To evaluate the capacity of different metabolic indices to predict performance in middle distance swimming, 15 competitive swimmers performed a submaximal and a maximal 400 metres freestyle swimming event. Expired gases were collected in Douglas bags immediately after the events for the determination of VO2 max. Arterialized blood samples were collected for the determination of maximal blood lactate concentration and the velocity corresponding to blood lactate concentration of 4 mM. The results demonstrated (means +/- SD): maximal velocity of 1.44 +/- 0.05 m.s-1; velocity at 85 percent of VO2 max of 1.36 +/- 0.04 m.s-1; velocity at 4 mM of 1.32 +/- 0.04 m.s-1; VO2 max of 3.47 +/- 0.5 l.min-1; maximal blood lactate concentration of 11.8 +/- 2.5 mM. Multiple regression analysis relating metabolic indices and maximal velocity demonstrated that only velocity at 85 percent of VO2 max (r2 = 0.81) and velocity at 4 mM (r2 = 0.79) were significant predictors. Thus, 79 percent of the variance in the performance of 400 m freestyle can be accounted for the velocity at 85 percent of VO2 max or the velocity at 4 mM. The success in this event seems to depend on the swimmer's capacity to achieve higher velocities with lower blood lactate levels and/or utilizing a lower percentage of their VO2 max.
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