Association Between Changes in Heart Rate Variability, Perceptual and Neuromuscular Performance Following Resistance Training

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Presentation given at National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference, Washington, D.C.

Heart rate variability (HRV) is used as a marker of cardiac-parasympathetic recovery following exercise. Whether HRV responses to resistance training (RT) correlate with perceptual or neuromuscular responses remains unclear. PURPOSE: To assess the association between changes in HRV, perceptual and neuromuscular performance metrics following an intense resistance training (RT) session. A secondary aim was to determine which HRV measurement position (e.g., supine or standing) provided stronger associations with recovery markers. METHODS: Adult males (n = 11, age = 25 ± 5 years; height = 178 ± 5 cm; weight = 89 ± 12 kg) with >1 year resistance training experience performed a RT protocol involving 6 sets to failure with 90% of their 10 repetition maximum in the squat, bench press and latissimus dorsi pull-down. Changes (∆) from pre- to 24 h post-RT were calculated for counter-movement jump (CMJ, height, peak power and flight time-to-contact time ratio), mean concentric barbell velocity in the squat and bench press (load corresponding to 1.0 and 0.8 m∙s-1), and standardized perceived recovery and soreness scales. Subjects were familiarized with all testing procedures on a separate visit. Post-waking measures of the natural logarithm of the root mean square of successive differences (LnRMSSD) in the supine and standing position were recorded on 5 days before and 1 day post-RT. All pre-RT measures were averaged to establish baseline and compared with LnRMSSD obtained post-RT with a paired t-test and Cohen’s effect size (ES). Pearson’s correlations were used to quantify relationships between changes in LnRMSSD, perceptual and neuromuscular performance metrics. RESULTS: Relative to baseline, a reduction in supine LnRMSSD was observed post-RT (4.30 ± 0.75 vs. 4.09 ± 0.83, p = 0.035, ES = -0.27) whereas no change was observed for standing (3.45 ± 0.32 vs. 3.39 ± 0.47, p = 0.581, ES = -0.15). Correlation coefficients for ∆LnRMSSD, ∆Perceptual and ∆Neuromuscular performance markers are presented in Table 1. Large (r ≥0.5) but non-significant (p >0.05) relationships were observed between ∆LnRMSSD standing and ∆Mean Squat Velocity 1.0, ∆CMJ Height, ∆Perceived Recovery and ∆Perceived Soreness. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with greater HRV recovery in the standing position tended to demonstrate greater perceptual and neuromuscular recovery in certain parameters, although these relationships were not statistically significant. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: HRV measured in the standing position seems to be more sensitive than supine measures for reflecting recovery status following RT. However, given the inconsistency in associations with various recovery metrics, practitioners should use caution when attempting to infer perceptual and neuromuscular recovery from HRV. Autonomic imbalance, subjective fatigue and decrements in performance are independent markers of training maladaptation and thus are likely best assessed with specific tests.


National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference


Washington, D.C.