Tag Archives: athletic performance

The Effects of Alcohol on Athletic Performance

26 May

GREAT read from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and Coach Claire Siekaniec.

The effects of alcohol on athletic performance vary depending on quantity, demographics, and type of exercise, making it difficult to determine specific recommendations. From an athletic performance standpoint, the acute use of alcohol can influence motor skills, hydration status, aerobic performance, as well as aspects of the recovery process.

Alcohol use is widespread in the realm of sports. Consumption ranges from the weekend warrior guzzling a beer after completing a 5-k run to elite athletes popping champagne in the locker room after a championship win. Alcohol is often used as a means of celebration or relaxation, and athletes frequently consume drinks without much thought of the acute and chronic effects on performance and health. Alcohol’s path to oxidation is complex, and both short- and long-term use affects most systems of the body. Factors such as genetics, gender, amount of alcohol ingested, body mass, and nutrition status help explain the large variance in effects that alcohol has within and across individuals (1,4). From an athletic performance standpoint, the acute use of alcohol can influence motor skills, hydration status, aerobic performance, as well as aspects of the recovery process; consequently, influencing subsequent training and competitions (2,9). Chronic alcohol use can lead to difficulty in managing body composition, nutritional deficiencies, and depressed immune function, resulting in increased risk of injury and prolonged healing and return-to-play (2,17). While the acute and chronic effects of alcohol are largely dose-dependent, chronic and heavy intake can increase one’s risk of long-term health effects such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer (4). The drinking habits of athletes, as well as the effects of alcohol, are highly variable, making a one-size-fits-all recommendation difficult and impractical. Furthermore, current research on the effects of alcohol on athletic performance is limited due to ethical concerns. This article will discuss the available evidence related to alcohol and athletic performance.

Alcohol Ingestion Prior to Exercise

Blood alcohol concentration increases upon ingestion of alcohol. Soon after, the acute side effects begin to take place, which can result in depression of central nervous system activity. While the effects are dose-dependent, this can lead to compromised motor skills, decreased coordination, delayed reactions, diminished judgment, and impaired balance (3,9). These effects on the body may not only contribute negatively to athletic performance, but may also increase an athlete’s risk for injury. The effects of low to moderate doses of alcohol on anaerobic performance and strength are equivocal, but an aid to performance is not evident (9). Conversely, research has shown that even small doses of alcohol ingested prior to exercise led to a decrease in endurance performance (10). It appears that alcohol may affect aerobic performance by slowing the citric acid cycle, inhibiting gluconeogenesis, and increasing levels of lactate (12). Additionally, the body preferentially metabolizes alcohol, thereby altering the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids, which are the preferred energy sources during endurance exercise (12). Although alcohol may have been viewed as an ergogenic aid in the past (likely for psychological reasons), the scientific evidence shows that alcohol hinders athletic performance, and ingestion prior to training or competition should be avoided. Alcohol is currently a banned substance for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rifle competitions, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibits alcohol consumption during air sports, archery, powerboating, and automobile competitions on the basis of it being considered an ergogenic aid (11,18).

Alcohol Ingestion after Exercise

The ingestion of alcohol prior to or during exercise is not very common. However, the intake of alcohol following an event is a much more likely scenario. To recover properly from exercise, it is important to replenish glycogen, stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), and restore fluid balance. Alcohol and the behaviors associated with intoxication can interfere with many aspects of the recovery process. Beverages containing greater than or equal to 4% alcohol can increase urine output, ultimately delaying recovery from a dehydrated state (15). Beer has been plugged as a post-workout recovery beverage because it contains carbohydrates and electrolytes, but in actuality, the typical beer does not contain nearly enough carbohydrates or electrolytes for proper recovery from a long workout with a large sweat loss. It is reasonable to conclude that the negative effects of alcohol consumption after a workout outweigh any potential beneficial effects. To adequately replace lost fluids, it is important for athletes to drink rehydrating beverages such as sports drinks, or consume water with salty foods, prior to alcohol consumption. If immediate alcohol intake is inevitable, athletes should strive to only consume small volumes of alcohol.

