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Original Research

Acute Effects of Battle Rope Exercise on Performance, Blood Lactate Levels, Perceived Exertion, and Muscle Soreness in Collegiate Basketball Players

Chen, Wei-Han1,2; Yang, Wen-Wen1,3; Lee, Yi-Hua4; Wu, Huey-June5; Huang, Chen-Fu2; Liu, Chiang1

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2020 - Volume 34 - Issue 10 - p 2857-2866
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002661
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Abstract

Introduction

Basketball is characterized by interval exercise involving both aerobic and anaerobic energetic processes (30). Players are frequently required to repeat bouts of intense action, such as jumping, sprinting, shuffling, changing directions, and jogging, which are interspersed with walking and short periods of recovery (1,19). Hence, strength training and conditioning is essential for basketball training regimes to increase aerobic capacity, agility, speed, strength, and power (28). However, implementing separate training protocols for each of these fitness dimensions is time-consuming. Consequently, basketball players commonly train using methods that enhance multiple physical fitness dimensions to maximize training efficiency.

Battle rope (BR) exercise involves low-impact and total-body exercise (5) and provides a vigorous cardiovascular workout (5,10,27). It has been used among basketball players to enhance physical fitness in multiple dimensions and improve shooting accuracy (7). Ropes of 12–15 m in length, 3–5 cm in diameter, and 9–16 kg in mass are commonly used for BR exercise (10,13,17). Battle rope exercise is normally performed at maximum speed for a specified interval. Thus, numerous repetitions may be performed, resulting in a vigorous cardiovascular workout (5,10,26). The acute cardiovascular stimulation of BR exercise is greater than that of traditional resistance exercises (with a load of 75% of 1 repetition maximum) (26). Battle rope training enhances multiple physical fitness dimensions and total-body muscle capacity, including aerobic capacity (2,7,13), upper-body and trunk muscular endurance (17), upper-body and lower-body power (2,7), and upper-body anaerobic power (7). Moreover, it improves the shooting accuracy of elite college basketball players (7), which is a determining factor in basketball teams' competitiveness (22,31). However, these ability enhancements require 4–8 weeks of BR training (7,13,17). Coaches should cautiously organize weekly BR training schedules to prevent conflicting physiological responses.

Although BR training has been used to improve performance in basketball players, the acute effect of BR exercise on players' upper- and lower-body muscle performance and shooting technique remains unclear. To the best of our knowledge, only one study (20) has investigated the acute effects of BR exercise on muscular endurance. In the study, maximal push-up and sit-up tests were administered after BR exercise. The results indicated fatigue effects on upper-body and abdominal muscle performance after 5 minutes of BR exercise (20). However, the study (20) recruited recreationally active university students rather than trained basketball players and used a 15-minute BR exercise involving 2 BR exercises (double-arm waves and alternating waves), which may not provide sufficient training load or diversity for trained basketball players. In addition, the measured muscular endurance may not be the most critical performance metric for basketball training. Explosive power performance is vital for basketball players (33). Therefore, the basketball chest pass test, which measures upper-body power, and the countermovement jump (CMJ) test, which measures lower-body power, are frequently used to assess athletic performance abilities in basketball players (21). Shooting, a critical skill, is also usually analyzed; shooting accuracy in competitive basketball play is related to players' ball toss distance and jump height capacities (21).

The effects of BR exercises require further study to determine their effects on various muscle groups and basketball players' technical shooting performance. This information may have crucial implications for determining the objective of in-court basketball practice if a BR exercise session is performed immediately beforehand. Some semiprofessional teams or teams that travel regularly may not have the opportunity to execute strength and conditioning protocol in the morning and complete basketball practice in the afternoon; therefore, they generally execute these 2 training components sequentially (11). Conditioning protocols may be determined according to practice goals, which vary. If the objective of a practice is to develop or strengthen technical skills under fatiguing conditions, conditioning protocols causing acute performance decrements and fatigue, which commonly occur during competitions, may be suitable before practice (11). Contrastingly, before a tactical session or game, conditioning protocols that prevent acute performance decrements may be more appropriate (11). However, no study on basketball chest pass speed, CMJ height, and shooting accuracy in college basketball players after a BR exercise session has been previously reported.

