It is well acknowledged that repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise are an important fitness component of most big-field and court sports. Accordingly, many repeated-sprint tests were proposed in the specific literature (2,4,9,46) to evaluate the athlete's aptitude to repeatedly perform maximal or near maximal sprints and its capacity to recover from this intensive exercise. Field-based team-sport activities incorporate a variety of explosive movements such as forward and backward shuffles, runs at different intensities, and sustained vigorous contractions (24). Previous research has proposed repeated-sprint tests based on straight line (2,37,39,46) or shuttle run sprint (3,9,15,23) neglecting the mode of displacements used in sport activities such as backward and lateral movements. On the basis of the results of time-motion analyses of multisprint sports such as hockey (47,48), soccer (8,40), basketball (6,11,31,32), volleyball (42,43), handball (44), and tennis (25,34), it was shown that players cover several kilometers involving many high speed movements in forward, backward, and lateral displacements. In addition, the percent contribution of this type of motion activities to total game ranged from 5 to 16% in hockey and soccer (8,40,48) to approximately 40% in basketball and tennis (6,34). Team-game players then need to be exceptional movers in forward, lateral, back, and multidirectional movements in a very reduce area (8,14). Haj Sassi et al. (18) have addressed the need for a more specific agility test by proposing the modified agility T-test (MAT). This test was based on a single sprint with 4 changes of direction using forward, lateral, and backward movements and has been shown to be high reliable and more specific, rather than the T-test (13,29,30,35,36), to assess agility for court sports. Nevertheless, it has been reported that the repeated-sprint tests, instead of a single sprint, are more appropriate and mimic the movement pattern of most games to ensure physiological demands of the competition (23,39). To replicate the specific movement pattern of multisprint sports, we proposed in this article the repeated modified agility test (RMAT) in an attempt to reflect appropriately the need of the majority of sport activities. Most research studies that have studied criterion validity of the repeated-sprint tests have used the Wingate anaerobic test (WAT) because it is generally considered as the most popular and reliable test for determining anaerobic performance capabilities of multisprint sports athletes in a laboratory setting (2,3,26). However, the practical use of this test requires the use of sophisticated technical equipment, which is very expensive. As a consequence and referring to recent researches that demonstrated that the repeated-sprint tests were significantly correlated with the Wingate test performance, it seems that the repeated-sprint test, which represents an attractive way for practical application, could be used to assess the anaerobic power in running (53,54). On the other hand, there is little information about the relationship between the force-generating capacity of leg muscles and repeated-sprint performance. Previous research has identified the relationship between force production capabilities of legs and single-trial sprint performance (27,45,52) and neglected, however, to address the repeated-effort sprint requirements specific to the nature of many field and court sports. Indeed, Simonsen (45) reported that agility tasks consist of rapid deceleration phase where leg extensor muscles operate eccentrically, followed by a rapid acceleration phase, in which the same muscles were activated concentrically (i.e., stretch-shortening cycle). Likewise, Young et al. (52) proposed that rapid change of direction could be dependent on a relative short ground contact time and, therefore, on a generation of great force in a short period of time. Accordingly, a knowledge of the physiological and biomechanical factors that determine the performance of the repeated-sprint activities, particularly the repeated agility tests, such as strength and power, either concentric or eccentric contraction modes will allow specific training programs of this quality. Therefore, the aims of this study were to evaluate the reliability of the RMAT and to examine its relationship with the performances of the WAT and vertical and horizontal jump tests. We hypothesized that RMAT performances provide stable test-retest scores; there are significant correlations between the RMAT and both WAT performances and all jump ability tests.
Experimental Approach to the Problem
The RMAT was proposed to reproduce accurately the basic movement pattern of most intermittent sports including forward, lateral, and back displacements, which were neglected by previous repeated-sprint test protocols. Because any new physical fitness test utilization was dependent for its reliability and validity, we evaluated the reliability and validity of RMAT to assess anaerobic performance and explosiveness. Relative and absolute reliability of the RMAT was determined by completing the RMAT twice separated by at least 48 hours. Furthermore, we examined the relationship between total time (TT), peak time (PT), and fatigue index (FI) as performance indices of the RMAT (dependent variables) and other physical fitness components that were WAT performance and vertical and horizontal jumps (independent variables).