Replenishing glycogen stores is another essential component to recovery, especially when the turnaround between training and competition is short. It is unclear if alcohol consumption after exercise directly affects glycogen synthesis; however, alcohol can indirectly displace carbohydrate and protein intake (5). When protein-rich foods are displaced with alcohol during the post-exercise recovery period, MPS is not optimally stimulated, which can potentially inhibit muscle growth and repair. Furthermore, there is evidence for a direct effect of alcohol on MPS. Researchers have found that alcohol significantly decreases MPS even when adequate protein is consumed (13). This effect has been investigated on resistance exercises, as well as exercises commonly carried out in team sport training (6). Overall, when an athlete chooses to fill up on alcoholic beverages during the recovery period they are less likely to follow optimal nutrition guidelines for recovery, resulting in a prolonged recovery period, inadequate recovery before the next training session or competition, or lack of desired muscular adaptations.

Alcohol’s Effect on Sleep, Injury, and Hormones

Beyond the energy storage and MPS implications, alcohol can also negatively affect sleep, recovery from injury, and the production of hormones associated with muscular growth (2). Athletes need adequate sleep to aid in recovery and to be able to perform at their best, both physically and mentally. Ingestion of alcohol before going to bed may help induce sleep, but has been shown to disrupt restorative sleep cycles throughout the night, decreasing quality of sleep (7). To compound this, when athletes enjoy a night out drinking, they may stay out later than normal, reducing their duration of sleep. These two factors combined may impact recovery, energy levels, and performance in upcoming training and competitions. When athletes experience soft tissue injuries, the body employs

an inflammatory response. Alcohol has been shown to limit the inflammatory response via an increase in the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and a decrease in pro-inflammatory molecules (2). In addition to an imbalance of the inflammatory response, alcohol also acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the injured area, which could possibly increase the severity of the injury and prolong the recovery (2). Therefore, consumption of alcohol is generally not recommended if an injury has recently occurred.

There are a number of hormones that affect muscle growth. For example, cortisol stimulates protein breakdown while testosterone increases protein synthesis. In recreationally trained athletes, research has found that high doses of alcohol intake after resistance exercise increased cortisol levels and decreased the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, which can interfere with the adaptive process of long-term resistance training (8). Additionally, alcohol decreases testosterone secretion; therefore, excessive intake during the recovery period should be avoided for athletes striving for muscular hypertrophy or for those with hormonal imbalances (4).

Exercise and Hangovers

The effects of alcohol do not simply wear off when signs of intoxication are gone. Heavy drinking can lead to an array of symptoms commonly referred to as a hangover. Athletes are not immune to hangovers, which can influence their training and competitions. The hangover symptoms produced by alcohol have many intra-individual variances. However, the main effects of hangovers include electrolyte imbalance, hypoglycemia, gastric irritation, vasodilation, and sleep disturbances (14). These effects cause an array of physical symptoms, which may leave an athlete feeling drained and unable to train as hard as normal. Research has shown an approximate 11% decrease in aerobic capacity in those exercising with a hangover (12). Effects of a hangover on anaerobic performance remain unclear, but overall it is probable that athletes training or competing without a hangover will enjoy a competitive edge over their hungover opponents.

Chronic Effects of Alcohol

There is evidence supporting health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption, but regular heavy consumption and binge drinking can take a toll on the body. Athletes are susceptible to the health effects associated with excessive alcohol consumption, which can also affect performance. Alcohol is calorically dense, providing seven calories per gram, with a standard drink in the United States containing 14 grams of alcohol (16). If other substances are present, such as soft drinks and sugar-based beverages, the caloric value of an alcoholic drink rises even higher. As a general reference, the following are common drink sizes and their average alcohol content: 12 oz of beer (5% alcohol), 5 oz of wine (12% alcohol), and 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) (16). The calories from alcoholic beverages can add up fast and contribute a significant amount of calories to an athlete’s overall caloric intake. Additionally, behaviors associated with heavy drinking, such as irregular eating patterns and increased consumption of unhealthy foods, may lead to increased caloric intake. Over time, this combination can affect an athlete’s body composition.

Heavy intake of alcohol can also lead to nutritional deficiencies. Athletes require a sound nutrition plan to promote optimal athletic performance, and may already be at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies than their non-athlete counterparts due to the physical demands of training. Alcohol affects absorption and utilization of many nutrients. Excessive alcohol intake can reduce the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients such as vitamin B12, thiamin, and folate. Additionally, liver cells can become inefficient at activating vitamin D and the metabolism of alcohol can destroy vitamin B6 (4). Nutritional deficiencies present many different problems to athletes and can have serious health and performance implications. In addition, long-term misuse of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer (4). It can also compromise the immune system and increase susceptibility to illness (2).

