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Physiological loads in the team technical and free routines of synchronized swimmers

YAMAMURA, CHIAKI; MATSUI, NOBUO; KITAGAWA, KAORU

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2000 - Volume 32 - Issue 6 - p 1171-1174
Applied Physics: Physical Fitness And Performance
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YAMAMURA, C., N. MATSUI, and K. KITAGAWA. Physiological loads in the team technical and free routines of synchronized swimmers. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 32, No. 6, pp. 1171–1174, 2000.

Purpose The purpose of the present study was to examine the physiological loads on synchronized swimmers during team technical and free routines by measuring their blood lactate concentrations and percentage of peak blood lactate concentration.

Methods Four trained college female synchronized swimmers participated as the subjects. The blood lactate concentration was measured in the first and middle periods and after the team technical and free routines. Peak blood lactate concentration was measured after maximum exertion in 100-m freestyle swimming.

Results Average values and SD of blood lactate concentration and the percentage of peak blood lactate concentration after the team technical and free routines were 4.7 ± 1.1 mmol·L1, 46.2 ± 11.0% and 4.3 ± 1.1 mmol·L1, 42.8 ± 11.5%, respectively. The blood lactate concentration and percentage of peak blood lactate concentration after the team technical routine were significantly higher than those in the first period, and the blood lactate concentration after the team free routine was significantly higher than in the middle period.

Conclusions The blood lactate concentration of synchronized swimmers during the team technical and free routines in the present study tended to increase with the performance time. Thus, the predominant sources of energy may be phosphocreatine stores and aerobic metabolism during these routines, although glycolysis may also play an important role in relation to the energy requirements in the final period.

Laboratory for Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics, School of Health and Sport Sciences, Chukyo University, Toyota 470-0393, JAPAN

Submitted for publication April 1999.

Accepted for publication September 1999.

Address for correspondence: Chiaki Yamamura, School of Health and Sport Sciences, Chukyo University, 101 Tokodachi, Kaizu-cho, Toyota, Aichi, 470-0393, Japan; E-mail: cyamamur@cnc.chukyo-u.ac.jp.

There have been several reports dealing with synchronized swimming. Some of these studies have investigated the physiological characteristics of synchronized swimmers (16–20,24,25). However, relatively little is known about the physiological responses during the performance (9,10,23). Gemma and Wells (10) and Figura et al. (9) have reported the physiological response during the compulsory figures. Although Figura et al. (9) have also examined those responses during the free routine, they have not clearly identified the type of event. More recently, Yamamura et al. (23) have reported on exercise intensity during the duet free routine. However, in the 26th Olympic Games in 1996, the official event was the team event rather than the solo and duet events. Moreover, the final result has been calculated by using the total points of both the technical and free routines since this competition. Thus, to develop more effective training and coaching methods, and to provide coaches with a firmer base on which to build routines, it would seem important to clarify the physiological loads experienced by synchronized swimmers during the team and technical routines.

Synchronized swimmers must perform the technical and free routines while holding their breath, and these routines contain high-intensity movement (boost, jump, etc.), which suggests a high anaerobic energy involvement. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to assess the physiological loads of synchronized swimmers during team technical and free routines by repeated measurements of their blood lactate concentrations.

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METHODS

Subjects.

The subjects were four trained college female synchronized swimmers (19.6 ± 1.4 yr), who reached the finals in the 1995 Japan Synchronized Swimming Championships Open. The subjects were informed of the risks involved in the present study and signed a statement of informed consent approved by Chukyo University Graduate School of Physical Education.

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Body dimensions and composition.

The anthropometric measurements included height, body weight, and body composition. Body composition was measured by densitometry using an underwater weighing method and a pulmonary residual volume measurement (15). The formula of Broežk et al. (1) was used to calculate the percentage of body fat based on the body density.

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Peak blood lactate concentration.

Peak blood lactate concentration was determined as described by the following method. First, the subjects performed 100-m freestyle swimming trials at maximal effort in a 25-m indoor swimming pool. Blood samples were then taken from the fingertips at 3, 5, 7, and 9 min after the exercise. The highest blood lactate concentration value was selected as the value representing peak blood lactate concentration. Blood lactate concentrations were analyzed by an enzymatic membrane method (1500 Sports: YSI Co., Tokyo, Japan) calibrated using a standard concentration of lactate.

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Maximum oxygen uptake (V̇O2max).

V̇O2max was measured in a swimming flume (AQUAGYM: IHI Co., Tokyo, Japan). The water velocity was increased by 0.2 m·s1 every 2 min from 0.6 m·s1 up to 1.0 m·s1, and subsequently 0.05 m·s1 every minute to the point of exhaustion. During the V̇O2max test, each subject breathed through a low-resistance valve, and ventilation, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and respiratory exchange ratio (RER) were measured every 30 s with an automatic gas analyzer system (RM-300, MG-360: Minato Medical Science Co., Tokyo, Japan). Heart rate (HR) was obtained from continuous ECG recordings (Dyna Scope 502: FUKUDA Co., Tokyo, Japan). V̇O2max was defined as the point at which at least two of the following three criteria were fulfilled (3,21,22): 1) leveling-off of the increase in V̇O2, 2) RER greater than 1.0, and 3) HR greater than 180 beats·min1.

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Measurement during the performance.

