Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pre-Game Exercises May Improve Performance

A recent study, done by a group of researchers from the United Kingdom, has proven that soccer players may actually perform skills and game-related activities better when their muscles are fatigued. That’s according to their study, Performance of Soccer Passing Skills under Moderate and High-Intensity Localized Muscle Fatigue (Lyons Et. Al., 2008), which had physically active male college students performed alternating split squat jumps (see video above), prior to a soccer-specific skills test. This exercise was used because it fatigues many of the same muscle groups (glutes, quadriceps and hamstring muscles) that are typically used and fatigued during soccer.

To measure the effects of muscular fatigue on skilled performance, researchers used a modified Loughborough Soccer Passing test, which requires players to dribble and pass a ball aimed at set targets in a limited amount of time. Players were required to perform a set number of split squat jumps, corresponding to their individual “moderate” (70%) and “high intensity” (90%) values, expressed as a percentage of their maximum values established during baseline testing. As a measure of control, players also performed the passing test at “rest” or, not preceded by any split squat jumps.

The results of the study showed that the players in the “moderate” fatigue group performed better on the passing test, as compared to both the “rest” and “high intensity” groups.  The players in the “high intensity” group had the lowest scores on the test, as represented by the longest average times to complete the test, and the highest average number of penalties incurred.

These results demonstrate that performance of complex motor skills, such as passing in soccer, require athletes to reach a certain level of arousal and fatigue for optimal performance. By performing an explosive power movement like split lunge jumps at low intensity you may also be activating your nervous system, which can improve performance.  Beyond a certain threshold, however, higher levels of arousal and fatigue will lead to a decrease in performance of complex motor skills.

This is yet another reason why it is so important to perform your dynamic warmup activities (which I demonstrated for you here: ) before a game or practice!

Play hard!


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