Study could signal change in training methods

by Sam Griffin  

Three DCU students are taking part in a new study that has determined that small amounts of high intensity interval training (HIIT) have the same effect as much longer levels of endurance training.

Inter county footballers David Kelly of Sligo and Cathal Cregg of Roscommon, along with another student Crionna Tobin, carried out tests over a six week period and discovered that 13.4 minutes of HIIT had the same effect as over 11 hours of endurance training.

In making these findings, biopsies and blood samples were taken after training and compared.

Professor Niall Moyna is Head of the School of Human Health and performance.  He explains how the tests were carried out.

“The high intensity was only three minutes and it’s the same (impact) as endurance because when we take biopsies we’re looking the muscle, looking at blood and we’re looking at physiological aspects and we’re looking at similar responses,” he said.

“The small bouts of training are as beneficial as hours of it. That’s an important message for the GAA – the amount of time spent on training.”

DCU has firmly established itself as one of the leading institutions in terms of conducting investigations into human health and performance. Another recent study showed that inter county GAA referees ran the same distances as professional soccer midfielders during the 2011 Championship and there is now a belief there could be a direct correlation between fatigue and the amount of frees referees are awarding.

Professor Moyna’s team tested referees in 60 hurling and football games over the summer by putting GPS heart rate monitors on them. The experiments found referees run between ten and twelve kilometres in every match.

The findings came as a shock to Moyna. ”It’s the exact same as the soccer player, only the referees do it over 70 minutes,” he said.  “For a soccer player it’s 90 minutes. We were surprised. It’s obviously much lower intensity than the players.”

“Now what we’re trying to track is the number of high-intensity activities they do and how often do they give a free. Say, for example, they have five high-intensity bouts and after that, because their heart rate intensity was so high, did they give a free that wasn’t a free because they wanted a rest?”

Currently, referees are required to run 3,200m in less than twelve minutes to adjudicate at inter county level.

The Monaghan native believes developments in sports technology could have a huge effect on the GAA in the coming years. He believes a device which monitors and analyses sweat content could be one of the most revolutionary advancements to the game.

“The big step is sweat and the stuff we can measure by sweat. Lactate, hydration, hydration status can all be analysed in real time so you come in at half-time and make recommendations.”

“When you start linking that with the heart rate and GPS and you say ‘hold on, he’s dehydrating, take a look at his last five minutes, he’s not performing.’ You can take a look at the players’ heart rate to see if it’s up. Look at the number of high-intensity bouts he has performed.

“The key thing is being able to take all the technology, get the right software and know how to use it appropriately” he said.

The devices, which were modelled at a recent science exhibition in Croke Park, are very small and worn on a player’s back. Moyna expects them to be trialled on soccer and hockey players first, with the GAA embracing the new technology over the next eight years.  He predicts they would cost no more than €150 per player.

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