Holmberg, H. C. (2009). The competitive XC skier – from an integrative perspective. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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The following abstract illustrates a major flaw in sport science theory and dogma, that is, physiological capacities can always be improved. There is considerable evidence to show that this is not possible after maturational-growth has stopped. Physiological capacities are then reached their inherited limits and no further development or growth is possible. The disappointing statement in the following abstract is bolded.

Within the abstract was a hint of emphasizing biomechanical improvements, something that is not growth-limited. Biomechanical changes have the potential to produce improvements in performance efficiency, a factor that is related to success in sports that require the judicious use of energy. However, the abstract slid back into the "physiology is most important" mode.

"Cross-country skiing is a demanding endurance sport. The skiers compete on hilly tracks with a combination of steep uphill, flatter terrain and technically demanding downhills. This imposes physiological as well as coordinative challenges due to the frequent transitions between, and the use of, different skiing techniques. During the last decade there has been an increased scientific emphasis on upper body development and biomechanical modifications to different skiing techniques. The greater emphasis on upper body training has markedly improved skiers’ endurance and muscle strength in the arm and torso region. Furthermore, the innovative technical development of specific techniques has contributed to higher racing velocities and a better use of energy. Although there has been considerable progress in overall XC performance during the last years, the new demands of the sprint and mass-start events imply further improvements. One potential area for development is increasing the understanding of the XC race and its components. Recent development of more advanced methodology in the lab and the integrative use of physiological and biomechanical methodologies have contributed to better and more circumstantial analysis of several determining aspects of the sport. Areas that would be interesting to explore more specifically in the field are the velocity profile, technique transitions and the dynamics of different physiological, as well as biomechanical, variables in races using different ski techniques and of varying duration. This has the potential to improve our understanding of the demands of the sport, but also the importance of recovery during continuous intermittent exercise, as well as the development of fatigue. A closer cooperation between sports science and the rapidly growing research field of sports/performance technology has the potential to provide new possibilities and perspectives. A key factor in athletes’ success will always be improving their physiological capacities, but also the more effective use of biomechanical knowledge to optimize technical performance, assisted by better equipment, for example. In this context the use of an integrative biomechanical and physiological approach is an important tool towards greater understanding and enabling further improvements to XC performance."

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