As an immediate follow-up to the ‘context’ post, I wish to use this quote from the agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll as a stepping point for further comment on the importance of applying practical wisdom and pragmatism when it comes to making decisions in the high-performance setting. Wisdom is defined as the “ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight”. Pragmatism refers to “an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application”. In our highly-complex elite setting, where context drives decisions over pure logic and rational thinking, and where applying strict science is a never-ending challenge for the reasons mentioned, applying wisdom and pragmatism is often the only solution we can use to get things done. More often than we could ever fathom from the outside or during our university degree, practitioners need to make important trade-offs between science and best practices in order to move forward and get the job done. In the end for me, a done something is better than a perfect nothing!
To illustrate my point, I provide Table 1 to outline several examples of situations where the science can be difficult or sometimes impossible to apply in the elite setting – and suggest pragmatic actions in relation to each specific context, mostly based on a cost/benefit assessment.
Table 1. Science vs. pragmatism in the high-performance setting.
|Science says||The reality is that||Pragmatic decision|
|We should monitor post-match fatigue to tailor recovery and load in the 2-3 days following a match .||Players hate being monitored.|
Players are off on D+1 and/or D+2, so monitoring can’t be performed to textbook standards.
If monitoring is performed, starters recover on D+1 and train easy on D+2 anyway, and then play again on D+3, limiting the ability to modulate load in relation to monitoring data.
|Monitoring post-match fatigue is highly questionable and likely player-specific, both in terms of timing and measures  #dontovercomplexify|
There are, fortunately, other ways of gaining insight into a player’s training status using forms of “invisible monitoring” [3, 4]. More on "invisible monitoring"
|Since spikes in load are associated with increased injury risk , load monitoring and computing the acute / chronic ratio (A/C) should be common practice||Computing the AC ratio is challenging throughout the year (e.g. international break with no data )|
If training is well planned (compensation work for substitutes), players show rarely spikes in load anyway…
If a player was to spike because of an unusually greater match load, he would rest for 2 days anyway - with his A/C ratio (especially using exponentially weighted moving average ) becoming normal at D+3 when he would get back to the group, so that the A/C information doesn’t impact practice in fine .
|The actual value of computing the A/C has to be viewed in relation to its 1) questionable ability to predict injury; 2) ability to impact practice  and 3) overall cost/benefits |
|Athletes should perform some form of very standardized (mostly eccentric-biased) resistance exercises (e.g., Nordic hamstring curl) to prevent injuries .||Some players are reluctant to do these types of exercises.|
There are hundreds of exercises, each of them targeting different muscle groups and functions .
|The amount and type of prevention exercise required needs to be tailored at the individual level based on overall context (player profile, training load and competition time over recent days, etc) . #adjustfortheindividual|
|Post-match, players should immerse themselves for 10 to 15 min in an 11-15°C cold bath to enhance recovery .||Teams leave the away location within 45 min of the game being over.|
There are 2 garbage bins available for cold bath immersion.
|Players immerse themselves for 2-5 min max, and water temperature is as cool as it can be using the ice offered by the opponent . #betterthannothing|
|Acceleration and deceleration as measured by GPS are the least reliable variables .||Acceleration and deceleration are likely the most important variables to monitor given the important strain that these actions place on the lower limbs.||Practitioners monitor accelerations but the noise (variability) that comes with the measure must be appreciated when making decisions . #useMBI|
|Heart rate (HR) is a good marker of exercise intensity and can be used to estimate the aerobic contribution to exercise during continuous efforts .||Most sports are intermittent in nature, meaning metabolic demands can’t be assessed precisely using HR measures (i.e., there is a dissociation between HR and oxygen uptake kinetics, and anaerobic contribution to performance is often overlooked) .||Within-player HR monitoring during standardized exercise bouts can at least be used to assess changes in fitness . #betterthannothing|
|An optimal HIIT session for aerobic development should allow athletes to spend from 5 to 10 min at or near maximal oxygen update, across a total of 12 to 20 min per session .||In team sports, a number of training sessions already involve intense game-specific sequences that target high metabolic rates and high levels of neuromuscular demands, calling into question the need for additional HIIT.||The quantity of HIIT required is likely less than that suggested by the literature and should instead be tailored at the individual level based on the overall context (training load and competitive time played over past days, etc). #adjustfortheindividual|
While the examples provided in the above table are not all directly related to HIIT, they serve to illustrate the approach we have consistently used when preparing our HIIT book and course. As already alluded to, these complementary materials have been designed primarily to bridge the gap between research and applied practice. The tools being offered through HIIT Science are our attempt to put more sport back into today’s sport science.
