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Paavo V. Komi and Antti Mero

A two-dimensional film analysis was performed on five men and six women finalists in the javelin throw of the Los Angeles Olympic Games of 1984. In addition to the great interindividual variation in the measured kinematic and kinetic parameters, the results indicated that in men the winner had the highest release velocity of javelin (29.12 m × s−1), and that a significant (p < .01) relationship could be obtained between the release velocity and throwing distance. Despite great variation in throwing distance in women (55.88 m - 69.56 m) the release velocities were in relatively small range (20.73 m × s−1 - 23.62 m × s−1). High impact loading was specific to the last foot contact on the ground. It was characterized by a short duration (0.032 s) and high velocity knee flexion (12.66 ± 2.11 and 12.27 ± 3.81 rad × s−1, respectively, for men and women). The respective knee extension velocities averaged 5.80 ± 2.00 and 7.60 + 5.17 rad × s−1. Despite the fact that a small number of analyzed world-class throws revealed only some biomechanical differences between good and poorer performance, the results can be used to identify some new criteria for successful performance in javelin throw.

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Antti Mero and Paavo V. Komi

The effects of running at supramaximal velocity on biomechanical variables were studied in 13 male and 9 female sprinters. Cinematographical analysis was employed to investigate the biomechanics of the running technique. In supramaximal running the velocity increased by 8.5%, stride rate by 1.7%, and stride length by 6.8% over that of the normal maximal running. The elite male sprinters increased their stride rate significantly but did not increase their stride length. The major biomechanical differences between supramaximal and maximal running occurred during the contact phase. In supramaximal running the inclination of the ground shank at the beginning of eccentric phase was more "braking" and the angle of the ground knee was greater. During the ground contact phase, the maximal horizontal velocity of the swinging thigh was faster. The duration of the contact phase was shorter and the flight phase was longer in the supramaximal run as compared to the maximal run. It was concluded that in supramaximal effort it is possible to run at a higher stride rate than in maximal running. Data suggest that supramaximal sprinting can be beneficial in preparing for competition and as an additional stimulus for the neuromuscular system during training. This may result in adaptation of the neuromuscular system to a higher performance level.

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Antti Mero and Paavo V. Komi

This study was undertaken to compare force-time characteristics, muscle power, and electromyographic (EMG) activities of the leg muscles in maximal sprinting and in selected bounding and jumping exercises. Seven male sprinters performed maximal bounding (MB), maximal stepping (MS), maximal hopping with the right (MHR) and left (MHL) legs, and maximal sprint running (MR). These “horizontal” exercises and running were performed on a force platform. EMG activity was telemetered unilaterally from five leg muscles during each trial. The results indicated significant (p < .001) differences among the studied exercises in velocity, stride length, stride rate, flight time, and contact time. Also, significant differences were noticed in reactive forces (p < .01-.001) and power (p < .01) among the performances, whereas only insignificant differences were observed in EMG patterns. The average resultant forces during the braking and propulsion phases in MS, MHR, and MHL were greater (p < .001) than in MR and MB. Stepping and hopping are cyclic and sprint-specific and may be used as strength exercises for sprinters because of great strength demand.

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Mero Antti, Paavo V. Komi, Tapio Korjus, Enrique Navarro and Robert J. Gregor

This study investigated body segment contributions to javelin throwing during the last thrust phases. A 3-D analysis was performed on male and female javelin throwers during the finals of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The subjects were videotaped from the right sight of the throwing area by two NAC high-speed cameras operating at 100 frames per second. Both men’s and women’s grip of javelin and body center of mass displayed a curved pathway to the right from the left (bracing) foot during the final foot contact. The position of the body center of mass decreased at the beginning of the final foot contact, but after the decrease period it began to increase. Simultaneously with the increase, the peak joint center speeds occurred in a proper sequence from proximal to distal segments and finally to the javelin at release. Release speed correlated significantly with throwing distance in both male and females.

