Muscle oxygenation rather than VO2max as a strong predictor of performance in sprint canoe–Kayak


Purpose: To characterize the relationships between muscle oxygenation and performance during on- and off-water tests in highly trained sprint canoe–kayak athletes. Methods: A total of 30 athletes (19 kayakers and 11 canoeists) performed a maximal incremental test on a canoe or kayak ergometer for determination of VO2max and examination of the relation between peak power output (PPO) and physiological parameters. A subset of 21 athletes also performed a 200- and a 500- (for women) or 1000-m (for men) on-water time trial (TT). Near-infrared spectroscopy monitors were placed on the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and vastus lateralis during all tests to assess changes in muscle O2 saturation (SmO2) and deoxyhemoglobin concentration ([HHb]). The minimum O2 oxygenation (SmO2min) and maximal O2 ($Δ$[HHb] extraction) were calculated for all subjects. Results: PPO was most strongly correlated with VO2max (R = .9), but there was also a large correlation between PPO and both SmO2min and $Δ$[HHb] in latissimus dorsi (R = −.5, R = .6) and vastus lateralis (R = −.6, R = .6, all P < .05). Multiple regression showed that 90% of the variance in 200-m performance was explained by both $Δ$[HHb] and SmO2min in the 3 muscles combined (P < .01) and 71% of the variance in 500-/1000-m performance was explained by $Δ$[HHb] in the 3 muscles (P < .01). This suggests that O2 extraction is a better predictor of performance than VO2max in sprint canoe–kayak. Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of peripheral adaptations in both short and long events and stress the relevance of adding muscle oxygenation measurements during testing and racing in sprint canoe–kayak.

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance