Half-Time Strategies to Enhance Second-Half Performance
in Team-Sports Players: A Review and Recommendations
Mark Russell •Daniel J. West •Liam D. Harper •
Christian J. Cook •Liam P. Kilduff
ÓSpringer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
Abstract A number of intermittent team sports require
that two consecutive periods of play (lasting for
*30–45 min) are separated by a 10–20 min half-time
break. The half-time practices employed by team-sports
players generally include returning to the changing rooms,
temporarily relaxing from the cognitive and physical
demands of the ﬁrst half, rehydration and re-fuelling
strategies, addressing injury or equipment concerns, and
receiving tactical instruction and coach feedback. How-
ever, the typically passive nature of these actions has been
associated with physiological changes that impair perfor-
mance during the second half. Both physical and cognitive
performances have been found to decline in the initial
stages of subsequent exercise that follows half-time. An
increased risk of injury has also been observed during this
period. Therefore, half-time provides sports scientists and
strength and conditioning coaches with an opportunity to
optimise second-half performance. An overview of strate-
gies thought to beneﬁt team-sports athletes is presented;
speciﬁcally, the efﬁcacy of heat maintenance strategies
(including passive and active methods), post-activation
potentiation, hormonal priming, and modiﬁed hydro-
nutritional practices are discussed. A theoretical model of
applying these strategies in a manner that compliments
current practice is also offered.
Passive half-time practices impair performance in
the initial stages of the second half of team-sports
The efﬁcacy of heat maintenance strategies, post-
activation potentiation, hormonal priming, and
modiﬁed hydro-nutritional practices have been
shown in isolated studies.
A number of intermittent team sports, such as Association
football (soccer), rugby league and union, Gaelic sports
(e.g. Gaelic football and hurling), team handball, ﬁeld
hockey and Australian rules football are played over con-
secutive periods (normally 30–45 min durations) that are
separated by a temporary pause in play at the mid-way
point; a period known as half-time which is 10–20 min
long. While the regulations of the various sports dictate the
practices that can be performed during half-time, empirical
observations highlight that players primarily aim to relax
mentally from the cognitive and physical demands of the
ﬁrst half of match-play, rehydrate and re-fuel, attend to
M. Russell (&)
Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Health and
Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Street,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8ST, UK
D. J. West L. D. Harper
Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8ST, UK
C. J. Cook
School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences,
Bangor University, Bangor, UK
L. P. Kilduff
Applied Sports Technology Exercise and Medicine Research
Centre (A-STEM), Swansea University, Swansea, UK
injury or equipment concerns, engage in personal reﬂec-
tion, and receive tactical instruction and coach feedback in
preparation for the second half. Indeed, Towlson et al. 
reported that soccer players primarily return to the dressing
room to engage in tactical discussion, receive medical
treatment and consume nutritional ergogenic aids during
the half-time break.
However, during the initial stages of the second half,
numerous authors have reported that reductions in key
aspects of team-sport performance occur. For example,
Mohr et al.  showed that as many as 20 % of elite soccer
players have their least intense 15-min period in a match
during the initial part of the second half. Weston et al. 
also highlighted that selected physical performance mark-
ers of soccer players and referees decreased between 45
and 60 min when compared with the ﬁrst 15 min of soccer
match-play. In respect to cognitive performance, as very
often success in team sports is determined by the proﬁ-
ciency of skilled actions, the increase in response accuracy
observed during the ﬁrst 30 min of intermittent exercise
was attenuated upon restarting exercise after half-time .
It therefore appears that half-time practices inﬂuence sub-
sequent performance during the initial stages of the second
half, a statement supported by intervention studies that
have demonstrated that attenuated losses in body temper-
ature lead to favourable responses in isolated performance
tests and game-related activities [5,6].
A signiﬁcant increase in injury risk has also been
reported in the ﬁrst 20 min of the second half . Analysis
of ten Premier League soccer matches has highlighted that
of the injuries occurring in the second half, the greatest
number of actions causing injury were elicited in the ﬁrst
15 min of this period . Additionally, Ekstrand et al. 
have reported that the incidence of soccer-match injuries
show an increasing tendency over time in both the ﬁrst and
second halves. Interestingly, the perception of increased
injury risk immediately after the half-time break is also
shared by practitioners involved in the delivery of half-time
activities for soccer players .
