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Original Research

Effects of Load on Wingate Test Performances and Reliability

Jaafar, Hamdi1; Rouis, Majdi1; Coudrat, Laure1; Attiogbé, Elvis1; Vandewalle, Henry2; Driss, Tarak1

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 12 - p 3462-3468
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000575
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Abstract

Introduction

The assessment of anaerobic performance is crucial for determining an athlete's physiological profile and for evaluating condition and training programs in many sports. The Wingate anaerobic test is the most extensively used test for assessing human muscle capacity to generate power from anaerobic energy systems (11,14,25,35). This test, which consists of a 30-second all-out cycling exercise on a cycle ergometer, is also used for evaluating physiological responses such as lactate concentration and heart rate in all-out exercises (13,38). Nevertheless, aerobic metabolism is also taxed during the test and previous research studies reported an aerobic contribution to the Wingate test performance ranging from 18 to 30% (5,17).

The resistive force applied on the front-loading basket of the cycle ergometer is set relative to participant's body mass (BM). The resistance originally recommended by the authors of the Wingate test was 7.5% BM based on study of a small group of children (21). Evans and Quinney (14) proposed a formula to estimate the resistance eliciting maximal power output based on BM and leg volume (Load [kg] =−0.4914 − 0.2151 × BM [kg] 2.1124 × Leg volume [L]), but this method failed to produce a resistance that yields maximal power output (25,29). Thereafter, Dotan and Bar-Or (11) studied the effect of load on the Wingate test performances (peak power [PP], mean power [MP], and fatigue index [FI]) in male and female adults and proposed braking forces equal to 8.6 and 8.7% BM for male and female active adults, respectively. However, the highest braking force (9.2% BM) used in the study of Dotan and Bar-Or (11) was probably lower than the optimal load for PP because there was no plateau in the relationship between load and PP in male adults. Vandewalle et al. (35) found the same optimal load for female adults as in the study by Dotan and Bar-Or (11) but proposed a 10% BM braking force for average male participants in agreement with Patton et al. (25) who found that PP was higher with 9.5% BM when compared with 7.5% BM. Optimal load for maximal power output is higher than 15% BM in the most powerful participants (maximal cycling power >20 W·BM−1). However, many research studies (1,6,22,26,40) on the anaerobic profile of adults players from a variety of sports have used the low resistance (7.5% BM) initially proposed for children. More recently, Coppin et al. (9) used a braking force of 8.5% BM to test highly trained athletes.

The relationship between pedal rate and braking force can be described by a linear relationship (12,35). Consequently, the relationship between the force applied to the flywheel and the corresponding PP during an all-out sprint is quadratic and a 20% underestimation of the optimal load corresponds to a 5% underestimation of the maximal power in cycling exercises only (12,35). Similarly, a 10% difference in braking force around the optimal braking force had a slight effect on MP (35). The test's reliability is essential to validly interpret changes in performance. The reliability of the results of the Wingate test has been studied for low and medium braking force (2,21) but not for force higher than 10% BM. The use of a high resistance might influence the subjective rate of fatigue (18) and affect the intersession reliability of the measurements. Therefore, the interest of higher braking forces (small increases in PP, small or no difference in MP) might be cancelled by a possible lower reliability with such loads. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of two braking forces (i.e., 8.7 and 11% BM) on the reliability of Wingate test performance, peak blood lactate ([La]pk), peak heart rate (HRpk), and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

The Wingate test represents a commonly used test that has been developed to evaluate anaerobic power performance. However, this test lacks information about its absolute and relative reliabilities using different braking forces and more contemporary statistical assessments. Furthermore, it is likely that loads usually used in the literature are low (12), tested in children, women, and inactive males (2,11), and could be inappropriate in active male subjects. However, from an applied perspective, the reliability of the Wingate test performances with a higher load could be lower, which would cancel the interest of such a load. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of 2 different braking forces on the Wingate cycling test performances, the physiological responses, and their reliability in a group of active participants.

Subjects

Sixteen healthy men with a mean (±SD) age of 22.87 ± 1.26 years (range: 20–24 years), body height of 1.82 ± 0.07 m (range: 1.71–1.91 m), and BM of 75.64 ± 6.60 kg (range: 66–90 kg) volunteered to participate in this study. The participants were all physical education students from a variety of game sports backgrounds such as soccer, handball, and basketball, but none of them were cyclists. They practiced regular physical training for about 6–8 h·wk−1. Before any data collection, all the participants were fully informed of the possible risks and discomfort associated with the experimental procedures and they gave their written consent to participate. The experimental protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University and conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki for human experimentation.

