Characteristics of a National Level Female Weightlifter Peaking for Competition: A Case Study

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This study investigated physiological and performance changes of a national level 69kg female weightlifter following three competition phases over a 28-week training period. The athlete first trained for a regional championship (weeks 1-12), followed by a local competition (weeks 13-23) and the national championship (weeks 24-28). Body mass, vastus lateralis cross-sectional area, and unloaded and loaded squat jump performance were assessed weekly during each 4-week competition phase. Serum biomarkers, and dynamic mid-thigh pulls were assessed prior to and after each competition phase. Weightlifting performance goals were met for the regional championship (total=200kg) and the local competition (total=193kg), but not the national championship (total=196kg). She lost more body mass in preparation for nationals (-6.0kg) compared to regionals (-2.5kg) and the local competition (+2.2kg). Vastus lateralis cross-sectional area very likely decreased following nationals (precision=99%, effect size=2.08). Her testosterone:cortisol ratio likely increased (88%, 2.64), while interleukin-6 (79%, 2.47), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (81%, 3.59) likely decreased following nationals. Serum myostatin (99%, 1.95) and decorin (99%, 1.96) very likely decreased following the local competition. Unloaded squat jump height likely increased the week of regionals (89%, 0.95) and the local competition (99%, 1.83), whereas unloaded and loaded squat jump height possibly (69%, 0.99) and likely (82%, 1.52) decreased the week of nationals. Dynamic mid-thigh pull vertical displacement likely increased following regionals (93%, 0.84), and likely decreased following nationals (94%, 0.87). These findings indicate that biomarkers of stress, inflammation, and hypertrophy are related to changes in training volume-load; however, performance measures are needed to assess competition preparedness. Considering the reductions in muscle cross-sectional area corresponding with the large reductions in body mass and underperformance at the national championship, sport scientists and coaches should instruct weightlifters to not attempt large losses in body mass (e.g. >3 kg) close to competition (e.g. <1 week).

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