Physiological comparison between non-athletes, endurance, power and team athletes


We hypothesized that endurance athletes have lower muscle power than power athletes due to a combination of weaker and slower muscles, while their higher endurance is attributable to better oxygen extraction, reflecting a higher muscle oxidative capacity and larger stroke volume. Endurance (n = 87; distance runners, road cyclists, paddlers, skiers), power (n = 77; sprinters, throwers, combat sport athletes, body builders), team (n = 64; basketball, soccer, volleyball) and non-athletes (n = 223) performed a countermovement jump and an incremental running test to estimate their maximal anaerobic and aerobic power (VO2max), respectively. Dynamometry and M-mode echocardiography were used to measure muscle strength and stroke volume. The VO2max (L min−1) was larger in endurance and team athletes than in power athletes and non-athletes (p < 0.05). Athletes had a larger stroke volume, left ventricular mass and left ventricular wall thickness than non-athletes (p < 0.02), but there were no significant differences between athlete groups. The higher anaerobic power in power and team athletes than in endurance athletes and non-athletes (p < 0.001) was associated with a larger force (p < 0.001), but not faster contractile properties. Endurance athletes (20.6%) had a higher (p < 0.05) aerobic:anaerobic power ratio than controls and power and team athletes (14.0–15.3%). The larger oxygen pulse, without significant differences in stroke volume, in endurance than power athletes indicates a larger oxygen extraction during exercise. Power athletes had stronger, but not faster, muscles than endurance athletes. The similar VO2max in endurance and team athletes and similar jump power in team and power athletes suggest that concurrent training does not necessarily impair power or endurance performance.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


BFmax :

Maximal breathing frequency


Body mass


Body Mass Index


Coefficient of variation


Ejection fraction

FEV1 :

Forced expiratory volume in one second


Forced vital capacity




Heart rate


Left ventricle


Left ventricular mass


Maximal voluntary contraction torque


Predicted peak expiratory flow


Relative left cardiac ventricle wall thickness


Relative left ventricular wall thickness


Stroke volume

VEmax :

Maximal pulmonary ventilation


Maximal oxygen uptake

VTmax :

Tidal volume


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We thank all participants for taking part in the study.


The study was funded by the Lithuanian Sports University.

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HD, AS, AS, BS, and TV conceived the study and collected the data. HD and TV performed the analyses. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tomas Venckunas.

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Communicated by Guido Ferretti.

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Degens, H., Stasiulis, A., Skurvydas, A. et al. Physiological comparison between non-athletes, endurance, power and team athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 119, 1377–1386 (2019).

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  • Maximal oxygen uptake
  • Jumping power
  • Anaerobic capacity
  • Performance