Physiological differences and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) in professional, amateur and young cyclists

J Pérez-Landaluce, B Fernández-García, M Rodríguez-Alonso, F García-Herrero, P García-Zapico, A M Patterson, N Terrados
Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2002, 42 (4): 389-95

BACKGROUND: The aim of this study is to measure and compare the physiological characteristics and the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) in 72 high level road cyclists of 3 different categories.

METHODS: These cyclists were divided in 3 groups according to their age (24 professionals, mean age 26 years, 22 amateurs, 22 years and 26 juniors, 18 years).

MEASURES: they carried out a progressive test to exhaustion in a specific cycloergometer, starting with a power output of 100 watts and increasing 50 watts each 4 min. VO2 was measured continuously. At the end of each one of the 4 min steps the subject was asked about his RPE using the 6-20 Borg's scale.

RESULTS: Professional cyclists showed a VO2max, VO2 x kg(-1) and a maximum power output significant higher than other groups, while there were no significant differences between amateurs and juniors. VO2 and RPE were significantly different, in all the categories, during high work loads. No significant differences were found between RPE and %VO2max. RPE and heart rate (HR) were significantly different between professionals and juniors. RPE and %HR max were significantly different with low loads, but no with high loads. In the same way, RPE/w and RPE/(w x kg(-1) were significantly different in all categories.

CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that professional road cyclists reached a VO2max, VO2max x kg(-1) and a maximum power higher than the other categories; so, therefore, these parameters are good as performance indicators, and RPE is of practical value to prescribe exercise training intensities in each category.


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