This study consisted of 2 separate phases involving a total of 27 male students athletes in Sport Sciences pursuing degrees in Exercise Science and Physical Education at the University of Sports of Tunisia (age: 20.6 ± 1.6 years; body mass: 68.2 ± 11.3 kg; height: 176 ± 7.6 cm; body mass index: 22.1 ± 2.9; % body fat: 12.8 ± 4.2). They are licensed in various team sports such as football, basketball, rugby and handball. Subjects were selected based on their team-sport experience (each subject had at least 5 years of training experience). They performed ∼16 h·wk−1 of various physical activities as part of their university course, including ball games, swimming, athletics, gymnastic, combat sports, music, and dance. None was a highly trained competitive athlete. Apart from their Education program, all subjects were starters in their team sports and participated in a regular training and competition schedule. None of the participants reported any current or ongoing neuromuscular diseases or musculoskeletal injuries specific to the ankle, knee, or hip joints, and none of them were taking any dietary or performance supplements that might be expected to affect performance during the study. Written informed consent was received from all subjects after verbal and written explanation of the experimental design and potential risks of the study. The study was conducted according to the Declaration of Helsinki and the protocol was fully approved by the Ethic Committee of the University before the commencement of the assessments. All the participants were fully accustomed with the procedures used in this research and were informed they could withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.
The first phase of this study aimed to establish the relative and absolute reliability of the RMAT in a group of 10 subjects (age: 20.1 ± 1.1 years, body mass: 69.3 ± 11.4 kg, height: 176.0 ± 7.0 cm, and body fat: 12.3 ± 3.1%). Each subject completed the RMAT twice separated by at least 48 hours. All subjects were familiarized with the RMAT protocol before data collection. To avoid the effect of diurnal variations, the RMAT was completed at the same time of the day after a 15-minute warm-up including jogging, sprinting, lateral displacements, dynamic stretching, and jumping. Subjects performed the RMAT with at least 5 minutes of rest after the warm-up to ensure adequate recovery. The second phase of our investigation aimed to examine the relationship between the RMAT and other physical fitness components that were anaerobic performance and explosiveness. Twenty-seven subjects participated in this phase and performed the RMAT, the WAT, jump tests. The WAT and vertical and horizontal jump tests were performed randomly on separate days. For the jump tests, subjects were allowed to perform 3 trials. All subjects performed each test with at least 3 minutes of rest between all trials and 5 minutes between tests to ensure adequate recovery. Vertical jump performances (peak height) were measured by using the Opto-jump system (Microgate SARL, Italy).
Repeated Modified Agility T-Test
The RMAT consisted of 10 maximal sprints of 20 m with ∼25-second rest period in between (Figure 1). Each sprint involved 4 changes of direction with 3 displacement modes: forward, lateral, and backward (18). The subject began with both feet behind the starting line A. At his own discretion, for the first sprint, subject sprinted forward to cone B and touched the base of it with the right hand. Facing forward and without crossing feet, they shuffled to the left to cone C and touched its base with the left hand. Subjects then shuffled to the right to cone D and touched its base with the right hand. They shuffled back to the left to cone B and touched its base. Finally, subjects ran backward as quickly as possible and returned to line A. The second sprint started at the end of the 30 seconds counted since the departure of the first sprint. Within each recovery period between sprints, subjects tapered down from the sprint just completed and slowly walked back to the next start point and waited for the auditory signal given by the beeper (Best Electronique, France).
The subject who crossed one foot in front of the other, failed to touch the base of the cone or failed to face forward throughout, must repeated the test. The RMAT performances were recorded using an electronic timing system (Globus, Microgate). One pair of the electronic timing system sensors mounted on tripods was set approximately 0.75 m above the floor and was positioned 3 m apart facing each other on either side of the starting line. The RMAT performance indices were TT, PT and FI, as proposed by Fitzsimons et al. (12).
