Seasonal Variation of VO2max and the VO2-Work Rate Relationship in Elite Alpine Skiers

GROSS, MICAH A.1; BREIL, FABIO A.1,2; LEHMANN, ANDREA D.1; HOPPELER, HANS1; VOGT, MICHAEL1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 11 - pp 2084-2089
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181a8c37a
APPLIED SCIENCES: Symposium

Purpose: Alpine ski performance relates closely to both anaerobic and aerobic capacities. During their competitive season, skiers greatly reduce endurance and weight training, and on-snow training becomes predominant. To typify this shift, we compared exhaustive ramp cycling and squat (SJ) and countermovement jumping (CMJ) performance in elite males before and after their competitive season.

Results: In postseason compared with preseason: 1) maximal oxygen uptake (V˙O2max) normalized to bodyweight was higher (55.2 ± 5.2 vs 52.7 ± 3.6 mL·kg−1·min−1, P < 0.01), but corresponding work rate (W) was unchanged; 2) at ventilatory thresholds (VT), absolute and relative work rates were similar but heart rates were lower; 3) V˙O2/W slope was greater (9.59 ± 0.6 vs 9.19 ± 0.4 mL O2·min−1·W−1, P = 0.02), with similar flattening (P < 0.01) above VT1 at both time points; and 4) jump height was greater in SJ (47.4 ± 4.4 vs 44.7 ± 4.3 cm, P < 0.01) and CMJ (52.7 ± 4.6 vs 50.4 ± 5.0 cm, P < 0.01).

Discussion: We believe that aerobic capacity and leg power were constrained in preseason and that improvements primarily reflected an in-season recovery from a fatigued state, which was caused by incongruous preseason training. Residual adaptations to high-altitude exposure in preseason could have also affected the results. Nonetheless, modern alpine skiing seemingly provides an ample cardiovascular training stimulus for skiers to maintain their aerobic capacities during the racing season.

Conclusions: We conclude that aerobic fitness and leg explosiveness can be maintained in-season but may be compromised by heavy or excessive preseason training. In addition, ramp test V˙O2/W slope analysis could be useful for monitoring both positive and negative responses to training.

1Institute for Anatomy, University of Bern, SWITZERLAND; and 2Institute for Human Movement Sciences and Sport, Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, SWITZERLAND

Address for correspondence: Michael Vogt, PD, Institut für Anatomie, Baltzerstrasse 2, CH-3000 Bern 9, Switzerland; E-mail: vogt@ana.unibe.ch.

Submitted for publication December 2008.

Accepted for publication March 2009.

©2009The American College of Sports Medicine