Team and individual athletes are always looking for an edge prior to their competition or race. The preceding days variable’s including rest, nutrition, training, and exercise are dialed in to create an optimal environment on game or race day. Most Physical Therapists and sports medicine professionals encourage an active dynamic warm up in the hour prior to competition to increase circulation and body temperature, as well as, activate elements of the nervous and muscular systems prior to exercise. In previous posts we have described the benefits of post activation potentiation (PAP) occurring after strength training and plyometric activities prior to competition. Essentially priming the body to perform at an optimal level. A recent review article highlights which exercises are most beneficial prior to competition and dispels common myths about strength training on the same day of competition.
Researchers have previously reported on the beneficial adaptations of an acute bout of exercise which improve a competitor’s subsequent competition or race. Mason and colleagues published a review of the available literature on the benefits of acute bouts of exercise in the 12 hours preceding athletic competition (Sports Medicine. 2020). They included 29 studies detailing the impact of short and middle distance cardiovascular training, as well as, strength training on athletic performance. Authors reported improved performance after strength training sessions prior to competition.
Authors reported heavy load (75-85% of 1 repetition maximum), low volume (3 sets x 4-10 repetitions) training increased subsequent performance after a 4-6 hour recovery period. For example, athletes tested at 12pm underwent strength testing at 6-8am that morning. Interestingly, less benefits were found with either longer or shorter recovery periods. Authors suggested performing compound, multi joint, strength training movements (squat vs. leg extension machine) to maximize benefits and minimize fatigue. Additional multi joint exercises included the bench press and deadlifts. Less information was available on the benefits of this training on subsequent team sport performance.
Previous cardiovascular training also showed benefits on same day running and cycling performance. Most of the studies utilized maximal intensity, short duration sprints and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Authors found benefits of either 5-6 reps x 40 meter sprints or HIIT programs using 30:30 second intervals prior to athletic competition. Importantly, 4-6 hours of rest and recovery were equally important to performance of future aerobic events.