuse injury risk increases during periods of accelerated growth, which can subsequently impact development in academy soccer, suggesting a need to quantify training exposure. Nonprescriptive development scheme legislation could lead to inconsistent approaches to monitoring maturity and training load. Therefore, this study aimed to communicate current practices of UK soccer academies toward biological maturity and training load. Methods: Forty-nine respondents completed an online survey representing support staff from male Premier League academies (n = 38) and female Regional Talent Clubs (n = 11). The survey included 16 questions covering maturity and training-load monitoring. Questions were multiple-choice or unipolar scaled (agreement 0–100) with a magnitude-based decision approach used for interpretation. Results: Injury prevention was deemed highest importance for maturity (83.0 [5.3], mean [SD]) and training-load monitoring (80.0 [2.8]). There were large differences in methods adopted for maturity estimation and moderate differences for training-load monitoring between academies. Predictions of maturity were deemed comparatively low in importance for bio-banded (biological classification) training (61.0 [3.3]) and low for bio-banded competition (56.0 [1.8]) across academies. Few respondents reported maturity (42%) and training load (16%) to parent/guardians, and only 9% of medical staff were routinely provided this data. Conclusions: Although consistencies between academies exist, disparities in monitoring approaches are likely reflective of environment-specific resource and logistical constraints. Designating consistent and qualified responsibility to staff will help promote fidelity, feedback, and transparency to advise stakeholders of maturity–load relationships. Practitioners should consider biological categorization to manage load prescription to promote maturity-appropriate dose–responses and to help reduce the risk of noncontact injury.

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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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Emma Weston, Matthew Nagy, Tiwaloluwa A. Ajibewa, Molly O’Sullivan, Shannon Block, and Rebecca E. Hasson

Purpose: To compare the acute effects of intermittent physical activity (PA) across 4 different intensities on blood pressure. Methods: Thirty children (12 males and 18 females; aged 7–11 y; 33% overweight/obese; 53% nonwhite) completed 4 experimental conditions in random order: 8 hours sitting interrupted with 20, 2-minute low-, moderate-, high-intensity PA breaks, or sedentary screen-time breaks. PA intensity corresponded with 25%, 50%, and 75% of heart rate reserve. Blood pressure was measured during each condition in the morning (0800 h), noon (1200 h), and afternoon (1600 h). Results: There were no significant differences across conditions for systolic blood pressure (SBP; all Ps > .05). There was a significant effect of time with SBP decreasing throughout the day for all conditions (average morning SBP: 106 [1] mm Hg, average noon SBP: 101 [2] mm Hg, average afternoon SBP: 103 [1] mm Hg; P = .01). There were no significant effects of condition or time on diastolic blood pressure (all Ps > .05). Conclusion: While sedentary behavior is known to be associated with hypertension in both adults and children, a single bout of prolonged sitting may be insufficient to produce hypertensive effects in otherwise healthy children. Future research should examine the appropriate dose of intermittent PA to accrue hypotensive responses in preadolescent children.