Monitoring fitness, fatigue and running performance during a pre-season training camp in elite football players

J Sci Med Sport. 2013 Nov;16(6):550-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2012.12.003. Epub 2013 Jan 14.


Objectives: To examine the usefulness of selected physiological and perceptual measures to monitor fitness, fatigue and running performance during a pre-season, 2-week training camp in eighteen professional Australian Rules Football players (21.9±2.0 years).

Design: Observational.

Methods: Training load, perceived ratings of wellness (e.g., fatigue, sleep quality) and salivary cortisol were collected daily. Submaximal exercise heart rate (HRex) and a vagal-related heart rate variability index (LnSD1) were also collected at the start of each training session. Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery level 2 test (Yo-YoIR2, assessed pre-, mid- and post-camp, temperate conditions) and high-speed running distance during standardized drills (HSR, >14.4 km h(-1), 4 times throughout, outdoor) were used as performance measures.

Results: There were significant (P<0.001 for all) day-to-day variations in training load (coefficient of variation, CV: 66%), wellness measures (6-18%), HRex (3.3%), LnSD1 (19.0%), but not cortisol (20.0%, P=0.60). While the overall wellness (+0.06, 90% CL (-0.14; 0.02) AU day(-1)) did not change substantially throughout the camp, HRex decreased (-0.51 (-0.58; -0.45)% day(-1)), and cortisol (+0.31 (0.06; 0.57) nmol L(-1)day(-1)), LnSD1 (+0.1 (0.04; 0.06) ms day(-1)), Yo-YoIR2 performance (+23.7 (20.8; 26.6) m day(-1), P<0.001), and HSR (+4.1 (1.5; 6.6) m day(-1), P<0.001) increased. Day-to-day ΔHRex (r=0.80, 90% CL (0.75; 0.85)), ΔLnSD1 (0.51 (r=0.40; 0.62)) and all wellness measures (0.28 (-0.39; -0.17)<r<0.25 (0.14; 0.36)) were related to Δtraining load. There was however no clear relationship between Δcortisol and Δtraining load. ΔYo-YoIR2 was correlated with ΔHRex (r=0.88 (0.84; 0.92)), ΔLnSD1 (r=0.78 (0.67; 0.89)), Δwellness (r=0.58 (0.41; 0.75), but not Δcortisol. ΔHSR was correlated with ΔHRex (r = -0.27 (-0.48; -0.06)) and Δwellness (r=0.65 (0.49; 0.81)), but neither with ΔLnSD1 nor Δcortisol.

Conclusions: Training load, HRex and wellness measures are the best simple measures for monitoring training responses to an intensified training camp; cortisol post-exercise and LnSD1 did not show practical efficacy here.

Keywords: GPS; Heart rate variability; High-intensity intermittent running performance; Psychometric measures; Saliva cortisol; Standardized drills.

MeSH terms

  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Football / physiology*
  • Football / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Conditioning, Human*
  • Psychometrics
  • Running / physiology
  • Young Adult