Factors contributing to increased injury risk are likely
multifaceted; however, Greig  reported that while the
concentric strength of both the knee extensors and ﬂexors
was maintained throughout 90 min of intermittent tread-
mill running, a speed-dependent fatigue effect observed in
indices of eccentric hamstring strength did not normalise
during a passive half-time period. Speciﬁcally, when using
isokinetic dynamometry, eccentric peak torque measure-
ments taken after half-time were reduced when compared
with the start of the recovery period, a ﬁnding that was
statistically signiﬁcant at higher movement speeds. As a
result, the authors postulated that susceptibility to muscular
strain injury is likely to increase during explosive ballistic
actions, such as those requiring high levels of acceleration
and deceleration. Notably, the number of deceleration
efforts performed in the ﬁrst 15 min of the second half of
soccer match-play is lower than that observed during the
opening phase of a match .
Evidence from studies that have employed passive half-
time practices further highlight the subsequent impairments
of performance capacities observed throughout the second
half [3,5,6,12–14]. Consequently, the physiological
changes relating to muscle (T
) and core (T
ture [6,13–16], acid-base balance  and glycaemic
response [18–20] which arise from passive periods com-
parable in length to those observed during half-time (i.e.
*15 min) may therefore contribute to a reduction in play
performance in the ﬁrst part of the second half. Notably,
Krustrup et al.  observed a *1.3 °C reduction in
during half-time in assistant soccer referees.
Although a desire to enforce tactical superiority  and
residual ergogenic effects resulting from the warm-up 
have been cited to artiﬁcially elevate the pace of play in the
initial stages of a match and thus inﬂuence subsequent
comparisons to observations made during this interval ,
transient reductions in performance during the initial stages
of the second half have been conﬁrmed using a more robust
statistical approach (i.e. when variables are expressed in
relative and thus comparable terms: mmin
). It is
therefore clear that half-time provides an additional
opportunity on the day of competition to optimise perfor-
mance during the second half.
However, as time pressures, cooperation of the coach/
manager and concerns over impairing a player’s psycho-
logical preparations have been cited as barriers to the use of
speciﬁc ergogenic strategies during the half-time period
, it is clear that any modiﬁcation to half-time protocols
must complement current practice. The time-course of
activities performed during a typical half-time period is
outlined in Fig. 1. Although likely to vary between dif-
ferent sports and according to individual team practices,
Towlson et al.  reported that *2 min of the soccer half-
time period consists of player’s making their way back to
the changing rooms. Thereafter, although tactical de-
brieﬁng and medical and nutritional practices occupy the
most time (*5 min), personal preparation, addressing
playing kit/equipment concerns, receiving video feedback
and engaging in player/coach interactions also occur during
this break in play. Additionally, a *3-min period of re-
warm-up activities that are performed either on the pitch or
within the stadia may precede the second half of soccer
In summary, although often considered crucial for pri-
marily tactical reasons, physiologically, half-time can be
viewed as a recovery period following the previous bout of
match-play, a preparatory period preceding subsequent
competition, or a period of transition between the two
M. Russell et al.
halves . Given the transient changes in physical and
cognitive performance that have been found to occur fol-
lowing the half-time break [2–4,6,12,14], and the evi-
dence which suggests that the perception , and incidence
[7,8], of injury risk is elevated in the initial stages of the
second half, half-time provides an additional opportunity
on the day of a match to inﬂuence subsequent competitive
performance. Therefore, the purpose of this review was
twofold: (1) to present an overview of the literature
examining practices that may have application to the half-
time strategies of players involved in team sports; and (2)
to provide a theoretical model of application of such
strategies in the context of current practice. Computerised
literature searches were performed in the PubMed, Google
Scholar and SPORTDiscus databases between May 2014
and November 2014. The following keywords were used in
different combinations: ‘half time’, ‘recovery’, ‘soccer’,
‘football’, ‘rugby’, ‘handball’, ‘Gaelic’, ‘hockey’, ‘poten-
tiation’, ‘performance’, ‘hydration’, ‘carbohydrate’, ‘caf-
feine’, ‘priming’, ‘heat maintenance’, ’re-warm up’, ‘warm
up’, ‘testosterone’. All titles were scanned and relevant
articles were retrieved for review. In addition, the reference
lists from both original and review articles retrieved were
also reviewed and relevant publications known to the
authors were also obtained.
2 Half-Time Strategies to Enhance Second-Half
Performance in Team-Sports Players
2.1 Heat Maintenance Strategies
Nearly every athletic competition is preceded by a warm-
up. Typically, varying intensities of exercise, dynamic
stretching and technical practice are performed so that
preparedness for subsequent activity is optimised. While
the ergogenic effects of the warm-up have been proposed
to relate to non-temperature-related mechanisms (e.g. ele-
vated baseline oxygen consumption, post-activation
potentiation [PAP], increased mental preparedness, etc.
