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To review current cycling-related sport-science literature to formulate guidelines to classify female subject groups and to compare this classification system for female subject groups with the classification system for male subject groups.
A database of 82 papers that described female subject groups containing information on preexperimental maximal cycle-protocol designs, terminology, biometrical and physiological parameters, and cycling experience was analyzed. Subject groups were divided into performance levels (PLs), according to the nomenclature. Body mass, body-mass index, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), peak power output (PPO), and training status were compared between PLs and between female and male PLs.
Five female PLs were defined, representing untrained, active, trained, well-trained, and professional female subjects. VO2max and PPO significantly increased with PL, except for PL3 and PL4 (P < .01). For each PL, significant differences were observed in absolute and relative VO2max and PPO between male and female subject groups. Relative VO2max is the most cited parameter for female subject groups and is proposed as the principal parameter to classify the groups.
This systematic review shows the large variety in the description of female subject groups in the existing literature. The authors propose a standardized preexperimental testing protocol and guidelines to classify female subject groups into 5 PLs based on relative VO2max, relative PPO, training status, absolute VO2max, and absolute PPO.
Decroix, De Pauw, and Meeusen are with the Faculty of Physical Education and Physical Therapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Foster is with the Dept of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, La Crosse, WI.