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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Complex, Specific Training Improves Sports Performance

It is much more difficult to improve the physical performance of highly trained athletes than of previously untrained subjects. Thus, it is noteworthy that the study described below by Alves et al. (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol 24, no 4, pages 936-941, 2010) produced significant performance improvement among elite young Portugese soccer players using brief exercise sessions once or twice per week.

Experimental Method
23 young elite soccer players underwent the following tests before and after an 8-week period:
  • vertical jump from a static, bent-knee position
  • vertical jump using a dynamic countermovement (natural quick knee bend)
  • 5 meter sprint
  • 15 meter sprint
  • soccer agility test
All subject initially did 2 weeks of general weight training before being divided into 3 experimental groups that did the following for 6 weeks in addition to their normal soccer training:

Group 1 - Once a week, before their regular soccer training session, they went through the following 3 exercise stations:
  1. 6 reps of squats with 85% of max weight, 5 meters of high-knee skipping, 5 meter sprint
  2. 6 reps of calf raises with 90% of max weight, 8 vertical jumps, 3 soccer-ball high-head hits
  3. 6 reps of knee extension with 80% of max weight, 6 jumps from seated position, 3 60-cm drop jumps
Group 2 - The same routine as Group 1, but done twice a week instead of once a week.

Group 3 - Control group - did no exercises supplementary to their regular soccer practice.

5-meter sprint time improved 9% for Group 1 and 6% for Group 2
15-meter sprint time improved 7% for Group 1 and 3% for Group 2
vertical jump from static bent-knee position improved 13% for Group 1 and 10% for Group 2
none of the groups improved significantly in the countermovement jumps or agility test
the control group did not improve in any of the tests

A relatively short exercise program of weight-lifting, jumping, and sport-specific movements performed once or twice per week can significantly improve the physical performance of elite athletes. Even though the results of the once per week and twice per week exercise groups did not differ significantly, it appears that the subjects responded better to doing the program once per week rather than twice per week when regular sport training was persued concurrently.

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