[25,26]), previous research also highlights the role of T
Notably, Mohr et al.  observed initial elevations of
during the ﬁrst half of a soccer match;
however, during a passive half-time period both T
dropped in excess of 1 °C. Sargeant  highlighted
the importance of changes in T
on subsequent perfor-
mance by demonstrating that every 1 °C reduction in T
corresponded to a 3 % reduction in lower-body power
output. Moreover, ﬁndings from studies reporting attenu-
ated losses of T
and concomitant protection of physical
performance in team-sports players following an active re-
warm-up [5,6,13] further substantiate the importance of
attenuating body temperature losses during half-time.
However, despite an acknowledgement that attenuating
losses in body temperature impact positively on subsequent
exercise performance, intermittent sports players do not
frequently use active re-warm up strategies in the applied
setting . Indeed, despite periods of warm-up preceding
the ﬁrst half of competition, only 58 % of practitioners
questioned have reported performing re-warm-up activities
before the second half, a ﬁnding that may be attributed to
the limited time (*3 min) available for such activities .
Furthermore, a lack of co-operation from the coach/man-
ager and a perceived negative impact upon the psycho-
logical preparations of players have also been proposed as
barriers to explain the inconsistent use of an active re-
warm-up during the half-time period. Additionally, in
sports such as rugby where the number of collisions is high,
considerable time may also be required for provision of
Fig. 1 Current model of strategies employed during a typical 15-min half-time period
Half-Time Strategies in Team Sports
medical attention at half-time. Therefore, half-time prac-
tices that are easily administered and which attenuate
temperature loss and thus protect the temperature-related
mechanisms that aid subsequent performance warrant fur-
2.1.1 Passive Heat Maintenance Strategies
The use of speciﬁc methods (e.g. heated clothing, outdoor
survival jackets, and heating pads) which seek to attenuate
body temperature loss is known as passive heat mainte-
nance . Such strategies are easily applied to the desired
muscle groups to maintain T
, and thus the temperature-
mediated pathways that aid performance . For exam-
ple, repeated sprint performance and lower-body peak
power outputs were greater than observed in a control trial
when professional rugby union players wore a survival
garment during the post-warm-up recovery period .
Furthermore, the decline in lower-body peak power output
observed post-warm-up was signiﬁcantly associated
(r=0.71) with the decline in T
In professional rugby union players who wore a survival
jacket during a simulated half-time period, muted losses of
(-0.74 ±0.08 % vs. -1.54 ±0.06 %) throughout
the 15-min period were observed versus a passive condition
. The drop in T
over the simulated half-time was
signiﬁcantly associated with reduced peak power output at
the start of subsequent exercise (r=0.63). In support of
previous authors [28,29], we proposed that the preserva-
tion of temperature-mediated pathways contributed to the
improved physical performances observed after the half-
Maintenance of T
during the half-time period is
therefore likely to attenuate decrements in subsequent
performance, especially during the initial stages of suc-
cessive exercise. Passive heat maintenance offers an
effective and practical method for preserving body tem-
perature, which helps to combat the decrements in per-
formance that may occur through the loss of T
However, further research into strategies that seek to
attenuate losses in body temperature and that have
application to team-sports players is warranted. Although
encouraging players to wear speciﬁc garments is recom-
mended and has proven beneﬁcial [15,16,29], some
players (e.g. those receiving injury treatments) may ﬁnd
this strategy restrictive when such clothing is worn during
half-time. Other methods of maintaining body temperature
during the half-time break should therefore be considered;
speculatively, the effects of increased changing-room
temperatures (within tolerable limits) may confer perfor-
mance advantages during subsequent exercise. However,
it is likely that modiﬁed hydration strategies are required
if such protocols are administered so that the potential
ergolytic effects resulting from impaired hydration status
2.1.2 Active Heat Maintenance Strategies (Half-Time Re-
Moderate-intensity running commencing after 7 min of a
half-time recovery period has been found to attenuate a
1.5 °C reduction in T
and protect the 2.4 % decrements in
mean sprint performance observed under passive control
conditions . Moreover, the half-time decrease in T
correlated to the reduction in sprint performance observed
over half-time (r=0.60). Edholm et al.  reported sim-
ilar magnitudes of sprint performance maintenance and
attenuated losses in jump performance following a low-
intensity half-time re-warm-up. Additionally, intermittent
agility exercise, whole-body vibration, small-sided games
and lower-body resistance exercises performed during half-
time have been found to be beneﬁcial [13,30].
Active re-warm-ups may also beneﬁt skilled, as well as
physical, performances executed in the second half. For
example, 7 min of low-/moderate-intensity activity and
light calisthenics performed towards the end of half-time
improved performance during an actual match as less
defensive high-intensity running and more ball possession
was observed in the second half . In support of the
ﬁndings of Edholm et al. , skilled performance during an
isolated technical assessment has also been reported to be
maintained when small-sided games incorporating skilled
actions are performed during a simulated half-time break
. However, while active re-warm-ups appear beneﬁcial,
consideration must be given to the duration of the activities
performed in the context of applied practice.
