The aim of this study was to quantify peak age and improvements over the preceding years to peak age in elite athletic contestants according to athlete performance level, sex, and discipline. Individual season bests for world-ranked top 100 athletes from 2002 to 2016 (14,937 athletes and 57,049 individual results) were downloaded from the International Association of Athletics Federations’ website. Individual performance trends were generated by fitting a quadratic curve separately to each athlete’s performance and age data using a linear modeling procedure. Mean peak age was typically 25–27 y, but somewhat higher for marathon and male throwers (∼28–29 y). Women reached greater peak age than men in the hurdles and middle- and long-distance running events (mean difference, ±90% CL: 0.6, ±0.3 to 1.9, ±0.3 y: small to moderate). Male throwers had greater peak age than corresponding women (1.3, ±0.3 y: small). Throwers displayed the greatest performance improvements over the 5 y prior to peak age (mean [SD]: 7.0% [2.9%]), clearly ahead of jumpers, long-distance runners, hurdlers, middle-distance runners, and sprinters (3.4, ±0.2% to 5.2, ±0.2%; moderate to large). Similarly, top 10 athletes showed greater improvements than top 11–100 athletes in all events (1.0, ±0.9% to 1.8, ±1.1%; small) except throws. Women improved more than men in all events (0.4, ±0.2% to 2.9, ±0.4%) except sprints. This study provides novel insight on performance development in athletic contestants that are useful for practitioners when setting goals and evaluating strategies for achieving success.
Thomas A. Haugen, Paul A. Solberg, Carl Foster, Ricardo Morán-Navarro, Felix Breitschädel and Will G. Hopkins
Thomas Haugen, Jørgen Danielsen, Leif Olav Alnes, David McGhie, Øyvind Sandbakk and Gertjan Ettema
Practitioners have, for many years, argued that athletic sprinters should optimize front-side mechanics (leg motions occurring in front of the extended line through the torso) and minimize back-side mechanics. This study aimed to investigate if variables related to front- and back-side mechanics can be distinguished from other previously highlighted kinematic variables (spatiotemporal variables and variables related to segment configuration and velocities at touchdown) in how they statistically predict performance. A total of 24 competitive sprinters (age: 23.1 [3.4] y, height: 1.81 [0.06] m, body mass: 75.7 [5.6] kg, and 100-m personal best: 10.86 [0.22] s) performed two 20-m starts from block and 2 to 3 flying sprints over 20 m. Kinematics were recorded in 3D using a motion tracking system with 21 cameras at a 250 Hz sampling rate. Several front- and back-side variables, including thigh (r = .64) and knee angle (r = .51) at lift-off and maximal thigh extension (r = .66), were largely correlated (P < .05) with accelerated running performance, and these variables displayed significantly higher correlations (P < .05) to accelerated running performance than nearly all the other analyzed variables. However, the relationship directions for most front- and back-side variables during accelerated running were opposite in comparison to how the theoretical concept has been described. Horizontal ankle velocity, contact time, and step rate displayed significantly higher correlation values to maximal velocity sprinting than the other variables (P < .05), and neither of the included front- and back-side variables were significantly associated with maximal velocity sprinting. Overall, the present findings did not support that front-side mechanics were crucial for sprint performance among the investigated sprinters.
Espen Tønnessen, Vegard Rasdal, Ida S. Svendsen, Thomas A. Haugen, Erlend Hem and Øyvind Sandbakk
Performing at an elite level in Nordic combined (NC) requires both the explosiveness required for ski jumping performance and the endurance capacity required for cross-country skiing.
To describe the characteristics of world-class NC athletes’ training and determine how endurance and non–endurance (ie, strength, power, and ski jumping) training is periodized.
Annual training characteristics and the periodization of endurance and non–endurance training were determined by analyzing the training diaries of 6 world-class NC athletes.
Of 846 ± 72 annual training hours, 540 ± 37 h were endurance training, with 88.6% being low-, 5.9% moderate-, and 5.5% high-intensity training. While training frequency remained relatively constant, the total training volume was reduced from the general preparatory to the competition phase, primarily due to less low- and moderate-intensity training (P < .05). A total of 236 ± 55 h/y were spent as non–endurance training, including 211 ± 44 h of power and ski-jump-specific training (908 ± 165 ski jumps and ski-jump imitations). The proportion of non–endurance training increased significantly toward the competition phase (P < .05).
World-class NC athletes reduce the volume of low- and moderate-intensity endurance training toward the competition phase, followed by an increase in the relative contribution of power and ski-jump training. These data provide novel insight on how successful athletes execute their training and may facilitate more-precise coaching of future athletes in this sport. In addition, this information is of high relevance for the training organization of other sports that require optimization of 2 fundamentally different physical capacities.
