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The Role of Sport Science in the New Age of Digital Sport

Øyvind Sandbakk

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The Evolution of Champion Cross-Country-Skier Training: From Lumberjacks to Professional Athletes

Øyvind Sandbakk

Competitive cross-country (XC) skiing has traditions extending back to the mid-19th century and was included as a men’s event in the first Winter Games in 1924. Since then, tremendous improvements in equipment, track preparation, and knowledge about training have prompted greater increases in XC-skiing speeds than in any other Olympic sport. In response, this commentary focuses on how the training of successful XC skiers has evolved, with interviews and training data from surviving Norwegian world and Olympic XC champions as primary sources. Before 1970, most male champion XC skiers were lumberjacks who ran or skied long distances to and from felling areas while working long days in the woods. In addition, they trained as much as possible, with increased intensity during the autumn, while less work but more ski-specific training and competitions were done during the winter. Until the 1970s, few XC skiers were women, whom coaches believed tolerated less training than men did. Today’s XC skiers are less physically active, but the influence of both science and the systematic approaches of former athletes and coaches have gradually taught XC skiers to adopt smarter, more goal-oriented training practices. Although the very high VO2max of world-class XC skiers has remained the same since the 1960s, new events in modern XC skiing have additionally required superior upper-body power, high-speed techniques, and tactical flexibility. These elements also emerge in the training of today’s best skiers; women’s physiological capacities and training routines especially seem to have improved dramatically.

Open access

Go Above and Beyond, Create the Future of Sport Science

Øyvind Sandbakk

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Let’s Close the Gap Between Research and Practice to Discover New Land Together!

Øyvind Sandbakk

Free access

Work–Life Balance Among Sport Scientists and Coaches: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Øyvind Sandbakk

Free access

Do We Ask the Right Questions and Use Appropriate Methodologies to Answer Them?

Øyvind Sandbakk

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A Reappraisal of Success Factors for Olympic Cross-Country Skiing

Øyvind Sandbakk and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Cross-country (XC) skiing has been an Olympic event since the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Due to more effective training and tremendous improvements in equipment and track preparation, the speed of Olympic XC-ski races has increased more than that of any other Olympic endurance sport. Moreover, pursuit, mass-start, and sprint races have been introduced. Indeed, 10 of the 12 current Olympic competitions in XC skiing involve mass starts, in which tactics play a major role and the outcome is often decided in the final sprint. Accordingly, reappraisal of the success factors for performance in this context is required. The very high aerobic capacity (VO2max) of many of today’s world-class skiers is similar that of their predecessors. At the same time, the new events provide more opportunities to profit from anaerobic capacity, upper-body power, high-speed techniques, and “tactical flexibility.” The wide range of speeds and slopes involved in XC skiing requires skiers to continuously alternate between and adapt different subtechniques during a race. This technical complexity places a premium on efficiency. The relative amounts of endurance training performed at different levels of intensity have remained essentially constant during the past 4 decades. However, in preparation for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, XC skiers are performing more endurance training on roller skis on competition-specific terrain, placing greater focus on upper-body power and more systematically performing strength training and skiing at high speeds than previously.

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Physiological Capacity and Training Routines of Elite Cross-Country Skiers: Approaching the Upper Limits of Human Endurance

Øyvind Sandbakk and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Cross-country (XC) skiing is one of the most demanding of endurance sports, involving protracted competitions on varying terrain employing a variety of skiing techniques that require upper- and/or lower-body work to different extents. Through more effective training and extensive improvements in equipment and track preparation, the speed of cross-country ski races has increased more than that of any other winter Olympic sport, and, in addition, new types of racing events have been introduced. To a certain extent this has altered the optimal physiological capacity required to win, and the training routines of successful skiers have evolved accordingly. The long-standing tradition of researchers working closely with XC-ski coaches and athletes to monitor progress, improve training, and refine skiing techniques has provided unique physiological insights revealing how these athletes are approaching the upper limits of human endurance. This review summarizes current scientific knowledge concerning the demands involved in elite XC skiing, as well as the physiological capacity and training routines of the best athletes.

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Laboratory Determinants of Repeated-Sprint and Sport-Specific-Technique Ability in World-Class Ice Sledge Hockey Players

Julia Kathrin Baumgart and Øyvind Sandbakk

Purpose:

To investigate on-ice repeated-sprint and sports-specific-technique abilities and the relationships to aerobic and anaerobic off-ice capacities in world-class ice sledge hockey players.

Methods:

Twelve Norwegian national team players performed 8 repeated maximal 30-m sprints and a sports-specific-technique test while upper-body poling on ice, followed by 4 maximal upper-body strength tests and 8-s peak power and 3-min peak aerobic-capacity (VO2peak) tests while ergometer poling.

Results:

The fastest 30-m sprint time was 6.5 ± 0.4 s, the fastest initial 10-m split-time 2.9 ± 0.2 s, and the corresponding power output 212 ± 37 W. Average 30-m time during the 8 repeated sprints was 6.7 ± 0.4 s, and the sprint-time decrement was 4.3% ± 1.8%. Time to execute the sport-specific-technique test was 25.6 ± 2.7 s. Averaged 1-repetition-maximum strength of the 4 exercises correlated with the fastest 30-m sprint time (r = –.77), the fastest initial 10-m split time (r = –.72), the corresponding power output (r = .67), and the average 30-m sprint time (r = –.84) (all P < .05). Peak power of the 8-s ergometer sprint test correlated with the highest initial 10-m power (r = .83, P < .01) and the average 30-m sprint time (r = –.68, P < .05). Average 3-min ergometer power (r = –.86, P < .01) and VO2peak (r = –.67, P < .05) correlated with the sprint-time decrement. All off-ice variables except VO2peak correlated with technique-test time (r = –.58 to .73, all P < .05).

Conclusion:

Maximal strength and power are associated with the ability to sprint fast and rapid execution of a technically complex test, whereas mode-specific endurance capacity is particularly important for maintenance of sprint ability in ice sledge hockey.

Restricted access

The Influence of Exercise Modality on Training Load Management

Øyvind Sandbakk, Thomas Haugen, and Gertjan Ettema

Purpose: To provide novel insight regarding the influence of exercise modality on training load management by (1) providing a theoretical framework for the impact of physiological and biomechanical mechanisms associated with different exercise modalities on training load management in endurance exercise and (2) comparing effort-matched low-intensity training sessions performed by top-level athletes in endurance sports with similar energy demands. Practical Applications and Conclusions: The ability to perform endurance training with manageable muscular loads and low injury risks in different exercise modalities is influenced both by mechanical factors and by muscular state and coordination, which interrelate in optimizing power production while reducing friction and/or drag. Consequently, the choice of exercise modality in endurance training influences effort beyond commonly used external and internal load measurements and should be considered alongside duration, frequency, and intensity when managing training load. By comparing effort-matched low- to moderate-intensity sessions performed by top-level athletes in endurance sports, this study exemplifies how endurance exercise with varying modalities leads to different tolerable volumes. For example, the weight-bearing exercise and high-impact forces in long-distance running put high loads on muscles and tendons, leading to relatively low training volume tolerance. In speed skating, the flexed knee and hip position required for effective speed skating leads to occlusion of thighs and low volume tolerance. In contrast, the non-weight-bearing, low-contraction exercises in cycling or swimming allow for large volumes in the specific exercise modalities. Overall, these differences have major implications on training load management in sports.