2.2 Post-Activation Potentiation
The ability of a muscle group to produce force can be
inﬂuenced by the previous contractive history of the same
muscle group . The mechanisms of this transient
improvement in physical performance are suggested to
relate to enhanced motor neuron recruitment, a more
favourable central input to the motor neuron and/or an
sensitivity of actin–myosin myoﬁlaments
. Despite a large body of evidence supporting the
ergogenic effects of a preload stimulus , not all studies
have demonstrated performance improvements as a num-
ber of factors modulate the PAP response (e.g. the strength
of the participant, volume and type of the preload stimulus,
and the duration of recovery between the preload stimulus
and subsequent activity) . When considering the
potential application of PAP during the half-time period of
team sports, the type of activities performed and the timing
of the preload stimulus are likely to be of primary interest.
M. Russell et al.
2.2.1 Timing between the Preload Stimulus
and Subsequent Activity
Improved physical performance attributable to PAP fol-
lowing a preload stimulus is a function of both muscle
fatigue and potentiation that simultaneously co-exist.
Optimised recovery between the preload stimulus and the
subsequent exercise therefore favours an acute enhance-
ment of subsequent performance as the effects of potenti-
ation persist for longer than the effects of fatigue .
Additionally, the time demands associated with established
half-time practices (Fig. 1) are likely to inﬂuence the
decision of whether to recommend performing a preload
stimulus to team-sports players.
Between 0 and 24 min has previously been reported to
separate the conditioning exercise and the subsequent
explosive activity. Power output, peak rate of force
development and countermovement jump height were
signiﬁcantly elevated above baseline values at 8 min of
recovery for the majority (i.e. 70 %) of professional rugby
players who performed repeated assessments (i.e. baseline,
*15 s and every 4 min) of explosive activity in the 24 min
following a preload stimulus (i.e. three sets of three repe-
titions at 87 % 1-repetition maximum [1RM] squat) , a
ﬁnding that has since been conﬁrmed . From a practical
perspective, the transient nature of the PAP response means
that the beneﬁt to performance may be limited to the initial
stages of a player’s involvement in subsequent competi-
tion. However, this is the period whereby decrements in
performance attributable to passive practices have been
shown to be at their greatest .
From studies where heavy-resistance exercise has been
used to induce PAP, explosive lower-body power produc-
tion is consistently compromised immediately after the
preload stimulus . Therefore, should practitioners
consider the use of PAP during half-time, the preload
stimulus should be timed relative to the start of match-play
in order to minimise the effects that a transient reduction in
performance may have upon subsequent competition.
2.2.2 Type of Preload Stimulus Performed
Heavy (i.e. 75–95 % 1RM) resistance exercise has been
used as the preload stimulus in the majority of studies
examining the PAP phenomenon . However, at half-
time this approach may not be feasible as issues relating to
access to facilities at away venues has previously been
reported . Methods of stimulating PAP that have less
equipment demands and/or may be better tolerated by
players and coaches on the day of competition provide
attractive alternatives. Notably, ballistic activities such as
weighted jumps are associated with the preferential
recruitment of type 2 motor units , and may therefore
be utilised as a PAP stimulus. Furthermore, plyometric
exercise has also been found to potentiate sprint perfor-
Using jumps performed against a resistance of 2 % body
mass (via a weighted vest) that were incorporated into a
dynamic warm-up, improved jumping performance has
subsequently been observed in the following 2 min .
Similarly, Chen et al.  reported improvements in
countermovement jump height following multiple sets of
depth jumps. Turner et al.  recently reported that
*75 s of alternate-leg bounding performed with (?10 %
body mass) and without (body mass only) a weighted vest,
potentiated subsequent sprint performance when compared
with a control trial. Notably, a greater enhancement of
sprint performance was observed in the body mass plus
10 % trial when compared with the body mass only trial,
and this increase was related to the baseline speed of
Practitioners may therefore wish to recommend plyo-
metric activities during the ﬁnal stages of half-time to
enhance subsequent performance. Notably, the shorter
durations of PAP-inducing exercise are likely to be better
tolerated when compared with those typically used in
active re-warm-up studies (*7 min). However, consider-
ation should also be given to the fact that a transient
reduction in performance is commonly observed in the
immediate period (i.e. \3 min) following the preload
stimulus  and that the effects of PAP as a speciﬁc half-
time strategy have not been directly examined.
