Gender differences in power production, energetic capacity and efficiency of elite cross‑country skiers during whole‑body, upper‑body, and arm poling

Ann Magdalen Hegge, Elias Bucher, Gertjan Ettema, Oliver Faude, Hans-Christer Holmberg, Øyvind Sandbakk
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2016, 116 (2): 291-300

PURPOSE: To characterize gender differences in power output, energetic capacity and exercise efficiency during whole-body (WP), upper-body (UP), and arm poling (AP).

METHODS: Ten male and ten female elite cross-country skiers, matched for international performance level, completed three incremental submaximal tests and a 3-min self-paced performance test on a Concept2 SkiErg. Power output, cardiorespiratory and kinematic variables were monitored. Body composition was determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

RESULTS: The men demonstrated 87, 97 and 103% higher power output, and 51, 65 and 71% higher VO2peak (L min(−1)) than the women during WP, UP and AP, respectively, while utilizing ~10% more of their running VO2max in all modes (all P < 0.001). The men had 35, 38 and 59% more lean mass in the whole body, upper body and arms (all P < 0.001). The men exhibited greater shoulder and elbow extension at the start of poling and greater trunk flexion at the end of poling (all P < 0.05). The relationship between VO2 and power output did not differ between the men and women.

CONCLUSIONS: Gender differences in power production and peak aerobic capacity increased sequentially from WP to UP to AP, coinciding with a greater portion of the muscle mass in the arms of the men. Although the men and women employed each poling technique differently, the estimated efficiency of double poling was independent of gender.

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