Therefore, this study evaluated the effect of BR exercise on basketball players' shooting accuracy, basketball chest pass speed, and CMJ height. Players' variations in blood lactate levels, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and perceived muscle soreness were also measured. We hypothesized that BR exercise reduces basketball chest pass speed and shooting accuracy, but increases blood lactate levels, RPE, and perceived muscle soreness. Based on this hypothesis, we suggested that BR exercise may be a suitable workout before a basketball practice session focused on development of technical skills under fatiguing conditions.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

A time-series design was used in this study. All subjects underwent the same test at baseline, pre-BR exercise (30-minute rest after the baseline test), and post-BR exercise (30 minutes of exercise). The test measured shooting accuracy, basketball chest pass speed, CMJ height, blood lactate levels, RPE, and perceived muscle soreness. To familiarize the players with BR exercise, all subjects received one BR exercise session per week for 5 weeks before the experiment. The practice BR exercise sessions and the experiment were conducted during preseason training.

Subjects

The subjects were 15 well-trained male Division-I basketball players (mean ± SD; age: 18–23 years; basketball training duration: 6.5 ± 3.0 years; height: 184.3 ± 7.1 cm; and body mass: 77.7 ± 10.1 kg) who had not sustained neuromuscular injury in the 6 months before the study. They routinely engaged in 3-hour basketball training sessions 3 times per week and in 1.5-hour resistance training sessions 2 times per week. All subjects were recruited from a university basketball team. The experimental procedures used in this study were approved by the Institutional Review Board of University of Taipei in Taiwan. All subjects were informed of experimental risks and signed informed consent forms before participating in this study.

Procedures

Experimental tests were conducted after 36 hours of rest without any basketball or resistance training—that is, after a general training recovery microcycle—to limit differences in training status and intensity (30). All subjects were instructed to maintain their normal diet and sleeping habits (>8 hours) the day before experiment. Preceding the experimental measurements, all subjects performed a standardized warm-up of 5 minutes of jogging, 5 minutes of dynamic stretching, and 5 minutes of shooting practice.

The testing sequence was blood lactate, RPE, shooting accuracy, basketball chest pass speed, CMJ height, and perceived muscle soreness. The tests were completed in the same order at baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise.

Battle Rope Exercise Protocol

This study used the exercise protocol developed by Chen et al. (7) to improve multiple physical fitness dimensions and shooting accuracy in trained collegiate basketball players. A BR with a length of 15 m, diameter of 4 cm, and mass of 18 kg was used, and the middle of the rope was anchored securely to the floor. The protocol consisted of 30 minutes of exercise at a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2 (20-second exercise and 40-second rest) for a total of 30 sets (Table 1). The protocol comprised 6 BR exercises, with one type performed in each set: (a) double-arm waves, (b) side-to-side waves, (c) alternating waves, (d) in-out waves, (e) hip toss, and (f) double-arm slams (Figures 1–3). All subjects performed these exercises in order from 1 to 6 and then repeated the process for a total 5 times. During the exercise, subjects were asked to perform each repetition as rapidly as possible to maintain rope oscillation. All BR exercise sessions were recorded on video for analysis, and the number of repetitions performed in each exercise was counted. Table 1 presents the BR exercise protocol and the number of repetitions performed for each exercise and set.

Table 1. - Battle rope exercise protocol and number of repetitions.*
No Title
*No. repetitions per set = range of average repetitions for each set of each exercise.
This circuit was repeated 5 times.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.:
Battle rope exercises: (A) double-arm waves and (B) side-to-side waves.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.:
Battle rope exercises: (A) alternating waves and (B) in-out waves.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.:
Battle rope exercises: (A) hip toss and (B) double-arm slams.

Shooting Accuracy Test

This test was a modification of a protocol used in a previous study (21). All subjects performed 3 series of 10 jump shots, with a 1-minute rest period between each series. During the test, subjects stood behind a cone that was located 5 m from the projection of the hoop's center on the floor. Two rebounders caught the balls after all shots and passed the ball to another player who passed the ball to the subject. The time taken to complete the test was less than 40 seconds. The average field goal percentage of the 3 trials was used for analysis. The test was performed at baseline, before BR exercise, and 30 seconds after BR exercise. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for the shooting accuracy test was 0.816.

