Are three contact efforts really reflective of a repeated high-intensity effort bout?

Are three contact efforts really reflective of a repeated high-intensity effort bout?
Rich D. Johnston ª, Tim J. Gabbett ª,b, Shane Walkerc , Ben Walkerc , David G. Jenkins

The use of 3 or more efforts (running and contact), separated by short recovery periods, is
widely used to define a ‘repeated high-intensity effort’ (RHIE) bout in rugby league. It has
been suggested that due to fatigue, players become less effective following RHIE bouts;
however, there is little evidence to support this. This study determined if physical
performance is reduced after performing 1, 2, or 3 efforts with minimal recovery. Twelve
semi-professional rugby league players (age 24.5 ± 2.9 years) competed in three ‘off-side’
small-sided games (2 x 10 min halves) with a contact bout performed every 2 min. The rules
of each game were identical except for the number of contact efforts performed in each bout.
Players performed 1, 2, or 3 x 5 s wrestling bouts in the single-, double- and triple-contact
game, respectively. Movement demands of each game were monitored using global
positioning system units. From the first to the second half, there were trivial reductions in
relative distance during the single-contact game (ES = -0.13 ± 0.12), small reductions during
the double-contact game (ES = -0.47 ± 0.24), and moderate reductions during the triple-
contact game (ES = -0.74 ± 0.27). The present data show that running intensity is
progressively reduced as the number of contact efforts per bout is increased. Targeting
defensive players and forcing them to perform two or more consecutive contact efforts is
likely to lead to greater reductions in running intensity. Conditioning performing multiple
contact efforts whilst maintaining running intensity should therefore be incorporated into
training for contact team sports.

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