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Nicki Winfield Almquist, Gertjan Ettema, James Hopker, Øyvind Sandbakk, and Bent R. Rønnestad

Background: Cycling competitions are often of long duration and include repeated high-intensity efforts. Purpose: To investigate the effect of repeated maximal sprints during 4 hours of low-intensity cycling on gross efficiency (GE), electromyography patterns, and pedaling technique compared with work-matched low-intensity cycling in elite cyclists. Methods: Twelve elite, male cyclists performed 4 hours of cycling at 50% of maximal oxygen uptake either with 3 sets of 3 × 30-second maximal sprints (E&S) during the first 3 hours or a work-matched cycling without sprints (E) in a randomized order. Oxygen uptake, electromyography, and pedaling technique were recorded throughout the exercises. Results: GE was reduced from start to the end of exercise in both conditions (E&S: 19.0 [0.2] vs 18.1 [0.2], E: 19.1% [0.2%] vs 18.1% [0.2%], both P = .001), with no difference in change between conditions (condition × time interaction, P = .8). Integrated electromyography increased from start to end of exercise in m. vastus lateralis and m. vastus medialis (m. vastus medialis: 9.9 [2.4], m. vastus lateralis: 8.5 [4.0] mV, main effect of time: P < .001 and P = .03, respectively) and E&S increased less than E in m. vastus medialis (mean difference −3.3 [1.5] mV, main effect of condition: P = .03, interaction, P = .06). The mechanical effectiveness only decreased in E&S (E&S: −2.2 [0.7], effect size = 0.24 vs E: −1.3 [0.8] percentage points: P = .04 and P = .8, respectively). The mean power output during each set of 3 × 30-second sprints in E&S did not differ (P = .6). Conclusions: GE decreases as a function of time during 4 hours of low-intensity cycling. However, the inclusion of maximal repeated sprinting does not affect the GE changes, and the ability to sprint is maintained throughout the entire session.

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Madison Taylor, Nicki Almquist, Bent Rønnestad, Arnt Erik Tjønna, Morten Kristoffersen, Matt Spencer, Øyvind Sandbakk, and Knut Skovereng

Purpose: To investigate the effects of including repeated sprints in a weekly low-intensity (LIT) session during a 3-week transition period on cycling performance 6 weeks into the subsequent preparatory period (PREP) in elite cyclists. Methods: Eleven elite male cyclists (age = 22.0 [3.8] y, body mass = 73.0 [5.8] kg, height = 186 [7] cm, maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max] = 5469 [384] mL·min−1) reduced their training load by 64% and performed only LIT sessions (CON, n = 6) or included 3 sets of 3 × 30-second maximal sprints in a weekly LIT session (SPR, n = 5) during a 3-week transition period. There was no difference in the reduction in training load during the transition period between groups. Physiological and performance measures were compared between the end of the competitive period and 6 weeks into the PREP. Results: SPR demonstrated a 7.3% (7.2%) improvement in mean power output during a 20-minute all-out test at PREP, which was greater than CON (−1.3% [4.6%]) (P = .048). SPR had a corresponding 7.0% (3.6%) improvement in average VO2 during the 20-minute all-out test, which was larger than the 0.7% (6.0%) change in CON (P = .042). No change in VO2max, gross efficiency, or power output at blood lactate concentration of 4 mmol·L−1 from competitive period to PREP occurred in either group. Conclusion: Including sprints in a weekly LIT session during the transition period of elite cyclists provided a performance advantage 6 weeks into the subsequent PREP, which coincided with a higher performance VO2.