Basketball Chest Pass Speed Test

The basketball chest pass was selected for evaluation because it is the most convenient assessment of the upper-body power players' exhibit during practice sessions (8). For this test, the subjects sat with their heads, backs, and buttocks against a wall. Their legs were extended straight on the floor in front of their bodies, with their feet at shoulder width. Using a 2-handed chest pass, they threw a basketball horizontally as far as possible. The ball pass speed was measured using a self-developed infrared grating. The infrared grating comprised 2 gratings 20 cm apart. During measurement, the 2 gratings were placed in front of the subject, with the first grating positioned 10 cm away from the subject's heel. The players performed 3 trials to become familiar with the gratings before the first test. Subsequently, 5 trials were performed with 30 seconds of rest between each trial, and the average pass speed of the best 3 of the 5 trials was used for analysis. A new basketball was used in this test. The test was performed immediately after shooting accuracy was measured at baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise. The ICC for the basketball chest pass speed test was 0.974.

Countermovement Jump Height Test

The subjects performed 3 CMJs with 1 minute of rest between each jump. The CMJs were performed on a force plate (Advanced Mechanical Technology Inc., Watertown, MA, USA) at a 1,000-Hz sampling rate. Countermovement jump height was calculated from the flight time using the following equation: CMJ height = (g × flight time × flight time)/8 (6). The average CMJ height of 3 trials was used for analysis. The test was performed immediately after basketball chest pass speed was measured at baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise. The ICC for the CMJ test was 0.969.

Blood Lactate Test

Earlobe blood samples (0.3 μl) were collected to measure blood lactate levels using a portable blood lactate analyzer (Lactate Pro 2, LT-1730; Arkray, Kyoto, Japan) before the pretest (baseline), immediately after the 30-minute rest period (pre-BR exercise), and 0, 3, and 5 minutes after BR exercise. Among the blood lactate levels measured after BR exercise, the highest values were used for analysis. The reliability of the analyzer used in this study is high (3).

Rating of Perceived Exertion Test

Rating of perceived exertion was obtained before the pretest (baseline), immediately after the 30-minute rest period (pre-BR exercise), and immediately after BR exercise using the Borg Category-Ratio-10 scale (4,24). The subjects were instructed on how to use the scale before the experiment; they were shown the RPE table to clarify what each number represented.

Perceived Muscle Soreness Test

Perceived muscle soreness was determined after the CMJ height test at baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise using a 100-mm visual analog scale, with 0 indicating no pain and 100 indicating unbearable pain (16). In each measurement, the subjects were asked to draw a vertical line at a point on a scale that best represented their pain for a specified muscle region (forearm, upper arm, shoulder, rectus abdominis, abdominal oblique, lower back, hip, thigh, and calf). They completed scale for each muscle region on a clean, separate piece of paper to discourage comparison with the previous scale.

Statistical Analyses

All values were expressed as standard deviation. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures was used to assess differences among the baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise results. The test-retest reliability of all measurements was assessed using the ICC. The partial eta squared (η2) as a measure of effect size and observed power ware also calculated. Statistical significance was set at p ≤ 0.05. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS for Windows (version 20; IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA).

Results

The ANOVA results revealed no significant differences in all variables between baseline and before BR exercise. Shooting accuracy after BR exercise was significantly lower than that at baseline (p < 0.05) and before BR exercise (p < 0.001; Table 2 and Figure 4). In addition, basketball chest pass speed after BR exercise was significantly lower than that at baseline and before BR exercise (p < 0.001; Table 2 and Figure 5). Jump height at baseline, before BR exercise, and after BR exercise did not differ significantly (p = 0.332; Table 2 and Figure 6). Blood lactate levels after BR exercise were significantly higher than those at baseline and before BR exercise (p < 0.001; Table 2 and Figure 7). Rating of perceived exertion after BR exercise was significantly higher than that at baseline and before BR exercise (p < 0.001; Table 2 and Figure 8). Perceived soreness in all muscles was significantly higher after BR exercise than that at baseline and before BR exercise (p < 0.001; Table 2).