2.3 Hormonal Priming
High-intensity exercise can promote rapid changes in the
hormonal milieu postulated to beneﬁt subsequent exercise
performance [39,40]. Indeed, in a workout performed
2 min after a short-duration (*40 s) maximal exercise
bout that elevated salivary testosterone concentrations,
improved strength performance was observed in profes-
sional rugby players . Acute modiﬁcation of the hor-
monal environment induced by the bout of sprint-cycle
exercise was reported to have contributed to the improve-
ment of subsequent exercise performance . In support
of this ﬁnding, previous authors have observed improved
upper-body strength proﬁles following the systemic ele-
vation of endogenous hormones via prior lower-body
resistance exercise .
Interestingly, a number of authors have also reported
that the content of videos watched prior to exercise can
inﬂuence hormonal responses and subsequent physical
performance. For example, in professional rugby players,
Cook and Crewther  observed improvements in squat
strength 15 min after watching short (4 min) video clips
that included aggressive, training, erotic or humorous
Half-Time Strategies in Team Sports
content. Notably, the aggressive video caused signiﬁcant
increases in salivary testosterone that exceeded all other
video types and improved squat performance more so than
either the erotic or humorous clips. Moreover, viewing
footage 75 min before a match that showed successful skill
executions performed by an athlete, which was reinforced
with positive coach feedback, promoted the highest pre-
game testosterone concentrations and best subsequent
performance ratings . Conversely, presenting footage
of successful skill executions of opposing players while
providing cautionary coach feedback, induced an enhanced
stress response .
While the direct effect of speciﬁc hormonal priming
strategies administered during the half-time break have not
yet been examined, and assuming that the relationships
between pre-match testosterone concentrations and match
performance  remain true, it is plausible that strategies
which elevate free testosterone employed during the half-
time break may improve subsequent match performance.
As shown in Fig. 1, half-time often includes a period of
tactical instruction, be it either individual or team-based,
which may utilise video playback . Therefore, modiﬁ-
cation of the footage and feedback presented to the players
may offer a simple strategy to improve subsequent per-
formance. Furthermore, high-intensity exercise, perhaps
used as part of a half-time re-warm-up, may also optimise
the hormonal milieu that contributes to improved exercise
2.4 Carbohydrate Consumption
When soccer has been used as the modality of exercise,
numerous authors have reported that muscle glycogen
concentrations reduce throughout both simulated and
actual match-play [45,46]. Consequently, team-sports
players are often encouraged to acutely consume carbo-
hydrates on the day of competition. Such recommendations
usually include guidance to ingest carbohydrates in the
hours before exercise, throughout competition and during
breaks in play, such as at half-time . The proposed
mechanisms of ingesting carbohydrates relate to an effort
to spare muscle glycogen and to maintain blood glucose
concentrations for the duration of a match [48–50]. How-
ever, the physiological response to carbohydrates con-
sumed during exercise, such as a match, differs to that
observed when carbohydrates are consumed in the non-
exercising state , similar to half-time.
Under normal physiological conditions, ingesting car-
bohydrates that increase blood glucose concentrations in a
passive state elicits an increase in insulin synthesis and
secretion from the bcells of the islets of Langerhans.
Insulin, in an attempt to normalize blood glucose concen-
trations, subsequently decreases lipolysis and increases
glucose uptake in liver, skeletal muscle and fat cells .
Conversely, hyperglycaemic responses are observed during
high-intensity exercise by the actions of counter-regulatory
hormones, including catecholamines, cortisol and growth
hormone . Given the pattern of competitive match-play
in team-sports competition, it is surprising that the inﬂu-
ence of carbohydrate supplementation on the glycaemic
response to a bout of exercise that is completed after a
period of recovery from a previous bout of exercise has
received little attention.
Ingestion of a 6 % sucrose-electrolyte beverage before
(i.e. within 2 h of commencing exercise and within 5 min
of starting each half) and during (i.e. every 15 min of
exercise) simulated soccer-speciﬁc exercise attenuated a
reduction in post-exercise shooting performance (assessed
during an isolated soccer skills test) . However, in
support of data reported by Bangsbo et al. , exogenous
carbohydrate provision before and during soccer-speciﬁc
exercise reduced blood glucose concentrations during the
initial stages of the second half by *30 %, a ﬁnding that
has since been conﬁrmed in both simulated and actual
soccer match-play [18,20]. Most likely, this exercise-
induced rebound glycaemic response is explained by the
previously active muscles increasing glucose uptake, low-
ered catecholamine concentrations, and reduced stimula-
tion of liver glycogenolysis at the start of the second half
It appears that cerebral glucose availability is
impaired when blood glucose concentrations fall below
, and cognitive performance decre-
ments occur when blood glucose concentrations fall
below 3.4 mmolL
[54–63], concentrations that rep-
resent those previously reported in soccer players [20,
64]. As the quality of cognitive and physical perfor-
mances executed during and after soccer-speciﬁc exer-
cise appear to be inﬂuenced by changes in blood
glucose concentrations, strategies that maintain glyca-
emia for the full duration of match-play represent an
opportunity to achieve maximum soccer performance. A
number of factors, including the glycaemic index of the
carbohydrate consumed, timing of consumption and the
dose consumed, are likely to modulate the efﬁcacy of
carbohydrates consumed on the day of competition .