Wingate Anaerobic Test
The Wingate anaerobic test was performed on a friction-braked cycle ergometer (Monark, 894E, Stockholm, Sweden). The resistance level was set at 90 g·kg−1 body weight (5). The ergometer handlebars and seat height were individually adjusted for each subject and toe clips with straps used to prevent the feet from slipping of the pedals. During the standardized warm-up, the subject pedaled at a constant pace of 60 rpm for 5 minutes against a light load of 1 kg. After 5 minutes of rest, the subjects were allowed unloaded pedaling of 5 seconds to reach maximum cadence and were instructed to maintain maximal pedal speed throughout the 30-second period when the appropriate resistance was applied. Subjects were verbally encouraged to maintain their maximal pedal rate throughout the test. Peak power output (PPO), mean power output (MPO), and FI expressed the test performance. The PPO and MPO were averaged every 5 seconds and reported in absolute (watts) and relative (i.e., normalized for body weight, W·kg−1) expressions.
The subject started from a semisquat position with the hands held at the hips to avoid upper limb body contribution and jumped upward as high as possible. This test was used to estimate muscle power under concentric condition. A successful trial was one where there was no sinking or countermovement before the execution of the jump. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) of the squat jump in our study was 0.95 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.89-0.98) with no significant differences between the 2 trial scores (p = 0.531, effect size [ES] = 0.06 [trivial]).
The subject began from an upright standing position, performed a very fast preliminary downward eccentric action followed immediately by a jump for maximal height. Hands remained at the hips for the entire movement to eliminate any influence of arm swing. The ICC of the countermovement jump (CMJ) in our study was 0.97 (95% CI: 0.93-0.99) with no significant differences between the 2 trial scores (p = 0.915, ES = 0.01 [trivial]).
The subject performed 3 protocols of the drop jump (DJ) from a bench (30 cm). On the first one, subjects performed a maximal jump immediately after landing on the floor with the 2 feet (DJ). On the 2 last protocols, subjects performed unilateral DJ using dominant (DJD) and nondominant (DJN) legs. The ICCs of the DJ, DJD, and DJN in our study were 0.96 (95% CI: 0.92-0.98), 0.93 (95% CI: 0.84-0.97), and 0.92 (95% CI: 0.83-0.96), respectively, with no significant differences between the 2 trial scores for each test (p = 0.598, ES = 0.04 [trivial]; p = 0.988, ES = 0.0 [trivial]; and p = 0.659, ES = 0.05 [trivial], for DJ, DJD, and DJN, respectively).
Five Jump Test
The 5JT was started from a standing position, and the subject tried to cover the longest distance by performing 5 consecutive strides with joined feet position at the start and the end of the jumps. Subjects were not allowed to perform any back step with any foot and performed 5 forward jumps with alternative left- and right-leg contacts. If ever the player fell to the back at the reception of the last stride, or landed with 1 foot, the test was reperformed. The distance of the 5J was measured with a tape. The ICC of the 5JT in our study was 0.94 (95% CI: 0.86-0.98) with no significant differences between the 2 trial scores (p = 0.731, ES = 0.16 [trivial]).
Data are shown as mean ± SD. Normality was analyzed using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. All variables presented a normal distribution. The ICC was used to examine the relative reliability of the RMAT indices (TT, PT, and FI). The SEM and 95% limit of agreement (LOA) method (7) were calculated as an indication of the absolute reliability of the measures used. To investigate systematic bias, a paired Student's t-test was conducted to test hypothesis of no difference between the sample mean scores for the test vs. the sample mean scores for the retest. Heteroscedasticity was addressed for each Bland-Altman calculation. To establish the usefulness of the RMAT, we calculated the smallest worthwhile change (SWC) in performance terms (1,20,38). As general rules, if the SEM is less than the SWC, then the test is rated as “good.” If the SEM is much greater than the SWC, then the test is rated as “marginal.” If the typical error is about the same as the SWC, then the test may be useful, that is, “OK” (22,46). The ES was calculated to assess meaningfulness of differences. Effect sizes of >1.2, between 1.2 and 0.6, between 0.6 and 0.2, and <0.2 were considered as large, moderate, small, and trivial, respectively (20). Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficients were used to examine correlations between variables. The magnitude of the correlations was also determined using the modified scale by Hopkins (20): r < 0.1, trivial; 0.1-0.3, small; 0.3-0.5, moderate; 0.5-0.7, large; 0.7-0.9, very large; >0.9, nearly perfect; and 1 perfect. A stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to determine the best predictor variables for TT of the RMAT. To test whether model assumptions for linear regression were met, we checked for normality of model residuals and equality of variances; both of these assumptions were met. All statistical analyses were conducted using the statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS, version 17.0, SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA). Statistical significance was determined at p ≤ 0.05 and a power of 0.80.