Table 2. - Changes in performance, blood lactate levels, perceived exertion, and perceived muscle soreness.*
Variable Baseline Pre-BR exercise Post-BR exercise η2 OP
Performance
 Shooting accuracy (%) 66.11 ± 8.90 69.78 ± 11.85 52.89 ± 15.22 0.550 0.999
 Basketball chest pass (km·h−1) 34.90 ± 2.43 34.80 ± 2.80 31.62 ± 1.95 0.706 1.000
 CMJ (cm) 44.72 ± 5.47 43.95 ± 6.00 43.48 ± 5.03 0.073 0.189
Physiological response
 Blood lactate (mmol·L−1) 1.47 ± 0.42 1.47 ± 0.48 13.55 ± 3.78 0.905 1.000
Perceived exertion
 RPE (0–10) 1.47 ± 0.92 1.67 ± 0.72 9.87 ± 0.35 0.965 1.000
Perceived muscle soreness
 Forearm (mm) 3.47 ± 5.08 4.13 ± 6.06 63.07 ± 30.92 0.801 1.000
 Upper arm (mm) 6.87 ± 8.72 6.27 ± 7.78 66.53 ± 33.34 0.787 1.000
 Shoulder (mm) 12.20 ± 19.95 11.13 ± 17.61 62.67 ± 30.49 0.708 1.000
 Rectus abdominis (mm) 3.47 ± 5.64 4.40 ± 7.42 42.47 ± 30.78 0.962 0.993
 Abdominal oblique (mm) 5.20 ± 14.20 1.80 ± 4.78 48.27 ± 31.68 0.705 0.995
 Lower back (mm) 18.60 ± 23.08 12.67 ± 19.69 68.07 ± 27.21 0.760 1.000
 Hip (mm) 8.80 ± 15.07 6.20 ± 8.30 44.53 ± 28.95 0.674 1.000
 Thigh (mm) 17.67 ± 21.56 15.27 ± 18.40 52.00 ± 32.55 0.499 0.967
 Calf (mm) 11.67 ± 18.73 11.80 ± 18.10 49.07 ± 32.67 0.548 0.971
*BR = battle rope; OP = observed power; CMJ = countermovement jump; RPE = rating of perceived exertion.
p < 0.05 compared with baseline and pre-BR exercise values.

Figure 4.
Figure 4.:
Changes in shooting accuracy.* p < 0.05 compared with baseline and pre-BR exercise values.
Figure 5.
Figure 5.:
Changes in basketball chest pass speed.* p < 0.05 compared with baseline and pre-BR exercise values.
Figure 6.
Figure 6.:
Changes in countermovement jump height.
Figure 7.
Figure 7.:
Changes in blood lactate levels.* p < 0.05 compared with baseline and pre-BR exercise values.
Figure 8.
Figure 8.:
Changes in rating of perceived exertion.* p < 0.05 compared with baseline and pre-BR exercise values.

Discussion

The primary findings of this study were that the performance, blood lactate levels, RPE, and perceived muscle soreness in our well-trained basketball players at baseline and before BR exercise were not significantly different. However, their shooting accuracy and basketball chest pass speed significantly decreased by approximately 16.9 and 9.1% immediately after BR exercise, respectively, but the CMJ height did not decrease significantly (approximately 1.1%). Moreover, BR exercise increased blood lactate levels (13.6 mmol·L−1), RPE (9.9), and perceived muscle soreness in the whole body (upper-limb: 63–67 mm; trunk: 43–68 mm; and lower-limb: 45–52 mm) compared with baseline and before BR exercise. These findings suggested that BR exercise in this study led to greater loading on the upper body than on the lower body, thus immediately decreasing chest pass speed and shooting accuracy, but not CMJ height, and causing higher perceived soreness in upper-limb muscles than in lower-limb muscles.

Pettit (20) demonstrated that BR exercise can induce fatigue in the upper body and reduce number of maximal push-ups and sit-ups for college-aged students. These findings corroborate the performance decrements observed in chest pass speed (upper-body power) in the studied basketball players. In addition, this study demonstrated that CMJ height did not change after BR exercise, suggesting that the BR exercises based on the exercises used in this study stimulated the upper body more than the lower body. Furthermore, perceived soreness in upper-limb muscles was slightly higher than in lower-limb muscles. A previous study (5) demonstrated that the muscle activities of the anterior deltoid, external oblique, and lumbar erector spinae during execution of BR double-arm and alternating waves exercises were 51–73% of maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVICs), whereas the activity of the gluteus medius was only 14–18% of MVIC. These data suggest that upper-body muscle activation was higher than lower-body muscle activation during BR exercises. These findings were further confirmed in the current study results, which indicate that the 30-minute BR exercise protocol immediately reduces basketball chest pass performance, but does not affect CMJ performance, and results in higher perceived soreness in the upper-limb muscles than in the lower-limb muscles.

