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Jorge Carlos-Vivas, Elena Marín-Cascales, Tomás T. Freitas, Jorge Perez-Gomez, and Pedro E. Alcaraz

Purpose: To describe the load–velocity relationship and the effects of increasing loads on spatiotemporal and derived kinetic variables of sprinting using weighted vests (WV) in soccer players and determining the load that maximizes power output. Methods: A total of 23 soccer players (age 20.8 [1.5] y) performed 10 maximal 30-m sprints wearing a WV with 5 different loads (0%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40% body mass [BM]). Sprint velocity and time were collected using a radar device and wireless photocells. Mechanical outputs were computed using a recently developed valid and reliable field method that estimates the step-averaged ground-reaction forces during overground sprint acceleration from anthropometric and spatiotemporal data. Raw velocity–time data were fitted by an exponential function and used to calculate the net horizontal ground-reaction forces and horizontal power output. Individual linear force–velocity relationships were then extrapolated to calculate the theoretical maximum horizontal force (F 0) and velocity and the ratio of force application (proportion of the total force production that is directed forward at sprint start). Results: Magnitude-based inferences showed an almost certain decrease in F 0 (effect size = 0.78–3.35), maximum power output (effect size = 0.78–3.81), and maximum ratio of force (effect size = 0.82–3.87) as the load increased. The greatest changes occurred with loads heavier than 20% BM, especially in ratio of force. In addition, the maximum power was achieved under unloaded conditions. Conclusions: Increasing load in WV sprinting affects spatiotemporal and kinetic variables. The greatest change in ratio of force happened with loads heavier than 20% BM. Thus, the authors recommend the use of loads ≤20% BM for WV sprinting.

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Irineu Loturco, Lucas A. Pereira, Tomás T. Freitas, Chris Bishop, Fernando Pareja-Blanco, and Michael R. McGuigan

Purpose: To test the relationships between maximum and relative strength (MS and RS), absolute and relative peak force (PF and RPF), and strength deficit (SDef), with sprint and jump performance, and to compare these mechanical variables between elite sprinters and professional rugby union players. Methods: Thirty-five male rugby union players and 30 male sprinters performed vertical jumps, 30-m sprint, and half-squat 1-repetition maximum (1RM), where these force-related parameters were collected. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to test the relationships between the variables. An independent t test and magnitude-based inferences compared the mechanical variables between sprinters and rugby players. Results: Almost certain significant differences were observed for jump and sprint performance between groups (P < .0001). The rugby union players demonstrated a likely significant higher MS (P = .03) but a very likely lower RS (P = .007) than the sprinters. No significant differences were observed for PF between them. The sprinters exhibited an almost certain significant higher RPF than the rugby players (P < .0001). Furthermore, the rugby players demonstrated almost certain to likely significant higher SDef from 40% to 70% 1RM (P < .05) compared with the sprinters. Overall, all strength-derived parameters were significantly related to functional performance. Conclusions: Elite sprinters present higher levels of RS and RPF, lower levels of SDef, and better sprint and jump performance than professional rugby players. Relative strength-derived values (RS and RPF) and SDef are significantly associated with speed–power measures and may be used as effective and practical indicators of athletic performance.

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Tomás T. Freitas, Pedro E. Alcaraz, Ciro Winckler, Santiago Zabaloy, Lucas A. Pereira, and Irineu Loturco

Purpose: To compare the strength, speed, and power performance of elite sprinters with and without visual impairment. Methods: Twelve elite able-bodied sprinters and 15 Paralympic sprinters with visual impairment took part in this study. Sprinters from both groups performed the following tests: squat and countermovement jumps, maximum bar-power output in the half-squat and jump-squat exercises, and 60-m sprint. The differences between groups in all variables examined were analyzed using the independent t test. Results: Olympic sprinters revealed better performances in all tests when compared with Paralympic sprinters with visual impairment (effect sizes ranging from 1.29 to 9.04; P < .001). Differences of ∼32% and ∼20% were found for the half-squat and loaded and unloaded vertical jumps, respectively. Smaller differences (from ∼8% to ∼11%) were obtained in linear sprint performance. Conclusions: Between-groups differences peaked at low-velocity exercises (eg, ∼32% in the half-squat) and decreased as movement velocity and specificity increased (eg, ∼8% at 60-m sprint). Thus, the greatest differences between Olympic and Paralympic sprinters seem to be related to their ability to apply force at low movement velocities. Coaches are encouraged to work on all sprinting phases and across the entire force–velocity spectrum, bearing in mind that improvements in strength capacity will possibly lead to increased sprint performance in Paralympic sprinters with visual impairment, especially in the acceleration phase of sprinting.

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Jorge Carlos-Vivas, Jorge Perez-Gomez, Ola Eriksrud, Tomás T. Freitas, Elena Marín-Cascales, and Pedro E. Alcaraz

Purpose: To analyze and compare the effects of 4 different resisted sprint training (RST) modalities on youth soccer players’ performance after 8 weeks of training. Methods: Forty-eight youth soccer players were first randomly assigned to 4 groups and only then completed 8 weeks of RST: horizontal resisted sprint, vertical resisted sprint (VRS), combined resisted sprint, and unresisted sprint. Performance in horizontal and vertical jumps, sprint, and change of direction (COD) ability were assessed 1 week before and after the training intervention. Magnitude-based inference analysis was performed for calculating within-group pre–post differences. In addition, an analysis of covariance test was performed for between-group comparison, using the pretest values as covariates. After that, the analysis of covariance P values and the effect statistic were transformed to magnitude-based inference. Results: Within-group outcomes showed that all resisted training modalities experienced improvements in sprint (small to moderate) and COD (small to large) performance. Moreover, all groups, except unresisted sprint, enhanced the horizontal jump performance. However, only VRS improved on vertical jump. Between-group comparison outcomes revealed that only VRS improved the sprint time compared with horizontal resisted sprint (moderate) and COD performance compared with all groups (moderate to large). In addition, VRS enhanced the countermovement jump performance (small to large) compared with the other groups. Conclusions: Independent of the orientation of the resistance applied, RST is an effective training method for improving sprinting and COD performance. Nevertheless, VRS may promote greater improvements on sprint and COD ability and have a positive additional effect on countermovement jump performance and the reduction of COD deficit.

