ISCA Coach Education Program

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ISCA Certification is available for coaches that are ISCA members and also complete the six core science-based courses (Biomechanics 101 & 102, Physiology 101 & 102, and Sport Psychology 101 & 102). The science behind swimming is something that all coaches need to understand to be effective and successful–and we look forward to providing this crucial piece of education to coaches around the world.

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Endurance Athlete VO2max Adaptations with Dr. Arnt Erik Tjønna

Below is an interview with Dr. Arnt Erik Tjønna

Complete research by Dr. Arnt Erik Tjønna

Study discussed during interview

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

PhD. Arnt Erik Tjønna. Have been an athlete myself, competing in biathlon. Always been fascinating about the bodys response to exercise. Therefor I started on a bachelor in exercise physiology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in the late nineties. Still curious and eager to learn more I started the MSc in exercise physiology in 2001 and finished in 2003, with a project on maximal strength training in COPD patients. In 2004 I started my PhD at the Medical faculty at (NTNU) titled “Aerobic exercise and cardiovascular risk Factors in overweight and obese adolescents and adults”. Thereafter I have continued working at the same faculty as post-doctor and researcher. Today I am daily manager at NeXt Move Core facility and Researcher at Cardiac exercise research group (CERG). Main research is aerobic exercise effect upon cardiovascular risk factors. So in total I have 14 years in the field of exercise research, and still curiousJ

2. You recently published an article on VO2max in different athletes. What do we know about VO2 max adaptations and elite endurance performance, how well is the correlation?

It is well known that the group with highest VO2 max is elite endurance athletes. So, we can clearly say that the correlation here is good. And there has been shown that the highest measurements reported are in endurance athletes, involving mainly the sports: cross country skiing, cycling, long distance runners and biathlon. With the highest reported measurement starting at 97.5 ml·min·kg.

3. What did your study look at?

 The purpose of our study was to compare maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), blood volume (BV), hemoglobin mass (Hbmass), and brachial endothelial function, measured as flow mediated dilatation (FMD), in international level endurance athletes primarily exercising with the whole-body (cross-country skiing), lower-body (orienteering) or upper-body (flatwater kayak).

4. What were the results of your study?

Our study indicates a higher VO2 max in cross-country skiers and a greater arterial diameter in the arms of skiers and kayakers which are sport specific physiological adaptations to chronic endurance training in whole body and upper body exercise modes. However, the variations in these variables were not associated with BV or Hbmass.

5. Would you think endurance swimmers would have similarly high VO2 max adaptations due to the full body nature of swimming?

I have not performed any research on swimmers myself, although taking a quick search in the literature I see that the results of elite swimmers ranging from 70-80 ml·min·kg. Indicating that they also have a very high maximal oxygen uptake although not as high as the highest measurements reported. The reason for this will mostly be speculations, but it may be related to the duration of the exercise?vo2 max adaptations in athletes

6. What were the practical implications from your study?

The main practical implications from this study are to draw parallels between sports, which may be used to improve maximal oxygen uptake by using experience from other sports.

7. A lot of swimmers extrapolate VO2 max data from other sports, is this appropriate?

I have to say no to this question, and this also goes for other sports. Cause there has been quite a lot of data showing that one should aim for sport specific testing when handling athletes. Because of the movement pattern is different between for example swimming and running, meaning that other muscles are activated. The Textbook of work physiology (Åstrand, Rodahl, Dahl and Strømme) has illustrated this in a table.

8. What other questions exist between VO2 max and endurance performance?

There has for a long time been an ongoing debate regarding the most important factors limiting maximal oxygen uptake. Is it central factors (O2 delivery) or peripheral factors (skeletal muscle O2 extraction). I think that if you are going to be a top endurance athlete both factors need to be trained. Although it looks like the central factors (stroke volume of the heart) may play a more important role talking about maximal oxygen uptake.

9. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

At the moment I am PI of a large multicenter study, where we look at the intensity of aerobic endurance training and reduction of cardiovascular risk factors. Five large centers on three continents are involved in this study.

I also have smaller studies going on, also here involving intensity of exercise and cardiovascular risk factors.

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