Across 9 individual and 11 team-based sports (Table 2), world-leading coaches and high performance practitioners each describe their sport in detail and the factors they see as leading to successful outcomes for their teams and athletes. From this basis, the targets of physical performance in the sport are established, leading logically to the key HIIT weapons and manipulations most often used as part of their craft. Finally, the pragmatic incorporation of HIIT, along with their surveillance methods and training plan examples are provided, including entertaining case studies that offer insight into the real-life demands in the high-performance setting. We hope the work will inspire a future generation of sport scientists to grasp the model of pragmatic application from the concepts learned, in order to enhance their chance of being an effective staff member in their sporting organizations.
Table 2. The individual and team sports covered, where established high-performance practitioners tell us how they pragmatically apply their HIIT Science.
Middle distance running
- Silva, J.R., et al., Acute and Residual Soccer Match-Related Fatigue: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med, 2018. 48(3): p. 539-583.
- Carling, C., et al., Monitoring of Post-match Fatigue in Professional Soccer: Welcome to the Real World. Sports Med, 2018.
- Lacome, M., B.M. Simpson, and M. Buchheit, Part 1: Monitoring training status with player-tracking technology. Still on the way to Rome. Aspetar Journal, 2018(7): p. 54-63.
- Lacome, M., B.M. Simpson, and M. Buchheit, Part 2: Monitoring training status with player-tracking technology. Still on the way to Rome. Aspetar Journal, 2018(7): p. 64-66.
- Gabbett, T.J., The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med, 2016. 50(5): p. 273-80.
- Buchheit, M., Applying the acute:chronic workload ratio in elite football: worth the effort? Br J Sports Med, 2017. 51(18): p. 1325-1327.
- Bahr, R., K. Thorborg, and J. Ekstrand, Evidence-based hamstring injury prevention is not adopted by the majority of Champions League or Norwegian Premier League football teams: the Nordic Hamstring survey. Br J Sports Med, 2015. 49(22): p. 1466-71.
- Mendez-Villanueva, A., et al., MRI-Based Regional Muscle Use during Hamstring Strengthening Exercises in Elite Soccer Players. PLoS One, 2016. 11(9): p. e0161356.
- Buchheit, M., et al., Injury rate and prevention in elite football: let us first search within our own hearts. Br J Sports Med, 2018.
- Machado, A.F., et al., Can Water Temperature and Immersion Time Influence the Effect of Cold Water Immersion on Muscle Soreness? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med, 2016. 46(4): p. 503-14.
- Buchheit, M., Houston, We Still Have a Problem. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2017. 12(8): p. 1111-1114.
- Buchheit, M. and B.M. Simpson, Player tracking technology: half-full or half-empty glass? . Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2017. 12((Suppl 2)): p. S235-S241.
- Achten, J. and A.E. Jeukendrup, Heart rate monitoring: applications and limitations. Sports Med, 2003. 33(7): p. 517-38.
- Buchheit, M. and P.B. Laursen, High-intensity interval training, solutions to the programming puzzle: Part I: cardiopulmonary emphasis. Sports Med, 2013. 43(5): p. 313-338.
- Buchheit, M., Monitoring training status with HR measures: do all roads lead to Rome? Front Physiol, 2014. 27(5): p. 73.