In this review we present an overview of studies that
have application to these factors in the context of the
2.4.1 Glycaemic Index
Commercially-available sports drinks generally tend to
consist of between 6 and 10 % concentrations of high-
glycaemic index carbohydrates (e.g. maltodextrin).
Ingesting high-glycaemic index carbohydrates while in a
M. Russell et al.
non-exercising state, such as that observed during the ini-
tial phases of half-time, results in rapid increases in post-
prandial blood glucose concentrations. However,
consumption of high-glycaemic index carbohydrates in the
hour before exercise has also been reported to lower blood
glucose concentrations 15–30 min after starting subsequent
activity [55,66], a response attributed to free fatty acid
inhibition which increases carbohydrate usage throughout
isolated exercise bouts performed soon after carbohydrate
As highlighted in Sect. 2.4, we have consistently
reported that consuming sucrose-electrolyte beverages
before, and throughout, simulated soccer match-play
caused transient reductions in blood glucose concentrations
in the initial stages of the second half of soccer-speciﬁc
exercise [19,20,67]. However, low glycaemic index car-
bohydrates prolong the delivery of glucose to the systemic
circulation. Indeed, mean and peak oxidation rates of iso-
maltulose have been reported to be 50 and 42 % lower than
the oxidation rates of sucrose, respectively, when ingested
at the same rate (1.1 gmin
). Although the effects of
different glycaemic index carbohydrates consumed during
the half-time period remain to be examined, it is plausible
that a reduced rate of digestion and absorption of low-
glycaemic index carbohydrates prolongs blood glucose
concentrations that have typically been found to decline in
the second half of intermittent activity.
2.4.2 Timing of Ingestion
Consistent evidence provided from studies requiring that
carbohydrates are consumed before a single bout of exer-
cise demonstrate that the timing of pre-exercise carbohy-
drate ingestion can inﬂuence subsequent metabolic
responses. For example, Moseley et al.  investigated
the metabolic response to 75 g of glucose ingested 15, 45
or 75 min before exercise. Plasma glucose and insulin
concentrations were signiﬁcantly elevated immediately
before exercise in the 15-min feeding group, whereas the
lowest insulin concentrations were observed when carbo-
hydrate was ingested 75 min before exercise. Similarly,
ingestion of a 20 % fructose solution 15 min before the
second half of an intermittent cycling protocol resulted in
reductions in blood glucose concentrations compared with
pre half-time values for 40 min of the second half .
Consequently, the timing of carbohydrate ingestion during
the half-time period has the potential to inﬂuence respon-
ses; however, no studies have systematically examined the
inﬂuence of modifying the timing of carbohydrates pro-
vided during half-time in soccer players.
2.4.3 Dose Consumed
In studies that have employed continuous exercise proto-
cols and have focused on water absorption as a priority, the
detrimental effects observed on gastric emptying and
intestinal absorption have led to recommendations that
beverages containing between 5 and 8 % carbohydrates are
consumed during exercise [68,70,71]. However, when
intermittent exercise is performed, limited data currently
exist about the effects of providing additional carbohy-
drates (9 % solutions). Notably, ingestion of a 20 % glu-
cose solution has been reported to enhance sprint capacity
after 90 min of intermittent cycling , and a dose-
dependent relationship exists between the amount of car-
bohydrate consumed and indices of cognitive function in
non-exercising participants .
In recreational soccer players, greater blood glucose
concentrations have been observed from 75 min onwards
relative to a ﬂuid–electrolyte placebo when a 9.6 % car-
bohydrate–electrolyte beverage was consumed before and
during (including at half-time) a simulated soccer match
. Interestingly, differences in glycaemic responses were
observed despite similarities in blood glucose concentra-
tions between conditions at the 60 min time point
). As the pre-exercise carbohydrate dos-
age appears to elicit similar glycaemic responses [68,73],
and that the rebound hypoglycaemic response appears to
decay within the initial stages of exercise when high-gly-
caemic index carbohydrates are consumed [24,69], it is
plausible that provision of additional carbohydrates at half-
time may afford ergogenic effects in the latter stages of a
match; however, this remains to be conﬁrmed.
