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Muscle Fiber Types in Ski Racers

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Okay, now I'm really getting technical, but this is something I've been curious about.
In the 2 years I have been skiing, I've learned that the physics and biomechanics of what I understand on flat land, are sometimes altered when you add the variant of gravity and snow. An example, would be the fact that runners may try to lose weight to pick up speed, whereas in skiing, that does not seem to be the case.
Although we are all made up of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, fast twitch more suited for short, speed events, and slow twitch more suited for endurance events, in muscle testing of various athletes, it has been shown that speed oriented athletes have a high percentage of fast twitch fibers.

Keep in mind, I DO realize that training is also an element at play, here.

In looking through my old American College of Sports Medicine journals, I have not found any research on muscle fiber types in ski racers.

So, my question: Has any reseaarch been done regarding this? If so, whaat were the findings?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #2 of 19
My guess is that results would be varied. Fast twitch vs. slow twitch relates to runners specifically and most conspicuouly re leg turnover rate. Obviously, a sprinter has a higher rate of turnover (over a shorter period of time) than the marathoner, who will be able to sustain what leg turnover he/she has over a longer period of time, etc.

I don't think this is such a considerable factor - certainly not nearly as crucial to success, i'm guessing - in alpine skiing. (The skiers MOST within the sphere you're talking about in fast vs. slow twitch fibers will be the nordic skiers, who do have actual leg turnover, for a long time. That has got to be one grueling way to go skiing.) Gravity and the right (well-waxed) ski are the prime contributors. Of course, they've all got to be able to hold a tuck for a period of time. The importance of leg strength and endurance cannot be overestimated.
But I doubt a skier's potential for winning, or even being competitive, is that dependent on his/her fast twitch-to-slow twitch muscle fiber ratio.

By the way, just in a cursory view of skiers I've seen, in person or on TV, I'd guess Daron Rahlves to PROBABLY be more of a fast-twitch guy. He probably is pretty quick in a 50-yard-sprint, and can jump well, etc. He seems explosive. While a skier like Kyle Rasmussen, now doing the "senior" DH thing, probably never won too many sprints in his life. But he's a big guy who skis fast.

I recall watching tape of Hermann Maier at a "Superstars" competition. As you would think, he is quite an all-around athlete.

Anyway, my two... <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ryan (edited July 18, 2001).]</FONT>
post #3 of 19
My guess is that bumpers and SL specialists are more fast twitch. Everyone else, would be slow twitch. I noticed, as I became an ok skier, and skied bumps a lot, making 2-3 turns on top of a single bump while moving at a good pace, that I was generally quick all around. As I skied more varied terrain and started to become better than 106.2% of the population (up from the previous 103%), my quickness, in general, has slowed. I'm much better at spinning bike pedals at a lower pace with higher torque. So I'm guessing I'm the slow twitch type. I wonder if Dick Pound is slow twitch or fast twitch?????????????
post #4 of 19
Having been a shotputter, sprinter, speedskater, weightlifter, and marathon canoe racer before my current rec ski racing pursuits, I surmise that ski racers are fast twitch. From slalom up to downhill, bursts of explosive strength are the required movements, interspersed with quick turn transitions and gliding sections in which full tuck positions must be held. Generally, slow twitch fibers are of lesser importance until one performs continuously for over 20 minutes. This is because slow twitch fibers are required for oxygen capacity in aerobic situations.
post #5 of 19
I'd be interested in Bob B's perspective on this. I suspect that even in a racer such as a DH/SG specialists fiber make-up, there must still be a good mix of muscle fibers. The G-Forces on a 70mph long turn are sustained and enormous - requiring powerful long-twitch muscle fiber, but the recoverys they have to make at those speeds, the transitions betweens turns, the explosive skating at start and finish - I suspect they are not too lacking in short-twitch either! And then there are folks like Giradelli and Aamodt who have won in all the disciplines . . . guess they have plenty of both!<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Todd Murchison (edited July 18, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks, as always. You know its interesting, in all the kinesiology classes I've taken, we've worked on analysis of every sort of athlete, but nothing on skiers. Wonder why.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #7 of 19

Have you checked out the U of Vermont site? they have done all kinds of ski related research.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you, Yuki, I will check that out.

