Age-specific individual physical fitness markers for elite rowers under regular training

Dr.Biol. T.F. Abramova1
PhD T.M. Nikitina1
N.M. Yakutovich1
Dr.Hab. L.V. Tarasova1
PhD F.A. Iordanskaya1
1Russian Federal Research Center of Physical Culture and Sports (VNIIFK), Moscow

Keywords: age, skill level, morphological status, physical working capacity, energy supply system functionality.

Introduction. Previously, it was shown that, the rates of development of rowers’ fitness components are interrelated throughout the period of centralized training, and have a differentiated affect on their athletic performance, depending on their age and skill level, thus determining consistent development of the athletes’ functional system [1-4].

At different stages of centralized training, the sporting achievements in rowing are under a differentiated impact of the rowers’ physical fitness components. In particular, the influence of these components on sports results, which increases with age and growing sports skills, follows the same direction as the main energy supply systems develop in: "oxidizing system" – "aerobic-anaerobic system" – "lactacid system". At the same time, all training stages are characterized by a differentiated impact of the functional capacities of the cardiorespiratory system and strength training, forming a structural trace in the macromorphological structures of the body and a functional one in the displays of physical working capacity [4].

Objective of the study was to identify the common and age-specific individual physical fitness markers at all stages of centralized training of elite rowers.

Methods and structure of the study. In compliance with the main purpose of this study, we summarized the results of the integrated survey of elite rowers of different age groups. The experiment was conducted in the regular season of the annual training cycle, a week and a half after the qualifying competitions and 3-4 weeks before the start of the following competitions: European Championship - for young athletes, World Championship - for juniors; World Cup Stage III - for adult athletes. A total of 72 male athletes were examined – young, junior and adult athletes of the Russian national team (aged 17 to 33 years, qualifying period – 4-20 years, qualification – Class I to WCMS). The mean age and sport experience characteristics of the rowers were as follows: young males - 17.4 and 3.9 years; junior males - 20.2 and 8.5 years, adult athletes - 29.0 and 15.6 years, respectively. All athletes were allowed to sport practices and gave their informed consent for participation in the study.

The following standardized methods popular in sports practice were used: anthropometrical measurements, calipering; ergometry; gasometry; pulsometry, tonometry, biochemistry, isokinetic leg dynamometry. These methods were used to measure: total body sizes, leg length and arm span, muscle and fat body mass; maximum power; performance indices of the oxidizing system (maximum rate of oxygen consumption - VO2 max; minute ventilation - VE; FEO2; HR; VO2/Hr); indicators of aerobic-anaerobic performance (working power, oxygen consumption at anaerobic threshold (VO2AT), HR); power of lactacid system (blood lactate max), as well as force of thigh flexor/ extensor muscles (maximum force, strength endurance, speed strength).

Results and discussion. The comparative analysis of the physical fitness level of the rowers of different age groups (young, junior and adult) made it possible to identify the main features of formation of the selection and fitness criteria.

The morphological status revealed similar values ​​of the body length, leg length and arm span in the rowers of different age groups, thus indicating the basic significance of these indicators for assessing their fitness for successful rowing (Fig. 1). The labile body mass components - muscle and fat body mass (%) did not have any significant differences either (Fig. 2). The only morphological index - body mass - was significantly lower in the group of young males, while the differences between the junior and adult athletes were insignificant, which indicated both age-specific peculiarities of development and general direction in the selection of heavier athletes in accordance with the requirements of this sport.

Fig. 1. Total body and limb sizes of rowers in the annual training cycle (young, junior and adult athletes)

The physical working capacity indicators, determined in the graded submaximal exercise test, expand and complement the idea of ​​different physical fitness levels of the athletes of different age groups (Fig. 3). The absolute maximum working power was significantly minimal in the group of young males, and did not differ in the junior and adult athletes; the relative values of the maximum power, on the contrary, did not have any statistically significant differences between the groups, with a slight upward trend in the row "young athletes – junior athletes – adult athletes".

