Relationships between body composition, body dimensions, and peak speed in cross-country sprint skiing

Thomas Stoggl, Jonas Enqvist, Erich Muller, Hans-Christer Holmberg
Journal of Sports Sciences 2010, 28 (2): 161-9
In modern sprint cross-country skiing, strength and maximal speed are major determinants of performance. The aims of this study were to ascertain the anthropometric characteristics of world-class sprint skiers and to evaluate whether a specific body composition and/or body dimension characterizes a successful sprint skier. Our hypothesis was that body height and lean body mass are related to peak speed in double poling and diagonal stride. Fourteen male national and international elite skiers performed two peak speed tests in double poling and diagonal stride roller skiing on a treadmill and were analysed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to determine body composition and body dimensions. Relative pole length was positively correlated with both techniques (double poling: r = 0.77, P < 0.01; diagonal stride: r = 0.60, P < 0.05) and was the only variable that was part of the multiple regression model for both double poling and diagonal stride peak speed. Body height was not correlated with any technique, whereas lean trunk mass (r = 0.75, P < 0.01), body mass index (r = 0.66, P < 0.01), total lean mass (r = 0.69, P < 0.01), and body mass (r = 0.57, P < 0.05) were positively related to double poling peak speed. Total lean mass (absolute: r = 0.58, P < 0.05; relative: r = 0.76, P < 0.001) and relative lean mass of the trunk, arms (both r = 0.72, P < 0.01), and legs (r = 0.54, P < 0.05) were positively related to diagonal stride peak speed. In conclusion, skiers should aim to achieve a body composition with a high percentage of lean mass and low fat mass. A focus on trunk mass through increased muscle mass appears to be important, especially for double poling. The use of longer poles (percent body height) seems to be advantageous for both double poling and diagonal stride peak speed, whereas body dimensions do not appear to be a predictive factor.

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