Purpose: This study aimed to determine whether the differences in oxygen extraction and lactate concentration in arms and legs during cross-country skiing are related to muscle activation or force production and how these differences are influenced by a reduction in exercise intensity.
Methods: Nine well-trained male cross-country skiers (age = 22 ± 3 yr, V˙O2max = 5.3 ± 0.3 L·min−1 and 69 ± 3 mL·kg−1·min−1) performed diagonal skiing on a treadmill for 3 min at 90% followed by 6 min at 70% of V˙O2max. During the final minute of each workload, arterial, femoral, and subclavian venous blood was collected for determination of blood gases, pH, and lactate. EMG was recorded from six upper- and lower-body muscles, and leg and pole forces were measured. Cardiorespiratory variables were monitored continuously.
Results: Oxygen extraction in the legs was higher than that in the arms at both 90% and 70% of V˙O2max (92% ± 3% vs 85% ± 6%, P < 0.05 and 90% ± 3% vs 78% ± 8%, P < 0.001). This reduction with decreased workload was more pronounced in the arms (−9.8% ± 7.7% vs −3.2% ± 3.2%, P < 0.01). EMGRMS for the arms was higher, and pole ground contact time was greater than the corresponding values for the legs (both P < 0.01). At both intensities, the blood lactate concentration was higher in the subclavian than that in the femoral vein but was lowered more in the subclavian vein when intensity was reduced (all P < 0.001).
Conclusions: The higher muscle activation (percentage of maximal voluntary isometric contraction) in the arms and the longer ground contact time of the poles than the legs contribute to the lower oxygen extraction and elevated blood lactate concentration in the arms in diagonal skiing. The better lactate recovery in the arms than that in the legs is aided by greater reductions in muscle activation and pole force when exercise intensity is reduced.