The mean ± SD for the test-retest scores of the RMAT indices and the ICC (95% CI) between the 2 tests sessions are given in Table 1. Mean RMAT indices in the test were not significantly different from the retest session (p = 0.24, ES = 0.14, [trivial]; p = 0.09, ES = 0.28, [small]; p = 0.071, ES = 0.40, [small], for TT, PT, and FI, respectively). An ICC > 0.90 for TT, PT, and FI suggested a high degree of relative agreement between the test-retest sessions.
The SEM, bias, 95% LOA, and ratio LOA between test and retest are given in Table 2. The residual errors between scores on the test and the retest were normally distributed for all RMAT indices (p = 0.27; p = 0.49; p = 0.94 for TT, PT, and FI, respectively), and the heteroscedasticity coefficients were 0.18 (p = 0.62), 0.09 (p = 0.81), and −0.32 (p = 0.372) for TT, PT, and FI, respectively. The mean difference (bias) ± the 95% limits of agreement was 0.50 ± 2.20, 0.08 ± 0.28, and −0.65 ± 1.98% for TT, PT, and FI, respectively (Figure 2).
Although heteroscedasticity coefficients were not statistically significant, they were positive for TT and PT. Transformation of the test and retest data into natural logarithms for these indices reduced the heteroscedasticity to r = 0.073 (p = 0.84) for the TT and to r = 0.02 (p = 0.95) for the PT. The dependent t test performed between the log transformed mean scores for the test and the retest for the TT and PT showed no significant bias (p = 0.19 and p = 0.09, respectively). Residual errors between test and retest log transformed data were normally distributed (p = 0.37 and p = 0.55 for TT and PT, respectively). The mean difference ± 95% LOA was 0.0035 ± 0.015 and 0.006 ± 0.020 for TT and PT, respectively. Taking antilogs of these values gave a mean bias of 1.0035 and 1.006 with a random error component of ×/÷1.015 and ×/÷1.020 for TT and PT, respectively.
Mean scores for all tests are presented in Table 3. The correlations between the performance indices of the RMAT and the other tests are summarized in Table 4. Significant correlations were found between TT, PT, and all other test performances.
The aim of the first phase of this study was to evaluate the reliability of a new repeated agility test (RMAT) that involves many changes of direction with different mode of displacements. Previous research has proposed repeated-sprint tests based on straight line (2,37,39,46) or shuttle run sprint (3,9,15,23). To our knowledge, this is the first repeated agility test that incorporated forward, lateral, and back displacements, which are considered as the key movement of patterns of many team and intermittent sports (6,8,11,31,32,34,40,42-44,48).
To assess reliability of the RMAT indices, we used a range of reliability measures to provide a comparison between previous researches and the result of our study. From consideration of all reliability analyses performed, the results showed that the reliability of the RMAT indices, except for the FI, was found to be high. In fact, the reliability of the TT and PT of the RMAT were very good, with ICC > 0.90 and SEM < 5%. As general rules, ICC > 0.90 was considered as high, between 0.80 and 0.90, as moderate, and <0.80 to be insufficient for physiological field tests (50). In addition, it has been suggested that any 2 tests would differ, because of measurement error (SEM in our study) by no more than 5% (33).
