Performing Sprint Exercise in the heat


This research was largely carried out by Derek Ball. It looks at the effect of heat stress on human sprinting performance and has implications for sporting activities. Derek Ball was originally a post-doctoral fellow (later Senior Lecturer) in the research group and later Institute headed by Professor Anthony J Sargeant.

Human power output during repeated sprint cycle exercise: the influence of thermal stress

Derek Ball, Burrows C , Anthony J Sargeant.

European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999 Mar;79(4):360-6
    Thermal stress is known to impair endurance capacity during moderate prolonged exercise. However, there is relatively little available information concerning the effects of thermal stress on the performance of high-intensity short-duration exercise. The present experiment examined human power output during repeated bouts of short-term maximal exercise.
    On two separate occasions, seven healthy males performed two 30-s bouts of sprint exercise (sprints I and II), with 4 min of passive recovery in between, on a cycle ergometer. The sprints were performed in both a normal environment [18.7 (1.5) degrees C, 40 (7)% relative humidity (RH; mean SD)] and a hot environment [30.1 (0.5) degrees C, 55 (9)% RH]. The order of exercise trials was randomised and separated by a minimum of 4 days. Mean power, peak power and decline in power output were calculated from the flywheel velocity after correction for flywheel acceleration.
    Peak power output was higher when exercise was performed in the heat compared to the normal environment in both sprint I [910 (172) W vs 656 (58) W; P < 0.01] and sprint II [907 (150) vs 646 (37) W; P < 0.05]. Mean power output was higher in the heat compared to the normal environment in both sprint I [634 (91) W vs 510 (59) W; P < 0.05] and sprint II [589 (70) W vs 482 (47) W; P < 0.05]. There was a faster rate of fatigue (P < 0.05) when exercise was performed in the heat compared to the normal environment. Arterialised-venous blood samples were taken for the determination of acid-base status and blood lactate and blood glucose before exercise, 2 min after sprint I, and at several time points after sprint II. Before exercise there was no difference in resting acid-base status or blood metabolites between environmental conditions. There was a decrease in blood pH, plasma bicarbonate and base excess after sprint I and after sprint II. The degree of post-exercise acidosis was similar when exercise was performed in either of the environmental conditions. The metabolic response to exercise was similar between environmental conditions; the concentration of blood lactate increased (P < 0.01) after sprint I and sprint II but there were no differences in lactate concentration when comparing the exercise bouts performed in a normal and a hot environment.
    These data demonstrate that when brief intense exercise is performed in the heat, peak power output increases by about 25% and mean power output increases by 15%; this was due to achieving a higher pedal cadence in the heat

Oxygen cost of human exercise


In this research published in Journal of Physiology Anthony Sargeant and his team describe how the recruitment of different types of muscle fibres with increasing exercise intensity changes the oxygen cost of exercise. Thus the relationship of oxygen uptake and mechanical power output is not constant. This is in contrast to the standard teaching of many physiology textbooks.

Non-linear relationship between O2 uptake and power output at high intensities of exercise in humans

Jerzy A. ZoladzArno C. H. J. RademakerAnthony J Sargeant

Journal of Physiology
J Physiol. 1995 Oct 1;488 ( Pt 1):211-7
1. A slow component to pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO2) is reported during prolonged high power exercise performed at constant power output at, or above, approximately 60% of the maximal oxygen uptake. The magnitude of the slow component is reported to be associated with the intensity of exercise and to be largely accounted for by an increased VO2 across the exercising legs.
2. On the assumption that the control mechanism responsible for the increased VO2 is intensity dependent we hypothesized that it should also be apparent in multi-stage incremental exercise tests with the result that the VO2-power output relationship would be curvilinear.
3. We further hypothesized that the change in the VO2-power output relationship could be related to the hierarchical recruitment of different muscle fibre types with a lower mechanical efficiency.
4. Six subjects each performed five incremental exercise tests, at pedalling rates of 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 rev min-1, over which range we expected to vary the proportional contribution of different fibre types to the power output. Pulmonary VO2 was determined continuously and arterialized capillary blood was sampled and analysed for blood lactate concentration ([lactate]b).
5. Below the level at which a sustained increase in [lactate]b was observed pulmonary VO2 showed a linear relationship with power output; at high power outputs, however, there was an additional increase in VO2 above that expected from the extrapolation of that linear relationship, leading to a positive curvilinear VO2-power output relationship. 6. No systematic effect on the magnitude or onset of the ‘extra’ VO2 was found in relation to pedalling rate, which suggests that it is not related to the pattern of motor unit recruitment in any simple way.

