Modeling Maximum Oxygen Uptake of Elite Endurance Athletes

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NEVILL, A. M., D. BROWN, R. GODFREY, P. J. JOHNSON, L. ROMER, A. D. STEWART, and E. M. WINTER. Modeling Maximum Oxygen Uptake of Elite Endurance Athletes. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 488–494, 2003.PurposeTo compare the maximum oxygen uptake (V̇O2max) of elite endurance athletes and to explain why the body mass exponent, necessary to render V̇O2max independent of body mass, appears to be greater than 0.67.MethodsStudy 1: V̇O2max of 174 international sportsmen and women was assessed. Athletes were recruited from seven sports (middle- and long-distance runners, heavyweight and lightweight rowers, triathletes, and squash and badminton players). Study 2: calf and thigh leg muscle masses were estimated in 106 male and 30 female athletes from 11 sports. Differences in V̇O2max and leg muscle masses between “sports” and “sex” were analyzed independent of body mass by using allometric log-linear ANCOVA.ResultsHeavyweight rowers had the greatest V̇O2max when expressed in L·min−1 but long-distance runners had the highest V̇O2max in mL·kg−1·min−1. However, the ANCOVA identified no difference in “mass independent” V̇O2max between the five “pure” endurance sports (runners, rowers, and triathletes) (P > 0.05) with the two racket sports being significantly lower. The body mass covariate exponent was inflated, estimated as 0.94. The results from study 2 estimated calf and thigh leg muscle masses to increase in proportion to body mass, m1.11 and m1.38, respectively.ConclusionsAfter having controlled for differences in body mass, V̇O2max did not differ between pure endurance sports (P > 0.05). Assuming that athletes’ thigh muscle mass increases in proportion to body mass m1.38 as observed in study 2, a similar disproportional increase in V̇O2max would be anticipated, providing a plausible explanation for the inflated mass exponent associated with V̇O2max identified in this and other studies.

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