Procedures

The participants were familiarized with the testing environment, equipment, and specific requirements of cycling exercises 1 week before the experimental period (20). Over a period of 4 weeks, the participants performed 2 Wingate tests at 8.7% BM according to Dotan and Bar-Or (11) and 2 Wingate tests at 11% BM in a randomized order on 4 separate occasions. The test sessions were separated by a 2-day interval during which the participants were instructed to avoid any strenuous activity. All tests were carried out at the same time of day (between 17:00 and 19:00) to avoid the effects of circadian rhythms (31). The tests were conducted under similar standard environmental conditions for all participants (mean temperature and humidity: 22 ± 0.1° C and 35 ± 0.4%, respectively). The participants were asked to follow their normal diet throughout the experimental period. After anthropometric measurements, the participants performed 5 minutes of active warm-up on the cycle ergometer to prepare them for maximal effort, which involved pedaling at 80 rpm against a weight basket support (i.e., 9.8 N) including 2 all-out sprints, each lasting 6 seconds, performed at the end of the third and fifth minute. For each test, the participants were seated on the cycle ergometer and adjustments were made to saddle height, foot position on pedals, and upper body position to each participant's satisfaction. The optimal riding position was maintained identical throughout the study. After a 5-minute recovery period, a Wingate test was performed. During this test, the participants were instructed to maximally accelerate in a seated posture to avoid the effect of postural changes (24) and to maintain maximal pedaling velocity for the entire 30-second test duration. They received verbal encouragement during the test, and the pedaling rate was recorded during the sprint cycling. Heart rate (b·min−1) was monitored during the test using a Sport-Tester (Polar RS400; Polar Electro Oy, Kempele, Finland) strapped to the chest wall directly above the heart. The highest measurement was recorded (HRpk).

The RPE was recorded at the end of sprint cycling. The RPE was assessed immediately after the sprint using the Borg 15-point category scale ranging from 6, corresponding to the resting state, to 20, corresponding to maximal exertion (7).

Capillary blood samples (5 μl) were collected from the fingertip of a prewarmed hand for lactate concentration (mmol·L−1). The samples were drawn from all participants immediately after the Wingate test and then again 5 and 7 minutes later (38). The highest value ([La]pk) was taken into account for data analysis. The samples were analyzed using a portable blood lactate analyzer (Lactate Pro; Arkray, Tokyo, Japan). The lactate analyzer was calibrated before each testing session and each blood sample and was used according to the manufacturer's guidelines. The portable blood lactate analyzer used in this study has been reported to be reliable and valid (27).

All the Wingate tests were conducted on the same cycle ergometer, a modified friction loaded ergometer (Monark 864 weight ergometer; Monark Exercise AB, Vansbro, Sweden) fitted with an optical sensor on the wheel to record the number of revolutions through a personal computer. The instantaneous power was averaged during 1-second intervals. For each Wingate test, PP (the highest mechanical power over 1 second elicited during the test), MP (the average power sustained throughout the 30-second period), and the lowest power (LP, the mechanical power at the end of the test) were calculated from the raw data. In addition, the difference between PP and LP was calculated and divided by the elapsed time to determine the fatigue slope (FS) and was also expressed as a percentage of the PP to calculate the FI using the following formula:

Statistical Analyses

Statistical analyses were carried out using Statistica 7.1 Software (StatSoft, Maisons-Alfort, France) and Microsoft Excel 2010. The Shapiro-Wilk test was used to check the normality of the data distribution. Data were analyzed by means of repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) (2 [braking forces] × 2 [sessions]). Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05. Statistical effect sizes were calculated as partial eta-squared (η2) to estimate the meaningfulness of significant findings. Statistical power (Ps) values were obtained for the sample size used at the α level of 0.05. When a main effect was found, significant differences between mean values were assessed using the Bonferroni post hoc test.

The relative reliability of PP (W), MP (W), LP (W), FS (W·s−1), FI (%), [La]pk (mmol·L−1), HRpk (b·min−1), and RPE scores in each braking force was assessed using the intraclass correlation coefficient of the 2-way random effects model with single measure ICC (2,1).

Absolute reliability was estimated using the SEM (39) and calculated as following:

In the equation, SDdiff is the SD of the differences between the tests (test 2 − test 1).

SEM was then used to calculate the coefficient of variation (CV) (20):

In the equation above, Mean represents the mean value in both tests.

