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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

A “functional biopsy” of muscle properties in sprinters and distance runners

CROWTHER, GREGORY J.; JUBRIAS, SHARON A.; GRONKA, RODNEY K.; CONLEY, KEVIN E.

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Abstract

CROWTHER, G. J., S. A. JUBRIAS, R. K. GRONKA, and K. E. CONLEY. A “functional biopsy” of muscle properties in sprinters and distance runners. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 34, No. 11, pp. 1719–1724, 2002.

Purpose : Fast- and slow-twitch human muscle fibers exhibit large (two- to threefold) differences in metabolic enzyme activities and contractile economy. We asked whether comparable flux differences are evident in the muscles of athletes specializing in extremely different (i.e., sprint and long-distance) running events.

Methods : We took an in vivo “functional biopsy” of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles of 17 members of a university track team by using 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Ten sprinters (SPR) and seven distance runners (DIS) performed rapid isometric dorsiflexions against the resistance of a plastic foot holder. The contractile cost of exercise and glycolytic flux were calculated from changes in pH, [PCr], and [Pi] during ischemic exercise, and oxidative capacity was calculated from PCr recovery kinetics after aerobic exercise.

Results : Contractile costs were 47% higher in SPR than in DIS, whereas oxidative capacities were 52% higher in DIS than in SPR. Surprisingly, glycolytic ATP production was similar in the two groups.

Conclusion : The muscles of SPR and DIS exhibit clear differences in energetic properties, but these differences are smaller than the two- to three-fold variations seen in the properties of individual muscle fibers.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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