Chris and I launched our monthly research review service back in February 2012. Since then, we’ve published 21 editions and we are rapidly approaching the start of our third year in existence!
From the beginning, we have tried to provide our subscribers with only the very best reviews of the most up-to-date research. This is because we believe that sports science is crucially important for helping you and your clients or athletes achieve the best possible results.
However, we know that some people aren’t sure whether reading reviews of up to 50 of the latest sports science studies is something for them. We’ve heard some people say that the technical jargon is too daunting, others find it hard to implement the information into their training practices, and others struggle to find the time to read it all, every month.
We think that everyone can overcome those problems. So if you’re not yet a subscriber, we’d like the opportunity to convince you that it is worth persevering. Therefore, we’re re-launching our Strength and Conditioning Research free newsletter.
From now on, the free newsletter will include a single study review of a recent, relevant study every month. This study will be carefully picked to be as relevant and as practically useful for you as possible.
You won’t find that study review anywhere else. It’s not going to be included in the monthly review service and it’s not going to be posted on the blog. It’s only going to you, as a subscriber to the free newsletter. It’s our opportunity to convince you that sports science can help you improve the results you achieve for you and for your athletes or clients.
To give you an example of what kind of review we will be publishing in our free newsletter, here’s a recent study about the benefits of training using battling ropes, that we haven’t included in our monthly review service, even though it came out only recently.
The study: Metabolic Cost of Rope Training, by Fountaine and Schmidt, in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013
What did the researchers do?
New training modalities arise constantly. In recent years, the mainstream fitness industry has been introduced to kettlebells, sandbags, and body-weight suspension training devices, among other things.
Most recently, fitness professionals have begun to make use of large ropes (9 – 15m in length and 3 – 5cm in diameter), sometimes called either battle ropes, battling ropes, or undulation training. Such training involves looping the rope or pair of ropes around a fixed object and creating a series of waves for a set interval, usually between 10 – 30 seconds.
Rope training has been recommended as a low-impact, upper-body, metabolic workout. This is an exciting proposition, as low-impact training is always attractive and there are few easy methods of performing cardiovascular training using only the upper body, outside of arm cycle ergometers. However, research has yet to substantiate the benefits…
What did the researchers do?
The researchers investigated the acute cardiovascular and metabolic effects of a 10-minute bout of rope training, as performed by 11 physically active individuals (5 males and 6 females). The rope training workout that they used comprised 10 sets, each being 1-minute long. Each set was made up of 15-second work intervals of vertical, double-arm rope undulations and 45-seconds of passive rest.
The rope used was made of nylon and was 15.24m long, weighed 16.33kg and 3.81cm in diameter. Since the rope was anchored at the base of a post, the subjects held only 7.62m of rope in each hand.
While the subjects performed the workout, the researchers measured heart rate, lactate, resting oxygen uptake, exercise oxygen uptake, and excess post- exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC was measured constantly post-exercise until two consecutive measurements were within ± 5% of resting oxygen uptake.
The researchers reported that the subjects performed an average of 25 ± 4 rope undulations during each 15-second work interval. The chart below shows that average and peak heart rates during the workout reached 163 ± 11 and 178 ± 11 bpm, respectively, or 84 and 91% of age-predicted heart-rate maximum.
In a kettlebell swing workout also lasting 10 minutes, albeit with 35-second work intervals and 25-second rest intervals, the average heart rate reached was 180 ± 12bpm, or 90% of age-predicted heart-rate maximum (see Hulsey, 2012). The slightly higher heart rate reached is likely a result of the higher work-to-rest ratio in that study.
What did the researchers conclude?
The researchers concluded that a 10-minute workout of rope training as used in this study involves very high average and peak heart rates. They note that the cardiovascular and metabolic demands of this type of rope training would be classified by the ACSM as vigorous-intensity exercise (Garber, 2012).
What were the limitations?
The study was limited in several ways, as follows:
- The study was an acute investigation and it is unclear exactly what type of muscular, cardiovascular or body composition adaptations such training may lead to.
- The study only involved a small number of physically active young adults and different results might be observed in other populations.
- Since no standard exists for the exact thickness and length of the rope used in this type of training, the researchers picked an apparently suitable length and diameter. However, training with ropes of differing diameter and length may result in different responses.
- The researchers did not objectively determine maximum heart rate or VO2-max and therefore the results were compared to predicted heart-rate maximum, which involves a potential for error.
What are the practical applications?
Rope training provides a vigorous-intensity cardiovascular and metabolic workout, as demonstrated by the high average and peak heart rates. It may therefore be useful as an alternative conditioning method for athletes or personal training clients.
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