Fig. 2. Labile body mass components in rowers in the annual training cycle (young, junior and adult athletes)

Fig. 3. Indicators of physical working capacity and leading energy supply systems in rowers, in the regular season (young, junior and adult athletes)

In absolute terms, the power of the oxidation system (OSP) was also significantly lower in the group of young males, while it did not differ between the junior and adult athletes; the differences the intergroup relative OSP values were also insignificant. Minute ventilation (VE) was also significantly minimal in the group of young males, and practically did not differ between the junior and adult athletes, reflecting the development of the external respiratory function and physiological correlation between the functional and structural elements of the body [6, 7]. Oxygen uptake by the muscles under the conditions of varying absolute, yet equal relative power, on the contrary, did not have any differences, reflecting the requirements for the substrates of energy supply of the muscular system in rowing. HRmax as an indicator of the cumulative response of the cardiovascular system to the maximum loading, reflected the maximum value in the group of junior athletes, HR min - in the group of adult rowers. At the same time, a targeted and significant increase was observed in the oxygen pulse as an integral indicator of the intersystem regulation of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems from young to adult ages [5]. The absolute power of the aerobic-anaerobic threshold also increased directionally and statistically significantly from the group of young athletes to adult athletes, as well as the relative power, with a significant difference only between the young and adult rowers. The power of the glycolytic system, determined by the level of blood lactate after exercise, was minimal in the group of young males, maximum - in the group of junior athletes.

The strength fitness components are also important for the formation of the selection and fitness criteria (Fig. 4). The absolute values ​​of the maximum force, strength endurance, and speed strength of the thigh flexor/ extensor muscles, as indicators of the athletes’ strength fitness, did not have any significant differences in the age groups under study. The relative values of the strength fitness level, on the contrary, were significantly higher ​​in the young athletes. These differences to a greater extent manifested themselves in the relative values ​​of the maximum extensor strength (14% on average), to a lesser extent – in the speed strength of the thigh extensor and flexors muscles (12%) and strength endurance of the thigh extensors (11%). The relative values ​​of the maximum force and strength endurance of the thigh flexors differed to a lesser extent (9.5%).

Fig. 4. Maximum force (МF), strength endurance (SE) and speed strength (SS) of thigh flexor/ extensor muscles of rowers, in the regular season (young, junior and adult athletes)

Conclusion. Throughput the season, all athletes were characterized by the similar and common variability intervals in: indicators of morphological status, oxidizing energy supply system and strength fitness: longitudinal body measurements, muscle and fat mass (%); relative values of the maximum working power, relative values of the power of the oxidizing system (VO2, ml/min/kg); oxygen uptake by the muscles at submaximal exercise; absolute values of strength fitness. The determined indicators can be deemed the basic fitness and progress rating criteria for rowers of all age groups during centralized training. Among the indicators reflecting the growth of sports skills, are: body mass as a system-forming factor, oxygen pulse as a leading indicator of conjugation of the regulatory mechanisms of the cardiorespiratory system, absolute values ​​of the maximum working power and power of the oxidizing system, ventilatory equivalent, absolute and relative values of the anaerobic threshold power; relative values of strength fitness. These indicators are more likely to be identified as the criteria of the proper fitness level with due regard to the athletes’ age.


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Abstract. The study analyzes benefits of the age-specific individual physical fitness markers applicable in the modern elite rowing sport. The 17-33 year-old (n=72) rowers, qualified Class I to World Class Masters of Sport with 4-20 years of sport experience were sampled for the study. Comparative analysis of physical fitness, working capacity, energy supply system functionality and strength indices was used to find a set of the most informative age-specific individual physical fitness markers that may be recommended as a basis for the physical-fitness-based selection of the rowers in every age group in the standard training system. The fitness and progress rating criteria are dominated by the following: body mass as a key factor; HR versus oxygen consumption as the key indicator of the cardio-respiratory system functionality and controllability; absolute maximum capacity and performance indices of the oxidizing system; maximal voluntary ventilation; absolute and relative anaerobic threshold indices; and relative strength indices.