Energy cost of different skating techniques in cross-country skiing

Gregoire P Millet, Denis Boissiere, Robin Candau
Journal of Sports Sciences 2003, 21 (1): 3-11
The aims of this study were to compare the aerobic energy cost of four 'on-snow' skating techniques in cross-country skiing and to examine the relationships between performance and aerobic energy cost. Twelve male skiers from recreational to national standard performed four level skating trials of 6 min duration in random order, each at the same submaximal velocity but with a different skating technique: (1) 'offset' (V1), using a double asymmetrical and asynchronous pole plant as weight is transferred to one ski; (2) 'two-skate' (V2A), where the pole plant is symmetrical; (3) 'one-skate' (V2), where there is a pole plant as weight is transferred to each ski; and (4) 'conventional', without poles. Oxygen uptake (VO2), pulmonary ventilation, the respiratory exchange ratio and heart rate were measured using a K4(b2) portable gas analyser. The aerobic energy cost (VO2/mean speed) and heart rate were higher (P < 0.05) in the one-skate than in the offset condition. This may be explained by the greater and more efficient use of the upper body and the lower variation in centre of gravity velocity in the offset condition. The aerobic energy cost was 5-9% higher (P < 0.01) in the conventional than in the other techniques, probably because of the shorter duration of propulsive forces within a cycle in the conventional skating condition. Moreover, in ski skating, the mechanical efficiency (propulsive forces/total forces) was shown to be higher in the upper than in the lower limbs. The correlation coefficient between performance and aerobic energy cost was significant in the two-skate (r = 0.68, P = 0.02), one-skate (r = 0.72, P = 0.01) and conventional (r = 0.62, P = 0.04) conditions, but not in the offset condition (r = 0.50, P = 0.10). Our results stress the importance of the upper body component in cross-country skiing and that the aerobic energy cost discriminates between skiers of different standards.

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