2.4.4 Interactions between Carbohydrate Ingestion
and a Half-Time Re-Warm-Up
It is well established that high-intensity exercise can elicit a
hyperglycaemic response in both clinical and non-clinical
populations. An exercise-induced catecholamine release
inhibits pancreatic b-cell activity ; therefore, elevated
blood glucose concentrations result from exogenous car-
bohydrate provision during exercise. It is therefore plau-
sible that a combination of high-intensity exercise
performed during the half-time period, as well as simul-
taneous carbohydrate ingestion, could feasibly maintain
blood glucose concentrations thereafter. In support of this,
Achten et al.  observed that ingestion of 600 ml of a
concentrated maltodextrin drink consumed during a 25-min
cycle warm-up that included isolated sprint bouts,
increased catecholamine concentrations, blunted the insulin
Half-Time Strategies in Team Sports
response and actually increased blood glucose concentra-
tions at the onset of exercise. Although reductions in blood
glucose concentrations were observed after 20 min of
subsequent continuous exercise, these differences were
non-signiﬁcant. Consequently, a half-time re-warm-up that
includes a high-intensity component, combined with the
ingestion of carbohydrates, may prove beneﬁcial for team-
sports players who experience an exercise-induced rebound
glycaemic response. However, this is yet to be determined
when carbohydrates are provided during recovery from
previous activity and when the exercise performed is
intermittent in nature.
2.4.5 Carbohydrate Mouth Rinsing
Mouth-rinsing carbohydrate solutions can positively inﬂu-
ence the perception of effort during subsequent exercise
and facilitate peak power output during the initial stages of
repeated sprint tests [75,76]. The mechanisms proposed
relate to the excitation of reward and motor control centres
in the brain  and an enhanced corticomotor pathway
excitability  induced by oral receptor stimulation.
Whether the presence of carbohydrate in the mouth can
facilitate improvements in subsequent performance when
used as a half-time strategy remains to be investigated;
however, the beneﬁts of mouth swilling observed during
exercise provide a rationale for using this strategy at half-
2.5 Caffeine Consumption
The ergogenic effects of caffeine (a central nervous system
stimulant) in team-sport athletes have been proposed to
relate to the attenuation of fatigue-related decrements in
skilled performances, concentration or cognitive function
as opposed to enhanced endurance capacity . With
respect to soccer skill performance, the efﬁcacy of caffeine
is unclear  despite the mean sprinting performances of
recreational players being improved when doses of
body mass were co-ingested with
of carbohydrate . Additionally, the
mean performance of rugby passes made during an isolated
technical test over the duration of a simulated match was
improved when caffeine was ingested . Therefore,
caffeine consumed during half-time may be efﬁcacious for
When considering whether to recommend caffeine use
during half-time, the time-course of peak systemic con-
centrations of caffeine and/or its metabolites following
acute ingestion is likely to be of interest to practitioners.
Whether caffeine is consumed in either the fed or fasted
state appears to inﬂuence the rate of subsequent appearance
in the circulation . Nevertheless, when the mechanisms
of action are reliant upon absorption via the lower gastro-
intestinal tract, peak concentrations of caffeine and/or its
metabolites are generally realised within 1 and 3 h of
ingestion. However, the efﬁcacy of drug administration has
been proposed to be related to its speed of absorption 
and the ergogenic effects of caffeine have also been
attributed to the antagonism of receptors in the upper
gastrointestinal tract facilitating a central modulation of
motor unit activity and adenosine receptor stimulation .
In the last decade, caffeinated chewing gums have
become commercially available and have been associated
with signiﬁcantly faster absorption times when compared
with a traditional pill-based administration modality .
For example, Ryan et al.  have recently observed
improved cycling performance when caffeinated gum
containing 300 mg of caffeine was provided 5 min before
exercise. Interestingly, providing the same dose of caffei-
nated gum 60 and 120 min prior to the start of exercise
negated the ergogenic effects observed. Despite very few
studies having investigated the effects of this novel method
of caffeine delivery, early evidence suggests that caffei-
nated gum may beneﬁt the performance of intermittent
team-sports players. Furthermore, the time-course of
effects of action of caffeinated gums mean that they could
plausibly be consumed during half-time.
