Muscle Fiber Typology and Its Association With Start and Turn Performance in Elite Swimmers

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To determine the association between estimated muscle fiber typology and the start and turn phases of elite swimmers during competition. Methods: International and national competition racing performance was analyzed from 21 female (FINA points = 894 ± 39: 104.5 ± 1.8% world record ratio [WRR]) and 25 male (FINA points = 885 ± 54: 104.8 ± 2.1% WRR) elite swimmers. The start, turn, and turn out times were determined from each of the swimmers’ career best performance times (FINA points = 889 ± 48: 104.7 ± 2.0% WRR). Muscle carnosine concentration was quantified by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the gastrocnemius and soleus and was expressed as a carnosine aggregate z score relative to an age- and gender-matched nonathlete control group to estimate muscle fiber typology. Linear mixed models were employed to determine the association between muscle fiber typology and the start and turn times. Results: While there was no significant influence of carnosine aggregate z score on the start and turn times when all strokes and distance events were entered into the model, the swimmers with a higher carnosine aggregate z score (ie, faster muscle typology) had a significantly faster start time in 100-m events compared with the swimmers with a lower carnosine aggregate z score (P = .02, F = 5.825). The start and turn times were significantly faster in the male compared with the female swimmers in the 100-m events compared with other distances, and between the 4 different swimming strokes (P < .001). Conclusion: This study suggests that start times in sprint events are partly determined (and limited) by muscle fiber typology, which is highly relevant when ∼12% of the overall performance time is determined from the start time.

Mallett, Bellinger, and Minahan are with the Griffith Sports Science, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia. Mallett and Bellinger are also with the Queensland Academy of Sport, Nathan, QLD, Australia. Mallett is also with the School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia. Derave and Lievens are with the Dept of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Kennedy and Rice are with the Qscan Radiology, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Mallett (adam.mallett@griffithuni.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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