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Peak Power During Repeated Wingate Trials: Implications for Testing

Kohler, Ryan M; Rundell, Kenneth W; Evans, Tina M; Levine, Alan M

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: February 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue 2 - p 370-374
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b06f41
Original Research

Kohler, RM, Rundell, KW, Evans, TM, and Levine, AM. Peak power during repeated Wingate trials: Implications for testing. J Strength Cond Res 24(2): 370-374, 2010-Maximal power production is of primary importance for many sporting events. Therefore, using a test that has been shown to be both valid and reliable will allow for accurate baseline testing, measurement of progress, and evaluation of performance. This study examined peak power (PP) during repeated Wingate trials after no warm-up (NWU), a steady state warm-up, and an interval warm-up. In a randomized placebo-controlled study, 11 subjects (38 ± 8.2 years) performed two 10-second Wingate trials with 4 minutes of recovery between efforts. Warm-up protocols were completed before each Wingate trial and were immediately followed by trial I. Peak power was measured during each trial. Results indicate that PP is not significantly (p > 0.05) different from trial I to trial II for either of the warm-up protocols. The NWU trial II was significantly greater than the NWU trial I (855 ± 230 W > 814 ± 222 W, p < 0.05) when analyzed with a paired samples t-test. Peak power appears to be greatest after a general self-selected warm-up, but not after a previously intense bike warm-up. When testing for maximal power output via the Wingate anaerobic test, one should allow for a familiarization trial and should ensure full recovery between this trial and the baseline evaluation.

Human Physiology and Respiratory Research Laboratory, Marywood University, Scranton, PA

Address correspondence to Kenneth W. Rundell,

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Maximal power production is an essential element of any strength or power sport such as football, hockey, track cycling, and field events. The ability to produce maximal power for the longest duration can separate first place from second place. Road and track cyclists, in particular, need to push their bodies to the utmost limits to win races. Due to the short duration of some track cycling events and the finishing sprint of road races, cyclists must exert maximal power on the pedals for a sustained period of time to be victorious.

The concept of maximal power production has been around for quite some time. The Maximal Power Principle, which states “all open systems (Bernard cells, ecosystems, people, societies, etc.) evolve to degrade as much energy as possible while allowing for the continued existence of the larger systems they are a part of”(8). In events such as cycling, this occurs when athletes degrade as much energy as possible (e.g., producing maximal power output) while allowing himself/herself to continue at the desired speed. Peak power (PP) in cyclists can be measured by completing the Wingate Anaerobic Test (WAnT). The WAnT was developed in the 1970s and is one of the most widely used anaerobic performance tests. It has been accepted in laboratories around the world to assess muscle power, muscle endurance, and fatigability; it is a reliable assessment of the physiological responses to supramaximal exercise (2). To date, there is limited research on the WAnT examining PP over repeated trials.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine PP over repeated Wingate trials. Supporting the wide use of the WAnT as a diagnostic tool for athletic populations, research indicates that even highly trained athletes of both sexes reach greater PP values during the 10-second WAnT (5). The question then arises of whether an athlete will reach PP in only 1 trial. Because many athletes may not be familiar with the effort required during the WAnT, a practice session may be warranted. According to Barnfield et al. (3), 1 full administration should be performed prior to a baseline power output measurement. This main focus of this study was PP during a 10-second effort and included specific warm-up routines. Previous Wingate research did not provide a standardized warm-up procedure (3,9,11,12,13).

Warm-up has become a common practice among coaches and athletes in the hopes of preparing the body for upcoming activity and reducing the potential for injury. It has been shown to improve temperature-dependent physiological processes necessary for physical activity. Specific, as opposed to passive or general, warm-up routines have been shown to be most beneficial in preparing the body for exercise because they mimic the exercise to be performed (6). According to Bar-Or (1), more data are needed to construct an optimal warming up protocol for the WAnT. The goals of the warm-up routine were to elevate core body temperature and increase muscle blood flow to prepare for the upcoming activity. Warm-up also sought to improve the temperature-dependent physiological processes such as the enzyme-catalyzed metabolic processes that are used to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Because this is a supramaximal effort requiring the bulk of the energy to be provided by the ATP-phosphagen (PC) energy system, our interval warm-up (IWU) protocol was aimed at warming up this system. The no warm-up (NWU) group was used as a control and the steady state warm-up (SSWU) group was used to determine if the ATP-PC energy system does, in fact, need to be warmed up before a supramaximal effort such as the WAnT. By activating the ATP-PC energy system in the IWU group and instructing subjects to ride at 90% of peak heart rate (HR), researchers expected to recruit high-threshold motor units that would be relied upon heavily in the subsequent WAnT. Therefore, a secondary aim of this study was to examine the effects of warm-up and to determine if standardized protocols influence PP output during the WAnT. Standardized warm-up routines in this study were completed on a cycle ergometer to allow athletes to practice specific cycling movement patterns before beginning the WAnT.

Data collected in this study was used to build on previous results provided by Bar-Or and Barnfield et al (1). Two warm-up protocols and 1 non-warm-up procedure provided data that will be useful in developing a standardized warm-up procedure for future Wingate tests. Two trials were given on each day, and trained cyclists were recruited to reduce the learning effect.