To examine the sensibility of the measured variable, the smallest worthwhile change (SWC) was calculated as the between-subject SD multiplied by 0.2 (20). The SEM was compared with the SWC using the thresholds proposed by Liow and Hopkins (23), i.e., the ability of the test to detect a change is considered as good for the SEM values below the SWC, satisfactory for SEM equal to SWC, and marginal for the SEM above the SWC. The 95% confidence limits (95% CL), which define the range within which the true value of the statistic is 95% likely to fall, were determined for ICC and CV.

Results

Mechanical Indices

The results of mechanical indices measured for each braking force are displayed in Table 1. Results of the ANOVA test showed a significant main effect of braking force on PP (F[1,15] = 45.36, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.75, Ps = 1), MP (F[1,15] = 33.17, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.69, Ps = 1), FS (F[1,15] = 44.16, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.75, Ps = 1), and LP (F[1,15] = 7.59, p < 0.05, η2 = 0.34, Ps = 0.73). The Bonferroni post hoc test showed that these performances were significantly greater at 11% BM compared with 8.7% BM (Table 1). In addition, a significant main effect of session was observed for LP (F[1,15] = 9.72, p < 0.01, η2 = 0.39, Ps = 0.83). However, there were no significant effects of session and braking force × session interaction on PP, PM, and FS (all p > 0.05). No significant effect of any studied factor was observed for FI.

Table 1
Table 1:
The results of the measured variables for each braking force and session.*

The reliability indices for each braking force are displayed in Table 2. High level of reliability was observed for PP and MP for both loads (ICC > 0.96 and CV < 3%). The SEM values of these indices were lower by comparison with the SWC. The sensibility of the PP and MP was somewhat higher at 11% BM by comparison with 8.7% BM (Table 2).

Table 2
Table 2:
Reliability indices of the measured variables for each braking force.*

Physiological Measures

The [La]pk and HRpk values recorded for each Wingate test are presented in Table 1. Statistical analyses showed that there was a trend for [La]pk to be higher at 11% BM compared with 8.7% BM (F[1,15] = 3.53, p = 0.07). No significant effects of session or braking force × session interaction on [La]pk were observed. Analysis of HRpk showed no significant effects of braking force, session, or braking force × session interaction (all p > 0.05). High level of reliability was observed for [La]pk and HRpk in both braking forces (0.86 < ICC < 0.94, Table 2).

Rate of Perceived Exertion

The RPE scores are presented in Table 1. A significant main effect of braking force on RPE was found (F[1,15] = 27.65, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.65, Ps = 0.99). The RPE scores were significantly greater at 11% BM. However, no significant effects of session or braking force × session interaction were observed. Results revealed low ICC (0.442 and 0.362 for 8.7% BM and 11% BM, respectively) and high CV (4.99 and 6.26% for 8.7% BM and 11% BM, respectively) (Table 2).

Discussion

The aim of this study was to explore the effects of 2 different braking forces (i.e., 8.7 and 11% BM) on the results and the reliability of Wingate cycling test performances, physiological responses (i.e., [La]pk and HRpk), and RPE among a group of active adult men. The most important findings were that (a) the reliability of measured variables was not affected by the braking forces and (b) PP, MP, and FS were enhanced with the braking force equal to 11% BM when compared with 8.7% BM.

The interest of the Wingate test resides primarily in its simplicity as a maximal power output testing protocol using little sophisticated equipment and a short duration. However, the selection of an appropriate braking force yielding maximal power output has been the subject of considerable debate. The difference between braking forces in this study was around 26%, and the values of PP, MP, and FS with 11% BM were significantly higher by 8.2, 7.0, and 11.9%, respectively. These results confirm those obtained by Patton et al. (25), who reported a significant difference between 9.4 and 7.5% BM when testing soldiers (15.5, 13, and 17.6% for PP, MP, and FS, respectively). The 11% BM load proposed in this study was greater than those used with Canadian international volleyball players (30) and the load proposed by Vandewalle et al. (33) for average male adults. However, the mean peak pedal rate at 11% BM in this study was around 121.73 ± 16.15 rpm, which was similar to those reported in the literature (19,33) as optimal for maximal power output (i.e., around 120 rpm). However, the average peak pedal rate with 8.7% BM was significantly higher (143.85 ± 16.81 rpm), which confirmed that this load was not optimal.

