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Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, and Laurent Bosquet

The classical work by Robert C. Hickson showed in 1980 that the addition of a resistance-training protocol to a predominantly aerobic program could lead to impaired leg-strength adaptations in comparison with a resistance-only training regimen. This interference phenomenon was later highlighted in many reports, including a meta-analysis. However, it seems that the interference effect has not been consistently reported, probably because of the complex interactions between training variables and methodological issues. On the other side of the medal, Dr Hickson et al subsequently (1986) reported that a strength-training mesocycle could be beneficial for endurance performance in running and cycling. In recent meta-analyses and review articles, it was demonstrated that such a training strategy could improve middle- and long-distance performance in many disciplines (running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming). Notably, it appears that improvements in the energy cost of locomotion could be associated with these performance enhancements. Despite these benefits, it was also reported that strength training could represent a detrimental stimulus for endurance performance if an inappropriate training plan has been prepared. Taken together, these observations suggest that coaches and athletes should be careful when concurrent training seems imperative to meet the complex physiological requirements of their sport. This brief review presents a practical appraisal of concurrent training for sports performance. In addition, recommendations are provided so that practitioners can adapt their interventions based on the training objectives.

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Adrien Vachon, Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Jean-Baptiste Paquet, and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To investigate the relationship between physical fitness and repeated high-intensity effort (RHIE) ability in elite rugby union players, depending on playing position. Method: Thirty-nine players underwent a fitness testing battery composed of a body composition assessment, upper-body strength (1-repetition maximum bench press and 1-repetition maximum bench row), lower-body strength (6-repetition maximum back squat), and power (countermovement jump, countermovement jump with arms, and 20-m sprint), as well as aerobic fitness (Bronco test) and RHIE tests over a 1-week period. Pearson linear correlations were used to quantify relationships between fitness tests and the RHIE performance outcomes (total sprint time [TST] and percentage decrement [%D]). Thereafter, a stepwise multiple regression model was used to verify the influence of physical fitness measures on RHIE ability. Results: TST was strongly to very strongly associated to body fat (BF, r = .82, P < .01), the 20-m sprint (r = .86, P < .01), countermovement jump (r = −.72, P < .01), and Bronco test (r = .90, P < .01). These fitness outcomes were related to %D, with moderate to strong associations (.82 > ∣r∣ > .54, P < .01). By playing position, similar associations were observed in forwards, but RHIE ability was only related to the 20-m sprint in backs (r = .53, P < .05). The RHIE performance model equations were TST = 13.69 + 0.01 × BF + 0.08 × Bronco + 10.20 × 20 m and %D = −14.34 + 0.11 × BF +0.18 × Bronco − 9.92 × 20 m. These models explain 88.8% and 68.2% of the variance, respectively. Conclusion: Body composition, lower-body power, and aerobic fitness were highly related with RHIE ability. However, backs expressed a different profile than forwards, suggesting that further research with larger sample sizes is needed to better understand the fitness determinants of backs’ RHIE ability.

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Adrien Vachon, Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Jean-Baptiste Paquet, and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To assess the effects of a short-term taper on the ability to perform repeated high-intensity efforts, depending on players’ fatigue level following an intensive training block. Method: After a 3-day off-season camp, 13 players followed the same 3-week preseason training block followed by a 7-day exponential taper. Performance was assessed by a repeated high-intensity effort test before and after the taper. Total sprint time, percentage of decrement, and the number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint were retained for analysis. Players were a posteriori classified in normal training or acute fatigue groups based on their readiness to perform prior to the taper, assessed through the magnitude of difference in psychological (Profile of Mood State Questionnaire), cardiovascular (submaximal constant-duration cycling), and neuromuscular (countermovement jump) tests between the preintensive and postintensive training blocks. Results: Training load declined by 55% (9%) during the taper (P = .001, g = −2.54). The overall group showed a small improvement in total sprint time (−3.40% [3.90%], P = .04, g = −0.39) following the taper. Relative changes tended to be higher in the acute fatigue compared with the normal training group (−5.07% [4.52%] vs −1.45% [1.88%], respectively; P = .08; d = 1.01). No taper-induced improvement was observed in percentage of decrement or number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint. Conclusion: A 7-day taper consisting of 55% training load reduction improved repeated high-intensity effort performance in young elite rugby union players. Pretaper level of fatigue seems to be a key determinant in the taper supercompensation process, as acutely fatigued players at the end of the intensive training block tended to benefit more from the taper.

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Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Denis Arvisais, Marie Roubeix, Carl Binet, and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To assess the net effects of strength training on middle- and long-distance performance through a meta-analysis of the available literature. Methods: Three databases were searched, from which 28 of 554 potential studies met all inclusion criteria. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were calculated and weighted by the inverse of variance to calculate an overall effect and its 95% confidence interval (CI). Subgroup analyses were conducted to determine whether the strength-training intensity, duration, and frequency and population performance level, age, sex, and sport were outcomes that might influence the magnitude of the effect. Results: The implementation of a strength-training mesocycle in running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming was associated with moderate improvements in middle- and long-distance performance (net SMD [95%CI] = 0.52 [0.33–0.70]). These results were associated with improvements in the energy cost of locomotion (0.65 [0.32–0.98]), maximal force (0.99 [0.80–1.18]), and maximal power (0.50 [0.34–0.67]). Maximal-force training led to greater improvements than other intensities. Subgroup analyses also revealed that beneficial effects on performance were consistent irrespective of the athletes’ level. Conclusion: Taken together, these results provide a framework that supports the implementation of strength training in addition to traditional sport-specific training to improve middle- and long-distance performance, mainly through improvements in the energy cost of locomotion, maximal power, and maximal strength.