Sprinting for sports performance is a common theme. Many different athletes use sprinting to increase anaerobic capacity, aerobic capacity and develop leg power. While the use of sprinting in a field sport like rugby is understood and the transfer of skill and energy system is direct; do similar transfers make sprinting for non-field/non-running sports valuable? One such sport to recently introduce RS (repeated sprinting) is wrestling. The unusual move came at the start of a 4 week pre-season preparatory period where RS training was introduced alongside wrestling practice, strength-training and aerobic training.
Farzad et al. (2011) took 15 competitive Iranian wrestlers in their pre-season period. 8 were assigned to an experimental group (EX) and 7 to control (C). The EX group performed a preparatory phase of training with four time per week traditional weight training regimen, wrestling practice, distance running and RS training. The C group performed all of the above minus the RS training. The sprint sessions consisted of 6x35m with 10 secs of recovery between sprints, 2-4 times a week. Pre and post intervention, measures of VO2max via graded exercise test, velocity at VO2max, maximal ventilation, peak oxygen pulse, time to exhaustion, peak and mean power during Wingate test were taken.
The EX group showed an increase in VO2max (5.4%), peak oxygen pulse (7.7%), and increased time to exhaustion (32.2%), peak and mean power with both increased (p<0.05) and total testosterone increased (p =0.06). Interestingly, the testosterone:cortisol ratio also increased significantly.
While the precise benefit of sprint training is difficult to ascertain here, the interaction of sprint training with traditional strength & endurance training, and wrestling practice is a novel approach in fitness for the sport. There are not many studies that describe sprint training protocols in wrestlers, and the fact that elite international wrestlers now use it is worth noting. It is likely that a favourable up-regulation of ATP-PCr stores occurred, combined with the important neuromuscular transfer from sprinting, lead to superior peak and mean leg power versus control as assessed by Wingate testing. Repeated sprint training may have also improved lactate tolerance in these athletes, as 10s rest periods of maximal effort sprinting provides neither time for ATP-PCr replenishment, nor enough time to buffer lactate which probably built up over the series of 6 sprints. RS training may also have interacted favourable with aerobic training at the muscle level, evidenced in the increased VO2max and time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic velocity. Although sprinting is not a specific component of wrestling performance, the above training effects are likely to transfer to wrestling performance at the physiological level, making repeated sprint training a valuable training component for a wrestler short on time in a preparatory phase of training.