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Fernando Pareja-Blanco, Lucas A. Pereira, Valter P. Reis, Victor Fernandes, Ademir F.S. Arruda, Aristide Guerriero, Pedro E. Alcaraz, Tomás T. Freitas, and Irineu Loturco

Purpose: To examine the changes in resisted sprint performance and kinematics provoked by different sled loads in elite sprinters and rugby players. Methods: Eight elite male sprinters and 10 rugby union players performed 20-m sprints under 3 loading conditions (0%, 20%, and 60% body mass [BM]). Sprint time was measured in 0 to 5, 5 to 10, and 10 to 20 m, while stride length and hip, knee, and ankle angles were measured using an 8-sensor motion analysis system at the same distances. Results: Sprinters were significantly faster than rugby players in unresisted and resisted sprints using 20% BM (effect size, “ES” [90% confidence limit, CL] range: 0.65 [0.03 to 1.27]; 3.95 [3.10 to 4.81]), but these differences were not significant at 60% BM. Compared to rugby players, sprinters showed lower velocity decrement in resisted sprints using 20% BM (ES [90% CL] range: 0.75 [0.06 to 1.44]; 2.43 [0.83 to 4.02], but higher velocity decrement using 60% BM (ES [90% CL] range: 1.13 [0.43 to 1.82]; 1.46 [0.81 to 2.11]). No significant differences were detected in stride length between sprinters and rugby players for any sprint condition (ES [90% CL] range: 0.02 [−0.72 to 0.76]; 0.84 [0.13 to 1.54]). Rugby players showed higher hip flexion in resisted sprints (ES [90% CL] range: 0.30 [−0.54 to 1.14]; 1.17 [0.20 to 2.15]) and lower plantar flexion in both unresisted and resisted sprints (ES [90% CL] range: 0.78 [0.18 to 1.38]; 1.69 [1.00 to 2.38] than sprinters. Conclusions: The alterations induced by resisted sprints in sprint velocity and running technique differed between sprinters and rugby players. Some caution should be taken with general sled loads prescriptions, especially when relative loads are based on distinct percentages of BM, as training responses vary among sports and individuals.

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Irineu Loturco, Antonio Dello Iacono, Fábio Y. Nakamura, Tomás T. Freitas, Daniel Boullosa, Pedro L. Valenzuela, Lucas A. Pereira, and Michael R. McGuigan

Purpose: The optimal power load is defined as the load that maximizes power output in a given exercise. This load can be determined through the use of various instruments, under different testing protocols. Specifically, the “optimum power load” (OPL) is derived from the load–velocity relationship, using only bar force and bar velocity in the power computation. The OPL is easily assessed using a simple incremental testing protocol, based on relative percentages of body mass. To date, several studies have examined the associations between the OPL and different sport-specific measures, as well as its acute and chronic effects on athletic performance. The aim of this brief review is to present and summarize the current evidence regarding the OPL, highlighting the main lines of research on this topic and discussing the potential applications of this novel approach for testing and training. Conclusions: The validity and simplicity of OPL-based schemes provide strong support for their use as an alternative to more traditional strength–power training strategies. The OPL method can be effectively used by coaches and sport scientists in different sports and populations, with different purposes and configurations.

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Tomás T. Freitas, Lucas A. Pereira, Valter P. Reis, Victor Fernandes, Pedro E. Alcaraz, Paulo H.S.M. Azevedo, and Irineu Loturco

Purpose: To investigate the effects of a match-congested period on straight and curve sprint performance, change of direction (COD) speed and deficit, vertical jumping ability, and half-squat (HS) mean propulsive power (MPP) output in young soccer players. Methods: A total of 15 under-20 elite male soccer players participated in 14 matches over 8 weeks. The following assessments were performed before and after the congested fixture period: squat and countermovement jumps, 17-m linear sprint, curve sprint test for the “good” (CSGS) and “weak” (CSWS) sides, modified 17-m Zigzag test, and HS MPP. Magnitude-based inferences and a paired t test were used to analyze pre–post changes in the assessed variables. Results: Very likely (P < .05) decreases were noticed in 17-m sprint velocity (effect size [ES] [90% confidence limit; CL], −0.56 [−0.32 to −0.81]) and CSGS (ES [90% CL], −0.72 [−0.40 to 1.03]) after the 8-week period. A possible but nonsignificant impairment was revealed in CSWS (ES [90% CL], −0.18 [0.03 to −0.39]), and countermovement jump (ES [90% CL], −0.21 [−0.54 to 0.12]). Zigzag velocity (ES [90% CL], −2.90 [−2.45 to −3.36]) and COD deficit (ES [90% CL], 0.86 [0.52 to 1.20]) were almost certainly and significantly (P < .05) reduced and increased, respectively, after the match-congested period. An almost certain and significant (P < .05) reduction was found in HS MPP (ES [90% CL], −1.18 [−0.76 to −1.61]). Conclusions: Straight and curve sprint velocity, COD speed and deficit, and HS MPP were impaired after the match-congested period. Vertical jump height was possibly decreased. Seasonal phases comprising high volumes of soccer-specific training and competition seem to be detrimental to speed–power qualities in under-20 elite soccer players.