Conclusion

Overall, the effects of alcohol vary dramatically from person to person with many different contributing factors. The effects of alcohol on athletic performance vary depending on quantity, demographics, and type of exercise. Therefore, it is difficult to determine specific recommendations, but it is suggested that athletes follow the same recommended guidelines for safe and responsible drinking as the general public. Binge drinking is never recommended due to the side effects that interfere with desired athletic adaptations. The cumulative effects of binge drinking episodes may leave an athlete unable to perform at the expected or desired level. After an athletic event, athletes should be encouraged to follow recommended nutrition and hydration guidelines for recovery prior to alcohol consumption.

References

1. Alcohol metabolism: An update. Alcohol alert. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2007. Retrieved 2016 from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA72/AA72.htm.
2. Barnes, M. Alcohol: Impact on sports performance and recovery in male athletes. Sports Med 44(7): 909-919, 2014.
3. Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact on your health. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2015. Retrieved 2016 from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/ Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.
4. Boyle, M, and Long, S. Personal Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth; 251-263, 2007.
5. Burke, L, Collier, G, Broad, E, Davis, P, Martin, D, Sanigorski, A, and Hargreaves, M. Effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 95(3): 983-990, 2003.
6. Duplanty, A, Budnar R, Luk H, Levitt D, Hill D, McFarlin B, et al. Effect of acute alcohol ingestion on resistance exercise induced mTORC1 signaling in human muscle. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Published Ahead of Print, 2016.
7. Ebrahim, I, Shapiro, C, Williams, A, and Fenwick, P. Alcohol and sleep I: Effects on normal sleep. Alcoholism, Clinical & Experimental Research 37(4): 539-549, 2013.
8. Haugvad, A, Haugvad, L, Hamarsland, H, and Paulsen, G. Ethanol does not delay muscle recovery, but decreases the testosterone:cortisol ratio. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 46(11): 2175-2183, 2014.
9. Koziris, L. Alcohol and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine Current Comment. April, 2000.
10. Lecoultre, V, and Schutz, Y. Effect of a small dose of alcohol on endurance performance of trained cyclists. Alcohol & Alcoholism 44(3): 278-283, 2009.
11. National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2016 – 2017 banned drugs list. Retrieved September 7th, 2016 from http://www.ncaa. org/2016-17-ncaa-banned-drugs-list.
12. O’Brien, C, and Lyons, F. Alcohol and the athlete. Sports Medicine 29(5): 295-300, 2000.
13. Parr, E, Camera, D, Areta, J, Burke, L, Phillips, S, Hawley, J, and Coffey, V. Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PLoS ONE 9(2): 2014.
14. Prat, G, Adan, A, Sanchez-Turet, M. Alcohol hangover: A critical review of explanatory factors. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 24: 259-267, 2009.
15. Shirreffs, S, and Maughan, R. Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: Effects of alcohol consumption. Journal of Applied Physiology 83(4): 1152-1158, 1997.
16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 (8th Ed). Retrieved 2016 from https://health.gov/ dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
17. Volpe, S. Alcohol and athletic performance. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 14(3): 28-30, 2010.
18. World Anti-Doping Code International Standard. Prohibited list: January 2016. Retrieved September 7th, 2016 from http:// http://www.usada.org/wp-content/uploads/wada-2016-prohibited-listen.pdf

About the Author:

Claire Siekaniec, MS, RD, CSSD

Claire Siekaniec is a Sports Dietitian at the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, UT. She is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of New Haven and a Master of Science degree in Sports Nutrition from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She has spent time working as a Clinical Dietitian at the Alaska Native Medical Center and as a Sports Nutrition Intern for the University of Virginia Athletic Department.

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What’s Your Workout Motivation?

1 May

Why do you workout?  (and, conversely, why don’t you workout?)

Are you working toward a goal or do you just enjoy the process?

Is it for health and wellness?  Do you want to improve your quality (and quantity) of life?

Do you want to look better, perhaps get more lean and muscular?  (I saw a quote, recently, that said, “Diet if you want to look better in clothes; workout if you want to look better naked.”)

Do you want to feel better?  Are you working out to improve your energy level or functional movement?

Are you trying to lose a few pounds and, perhaps, get closer to your ideal body weight and reduce stress on your joints?

Do you work out with a friend or group of friends and enjoy the social interaction?

Do you want to get stronger, faster, and more athletic?  Is one of your goals to improve your performance?

Are you doing it for you, or for someone else?

The bottom line is, there is no wrong reason — and no one right reason — for working out (they’re all right).  As that shoe company says, “just do it.”

