Repeated Sprint Ability

Sprinting with breath holds for improved performance in team sports

Over the past few years, it has been shown that repeated sprint ability could be improved when it is performed in hypoxia.

Repeated sprint ability (RSA), which represents the ability to reproduce performance during maximal or near maximal efforts interspersed with brief recovery intervals, is considered a key factor in team sports. In sport disciplines such as rugby or soccer, the ability to recover and to repeat sprints is an important fitness requirement. It may for instance influence the final outcome of a game by giving the possibility to win possession of the ball or by preventing the opponents from scoring.

To include the sessions into normal training practice, two usual weekly sessions involving high intensity training were not practised.

Over a four week period, 21 highly trained players from Rugby Union performed 7 sessions of repeated forty metre sprints either with normal breathing or with breath holding after an exhalation. Performance of the players was assessed pre and post training with a repeated sprint ability test which involves all out 40meter sprint with a departure every 30 seconds until task failure.

Following the four weeks of training, the number of sprints performed by the players who practised sprinting after a breath hold significantly increased (9.1 versus 14.9). There was no change in the group who trained as normal: (9.8 versus 10.4)

The average drop to blood oxygen saturation was 90% in the breath hold group and 95.5% in the normal training group. The researchers concluded that sprinting with breath holding following an exhalation appears to be an effective strategy to improve running repeated sprint ability in team sport players.

DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1431312.  European Journal of Sport Science · January 2018
(The technique used in this study is very similar to one of the exercises from the Oxygen Advantage)