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Changes in performance, skinfold thicknesses, and fat patterning after three years of intense athletic conditioning in high level runners
  1. A Legaz1,
  2. R Eston2
  1. 1Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
  2. 2School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    A Legaz
    Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain;


Objectives: To determine if the changes in specific skinfold sites induced by intense athletic conditioning over a three year period were associated with changes in running performance in high level athletes.

Methods: Thirty seven top class runners (eight male and five female sprint trained, 16 male and eight female endurance trained) volunteered to participate in the study. The athletes were divided into class A (n  =  18) and class B (n  =  17), with class A having the best performance. Biceps, triceps, subscapular, pectoral, iliac crest, abdominal, front thigh, and medial calf skinfold thickness and the best running performance were recorded at the beginning and after one, two, and three years of training. A one way analysis of variance and a linear regression analysis were conducted to determine changes and association between performance and skinfold thicknesses. Analyses were controlled for sex, sprint event or endurance event, and class.

Results: Training resulted in a significant increase in performance and decreases in sum of six skinfolds, abdominal, front thigh, and medial calf skinfolds, and the ratio of extremity to trunk skinfolds (E/T, ∑triceps, front thigh, medial calf/∑subscapular, iliac crest, abdominal). There were no significant differences in body weight. Except for the abdominal skinfold, there was no significant difference in trunk skinfolds. Significant differences in these changes were observed by sex for E/T, which decreased and increased in male and female runners respectively, and by class. Class B runners significantly improved performance, with decreased skinfold thicknesses in the lower limb. There were no significant changes in performance or skinfold thicknesses in class A runners. Improvements in performance were consistently associated with a decrease in the lower limb skinfolds.

Conclusions: On the basis of these findings, anthropometric assessment of top class athletes should include an evaluation of all skinfolds. The loss of body fat appears to be specific to the muscular groups used during training. The lower limb skinfolds may be particularly useful predictors of running performance.

  • IAAF, International Amateur Athletics Federation
  • anthropometry
  • skinfold distribution
  • runners
  • elite
  • training effects

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