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Experimental Approach to the Problem

This is an experimental, quantitative, crossover research design that examined PP during two 10-second WAnTs on a cycle ergometer. A 10-second test was selected because PP is typically achieved during the first 3-5 seconds of a 30-second WAnT (2). In addition, the test was terminated at 10 seconds to reduce fatigue and allow subjects' full recovery before the next trial. Subjects were asked to report to the Marywood University Human Performance Laboratory on 3 separate days; each trial was separated by at least 24 hours. Subjects performed two 10-second Wingate trials after a SSWU, IWU, or a NWU day, and these trials were randomized. Warm-up periods lasted for 10 minutes, while the recovery between trials lasted for 4 minutes. Informed consent and a PAR-Q form were collected on the first day of testing.

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Eleven subjects (19 men and 2 women) were involved on a voluntary basis for this study. One subject failed to complete the entire study due to an injury sustained during a training ride after the first day of testing. Subjects were selected from a pool of cyclists in local cycling clubs throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Information was given via e-mail, phone, and at club rides throughout the season. Informed consent was obtained during the first day of testing and before taking any baseline measurements. Human experimentation approval was received from the Marywood University Institutional Review Board prior to accepting any volunteers. A Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) form was completed to assess subjects' medical history and readiness for a maximal cycle ergometer test.

Selection of subjects was not completed at random; they were recruited on a volunteer basis from local cycling clubs. Gender, age, geographic area, and socioeconomic status did not play a role in the selection process.

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Anthropometric Measures

Height of subjects was measured without shoes. Weight was obtained with subjects wearing cycling clothing using a calibrated balance-beam scale (Healthometer; Sunbeam Products, Inc., Purvis, MS). Anthropometric data were obtained at baseline, and weight was reassessed before each day of testing.

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Bike Setup

Sports Medicine Industries (Sports Medicine Industries, Inc., St. Cloud, MN) Power software was used to record and analyze power data. The rear flywheel was fitted with reflectors at 2 5/8” intervals and recorded by SMI OptoSensor 2000 (Sports Medicine Industries), which was placed no more than ¼” from the flywheel. Calibrated kilogram weights were used for setting the load; weights included two 4-kg weights, two 2-kg weights, four 1-kg weights, two 0.5-kg weights, and four 0.1-kg weights. The optical sensor brackets were checked to ensure alignment prior to each testing session. Verification was completed by clicking on the sensor icon on the computer screen. The test protocol was then reviewed with the subject to ensure understanding and to answer any pertinent questions. Major points that were emphasized with the subject are as follows:

  1. The test will start at the specified pedaling cadence.
  2. The test is a maximal, all-out sprint.
  3. The athlete may not come off the saddle during the sprint.
  4. The athlete should not stop until instructed to do so.

After verification of the bike fit, the subject began either the warm-up protocol or the trial I.

Seat height, handlebar height, reach, and type of pedals (toe clips or clipless pedals) were self-selected by subjects on each day of testing. Subjects were allowed to set these positions on both the warm-up bike (Lode Excalibur) and the Wingate bike (Nobilette).

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Warm-Up Protocols

The warm-up protocol varied on each day. On the first day of testing, subjects arrived at the Marywood University Human Performance Laboratory to complete Informed Consent and PAR-Q forms. Following this, height and weight measurements were recorded by standard methods. For the NWU trial, subjects were allowed to prepare for the WAnT with a general off-the-bike self-selected dynamic warm-up to reduce the likelihood of injury but were not allowed on the bike at this time. Static stretching was not used because static research indicates that stretching may decrease maximal force production (4).

For the SSWU trial, subjects completed 10 minutes of cycling on a Lode Excalibur cycle ergometer at 70% of age-predicted maximum HR. Following this warm-up, subjects were directed to the Wingate bike for trial I. For the IWU, subjects completed a series of intervals before the WAnT. This warm-up protocol involved 10 minutes of cycling on a Lode Excalibur cycle ergometer according to the schedule given in Table 1. Following this warm-up, subjects were immediately directed to the Wingate bike for trial I.

Table 1

Table 1

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Wingate Testing Procedures

Subjects received instructions on the test and were directed to the bike. Weights were loaded onto the pan and suspended so that subjects may begin pedaling with only the resistance of the flywheel; they were instructed to increase pedal cadence to 60-65 rpm during the 5-second countdown and maintain this cadence until the signal to begin pedaling maximally is given. At “Go,” the weight pan was lowered and the subjects began to pedal maximally against the resistance. Verbal encouragement was given to athletes throughout the test to ensure maximal effort. The computer software was corrected for the lower starting cadence. The authors' anecdotal findings that some subjects could not maintain the higher starting cadence prompted the decision to use 60-65 rpm and to allow the athlete to spin up to 100+ rpm on the “Go” signal.