Despite the differences in the mode of repeated-sprint tests protocols proposed in the literature, in terms of number of repetitions, total distance covered, displacement nature, time rest between repetitions, the results of our study were comparable to other previous researches (9,15,23,51). Another common criterion to verify absolute reliability of a test was the Bland and Altman method (7). In our study, there was a high level of concordance between scores of the TT and the PT verified by Bland and Altman plots (Figure 2). In these analyses, both bias and random error were found to be low, resulting in a good reliability. To put these results in a practical context (10), if a subject from the study population performed a TT of 60 seconds on the first application of the RMAT, suggests that he could perform on the second trial a score as high as 61.20 seconds, or as low as 59.34 seconds. Similarly, for a subject with a PT performance on the test of 6 seconds, for example, there is a 95% probability that the second trial performance might be as high as 6.16 seconds or as low as 5.92 seconds. We could consider these LOA very acceptable.
Although the measurement of TT and PT yielded very good reliability, this was not the case for the assessment of absolute reliability of FI. In fact, the CV found for the percent of sprint decrement during the RMAT is very high (11.7%). This result is in line with previous research studies that have studied the reliability of the percent decrement during over ground, repeated-sprint, running tests (12,17,21,23,46). It has been suggested that the great variability of the percent decrement in performance may be because fatigue scores are calculated (not measured) from at least 2 measures that have their inherent variability (16). On the other hand, recent researches that tested reliability of repeated-sprint protocols, suggested that a better use of reliability data is to calculate the SWC (22,23,46) defined as the minimal individual change that can be interpreted as real with an acceptable probability level (22). In our study, the SEM of TT was less than SWC (0.54 vs. 0.65), indicating that the usefulness of this RMAT performance is rated as “good.” For the PT of the RMAT, the SEM and SWC were very similar (0.07 vs. 0.06); the usefulness of this parameter was rated as “OK.” Conversely, SEM of FI was greater than the SWC (0.60 vs. 0.40) indicating that the usefulness of this parameter is rated as “marginal.” These results were in line with those of Spencer et al. (46) who reported that the usefulness of TT sprint of their 6 × 30 m with 25-second recovery in between was rated as “OK” and marginal for FI. Impellizzeri et al. (23) reported that the worthwhile change for both mean time and best time of their repeated shuttle sprint test were 0.5%, whereas SEMs for these 2 parameters were 1.3 and 1.2%, respectively.
The second phase of our study aimed to examine the relationship between RMAT performances and anaerobic and explosiveness. The absolute and relative PPO of the WAT was significantly correlated with PT recorded during the RMAT. Many researchers have reported significant correlations between PPO of the Wingate test and PT of repeated straight run sprint tests, but these correlations were not high (2,54). Zacharigiannis et al. (53) reported a high significant correlation (0.82) between the PPO of the Wingate test and the PT obtained in the 6 × 35 m with 10 seconds of recovery between repetitions. However, Meckel et al. (28) reported no correlation between PPO of the Wingate test and the PT obtained during 2 repeated run sprint protocols: the 6 × 40 and the 12 × 20 m interspersed by 20-second recovery. Likewise, Baker et al. (3) did not find significant correlation between absolute PPO and PT recorded during the Wingate test and the 8 × 40-m shuttle run sprint with 20 seconds of recovery. It appears that great variability in repeated-sprint tests protocols (distance covered, shuttle or straight sprint, number of repetitions, time and mode of recovery, etc.) could affect the relationship between these 2 indices. The relationship between PPO and PT, in our study, was not very strong (Table 4). This is may be because the design of the RMAT, which involves 4 changes of direction in a very reduce area, where the subject was demanded to accelerate and decelerate many times during the test may slightly weaken the relationship between the PPO of the WAT and the PT of the RMAT. In addition, the peak sprint time was not necessarily reached in the first sprint. In the case that PT was attained in the latter sprints, the lactic anaerobic energy system could be important for energy supply (26). In this context, absolute and relative MPOs of the WAT were significantly correlated with TT of the RMAT. Because MPO and TT reflect the capacity of an athlete to maintain power output at a high intensity during the 2 tests, our results suggest that the RMAT could be used as a field test to assess anaerobic performance. Indeed, the contribution of the anaerobic energy system during the RMAT is supported by the high level of posttest blood lactate concentration (9.66 ± 2.61). In addition, significant correlation (r = 0.58, p = 0.005) between posttest blood lactate concentrations at 3 minutes after cessation of the 2 tests indicated that subjects who recorded a high blood lactate value in the WAT accumulated the elevated amount of blood lactate after the RMAT. These results disagreed with the finding of Aziz and Teh (2) who reported modest correlation between relative mean power of the WAT and total sprinting time during the 8 × 40 m, with 30 seconds of rest in between. Disparity in the training statute of the 2 populations may affect the relationship between MPO of the WAT and the TT of tests. In fact, subjects involved in Aziz's study (2) have high values of PPO and MPO compared to our population (12.1 ± 1.6 vs. 9.56 ± 1.03 and 8.8 ± 0.7 vs. 7.13 ± 0.66 w·kg−1, respectively). Furthermore, the mode of displacement and the number of changes of direction in the RMAT may possibly require different physiological and power determinant compared to straight running sprints. In this context, Reilly and Bowen showed that oxygen consumption was significantly higher for sideways and backwards movement than for forwards running at the same speed (41).