Vandewalle et al. (35) suggested that PP and MP can be evaluated by the same braking force because a 10% difference in braking force around the optimal braking force had a slight effect on PP and MP. In this study, PP, MP, and FS with 11% BM were significantly higher but the maximal values of PP and MP were significantly intercorrelated at the same mean braking force in agreement with the previous studies (5,14,25,29,35).

Inbar et al. (21) reported correlation coefficients ranging between 0.89 and 0.98 for PP and MP, respectively, in trained and untrained participants. The high level of reproducibility for PP and MP observed in this study was in agreement with that reported in the literature with different braking force applications (25,38). Van Praagh et al. (32) suggested that an acceptable level of agreement between measures of power on cycle ergometer was approximately 5%. The CV values obtained in this study for PP and MP were in line with those reported by Hopkins et al. (20) in a meta-analysis of power tests. Likewise, these values appeared similar to those reported by Watt et al. (36) using a braking force of 7.5% BM (2.5 and 1.7% for PP and MP, respectively). In contrast, Barfield et al. (3) reported that PP and MP increased by 14 and 5% after a practice session. The change in performance is attributed to a practice effect of the test. In this study, the participants were familiarized with the cycle ergometer before the experimental period, and the analysis lacked sufficient statistical power to conclusively identify a learning effect between the first and the second session.

When the confidence limits are considered, FS and FI were marginally less reproducible than PP and MP. The current results are in agreement with the previous research reports (8,25). These findings were attributed to the variability between sessions of the LP, as PP was highly reliable. Therefore, caution is required in the interpretation of these indices.

Blood lactate concentration is commonly used as an indicator of the glycolytic energy contribution to exercise (16). Moreover, this contribution depends on the participants' anaerobic level (17). The values of [La]pk obtained in this study were within the range of values for men after a Wingate test reported in the literature (13,15,17,37), and somewhat higher than those reported in other studies (8,38). There was a trend for [La]pk to be higher at 11% BM (p = 0.07). Weinstein et al. (38) reported high ICC and CV values (0.93 and 11.6%, respectively) for [La]pk in physical education students. Likewise, Coleman et al. (8) reported high ICC and CV values in trained cyclists (0.93 and 12.1%, respectively). In this study, ICC of [La]pk was high and similar to ICC observed in the literature (8,38). However, the CV value was less than 3.5% for both braking forces and lower than those obtained in the previous studies. In contrast with CV, the value of ICC statistically depends on interparticipant variability. Consequently, the high interparticipant variability in this study could explain that the values of ICC were high and similar to the values in the literature despite the lower values of CV. It is likely that differences in interparticipant variability could be explained by the variability of the period at which peak blood lactate concentration occurs in each subject. Indeed, previous studies showed that [La]pk could occur at a range between 3 and 9 minutes post-Wingate (13,17,38).

The HRpk values observed in this study were in line with those reported in previous studies after the Wingate test in active men (37,40). Weinstein et al. (38) reported that HRpk was a reliable measure using a braking force of 8.7% BM. In this study, the reliability of HRpk at 11% BM was somewhat better than that at 8.7% BM.

High-intensity exercises are associated with negative affective responses and RPE increase progressively, whereas positive emotional responses decrease (4,10). Moreover, for the same power output during submaximal cycling exercises, Hamer et al. (18) reported that RPE scores was higher at a slow pedal rate against a high braking force than at a high pedal rate against a low braking force. For approximately 7.5% higher power outputs (PP and MP), RPE scores were significantly higher with a 26% higher braking force (11 vs. 8.7% BM) and a 15% lower pedal rate in this study. In addition, there was a trend for [La]pk to be higher at 11% BM. Nonetheless, the reliability of the Wingate test was similar for both loads despite the these differences in RPE and [La]pk. The intersession variability could be attributed to many psychometric variables such as anxiety, somatic perception, and depression, which appear to interact with perceived exertion (28) and could explain that the reliability of RPE scores was low with both braking forces.

Practical Applications

This study showed that a braking force of 11% BM is more appropriate for maximal power output than 8.7% BM in active men. In fact, the braking force proposed by Dotan and Bar-Or (11) underestimates the power output in the participants of this study. However, the braking force setting should take into account the participant's anaerobic fitness level for more individualized load when testing elite athletes. Studies aiming to determine the optimal braking force from alternative methods such as the force-velocity relationship on a cycle ergometer are warranted. This study indicates that power output and physiological responses after the Wingate test are reliable measures in agreement with the previous studies, and the use of high braking forces does not affect the reliability of these measures.

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Keywords:

all-out cycling exercise; power output; braking force; reliability; physiological responses

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