The mechanics of cycling – calculating air and rolling resistance


Cycling performance depends upon overcoming air and rolling resistance in this research the results of ‘coasting down’ experiments were used by the authors to calculate these components. The experiments were performed in the massive indoor Flower Hall near Amsterdam on a Sunday morning. Anthony Sargeant was the head of the research department which carried out this work.

Air friction and rolling resistance during cycling

Gert de GrootAnthony J SargeantJos Geysel

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995 Jul;27(7):1090-5
  • To calculate the power output during actual cycling, the air friction force Fa and rolling resistance Fr have to be known. Instead of wind tunnel experiments or towing experiments at steady speed, in this study these friction forces were measured by coasting down experiments. Towing experiments at constant acceleration (increasing velocity) were also done for comparison. From the equation of motion, the velocity-time curve v(t) was obtained. Curve-fitting procedures on experimental data of the velocity v yielded values of the rolling resistance force Fr and of the air friction coefficient k = Fa/v2. For the coasting down experiments, the group mean values per body mass m (N = 7) were km = k/m = (2.15 +/- 0.32) x 10(-3)m-1 and ar = Fr/m = (3.76 +/- 0.18) x 10(-2)ms-2, close to other values from the literature. The curves in the phase plane (velocity vs acceleration) and the small residual sum of squares indicated the validity of the theory. The towing experiments were not congruent with the coasting down experiments. Higher values of the air friction were found, probably due to turbulence of the air.

Human muscle fatigue


Anita Beelen presented this research as part of her PhD thesis supervised by Professor Anthony Sargeant. Uniquely the study used electrical stimulation superimposed upon on maximal voluntary activation in dynamic exercise.

Fatigue and recovery of voluntary and electrically elicited dynamic force in humans

Anita BeelenAnthony J SargeantDavid A JonesC. J. de Ruiter

Journal of Physiology
J Physiol. 1995 Apr 1;484 ( Pt 1):227-235
1. Percutaneous electrical stimulation of the human quadriceps muscle has been used to assess the loss of central activation immediately after a bout of fatiguing exercise and during the recovery period.
2. Fatigue was induced in eight healthy males by a maximal effort lasting 25 s performed on an isokinetic cycle ergometer at a constant pedal frequency of 60 revolutions per minute. The cranks of the ergometer were driven by an electric motor. Before and after the sprint, subjects allowed their legs to be passively taken round by the motor. During the passive movement the knee extensors were stimulated (4 pulses; 100 Hz). Peak voluntary force (PVF) during the sprint and peak stimulated forces (PSF) before and in recovery were recorded via strain gauges in the pedals. Recovery of voluntary force was assessed in a series of separate experiments in which subjects performed a second maximal effort after recovery periods of different durations.
3. Peak stimulated forces were reduced to 69f8 + 9 3 % immediately after the maximal effort, (P< 0 05), but had returned to pre-exercise values after 3 min. The maximum rate of force development (MRFD) was also reduced following fatigue to 68f8 + 11 0% (P < 0’05) of control and was fully recovered after 2 min. PVF was reduced to 72-0 + 9 4% (P< 0 05) of the control value following the maximal effort. After 3 min voluntary force had fully recovered.
4. The effect of changing the duration of the fatiguing exercise (10, 25 and 45 s maximal effort) resulted in an increased degree of voluntary force loss as the duration of the maximal effort increased. This was associated with an increased reduction in PSF measured immediately after the exercise.
5. The close association between the changes in stimulated force and voluntary force suggests that the fatigue in this type of dynamic exercise may be due to changes in the muscle itself and not to failure of central drive.