On the other hand, our results showed that vertical and horizontal jumps were correlated with both TT and PT of the RMAT. Despite the fact that the relationship between RSA indices and jump tests was not well studied in the literature, our data supported the suggestion that rapid change of direction is dependent on the capability of a subject to complete a relatively short ground contact time and, therefore, generate force in a short period of time (52). In fact, Haj Sassi et al. (19) reported a significant correlation (−0.74) between the 5JT and TT of the 6 × 15-m shuttle sprint test, with 25 seconds of recovery in between. Thomas et al. (49) showed that 2 plyometric training programs based on CMJ and DJ, improved agility but not straight sprint performances, in youth soccer players. Similarly, Markovic (27) suggested that the 1-leg rising test, which represents a functional leg strength test, seems to be an acceptable predictor of a single change of direction sprint. In our study, the strong correlation found between DJD and TT of the RMAT supported the use of DJD to assess functional performance of repeated agility test. In addition, it has been suggested that leg extensor power generated during stretch-shortening cycles could be an important factor in successful agility test (52).
In conclusion, the repeated agility test based on straight, lateral and back displacements, departure every ∼25 seconds was very reliable test when expressed as TT and PT. However, FI presented a poor absolute reliability and should be used with great caution. In addition, the RMAT, and the WAT can be easily used to measure the leg muscle strength and power but by using running instead of cycling. Indeed, in intermittent sports such as handball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, the use of the RMAT, that replicate appropriately the specific needs of these activities, seems to be more relevant than the WAT to assess anaerobic running power in multisprint sport athletes. Furthermore, significant correlations between RMAT and jump tests, particularly the DJD, suggest that explosive muscular strength represents a key element of the RMAT performance.
A great interest exists for developing field and specific training programs that can effectively measure and improve the key elements, which contribute to multisprint sport performance. The findings of this study have shown the reliability and validity of the RMAT as a field anaerobic power testing. The RMAT, as a field test that replicate specific movement patterns of many intermittent activities, seems reflect the needs of coaches to obtain relevant information about anaerobic power of a player in real context of intermittent sports. In addition, the RMAT is a simple method to evaluate anaerobic power that does not require the use of sophisticated and expensive equipment. Furthermore, the DJ with a dominant leg could be used to predict the ability of a player to change direction rapidly without loss in speed and balance. Coaches and fitness trainers involved with multisprint sports, such as basketball, volleyball, handball and soccer, may benefit from incorporating the RMAT as a field-specific training protocol for team-sport athletes to improve repeated-sprint ability combining an agility component which are specific to the exercise demands of team-game players focusing on the development of anaerobic and explosiveness component of this ability.
This study was financially supported by the “Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique,” Tunisia. The authors thank all subjects for their enthusiasm and commitment. We specially thank Dr Habib Oueslati and Dr Nabil Gmada for their helpful suggestions, Khaled Zdini and Nabil Kaddech for participating in data collection.
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Keywords:Copyright © 2011 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.
sprinting; anaerobic performance; intermittent exercise; usefulness