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The metabolic demands of kayaking: A review - page 3 / 7





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Michael et al.

2002; Fry and Morton, 1991; Hahn et al., 1988; Pendergast et al., 1979; Tesh et al., 1976), arm cranking (Bergh et al., 1976; Pendergast et al., 1979; Tesch, 1976; 1983; Tesch and Lindeberg, 1984), bicycle ergometry (Bergh et al., 1976; Pendergast et al., 1979; Pyke et al., 1973; Tesch et al., 1976), treadmill running (Sidney and Shephard 1973; Tesch, 1983; Tesch et al., 1976) and combined activity of the legs and arms (Bergh et al., 1976; Hahn et al., 1988; Pendergast et al., 1979). The effects of proportion of muscle used must be taken into account when discussing kayak paddler performance.

Although a number of testing methods have been preformed, the ideal method of testing is to measure oxy- gen consumption on the water. Six male Swedish sprint kayakers of Olympic standard were reported to reach a peak oxygen uptake of 4.67 L·min-1 during an on water 1000m race (Tesch, 1983). In another study by van Someren et al. (1999) 9 well trained kayak paddlers pro- duced an average peak value of 4.27 L·min-1 for VO2 for the same race distance at maximal effort, lower than the 4.71 L·min-1 and 4. 67 L·min-1 reported when measuring elite Swedish kayak paddlers (Tesch et al., 1976 and Tesch, 1983 respectively). Considering that all studies examined paddlers during maximal efforts, it was specu- lated that the differences observed were a result of the subject characteristics in the study by van Someren et al. (1999). The subject population were not of elite standard and one could argue they were at a lower skill and condi- tioning level.

Findings by Fry and Morton (1991) further support van Someren et al. (1999). It can therefore be assumed from these results presented that the more skilled paddlers are more likely to obtain a greater peak rate of oxygen consumption. Studying 38 kayak paddlers from the West- ern Australian championships, Fry and Morton (1991) classified the paddlers as either state team paddlers and non-state team members based on an objective selection policy, including performance time and position. Using a Monarch mechanically braked bicycle ergometer mounted on a kayak frame, the VO2peak values for the subjects were determined using a progressive test to exhaustion. The mean VO2peak values for the state team kayakers reached 4.78 L·min-1, a value significantly higher than the mean VO2peak for the non-state team paddlers (3.87 L·min-1). However, when maximal oxygen consumption was expressed in ml·kg-1·min-1, although remaining higher, there was no significant difference between the state and non-state team paddlers. Bishop (2000) explains that while a large aerobic power is very important, an- thropometric characteristics can also influence perform- ance. Paddlers of the state team were found to be slightly heavier and taller than the less successful paddlers. Sig- nificant strength differences and reduced, but not signifi- cant skinfold measurements, were also found to be asso- ciated with the state team members. To account for the difference in oxygen consumption, Fry and Morton (1991) suggested that the aerobic power to weight ratio is not as important for kayak success as absolute aerobic power. This implies that the kayaker can afford to be large without detriment to success provided they can produce high levels of aerobic power.


A potential confounder to the suggestion from Fry and Morton (1991) above is that no measures of technique or skill, other than time to complete the task, were re- corded. One could argue that on the basis of rowing stud- ies by Smith and Loschner (2000) skilled kayak paddlers are better able to minimise any excess body movements within the kayak to provide a more powerful and efficient stroke compared to their sub-elite counterparts. Rowing studies, such as Loschner et al. (2000) and Smith and Loschner (2000) have analysed the movement of a rowing scull and found the amount of yaw (sideways deviation), pitch (bobbing movement) and roll (roll of the boat from side to side) induced in the boat by a rower affected the efficiency of boat propulsion and hence influenced the velocity of the rowing scull. Considering the complex nature of kayaking, this could potentially manifest as a change in oxygen consumption of the athlete if differ- ences in technique are assumed between performance level and would be a fertile area of future investigation.

V O 2 p e a k o f k a y a k e r s v s o t h e r s s p o r t Maximal measures of oxygen uptake are typically deter- mined in a laboratory during treadmill running or pedal- ling a cycle ergometer. However, athletes who are pre- dominantly involved in upper-body work may not be accustomed to this form of exercise. Consequently, test- ing the lower body is potentially inappropriate as it is not specific to the trained task of the athlete and as a result the performance may not elicit optimal results of VO2peak. Stromme et al. (1977) determined the VO2peak of cross- country skiers, rowers and cyclists during uphill running on a treadmill and during maximal performance on their specific sport activity. All athletes attained higher levels of VO2peak during their specific sport activity than during treadmill running (male and female skiers: 2.9% and 3.1%, respectively, p < 0.001, rowers: 4.2%, cyclists: 5.6%, respectively, p < 0.01). s

Although the absolute values of peak VO2 for kay- aking have been described to be quite high (Tesch, 1983), they are not quite as high as other sporting events such as road cycling, rowing or running (Table 3). An apparent difference is also evident when examining VO2peak in relative units among the different sporting disciplines. A number of researchers (Fry and Morton, 1991; Hahn et al., 1988; Tesch, 1983; van Someren and Oliver, 2001) have suggested values of the relative VO2peak for kayak- ing (58 ml·kg-1·min-1) compare favourably with water sports such as swimming (58.4 ml·kg-1·min-1; Roels et al., 2005). However in sporting activities where the lower body is the main source of energy output, such as road cycling and distance running, values tend to be around 73 m l · k g - 1 · m i n - 1 ( B i l l a t e t a l . , 1 9 9 6 , L e e e t a l . , 2 0 0 2 ) a n d 7 4 m l · k g - 1 · m i n - 1 ( L u c i a e t a l . , 1 9 9 9 ) , m u c h h i g h e r t reported for kayaking. Similarly in rowing, although the peak absolute VO2 of rowers compared favourably with the results obtained for road cycling and middle distance runners (~5-6 L·min-1), when the VO2 was expressed in relative units (~64 ml·kg-1·min-1) these were not quite as high as the mean values obtained for the other endurance type athletes mentioned above. The differences may be explained by the fact that generally, long distance runners h a n t h o s e

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