3 Model of Theoretical Application
As reviewed, the transition from a period of exercise to rest
and back to exercise replicates the general demands of a
number of team sports. This pattern of activity induces a
number of physiological effects that appear to inﬂuence
performance during subsequent exercise. Notably,
impaired performance has been observed during the initial
stages of the second half. Therefore, when seeking to
optimise performance throughout the full duration of
competition, half-time is an opportunity to employ speciﬁc
strategies that seek to maintain performance throughout the
However, the match-day practices of professional teams
are often very structured and rigid in nature. It is therefore
important that any proposed modiﬁcation to the half-time
period seeks to complement, rather than replace, existing
protocols. Therefore, practical recommendations concern-
ing the implementation of such strategies may be beneﬁcial
for the sports scientist and/or strength and conditioning
coach. In this review we present a theoretical model of
organising a 15-min half-time period to incorporate both
the practices currently employed and the strategies that we
have proposed to acutely enhance performance (Fig. 2).
While this proposed theoretical model may appear quite
complex, applied practitioners are encouraged to interpret
M. Russell et al.
our recommendations within the context of the require-
ments of their speciﬁc sports. Speculatively, these recom-
mendations may also have application outside of the
context of the half-time break as some sports (e.g. rugby
league) allow rolling interchanges and therefore players
may experience extended breaks in play between consec-
utive match involvements.
In order to attenuate the losses in body temperature
observed during the half-time break, strategies that seek to
maintain temperature-mediated pathways  should be
considered. Heated clothing, outdoor survival jackets and
heating pads can be applied with relatively little inconve-
nience to athletes, and have proved beneﬁcial when seeking
to attenuate reductions in performance attributable to T
loss [15,16,29]. Furthermore, an increased changing-room
temperature may also prove worthwhile; however, this
remains to be explored.
At some point throughout half-time, individualised
footage of successful player skill executions supported by
afﬁrmative positive cues from a coach may also beneﬁt a
player’s subsequent performance . However, it should
be noted that if such videos focus upon the successful skill
executions of opposing players while cautionary coach
feedback is provided, an enhanced stress response can be
observed . Furthermore, acute bouts of high-intensity
exercise may prove beneﬁcial in terms of priming the sys-
temic hormonal environment for subsequent exercise .
Active re-warm-ups administered in the ﬁnal stages of
half-time improve subsequent physical and technical per-
formance by attenuation of the reductions in body tem-
perature seen when passive half-time practices are
performed [5,6,13,14]. As PAP has been observed fol-
lowing short-duration plyometric activities , such
exercises, when used as part of a re-warm-up strategy, may
serve as a time-efﬁcient method of improving subsequent
Due to the mechanisms of action, the presence of caf-
feine and carbohydrate in the mouth has been found to
facilitate motor output and improve subsequent exercise
[76,81]. However, based upon literature examining the
efﬁcacy of caffeine, if the duration between ingestion and
subsequent exercise is prolonged, the ergogenic effects of
these substances can be lost . Therefore, within the
ﬁnal stages preceding the restart of competition, the pro-
vision of caffeinated gum (with subsequent expectoration
before competition recommences) and carbohydrate solu-
tions (for the purposes of mouth swilling) should be con-
sidered (Fig. 2).
Finally, when seeking to minimise perturbations in
blood glucose concentrations that have consistently been
observed when recommencing the second half of exercise,
it is plausible that half-time strategies relating to the con-
sumption of exogenous energy (i.e. carbohydrates) could
be optimised by modifying the glycaemic index of the
beverage consumed, the timing of ingestion, the amount of
carbohydrate consumed and/or by combining ingestion
with a half-time re-warm-up. Therefore, consideration of
these factors should be given, especially in players deemed
to be susceptible to reduced blood glucose concentrations
upon restarting exercise.
Fig. 2 Theoretical model of strategies suggested during a 15-min half-time period
Half-Time Strategies in Team Sports
Periods of reduced activity between successive exercise
bouts have been found to inﬂuence an array of physio-
logical responses. Furthermore, reduced physical and
cognitive performance, as well as increased risk of injury,
have been identiﬁed in the initial stages of the second half
of team-sport competition. Therefore, the support of pre-
vious authors for the use of heat maintenance strategies,
half-time re-warm-ups (including actions to induce PAP),
hormonal priming, and caffeine and carbohydrate con-
sumption means that a method which combines a number
of these strategies for use on the day of competition may be
of interest to sports scientists and strength and conditioning
coaches involved with team sports. In addition to
appraising the evidence of these isolated strategies, we
have presented a practical model that allows combination
of a number of interventions that could theoretically elicit
additive effects over the use of such strategies in isolation.
However, given the differences that exist between sports in
half-time regulations (e.g. duration of break, access to
pitch, etc.), and players’ normal practices, we recommend
that the model is interpreted with considerable ﬂexibility,
and we acknowledge that some adjustment is likely
dependent upon the players involved.
Acknowledgments No sources of funding were used to assist in the
preparation of this review. The authors have no potential conﬂicts of
interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.
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