A final “3-2-1-STOP” countdown was given near the end of the test, and at “STOP,” the weight pan was lifted to allow the athlete to pedal without additional resistance. Immediately following each trial, subjects were directed to the warm-up bike (Lode Excalibur) and were allowed to pedal with 50-60 W for 4 minutes to allow for recovery and to prevent pooling of blood in the lower extremities. Resistance was set according to Table 2.

Table 2

Table 2

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Statistical Analyses

The research was guided by the following questions: (a) Is PP greater for the second WAnT after 4 minutes of recovery?; (b) Does a standardized warm-up affect PP production?; and (c) Which warm-up protocol yields the highest PP output?

Data were analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (Version 13.0; SPSS, Chicago, IL). To test for changes in PP from trial I to trial II for each warm-up, repeated measures analysis of variance was utilized. Independent samples t-tests were used to assess differences between groups. Descriptive statistics were calculated to generate mean PP values for each trial and for subject characteristics. For all statistical analyses, an alpha level of p < 0.05 was considered significant.

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Twelve individuals volunteered for the study, 1 dropped out prior to completion. All remaining subjects completed the study as outlined above.

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Wingate Testing

Results indicated that peak power was not significantly different (p > 0.05) from trial I to trial II for the SSWU and IWU protocols. Figure 1 shows the no warm-up trials producing a statistically significant (p < 0.05) increase in peak power production from Trial I (813 ± 222 W) to trial II (855 ± 230 W). The steady state warm-up protocol produced a non-significant (p > 0.05) increase in peak power output from trial I (857 ± 241 W) to trial II (885 ± 200 W), while the interval warm-up protocol generated a non-significant decrease in peak power output from trial I (857 ± 227 W) to trial II (845 ± 214 W). The second trial of the steady state warm-up was of interest; see Figure 2. This trial showed the highest, albeit non-significant, mean peak power output (885 ± 200 watts).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

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Based on the results of this study, it appears that there is an increase in PP output after 1 trial during all warm-up protocols except for the interval protocol. This partially supports previous data suggesting that there is a practice effect to the WAnT (3). However, the warm-up protocol data were not significant and did not show an increase after each protocol. While the NWU and SSWU protocols showed an 8 and 3% improvement, respectively, from trial I to trial II, the IWU did not. It appears that the IWU was too intense to allow subjects to prepare for a subsequent WAnT, as shown by a 1.5% decrease in PP output. Many subjects, after completing the IWU, appeared to be more fatigued than after the NWU and SSWU trials. Pretest fatigue was not measured but would be an interesting variable to examine in future research.

In accord with the data, the warm-up protocols did not produce significant improvements in PP from trial I to trial II. This is supported by previous research indicating that a 15-minute intermittent warm-up on the treadmill improved mean power but not PP (1). Unpublished data suggest an intermittent warm-up to be more effective than an equicaloric SSWU (1). The current investigation did not support the use of a 10-minute SSWU or IWU at the intensities used for generating the highest mechanical PP output.

Peak power has long been an important determinant of performance in sports such as track cycling, football, and hockey. They all require maximal force production over a relatively short duration. This study examined PP over 2 trials and after 3 different warm-up protocols-NWU, SSWU, and an IWU.

Previous research indicates that there is a significant difference in PP (up to 14%) after 1 full administration of the WAnT (3). Protocols were standardized and randomized for each subject. They were instructed to complete the specified warm-up protocol for each day, followed by an all-out WAnT in the seated position. Pedal revolutions were held constant between 60-70 rpm before the start of the test, after which point subjects were given the command to start pedaling maximally against either 10 or 8.3% of their total body weight.

Results showed no significant difference among any of the warm-up trials, so regardless of the warm-up protocol, PP output was not significantly different.

The IWU protocol caused an overall decrease in PP production from trial I to trial II. This was, however, a nonsignificant difference. Interestingly, the second trial of the SSWU produced the greatest, although insignificant, PP values.

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Practical Applications

From a practical standpoint, a continuous SSWU period of approximately 10 minutes can be used to allow subjects to warm up before a WAnT to allow for warm up and preparation of the upcoming exercise task. Coaches and physiologists testing athletes to determine PP should allow the athletes to familiarize themselves with the test through at least 1 familiarization trial before completing the actual test. It appears that there is no particular warm-up protocol that produces the best results, so athletes can do a self-selected warm-up to fully prepare for the test. This should allow the athlete to feel more comfortable and prepared for the test with a warm-up routine that they have used in the past.

A limitation of this study lies in the choice to do only 10-second Wingate tests to measure PP. Completing 30-second Wingate tests may show a benefit of these warm-up protocols, but this was not addressed in this study.

Future research should examine additional warm-up protocols with shorter and longer durations and varying intensities. Longer Wingate tests should also be investigated to determine if standardized warm-up protocols have a beneficial effect on mean power and fatigue index. Familiarization trials should be included to account for a practice effect before beginning any trials.

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This research was completed without outside funding. The author graciously thank the additional members of the research team, including Dr. K. Rundell, PhD, FACSM; Dr. T. Evans, PhD, ATC; and Dr. A. M. Levine, PhD, RD, for their help and support during this process. R. M. Kohler thanks his parents for helping to make this educational experience possible and providing the tools necessary to complete this endeavor.

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