I was asked by The Conversation today to comment on a study reported by researchers at Victoria University.
The paper was titled High-Intensity Re-Warm-Ups Enhance Soccer Performance. It was published recently in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.
I think my comments may be abbreviated so I thought I would include my full response here.
A distinguished research team (James Zois, David Bishop, Kevin Ball and Rob Aughey) at Victoria University has come up with a thought-provoking proposition for team sport coaches: high-intensity re-warm-ups enhance performance.
I find their proposal intuitively attractive. I used an approach to re-warm-up with teams I coached in the 1980s and 1990s and based my practice on notions of ‘active rest’ gleaned from Eastern European volleyball coaches.
In the intervening years, I have followed with interest discussions about ‘active recovery’ (Martin et al, 1998), ‘dynamic stretching’ (Little and Willams, 2006), ‘potentiation’ (Fletcher, 2013). Some the literature suggests that “active recovery does not improve performance and, in fact, may potentially have suboptimal effects” (Spencer et al, 2006; Castagna et al, 2008).
On first reading the re-warm up paper, I had concerns about the ecological validity of the data being shared. It is a laboratory study designed to provide an evidence-based approach to re-warm-up. However this does build upon previous field-based research on warm-up (Zois et al, 2011). After re-reading the paper, I think it offers an excellent provocation: can we change practice to bring about improved performance in team games even though we know that “acceleration and deceleration capability are acutely compromised during match play” (Akenhead et al, 2013)?
I would like to argue that this approach to re-warm-up needs to be personalised. This is in tune with one of the research team’s Conversation article about altitude training. In that article, David Bishop considered the use of simple blood tests “to determine, in advance, which athletes will respond best to altitude training, and which athletes will get little benefit from this type of training”.
This personalisation could explore individual response and adaptation to re-warm-up in the context of real game conditions. It could help coaches also to think about how they prepare substitutes or replacements in the second halves of games.
In this season’s AFL, winning teams are scoring 14 more points on average than losing teams in the third quarter of games. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup 59 goals were scored in the first halves of games, 84 in the second halves and 2 in extra time. The majority of the goals scored in the second halves of these games were scored by higher FIFA ranked teams.
The Victoria University research is an invitation to think about the scale of re-war-up, its intensity and its form … and to do so from a personalised perspective. This seems to be an important consideration in how losing teams close the gap on winning teams or how winning teams accelerate away from their opponents.