The main finding of this study was that adopting a passive recovery between repeated sprints resulted in a lower total sprint time and lower fatigue index (increased performance) across 10 bouts of maximal sport-specific sprints.
These results are in accordance with those previously reported by Dupont et al. (20,22), who used cycling and running protocols to exhaustion consisting of high intensity bouts performed at 120% of VO2max. In fact, Dupont et al. (20,22) showed that passive recovery (standing) resulted in longer time to exhaustion in moderately fit subjects (physical education students and soccer players, VO2peak 57.8 ± 7.1 and 55.0 ± 6.3 mL·kg−1·min−1, respectively) using constant intensity protocols to exhaustion. Dupont et al. (20,22) justified the longer time to exhaustion, resulting from the use of passive recovery, to a lower metabolic power (22) and a slower decline in oxyhemoglobin compared to the active recovery (40% VO2max exercise) condition. This latter condition probably enabled higher reoxygenation of myoglobin and a higher phosphorylcreatine resynthesis, leading to the observed longer time to exhaustion (20,22). This supposition was recently confirmed by Spencer et al. (52) using a cycling sprint protocol similar to this study. In fact, in that study, Spencer et al. (52) showed that in the active recovery condition (25 seconds at ∼32% VO2max) there was strong trend towards lower postexercise phosphocreatine (PCr) concentrations.
In this study, postexercise blood lactate concentrations resulted in no significant differences between the 2 recovery conditions. This finding is in line with what was previously reported by Dupont et al. (20,23), who found lower or no significant postexercise blood lactate concentrations in the passive compared to the active recovery condition. These findings were further supported by Spencer et al. (54), whose biopsy study reported no significant difference in postexercise blood lactate concentrations between the 2 sprint protocol recovery conditions. However, they did find significantly higher muscle lactate concentrations immediately after exercise as a consequence of the active recovery.
This study and other authors' investigations challenge the common assumption that active recovery is beneficial in fostering blood lactate clearance during exercise (20,21,53). Although this study design may not explain the reasons underlying this occurrence, several authors have proposed that this is the consequence of the reduction of O2 availability for lactate oxidation imposed by the additional exercise O2 demands during active recovery (20,22,53).
The results of the present study are in line with those reported by Hoffman et al. (27), which showed no association between aerobic fitness components and recovery indices in basketball players (50.2 ± 3.3 mL·kg−1·min−1) performing prolonged (30 seconds) maximal sprinting exercises (“suicide drills”). As a consequence, it could be speculated that maximal aerobic power is not a limiting factor on RSA performance in basketball players who possess VO2max levels that are above 50 mL·kg−1·m−1. However, as no training study has addressed the issue of the effect of aerobic fitness development on basketball performance, aerobic training should not be neglected. In fact, the sprint protocols used in this and other authors' studies considered exercising periods rarely exceeding 10 minutes including recovery, which is an quite shorter than that usually observed during basketball games (39).
As a result, it could be speculated that other components of aerobic fitness, such as the O2 response or lactate threshold (9), might have a greater effect on RSA performance in basketball players. Due to the interest in this issue, future research projects should focus on the components of aerobic fitness on RSA in populations of basketball players competing at different levels.
Short term high-intensity intermittent exercises have been proposed as a tool for improving VO2max and anaerobic capacity (18,53). Although the training outcome may be affected by the interaction of a number of variables, such as exercise intensity, recovery mode, work-rest ratio, and number of repetitions, active recovery has been recommended in order to decrease blood lactate concentration (5,7). This is because reduced blood lactate concentrations have been suggested to enable increased training intensity and volume resulting in better training adaptations (5,7). In the present study, we did not find any significant effect of recovery mode on blood lactate concentration.
It is concluded that when dealing with repeated short term sprinting (∼ 6 seconds) passive recovery is advisable to enable better performance in basketball players.
Although this is a descriptive experimental design, valuable information to direct basketball training and competition may be drawn.
Firstly, the RSA protocols used in the present study elicited blood lactate levels in the upper range of those reported to occur during actual game play (39). Consequently, sets of 10x15-m shuttle running sprints may be used with well trained basketball players, in order to prescribe anaerobic capacity drills. In this regard, recovery mode should not be a main concern for the basketball fitness trainer, as no difference in blood lactate concentrations was observed.
Line drills, when repeated, have been reported to elicit blood lactate concentrations similar to those reported in the present study and may be used to induce short term anaerobic capacity as well (27).
Secondly, as recovery mode was shown to affect repeated sprint performance, basketball coaches should advise basketball players to develop a sort of “sparing behavior” to be applied during the game (14,15) to avoid unnecessary activity. On the other side, coaches should frequently substitute players when game intensity does not allow frequent game interruption for free throwing or ball out of play.
Further research should be performed in order to evaluate the physiological stress imposed on basketball players during basketball-specific high intensity intermittent exercise protocols and to evaluate the RSA external validity and sensitivity on actual game play.
The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.
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