Shooting is one of the most crucial skills in basketball (9,23,32) and is a critical factor affecting basketball teams' competitiveness (21,22,31). Longer 2-hand chest pass distance (21), higher elbow extensor isokinetic strength (29), and higher jump height (21) are related to higher shooting accuracy. Our study showed that shooting accuracy was significantly lower after the 30-minute BR exercise with 6 BR exercises. This decline in shooting accuracy may have been due to an acute post-BR decrease in upper-body power. Fatigue can affect motor skill outcomes in basketball players (12,14,25). However, this may not be a negative feature if the objective of a practice session is to perform shooting drills when players are already fatigued, a common occurrence during competitions (11). Some teams combine strength and conditioning training with low-intensity technical sessions (15) because of time limitations during the competitive season (11,28). Therefore, BR exercise may be appropriate before a basketball training session if the objective of the practice is to develop or strengthen technical skills under fatiguing conditions; however, because it results in acute exercise-induced performance decrements and fatigue, BR exercise may not be suitable before a conventional practice or game.

McInnes et al. (18) reported that the physiological requirements of male players during a basketball game are high. During a basketball game of four 12-minute quarters, with a 10–15-minute break at half-time and 2-minute breaks between the first and second and between the third and fourth quarters, the mean and mean maximum blood lactate levels were 6.8 and 8.5 mmol·L−1, respectively, indicating the involvement of glycolysis in energy production (18). Hence, training that demands high levels of physiological activity is crucial for increasing basketball players' capacity for physical activity and performance during high-intensity games. Studies have also reported that BR exercise provided a vigorous intensity workout and caused high blood lactate levels ranging from 9–13 mmol·L−1 (10,17,27). Our BR exercise protocol involved more strenuous physiological (blood lactate level: 13.6 mmol·L−1) and RPE demands (Borg Category-Ratio-10 scale: 9.9) than those of a basketball game. Thus, BR may be a suitable training method for basketball players to improve performance.

In conclusion, a 30-minute BR exercise immediately reduces shooting accuracy and basketball chest pass speed; does not affect CMJ performance; and increases blood lactate levels, RPE, and perceived muscle soreness. These findings suggest that BR exercise is demanding on the upper body and impairs performance in shooting and basketball chest pass. Battle rope exercise may be an appropriate option before basketball practice if the objective of the practice is to develop or strengthen technical skills under fatiguing conditions. However, it may not be suitable before a tactical session or game.

Practical Applications

Battle rope exercise is increasing in popularity among basketball players. It is used to achieve various basketball training goals including increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity, power, local muscular endurance, and shooting accuracy. The results of this study may help strength and conditioning coaches to plan their training sessions more effectively. Our data suggest that the studied 30-minute BR exercise session had more loading on the upper body than the lower body, thus reducing upper-body power and shooting accuracy without negatively affecting lower-body power. This finding implies that basketball players who perform BR exercises should supplement them with additional lower-body strength training. Moreover, as described, a BR exercise session may not be appropriate before a tactical practice or game because it triggers acute exercise-induced performance decrements. However, if the objective of the basketball practice is to develop or perfect technical skills under fatiguing conditions, BR exercise may be a suitable option.

In addition, BR exercise increased blood lactate levels and RPE. The present study and previous studies (10,17,27) indicate that BR exercise results in higher blood lactate levels than occur in players during a basketball game (18), indicating BR exercise's potential suitability as part of a training regime to improve basketball players' physical ability. The BR exercise protocol in this study comprised 30 minutes of exercise at a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2 (20-second exercise and 40-second rest), totaling 30 sets. One type of BR exercise was performed in each set, for a total of 6 BR exercise types: double-arm waves, side-to-side waves, alternating waves, in-out waves, hip tosses, and double-arm slams.

Acknowledgments

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Keywords:

power rope; high-intensity interval exercise; jump shot

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