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Differences in morphology and force/velocity relationship between Senegalese and Italian sprinters

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In order to investigate whether the supremacy of African sprinters is related to the leg extensor force/velocity relationship or to leg morphology, two groups of elite sprinters originating respectively from Senegal (S) and Italy (I) were compared in this respect. The groups included 13 S and 15 I male sprinters. Their mean best performances over 100 m during the preceding track and field season were 10.66 (0.3) and 10.61 (0.3) s (NS), respectively. Age, height and mass were similar in the two groups. The force/velocity relationship of the leg extensors was assessed during maximal half-squats on a guided horizontal barbell with masses of 20–140 kg added on the shoulders. Leg morphology was assessed by relating the sub-ischial length to the standing height (L/H) and by measuring the inertia in the vertical (I Z in kg.cm2), antero-posterior (I Y, kg.cm2) and medio-lateral (I X, kg.m2) planes. The two groups developed non-different force and power when lifting the heaviest loads. Inversely, the lighter the load, the lower the force and power developed by S, as compared to I (P<0.001). S demonstrated greater L/H (P<0.001), and 26% lower I Z (P<0.01), 15% lower I Y (P=0.09), and 14% lower I X (P=0.10). These results suggest that S and I sprinters were similar as regards the muscle abilities involved in slow maximal contractions. However, S demonstrated lower values in muscle abilities related to high-speed contractions, suggesting that S sprinters had a lower percentage of fast twitch fibres. This is likely to be compensated for by the lower level of internal work due to longer and lighter legs.

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Correspondence to Abderrehmane Rahmani.

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Rahmani, A., Locatelli, E. & Lacour, JR. Differences in morphology and force/velocity relationship between Senegalese and Italian sprinters. Eur J Appl Physiol 91, 399–405 (2004).

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