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Upper body contribution to high intensity cycle ergometer exercise: implications for blood lactate measurements and power profiles
  1. J S Baker
  1. University of Glamorgan, Health and Exercise Science, Llantwit Road, Treforest, Pontypridd, Glamorgan CF 37 1DL, Wales, UK; jsbakerglam.ac.uk

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    We read with interest the article by Hunter et al.1 We would like to elaborate a little on the measurement of high intensity exercise and in doing so identify possible factors that may have contributed to the conclusions drawn. We recently investigated the upper body contribution to high intensity exercise performance.2 The purpose of the study was to examine the upper body contribution through handgrip to power profiles and blood lactate concentrations during high intensity cycle ergometry. Nine trained male subjects each completed a 20 second, high intensity cycle ergometer test twice, in a random manner, using two protocols, with a handgrip (WG) and without a handgrip (WOHG). Capillary (ear lobe) blood samples were obtained before and after exercise. Blood samples were corrected for changes in plasma volume, and analysed to determine blood lactate concentrations. In the WG protocol, mean (SEM) blood lactate concentrations sampled over the three conditions were 0.98 (0.33), 5.68 (0.46), and 9.14 (0.38) mmol/l respectively. During the WOHG protocol, blood lactate concentrations recorded were 0.99 (0.26), 5.58 (0.58), and 7.62 (0.65) mmol/l respectively. Differences were found (p<0.05) from rest to four minutes after exercise for both groups. Differences in concentrations were also observed between the groups at four minutes after exercise. Peak power output recorded using the WG protocol was also greater (1461 (94) v 1136 (88) W; p<0.05). No differences were recorded for mean power output, fatigue index, or work done. We also recorded the surface electromyography of the forearm musculature while performing each of the two protocols.3 During the with grip ergometer tests, the intensity of the electrical activity in the forearm musculature was greater than the intensity of electrical activity recorded for the forearm musculature during 100% maximum voluntary handgrip dynamometer contractions, suggesting maximum isometric-type contraction during the “with grip” leg high intensity cycle ergometer tests. The findings of both studies indicate significant differences in power output and blood lactate concentrations between protocols. These findings suggest that the performance of traditional style leg cycle ergometry requires a muscular contribution from the whole body. Also, the upper body contribution may influence fatigue profiles of the lower limbs during this type of activity. Therefore, researchers should consider this, both in terms of the allocation of ergometer loads, and in the analysis of blood borne metabolites.

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