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Effects of Pacing Strategy on Work Done above Critical Power during High-Intensity Exercise


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 7 - p 1377–1385
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182860325
Applied Sciences

Purpose We investigated the influence of pacing strategy on the work completed above critical power (CP) before exhaustion (W >CP) and the peak V˙O2 attained during high-intensity cycling.

Methods After the determination of V˙O2max from a ramp incremental cycling (INC) test and the estimation of the parameters of the power–duration relationship for high-intensity exercise (i.e., CP and W′) from a 3-min all-out cycling test (AOT), eight male subjects completed a cycle test to exhaustion at a severe-intensity constant work rate (CWR) estimated to result in exhaustion in 3 min and a self-paced 3-min cycling time trial (SPT).

Results The V˙O2max determined from INC was 4.24 ± 0.69 L·min−1, and the CP and the W′ estimated from AOT were 260 ± 60 W and 16.5 ± 4.0 kJ, respectively. W >CP during SPT was not significantly different from W >CP during CWR (15.3 ± 5.6 and 16.6 ± 7.4 kJ, respectively), and these values were also similar to W >CP during INC (16.4 ± 4.0 kJ) and W′ estimated from AOT. The peak V˙O2 during SPT was not significantly different from peak V˙O2 during CWR (4.20 ± 0.77 and 4.14 ± 0.75 L·min−1, respectively), and these values were similar to the V˙O2max determined from INC and the peak V˙O2 during AOT (4.10 ± 0.79 L·min−1).

Conclusion Exhaustion during high-intensity exercise coincides with the achievement of the same peak V˙O2 (V˙O2max) and the completion of the same W >CP, irrespective of the work rate forcing function (INC or CWR) or pacing strategy (enforced pace or self-paced). These findings indicate that exhaustion during high-intensity exercise is based on highly predictable physiological processes, which are unaffected when pacing strategy is self-selected.

1Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, UNITED KINGDOM; 2Human Performance Laboratory, Health Studies, Physical Education and Human Performance Sciences, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY; and 3Teachers College, Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY

Address for correspondence: Andrew M. Jones, Ph.D., College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, St. Luke’s Campus, Exeter, Devon EX1 2LU, UK; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2012.

Accepted for publication January 2013.

© 2013 American College of Sports Medicine