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Marko T. Korhonen, Harri Suominen, Jukka T. Viitasalo, Tuomas Liikavainio, Markku Alen and Antti A. Mero

Eighteen young (23 ± 4 yr) and 25 older (70 ± 4 yr) male sprinters were examined for ground reaction force (GRF) and temporal-spatial variables. The data were collected during maximum-speed phase, and variability and symmetry indices were calculated from a total of 8 steps. There was little variation (CV < 6%) in vertical and resultant GRF and kinematic variables, while impact loading had high variability (CV: 10–21%). Overall, the pattern of variability was similar in both groups. Yet, a small but significant age-related increase in CV was evident in horizontal GRFs. There was a variable-specific asymmetry between legs but it was not related to leg dominance. No age differences existed in the symmetry indices. Results indicate that only selected force platform variables are symmetric and repeatable enough so that their use for comparison purposes is appropriate. Data also suggest that aging may increase variability in certain biomechanical measures, whereas symmetry is not affected by age.

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Ida A. Heikura, Louise M. Burke, Antti A. Mero, Arja Leena Tuulia Uusitalo and Trent Stellingwerff

We investigated one week of dietary microperiodization in elite female (n = 23) and male (n = 15) runners and race-walkers by examining the frequency of training sessions and recovery periods conducted with recommended carbohydrate (CHO) and protein availability. Food and training diaries were recorded in relation to HARD (intense or >90min sessions; KEY) versus RECOVERY days (other-than KEY sessions; EASY). The targets for amount and timing of CHO and protein around KEY sessions were based on current nutrition recommendations. Relative daily energy and CHO intake was significantly (p < .05) higher in males (224 ± 26 kJ/kg/d, 7.3 ± 1.4 g/kg/d CHO) than females (204 ± 29 kJ/kg/d, 6.2 ± 1.1 g/kg/d CHO) on HARD days. However, when adjusted for training volume (km), there was no sex-based difference in CHO intake daily (HARD: 0.42 ± 0.14 vs 0.39 ± 0.15 g/kg/km). Females appeared to periodize energy and protein intake with greater intakes on HARD training days (204 ± 29 vs 187 ± 35 kJ/kg/d, p = .004; 2.0 ± 0.3 vs 1.9 ± 0.3 g/kg/d protein, p = .013), while males did not periodize intakes. Females showed a pattern of periodization of postexercise CHO for KEY vs EASY (0.9 ± 0.4 vs 0.5 ± 0.3 g/kg; p < .05) while males had higher intakes but only modest periodization (1.3 ± 0.9 vs 1.0 ± 0.4; p = .32). There was only modest evidence from female athletes of systematic microperiodization of eating patterns to meet contemporary sports nutrition guidelines. While this pattern of periodization was absent in males, in general they consumed more energy and CHO daily and around training sessions compared with females. Elite endurance athletes do not seem to systematically follow the most recent sports nutrition guidelines of periodized nutrition.

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Ida A. Heikura, Trent Stellingwerff, Antti A. Mero, Arja Leena Tuulia Uusitalo and Louise M. Burke

Contemporary nutrition guidelines promote a variety of periodized and time-sensitive recommendations, but current information regarding the knowledge and practice of these strategies among world-class athletes is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate this theme by implementing a questionnaire on dietary periodization practices in national/international level female (n = 27) and male (n = 21) middle- and long-distance runners/race-walkers. The questionnaire aimed to gain information on between and within-day dietary choices, as well as timing of pre- and posttraining meals and practices of training with low or high carbohydrate (CHO) availability. Data are shown as percentage (%) of all athletes, with differences in responses between subgroups (sex or event) shown as Chi-square x2 when p < .05. Nearly two-thirds of all athletes reported that they aim to eat more food on, or after, hard training days. Most athletes said they focus on adequate fueling (96%) and adequate CHO and protein (PRO) recovery (87%) around key sessions. Twenty-six percent of athletes (11% of middle vs 42% of long-distance athletes [x 2 (1, n = 46) = 4.308, p = .038, phi = 0.3])) reported to undertake training in the fasted state, while 11% said they periodically restrict CHO intake, with 30% ingesting CHO during training sessions. Our findings show that elite endurance athletes appear to execute pre- and post-key session nutrition recovery recommendations. However, very few athletes deliberately undertake some contemporary dietary periodization approaches, such as training in the fasted state or periodically restricting CHO intake. This study suggests mismatches between athlete practice and current and developing sports nutrition guidelines.