Since we have the really smart people reading this, I'm going to throw out another "techie" question.

What effect does gravity have on whether the quadriceps are contacting eccentrically or concentrically? Are both types happening, or is there a predominance of one?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #9 of 19

In english, and maybe I can answer. (eccen. or concen.?)
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
JohnH. : Mia Culpa! I guess ski instructors are not the only ones who throw around techno lingo!

The concentric phase of a muscle contraction is sometimes called the "positive" in weight training. The muscle is shortening as it contracts. The eccentric phase is called the "negative", where the muscle lengthens as it contracts.

The reason I'm asking all these questions, is because the rainbow after that flame war storm from my fitness post has made me reconsider how I intend to devise my ski conditioning program in the fall.

We tend to get a real mix of participants, from never evers planning their first ski trip, to students on the ski teams of various Boston area colleges and universities. So there is a possibility I may have to differentiate programs for specific needs.
The training model I am using comes from Mel Siff's book Supertraining. It involves:

Sport Analysis, which identifies the most important qualities needed fot the sport.

Match Analysis, referring to environmental conditions

Player Analysis, which takes into account fitness factors, as well as an athletes natural build.

Injury Analysis

Movement Analysis, forces, patterns, velocities, joint angles, kinesiological and biomechanical analysis. Aims to determine the most efficient and safe way to produce the movement patterns of the sport, and to condition the muscles involved.

Physiological Analysis,, energy systems and oxygen consumption.

So, I may be asking many questions.
Meanwhile, I feel like I am two people, with my right brain imagery posts and these left brain techno babble posts.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #11 of 19

Okay, I got'cha.

Since our legs are permanently (we hope) connected to our torso, we would make as many concentric moves as we would eccentric. The only effect gravity would have is on the amount of force needed, and the fact that we only very rarely would actually pull our feet up. Since we don't pull our feet up, we let our torso move down using an eccentric move. So I guess that if there were no gravity, to bend ze kneez, we would concentrically contract the hams rather than eccentrically contract the quads (like pushing the foot rest down on your La-z-boy).

Are you working on a fitness program for astronauts?
post #12 of 19
The fiber type thing is tricky. I know people who run real slow, because they weigh alot. So they think that their slow twitch types. Put them on skis, though, and they rip! Interesting that you quote Mel Siff, who is an enemy of the hero you talk about, Paul Chek. I guess its good to take a little bit of what you need from everybody.
post #13 of 19
The only research I've seen regarding muscles and skiing has come from the Steadman/Hawkins Foundation in Vail. I have a few articles I could possibly dig up. God only knows which filing cabinet they are in. Are you familiar with Med-Line and tracking research articles?

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Georgia don't knock yourself out. I know all too well about Fibber McGee type file cabinets. I'll check into Med-line. Thanks!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #15 of 19
I found one. Located in the "Skiing Topics" folder. Berg HE, Eiken O. Muscle Control in Elite Alpine Skiing. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1999.
When I find the others, I'll probably just email them to you.

post #16 of 19
volume 31, no 7, pp 1065-1067.
post #17 of 19
Alright I confess I know nothing about this topic, but my feeling is that you're looking in the wrong languages. Who in America gives a rat's a** about skiing? I'm sure there is probably a lot of research in Italian, German, or French.
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oh man! Now you got me thinking! Matteo, come home!
post #19 of 19
I remember seeing something on this in the USSCA Journal back in the early eighties. It possibly was done in Sweden. The ratios for SL and DH (no SG then) were similar however in those days (bamboo) the SL skiers were smaller. GS was different, about 60% slow twitch I believe.
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