Anthony Sargeant reviews the effect of fatigue and temperature on human muscle power

In this review based on a Key Note Lecture to a Dutch Physiological Society Symposium Tony Sargeant explains how human muscle power is affected by changes in muscle temperature and by fatigue. Importantly that the magnitude of changes depends on the speed of the muscle contraction generating power and the muscle fibre types present in the muscles.
International Journal of Sports Medicine
Int J Sports Med. 1994 Apr;15(3):116-121

In human locomotion the ability to generate and sustain power output is of fundamental importance. This review examines the implications for power output of having variability in the metabolic and contractile properties within the population of muscle fibres which comprise the major locomotory muscles. Reference is made to studies using an isokinetic cycle ergometer by which the global power/velocity relationship for the leg extensor muscles can be determined.

The data from these studies are examined in the light of the force velocity characteristics of human type I and type II muscle fibres. The ‘plasticity’ of fibre properties is discussed with reference to the ‘acute’ changes elicited by exercise induced fatigue and changes in muscle temperature and ‘chronic’ changes occurring following intensive training and ageing

Measuring the forces on pedals during cycling

Anita Beelen was an outstanding PhD student supervised by Anthony Sargeant who presented this research paper as part of the methodology used for her PhD thesis at the Vrije University of Amsterdam. Frank Wijkhuizen was the technician who helped to design and build the equipment in the electrical and engineering workshop of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1994;68(2):177-81

An isokinetic cycle ergometer has been developed to measure power output generated over a wide range of constant velocities. The ergometer system has two operating modes and it can be instantly switched from one to another. In its conventional mode the cycle ergometer is connected to a conventional electrically braked cycle ergometer so that the subjects can perform submaximal steady-state exercise.

For maximal power measurements the system can be instantly switched to an isokinetic control mechanism which allows a constant pedalling rate to be set in the range of 23-180 rev.min-1. In both operating modes the forces generated on the pedals are monitored by strain-gauges mounted inside the pedals. This enables information to be obtained regarding the direction of forces generated at the foot-pedal interface. The output from the strain-gauges was A-D converted and stored along with data giving pedal and crank position. Data was sampled 150 times in each revolution of the crank. Force data are usually analysed for maximal peak power (highest instantaneous power generated during each revolution), mean power (power generated over a complete revolution), extension and flexion power (power generated during leg extension and leg flexion respectively). This system allows characterisation of the relationship between maximal leg power and pedalling rate, both under control and exercise-induced potentiation and fatigue conditions. Thus it is possible for example to quantify instantly the magnitude of fatigue induced by preceding dynamic exercise of a given duration, intensity or contraction velocity.

Fatigue during cycling is related to pedalling rate

Research carried out by Anita Beelen under the direction of Anthony Sargeant extended his interest in short-term muscle power output (sometimes referred to as anaerobic power). In cycling it can be seen that the degree of fatigue from prior exercise is greater when measured at higher pedalling rates. This is consistent with fatigue inducing prior exercise reducing the power generation of the faster of the most fatigue sensitive muscle fibres in the mixed human leg muscles.
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1993;66(2):102-107

The effect of prior submaximal exercise performed at two different pedalling frequencies, 60 and 120 rev.min-1, on maximal short-term power output (STPO) was investigated in seven male subjects during cycling exercise on an isokinetic cycle ergometer. Exercise of 6-min duration at a power output equivalent to 92 (SD 5)% maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), whether performed at a pedalling frequency of 60 or 120 rev.min-1, reduced maximal STPO generated at 120 rev.min-1 to a much greater extent than maximal STPO at 60 rev.min-1. After 6-min submaximal exercise at 60 rev.min-1 mean reductions in maximal STPO measured at 120 and 60 rev.min-1 were 27 (SD 11)% and 15 (SD 9)% respectively, and were not significantly different from the reductions after exercise at 120 rev.min-1, 20 (SD 13)% and 5 (SD 9)%, respectively. In addition, we measured the effect of prior exercise performed at the same absolute external mechanical power output [236 (SD 30)W] with pedalling frequencies of 60 and 120 rev.min-1. Although the external power output was the same, the leg forces required (absolute as well as expressed as a proportion of the maximal leg force available at the same velocity) were much higher in prior exercise performed at 60 rev.min-1. Nevertheless, maximal STPO generated at 120 rev.min-1 was reduced after exercise at 120 rev.min-1 [20 (SD 13)%, P < 0.05] whereas no significant reduction in maximal STPO was found after prior exercise at 60 rev.min-1.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)