The effects of different intermittent priming strategies on 3km cycling performance
Priming exercise, or the ‘warm-up’, is an accepted practice prior to exercise participation, physical training or sporting competition. Traditionally, low intensity exercise has been used prior to both short- and long-duration events in an effort to prepare the athlete, but not fatigue them. Recently, however, a more scientific approach to priming exercise has been considered important, with some research suggesting that a high intensity intermittent priming strategy may be optimal. However, given the paucity of performance focussed ‘warm-up’ studies, and that existing data regarding high-intensity priming strategies is inconclusive, the aim of this thesis was to determine the effects of three high-intensity intermittent priming strategies on physiological responses and subsequent 3km laboratory time-trial (TT) performance. Ten well-conditioned endurance-trained male cyclists (mean ± SD: age, 28.3 ± 8.4 yr, body mass, 81.8 ± 11.6 kg, stature, 1.8 ± 0.1 m, O2peak, 4.6 ± 0.5 L•min−1) were recruited for this study. After an initial incremental exercise test to exhaustion, participants completed four 3km time trials (TT) on four separate occasions, each preceded by a different priming strategy. These included a ‘self-selected’ (control) condition, and three high-intensity intermittent priming strategies of varying intensity (100% and 150% of the power at O2peak, and all-out) and fixed duration (15 minutes), each in predetermined random order. Five minutes passive rest separated each priming exercise condition from the experimental 3km-TT. Oxygen uptake ( O2) and heart rate (HR) were measured continuously, while blood lactate concentration ([BLa]) and core temperature (TC) were recorded at rest, post-priming exercise, and immediately prior to and following the 3km-TT. In an attempt to provide a mechanistic explanation for changes in performance, O2 kinetic variables were determined from the O2 data. Performance was quantified as a mean power (Wmean) and total time taken to complete the 3km-TT. Mean power output and time taken for each 500m segment of the 3km-TT were also calculated. Results demonstrated that the athletes self-chosen priming condition (378.6 ± 44.0 W) resulted in Wmean that was slightly greater than both the lowest (376.3 ± 44.9 W; 0.7%; p = 0.57) and moderate (373.9 ± 47.8 W; 1.5%, p = 0.30) intensity intermittent priming condition, but significantly greater than the ‘all-out’ intermittent sprint priming condition (357.4 ± 44.5 W; 5.8%, p = 0.0033). Similar differences were observed for time. While differences existed in the O2 deficit (however, mainly non-significant), these differences did not provide clear explanations for the differences in performance, with the moderate priming condition displaying a significantly reduced O2 deficit (59.4 ± 15.6 L, p < 0.05), despite the non-significant change in Wmean, compared to the self-chosen priming condition (73.3 ± 18.6 L). Additionally no significant differences were observed in either the time constant or the mean response time of O2. Significant findings with regard to HR, [BLa] and TC were observed, but consistent with O2 kinetic variables, they were not related to, nor explain performance changes. In conclusion, regardless of intensity, different high-intensity intermittent priming exercise did not improve 3km-TT performance more than the control condition (self-chosen). A priming strategy that is overly intense was detrimental to subsequent cycling performance. The observed finding that a self-chosen priming strategy resulted in a comparable performance suggests that athletes are able to self-select (consciously or sub-consciously) a ‘warm-up’ that is of appropriate intensity/duration. Further work utilising the priming strategies from the current study with events of shorter duration is required to further clarify how priming strategies of this nature may affect track cycling performance.