Sprint decrement during a simulated rugby sevens tournament is more related to lactate threshold than aerobic capacity
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Rugby sevens is a sport with diverse physiological demands as aerobic fitness, sprint velocity and contact skills each have a significant impact on performance. Training for speed is an important part of physical preparation, but athletes often are unable to attain peak velocity during match play. Understanding the relationship between aerobic capacity and recovery between individual sprints and games may influence training practices. The purpose of the study was to examine the link between indicators of aerobic fitness and sprint decrements during a simulated rugby sevens tournament to guide training practices. Eleven female members of the Finnish national rugby sevens team were recruited to the study and underwent aerobic capacity testing in the laboratory. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and velocity at which lactate begins to accumulate (LT1) and at which lactate levels begin to rise exponentially (LT2) were measured. After two weeks, participants performed a series of maximal sprint tests followed by a simulated rugby sevens tournament over two days. Each game simulation included six sprints, which were recorded using a radar gun. Correlations were examined between VO2peak / lactate thresholds and peak velocity decrements over the course of the tournament. Velocity at LT2 was positively correlated with overall sprint decrement (R = 0.763, p = <0.01) and with sprint decrement between the two days of the tournament simulation (R = 0.740, p = <0.01). No correlations were found between VO2peak and overall sprint decrement or sprint decrement between days of the tournament. The main finding of the study was that sprint decrements during a simulated rugby sevens tournament are more closely related to LT2 than aerobic capacity. Whilst speed training is an important part of physical preparation, athletes and coaches should also focus on improving LT2. This will increase the likelihood that players can attain peak velocity during matches. ...
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