Please tag me back with a comment and share your motivation for working out (or your reason for not working out).  I will compile a list and share the best responses in a future blog post.  Thanks, in advance, for your feedback.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strengthen Your Glutes With Hip Raises

28 Apr

The hip raise is one of the best moves for strengthening your glutes.  This exercise is also a great choice for improving core strength and stability, as well as athletic performance.

Your glutes are important — but often overlooked — muscles, where movement and performance are concerned.  You use them for running, jumping, throwing, and kicking; so strengthening them can improve your game, regardless of the sport you play.

To perform this exercise, try the hip raise with your head and upper back on a Swiss ball.  Do three sets of 10 repetitions.

  • Put your head and upper back on a Swiss ball
  • Keep your knees bent, feet flat, and hips just above the floor
  • Push your hips up until they are parallel with the ground, and aligned with your knees and shoulders
  • Pause, and slowly lower your hips back to the starting position

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Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Game

21 Apr

As an athlete, consistency is important.  Consistency of effort, preparation, and practice leads to consistency of performance.  But, despite our best efforts, athletes at every level experience performance slumps.  There will be  some games when your shots are just not falling.  How will you deal with it?

There are some things that are under your control every time you take the court.  Attitude is one of them and, perhaps, the most important.  You decide if and how you let a missed shot or turnover affect your next possession, or the rest of your game.  Although it may be easier said then done, a positive mental approach (and, sometimes, a short memory) is critical to athletic performance success.

Effort is another area that shouldn’t be impacted by your level of play.  Keep hustling.  Continue to “play hard, play smart, and play together” (Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach).  Don’t allow a missed shot or bad pass to be an excuse to give anything less than 100% when you’re on the court.  Focus on the aspects of your play that aren’t susceptible to slumps, like defense, boxing out, and rebounding.

Don’t allow a performance slump to take away your aggressiveness, confidence, or energy.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point.  Keep believing in yourself and maintain a high intensity level.  Draw on positive past experience to fuel your thoughts.  Keep working hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

20 Mar

A lack of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on your athletic performance, according to the journal, Nutrients.  Additional research corroborates these findings, showing that there is  a positive correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle strength.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at least 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.  This is especially true in the northern states, where exposure to sunshine can be scarce during the winter season (the sun plays a vital role in your body’s natural vitamin D production).

You can boost your vitamin D by increasing your consumption of whole foods like fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna), milk (and other fortified dairy products), eggs, and oatmeal (and other fortified cereals).

You can also improve your vitamin D level by adding a supplement to your daily diet.  Aim for at least 600 IU per day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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If It’s Important, Do It Every Day

15 Feb

michael-jordan-game-winning-shot-1[1]Lots of athletes dream of sinking the game-winning shot, scoring the game-winning touchdown, or getting the game-winning hit.  It’s easy to be enamored with the romantic idea of being the hero.

But that doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a lot of practice and preparation to put yourself in the position to perform well in a pressure situation (heck, it takes a lot of practice and preparation to perform well in normal game conditions).  That means, if you’re a basketball player with a desire to excel, you should be practicing ball-handling and shooting, or doing something to improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism… EVERY DAY!

And that, I think, is where there is a disconnect.  It’s one thing to express a desire to play well.  Anyone can do that… that’s just talk.  It’s quite another to do what’s necessary to play well.  That takes time and effort and commitment and dedication and focus and purpose and motivation and persistence and perseverance and… well, I think you get the point.

And, while this all may seem somewhat overwhelming, it doesn’t take a 24/7/365 commitment.  Focus on the quality and consistency of your efforts, and not necessarily the quantity.  If you’ve got 10-15 minutes to practice your ball-handling, make it purposeful and give it the best 10-15 minutes you’ve got.  Know and understand your areas for improvement and direct your efforts, accordingly.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, since you only have limited time, improving your physical or sport-specific skills is not worth the effort.  Trust me, the cumulative effect of quality repetition will steadily improve your game.

Devote yourself, daily, to self-improvement.  Make it happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Plyometrics

3 Feb

Power-Plyo%20Box%20Starter%20Set%20-%20Plyometric%20Training%20Equipment%20for%20Football[1]Want to run faster and jump higher? Virtually all athletes can benefit from improvements in — and development of — explosive muscular force.

Plyometric training has a positive effect on neuromuscular performance, increasing explosive performance and, subsequently, athletic performance.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that two factors are especially impactful and should be considered when designing or participating in a plyometric training program:

  • Training volume
  • Training surface

Plyometric training volume is usually measured in touches (for example, when you jump up on a box and then back down, that counts as two touches).  In this study, it was determined that “a high plyometric training volume (i.e., 120 jumps per session or 240 jumps per week) would be necessary to induce an increase in acceleration sprint.” (Ramirez-Campillo, et.al.)