Espen Tønnessen, Thomas A. Haugen, Erlend Hem, Svein Leirstein and Stephen Seiler
To generate updated Olympic-medal benchmarks for V̇O2max in winter endurance disciplines, examine possible differences in V̇O2max between medalists and nonmedalists, and calculate gender difference in V̇O2max based on a homogeneous subset of world-leading endurance athletes.
The authors identified 111 athletes who participated in winter Olympic Games/World Championships in the period 1990 to 2013. All identified athletes tested V̇O2max at the Norwegian Olympic Training Center within ±1 y of their championship performance. Testing procedures were consistent throughout the entire period.
For medal-winning athletes, the following relative V̇O2max values (mean:95% confidence intervals) for men/women were observed (mL · min–1 · kg–1): 84:87-81/72:77-68 for cross-country distance skiing, 78:81-75/68:73-64 for cross-country sprint skiing, 81:84-78/67:73-61 for biathlon, and 77:80-75 for Nordic combined (men only). Similar benchmarks for absolute V̇O2max (L/min) in male/female athletes are 6.4:6.1-6.7/4.3:4.1-4.5 for cross-country distance skiers, 6.3:5.8-6.8/4.0:3.7-4.3 for cross-country sprint skiers, 6.2:5.7-6.4/4.0:3.7-4.3 for biathletes, and 5.3:5.0-5.5 for Nordic combined (men only). The difference in relative V̇O2max between medalists and nonmedalists was large for Nordic combined, moderate for cross-country distance and biathlon, and small/trivial for the other disciplines. Corresponding differences in absolute V̇O2max were small/trivial for all disciplines. Male cross-country medalists achieve 15% higher relative V̇O2max than corresponding women.
This study provides updated benchmark V̇O2max values for Olympic-medal-level performance in winter endurance disciplines and can serve as a guideline of the requirements for future elite athletes.
Paul A. Solberg, Will G. Hopkins, Gøran Paulsen and Thomas A. Haugen
Purpose: To quantify age of peak performance and performance improvements in the years preceding peak age in elite weightlifting and powerlifting athletes using results from powerlifting World Championships in 2003–2017 and weightlifting World Championships and Olympic Games in 1998–2017. Methods: Individual performance trends were derived by fitting a quadratic curve separately to each athlete’s performance and age data. Effects were evaluated using magnitude-based inferences. Results: Peak age (mean [SD]) was 35 (7) y for powerlifters and 26 (3) y for weightlifters, a large most likely substantial difference of 9, ±1 y (mean, 90% confidence limit). Men showed possibly higher peak age than women in weightlifting (0.8, ±0.7 y; small) and a possibly lower peak age in powerlifting (1.3, ±1.8 y; trivial). Peak age of athletes who ever won a medal was very likely less than that of nonmedalists in weightlifting (1.3, ±0.6 y; small), while the difference in powerlifters was trivial but unclear. Five-year improvements prior to peak age were 12% (10%) for powerlifters and 9% (7%) for weightlifters, a small possibly substantial difference (2.9, ±2.1%). Women exhibited possibly greater improvements than men in powerlifting (2.7, ±3.8%; small) and very likely greater in weightlifting (3.5, ±1.6%; small). Medalists possibly improved less than nonmedalists among powerlifters (−1.7, ±2.3%; small), while the difference was likely trivial for weightlifters (2.3, ±1.8%). Conclusion: These novel insights on performance development will be useful for practitioners evaluating strategies for achieving success.
Thomas A. Haugen, Espen Tønnessen, Erlend Hem, Svein Leirstein and Stephen Seiler
To quantify VO2max among female competitive soccer players as a function of performance level, field position, and age. In addition, the evolution of VO2max among world-class players over an 18-y period was quantified.
Female players (N = 199, 22 ± 4 y, 63 ± 6 kg, height 169 ± 6 cm), including an Olympic winning squad, were tested for VO2max at the Norwegian Olympic Training Center between 1989 and 2007.
National-team players had 5% higher VO2max than 1st-division players (P = .042, d = 0.4), 13% higher than 2nd-division players (P < .001, d = 1.2), and 9% higher than junior players (P = .005, d = 1.0). Midfielders had 8% higher VO2max than goalkeepers (P = .048, d = 1.1). No significant differences were observed across outfield players or different age categories. There was a trend toward lower relative VO2max across time epochs.
This study demonstrated that VO2max varies across playing-standard level in women’s soccer. No significant differences in VO2max were observed across outfield positions and age categories. Over time, there has been a slight negative development in VO2max among elite Norwegian soccer players.