The present study protocol is shown in Figure 1. All stages were performed from start to finish. A resting period of more than 45 min was allowed between the second and third stages of the team technical routine, and between the third and fourth stages of the team free routine. The resting period among the other stages was more than 30 min. Blood samples were taken immediately, then at 3 and 5 min after the final stage; the highest blood lactate concentration value was selected as the value of the final stage of the team technical and free routines. At each of the other stages blood was taken immediately after.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The components of the team technical and free routines were classified into seven skill elements by videotape: deck movement, stroke, figure, underwater movement, body boost, rocket, and lift (11).

Statistical analysis was performed using the one-way analysis of variance. A post hoc test was performed using Tukey’s test. The level of significance was put at P < 0.05.

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RESULTS

Physiological characteristics of the subjects are presented in Table 1. The average values for height, body weight, percentage of body fat and lean body weight were 162.5 cm, 53.4 kg, 17.2% and 44.2 kg, respectively, while V̇O2max and peak blood lactate concentration were 51.6 mL·kg1·min1 and 10.2 mmol·L1, respectively.

Table 1

Table 1

Table 2 shows the results of blood lactate concentration and percentage of peak blood lactate concentration during and after the team technical and free routines. Mean blood lactate concentration and percentage of peak blood lactate concentration at the third stage of the team technical routine were 4.7 mmol·L1 and 46.2%, respectively, against 4.3 mmol·L1 and 42.8%, respectively, at the fourth stage of the team free routine. For the team technical routine, blood lactate concentration and percentage of peak blood lactate concentration of the third stage were significantly higher than those of the first stage. For the team free routine, blood lactate concentration of the fourth stage was significantly higher than for the second stage. The components of the team technical and free routines are presented in Figure 2. The team technical routine included seven figures, two boosts, and one rocket. The team free routine had 12 figures, seven boosts, one rocket, and one lift.

Table 2

Table 2

Figure 2

Figure 2

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DISCUSSION

The data on physiological characteristics from the present study are comparable with those reported by Takamoto et al. (20), which measured those of elite Japanese female synchronized swimmers. The subjects of the present study were similar in height and aerobic capacity, but had lower body fat, and higher body weight and lean body weight by comparison. Therefore, it may well be said that the subjects in the present study were trained female synchronized swimmers in terms of physical fitness.

Synchronized swimmers must perform both technical and free routines while holding their breath, and these routines involve high-intensity movement (boost, jump, etc.), which suggests high anaerobic energy involvement. Therefore, the present study assessed the physiological loads of synchronized swimmers during team technical and free routines by repeated measurements of their blood lactate concentrations. Our results (Table 2) indicate a slightly glycolytic energy involvement. Nevertheless, when the blood lactate concentration was calculated relative to the peak blood lactate concentration, the value of the technical routine amounted to about 50% (Table 2). Also, the routines measured here could not reach the same intensity as those in official competition, because the latter probably involves different motivational and environmental factors. Hence, it could be beneficial for synchronized swimmers to undergo lactate tolerance training to improve hydrogen ion buffering.

The differences in blood lactate concentration of athletes among various competitive sports have been examined (2,4,7,13), but no studies have reported the blood lactate concentration of synchronized swimmers during team technical and free routines. As Table 2 indicates, in the present study, the blood lactate concentration at the third stage of team technical routine was higher than in the first stage. For the team free routine, the blood lactate concentration at the fourth stage was higher than in the second stage. These results suggested that physiological loads in synchronized swimmers change with the performance time. The lower blood lactate concentration recorded during the first period of the technical routine and the middle period of the free routine may indicate that the predominant sources of energy during these routines were phosphocreatine stores and aerobic metabolism.

In recent years, lift and jump techniques are executed so as to appeal to the judges during the team free routine (12). As Figure 2 shows, the team free routine in the present study included only one lift, whereas the team free routines at the Atlanta Olympic Games included three lifts and one jump on average (12). Moreover, most of the participating teams performed such high-intensity exercises just 15 s before the end of their routines (12). In addition to these maneuvers, synchronized swimmers must repeatedly raise their body as high as possible out of the water with such explosive moves as boost and rocket during performance (Fig. 2). Endurance training induces a decrease in lactate production and enhances the rate of lactate removal during the exercise (5,6,8). In addition, subjects with a high aerobic capacity are quicker to recover creatine phosphate during a recovery period than subjects with a low capacity (14). Yamamura et al. (25) reported that significant correlation (P < 0.05) was found between the aerobic capacity of synchronized swimmers and their performance scores. Therefore, it could be advantageous for synchronized swimmers to have a high level of aerobic capacity to maintain peak performance level until the end of their routine.

The component at the final stage of the routine is important for a high performance score in synchronized swimming (12), but the core components of a technical routine are the required elements. With this in mind, it may be necessary to deal more carefully with the arrangement of the high intensity movements such as the boost and jump or with long-sustained breath-holding phase, in contrast to the low intensity movement such as floating during the middle and final periods. This is so that synchronized swimmers may execute physical maneuvers of high intensity and high difficulty in the final stage of a team free routine, and may enhance the execution of the required elements in a team technical routine.

In conclusion, the blood lactate concentration of synchronized swimmers during the team technical and free routines in the present study tended to increase with the performance time. Thus, in the first period for technical routine and the middle period for free routine, the predominant sources of energy may be the phosphocreatine stores and aerobic metabolism. On the other hand, in the final period, glycolysis may also play an important role in relation to the energy requirements of the routines.

The authors would like to thank the Rasa Swimming School for their kind contribution this study. We also thank the members of the Laboratory for Exercise Physiology of Chukyo University for their cooperation in this experiment.

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Keywords:

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING; BLOOD LACTATE CONCENTRATION; PERFORMANCE; FEMALE

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