The role of incline, performance level, and gender on the gross mechanical efficiency of roller ski skating

Oyvind Sandbakk, Ann Magdalen Hegge, Gertjan Ettema
Frontiers in Physiology 2013, 4: 293
The ability to efficiently utilize metabolic energy to produce work is a key factor for endurance performance. The present study investigated the effects of incline, performance level, and gender on the gross mechanical efficiency during roller ski skating. Thirty-one male and nineteen female elite cross-country skiers performed a 5-min submaximal session at approximately 75% of VO2peak on a 5% inclined treadmill using the G3 skating technique. Thereafter, a 5-min session on a 12% incline using the G2 skating technique was performed at a similar work rate. Gross efficiency was calculated as the external work rate against rolling friction and gravity divided by the metabolic rate using gas exchange. Performance level was determined by the amount of skating FIS points [the Federation of International Skiing (FIS) approved scoring system for ski racing] where fewer points indicate a higher performance level. Strong significant correlations between work rate and metabolic rate within both inclines and gender were revealed (r = -0.89 to 0.98 and P < 0.05 in all cases). Gross efficiency was higher at the steeper incline, both for men (17.1 ± 0.4 vs. 15.8 ± 0.5%, P < 0.05) and women (16.9 ± 0.5 vs. 15.7 ± 0.4%, P < 0.05), but without any gender differences being apparent. Significant correlations between gross efficiency and performance level were found for both inclines and genders (r = -0.65 to 0.81 and P < 0.05 in all cases). The current study demonstrated that cross-country skiers of both genders used less metabolic energy to perform the same amount of work at steeper inclines, and that the better ranked elite male and female skiers skied more efficiently.

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