Plyometric training surface (hard or soft landing surface) was also relevant in the study, with a harder surface — such as a wood gymnasium floor — doubling the efficiency of adaptations in reactive strength.  As a result, “a high volume of training would not be necessary to induce reactive strength adaptations when a hard landing surface is used.”

Study data indicate that “when moderate volume is used during plyometric training, a hard training surface would be needed if fast SSC (stretch-shortening cycle) muscle actions, or reactive strength, are an important objective of training.”

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Should Kids Play One Sport Year-Round?

30 Dec

youth_big[1]Do you think it’s a good idea for a young athlete (8-12 years old) to play one sport year-round?  Would you allow your child?

Sport specialization, especially at a young age, is more popular/prevalent today than ever before.  Certainly, there are more opportunities for sport specialization — AAU basketball, JO volleyball, club soccer — than existed in past decades.  But, opportunity aside, I’m not sure it’s always the kids deciding to focus on a single sport at the expense of other sports and activities.  Coaches and parents put a lot of pressure on kids to concentrate on one sport, 24-7-365.

Playing multiple sports and activities helps kids develop cross-functional skills that can improve overall athletic aptitude and performance.  Conversely, intense training in a single sport before adolescence can lead to injuries, according to a review in the journal Sports Health.  Young athletes who play one sport all year typically experience more stress-related injuries, as a result of repetitive overuse without appropriate rest and recovery time.

Expose your child to other sports and activities, and encourage participation in unstructured activities (pick-up games, for example).  Encourage effort — and not only performance — especially when they are young.

If the decision to play a sport, year-round, is the desire of the child (and not just the coach and/or parent), and if the coach builds in regular breaks to allow for adequate rest and recovery… let him or her give it a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Anemia and Athletic Performance

26 Sep

athlete-fatigue[1]Recently, a friend and client (and committed fitness enthusiast) shared with me her disappointment in her recent running performance.  Although she is very active and fit, she was beating herself up for “being a slug when it came to running” (believe me, when it comes to exercise, that’s the last word you’d use to describe this lady).  It turns out that there was a reason for her feeling of fatigue… her hemoglobin was 8 (hemoglobin is the iron-carrying protein found in red blood cells that binds to oxygen; the principal function of hemoglobin is to combine and transport oxygen from the lungs to all body tissues, including working muscles; the amount of hemoglobin in the blood averages between 12 and 16 grams/100 milliliters of blood in adult females).

A drop in athletic performance or a general feeling of  fatigue may indicate you are suffering from anemia, a condition in  which the production and amount of your red blood cells is below normal.  An  adequate supply of these red blood cells is essential to physical activity and overall well-being. A low red blood cell count means less oxygen is being  delivered to working muscles. Because oxygen is essential to burn the calories used by muscles in aerobic exercise, this can have a direct effect on your ability to perform.  Ultimately, anemia will impact your training and performance.

One common  cause of anemia in women is a lack of iron in their diet. Women need nearly  twice as much iron as men (18 milligrams/day compared with 10 mg/day) because of  menstrual blood loss. Heavy  exercise may also increase iron needs by up to another 1 to 2 milligrams/day.

Many  factors contribute to a risk of becoming anemic. These factors may include a diet low in  iron. To get enough iron in your diet and reduce your chances of developing  iron-deficiency anemia, you can eat foods that are naturally rich in iron, such  as red meat, fish, or beans; or consume foods that have been enriched with iron, such as some cereals and pastas. Iron supplements, along with a diet high in iron, may also be helpful to correct the problem.

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Jump, Sprint Training Improves Sport Performance

14 Sep

Combined plyometric and sprint training improves skill performance in soccer players, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

A specific combined plyometric and sprint training, within regular soccer practice, improved explosive actions compared with conventional sport-specific training only.

The combined program had a beneficial impact on sprinting, change of direction, jumping, and ball-shooting speed; as well as improvements in agility and acceleration.

The training protocol used in the study included nine weeks of twice-weekly training sessions.  The plyometric-sprint training program incorporated jumping, hurdling, bouncing, skipping, and footwork, prior to the soccer training.

Several other studies suggest that the benefits of plyometric and sprint training also apply to performance improvement in other sports, including basketball, football, and volleyball.

Based on this information, it would seem advisable that athlete sport preparation include a well-designed and -supervised, combined plyometric and speed training.

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