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Ida A. Heikura, Louise M. Burke, Dan Bergland, Arja L.T. Uusitalo, Antti A. Mero and Trent Stellingwerff

Purpose: The authors investigated the effects of sex, energy availability (EA), and health status on the change in hemoglobin mass (ΔHbmass) in elite endurance athletes over ∼3–4 wk of live-high–train-high altitude training in Flagstaff, AZ (2135 m; n = 27 women; n = 21 men; 27% 2016 Olympians). Methods: Precamp and postcamp Hbmass (optimized carbon monoxide rebreathing method) and iron status were measured, EA was estimated via food and training logs, and a Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAFQ) and a general injury/illness questionnaire were completed. Hypoxic exposure (h) was calculated with low (<500 h), moderate (500–600 h), and high (>600 h) groupings. Results: Absolute and relative percentage ΔHbmass was significantly greater in women (6.2% [4.0%], P < .001) than men (3.2% [3.3%], P = .008). %ΔHbmass showed a dose–response with hypoxic exposure (3.1% [3.8%] vs 4.9% [3.8%] vs 6.8% [3.7%], P = .013). Hbmasspre was significantly higher in eumenorrheic vs amenorrheic women (12.2 [1.0] vs 11.3 [0.5] g/kg, P = .004). Although statistically underpowered, %ΔHbmass was significantly less in sick (n = 4, −0.5% [0.4%]) vs healthy (n = 44, 5.4% [3.8%], P < .001) athletes. There were no significant correlations between self-reported iron intake, sex hormones, or EA on Hbmass outcomes. However, there was a trend for a negative correlation between LEAFQ score and %ΔHbmass (r = −.353, P = .07). Conclusions: The findings confirm the importance of baseline Hbmass and exposure to hypoxia on increases in Hbmass during altitude training, while emphasizing the importance of athlete health and indices of EA on an optimal baseline Hbmass and hematological response to hypoxia.

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Ida A. Heikura, Arja L.T. Uusitalo, Trent Stellingwerff, Dan Bergland, Antti A. Mero and Louise M. Burke

We aimed to (a) report energy availability (EA), metabolic/reproductive function, bone mineral density, and injury/illness rates in national/world-class female and male distance athletes and (b) investigate the robustness of various diagnostic criteria from the Female Athlete Triad (Triad), Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire, and relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) tools to identify risks associated with low EA. Athletes were distinguished according to benchmarks of reproductive function (amenorrheic [n = 13] vs. eumenorrheic [n = 22], low [lowest quartile of reference range; n = 10] versus normal testosterone [n = 14]), and EA calculated from 7-day food and training diaries (< or >30 kcal·kg−1 fat-free mass·day−1). Sex hormones (p < .001), triiodothyronine (p < .05), and bone mineral density (females, p < .05) were significantly lower in amenorrheic (37%) and low testosterone (40%; 15.1 ± 3.0 nmol/L) athletes, and bone injuries were ∼4.5-fold more prevalent in amenorrheic (effect size = 0.85, large) and low testosterone (effect size = 0.52, moderate) groups compared with others. Categorization of females and males using Triad or RED-S tools revealed that higher risk groups had significantly lower triiodothyronine (female and male Triad and RED-S: p < .05) and higher number of all-time fractures (male Triad: p < .001; male RED-S and female Triad: p < .01) as well as nonsignificant but markedly (up to 10-fold) higher number of training days lost to bone injuries during the preceding year. Based on the cross-sectional analysis, current reproductive function (questionnaires/blood hormone concentrations) appears to provide a more objective and accurate marker of optimal energy for health than the more error-prone and time-consuming dietary and training estimation of EA. This study also offers novel findings that athlete health is associated with EA indices.