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.

Photo Credit

Half Time Training (Wonker, CC BY 2.0)


Oscar and Alan

I spent a good part of today thinking about the issues arising from yesterday’s men’s 200m – T44 final at the Paralympic Games.

The Conversation posted this article on some of this discussion.

Brendan Burkett in an article for the British Journal of Sports Medicine helped me clarify my thinking. He pointed out that:

athletes depend on their prostheses in order to run, and so the prostheses are essential for performance; however, based on the mechanical analysis alone, these same aids could be considered performance enhancement. (My emphasis)

I thought I would go to some of the literature on Usain Bolt to focus my thoughts about speed, particularly in relation to stride length and stride frequency. I found Kevin Duffy‘s discussion of the limits to 100m sprinting. I looked at Usain Bolt’s performance in the 2012 Olympics and his progression through heats, semi-finals and finals.

100m: 10.9 (heat), 9.87 (semi), 9.63 (final)

200m: 20.39 (heat), 20.18 (semi), 19.32 (final)

In the men’s 200m – T44 final there were three blade runners and five single leg amputees. All the medals in the final were won by blade runners. Alan Oliveira who won the gold medal was a finalist in the corresponding Beijing Paralympic race. He was 16 years of age then and ran a time of 24.21. In London he ran a time of 21.45, 0.07s faster than Oscar Pistorius. In his three Paralympic finals Oscar ran 21.97 in Athens, 21.67 in Beijing and 21.52 in London.

During the day Ross Tucker produced some performance data from the London race ( I am grateful to Mathew Marques for the alert to Ross’s post).

Ross reports:

I watched the race over and did the obvious thing – I counted the strides.

It turns out that Pistorius took 92 steps during the race (2.2m per stride), and Oliveira took 98 steps to win gold (2.0m per stride).  To break it down further:

In the first 100m, Pistrorius took 49 steps (2.0m per stride), with 43 steps in the straight (2.3m per stride). Oliveira, on the other hand, took SHORTER strides – 52 in the first 100m (1.92m each) and 46 in the second 100m (2.2m each).

He suggests that “the advantage for Oliveira tonight was NOT his stride length …  The advantage was stride rate.”

Later this afternoon ABC PM hosted this discussion with Steven Wilson, Harvey Blackney and Cameron Ward.

I ended the day with a conversation with Dom Knight on ABC Radio.

Photo Credit

Final Official Result