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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Improving Performance in High-Level Athletes

     It is not difficult to improve the physical performance of people who have had little or no intense training. Yet, it is much more challenging to improve the performance of high-level athletes who presumably have been training and competing at intense levels for considerable time. After all, their training and play have already stimulated their bodies to make major physiological changes, and many have likely reached a plateau by which they are no longer improving in their physical performance. However, a study by Wong et al. in the latest issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (vol 24, no 3, 2010, pp. 653-660) shows that even the performance of professional athletes can be improved by a well-designed training program.

Experimental Methods
A group of Hong Kong professional soccer players were divided into 2 groups that trained for 8 weeks during the pre-season as follows:
  • Group 1: made up of 20 players who engaged in strength training and high-intensity interval training twice per week in addition to their regular soccer training. The strength training consisted of 4 sets of 6 repetitions of high pull, jump squat, bench press, back half squat, and chin-up. The high-intensity intervals consisted of sixteen 15-second sprints at 20% faster than maximal aerobic speed interspersed with 15-second rest periods. The method for determining maximal aerobic speed was not clearly described. However, it might be taken as the fastest pace at which one can run 3-5 miles (5-8 km).
  • Group 2: made up of 19 players engaged in only their regular soccer training.

Only Group 1 improved significantly in the vertical jump (by 4%), 10-meter sprint time (by 6%), and 30-meter sprint time (by 3%).
Group 1 improved twice as much (20%) in a test of shuttle-running at progressively increasing speed as Group 2 (9%).

Bottom Line
Even high-level athletes can improve their physical performance by following a well-designed training program. Twice per week sessions of high-intensity interval training and weight training in addition to regular sport training appear effective for high-level athletes. It should be noted that this was pre-season training. Generally, during a competitive season, exercise other than regular sport-drills and competition is cut back considerably to avoid overtraining.

Medical Disclaimer
This description of experimental results is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation. Anyone engaging in an exercise program should obtain proper medical authorization before doing so.

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