Roels, B., Schmitt, L., Libicz, S., Bentley, D., Richalet, J_P., & Millet, G. (2005). Specificity of VO2max and the ventilatory threshold in free swimming and cycle ergometry: comparison between triathletes and swimmers. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 965-968.

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This study compared maximal heart rate, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), and the ventilatory threshold (% VO2max) during cycle ergometry and free swimming between swimmers (N = 9) and triathletes (N = 10). Incremental swimming and cycling tests to Exhaustion were completed. Whole body metabolic responses were determined in each test.

Swimmers exhibited a significantly higher VO2max in swimming than in cycling, whereas the opposite was found in the triathletes. Maximal heart rate was significantly different in the maximal cycling and swimming tests for the triathletes. In the maximal swimming test, maximal heart rate was significantly higher in the swimmers than in the triathletes. No significant differences were found for ventilatory threshold measured in swimming and cycling in the triathletes and swimmers.

Implication. This study confirms that the exercise testing mode affects the VO2max value. Swimmers have very specific training adaptations even compared with triathletes. This may be a function of acute physiological responses combined with the specialist training status of the different athletes influencing maximal cardiac output or oxygen extraction. In contrast, the different training regimens do not seem to influence the ventilatory threshold, as this variable did not differ between the two testing modes in either group.

[This study indicates that "cross-training" or non-swimming activities will have no training benefits for serious swimmers. As well, testing swimmers on devices or with actions other than swimming will not yield valid measures of swimming-specific physiological adaptations.]

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