K.G. Grenier, J.M. May, E.R Eckmann, M.K. Hopkins, D.A. Oldham, K.M. Slattengren, and D.B. Thorp

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

To our knowledge, no studies have explored the effect of competition on incremental VO2max tests. Purpose: To determine whether competition leads to increased maximal exercise performance by influencing the central governor (CG). If competition is able to override the CG then it is hypothesized that performance (i.e. maximal power (Pmax)) would be improved during an incremental exercise test in a competitive setting. Methods: Sixteen college-aged males (20.7 ± 1.2 yr.) participated in a head-to-head competition (HHC). Subjects were assigned to either experimental (n=12) or confederate (n=4) groups. Baseline VO2max was determined on all subjects via an incremental exercise test on a cycle ergometer. The protocol consisted of a 5 min warm up at 50 W followed by an increasing ramp (1 W/ 2 s) until volitional exhaustion. The experimental group preformed two subsequent trials using the initial protocol in a counterbalanced order to account for a potential learning affect; one was a VO2 max retest and the other was a simulated HHC against a confederate participant. To maintain the competitive setting for the HHC, the ramp for the confederate subject stopped increasing at 70-80% of their previously determined Pmax; this ensured that the confederate always ‘won’ the HHC. In effect, the experimental subjects were competing against their own previous results. Results: Relative VO2max values were greater in the competition test than the baseline test (66.1±10.4 mL/kg/min vs. 60.6±12mL/kg/min, p<.05); VO2 peak values were also greater in trial 3 than trial 1(i.e. baseline) (66.7±9.4 mL/kg/min vs. 60.6±12mL/kg/min, p<.05). No differences were found in Pmax (5.0± 0.1 W/kg, mean for all trials) or in gross efficiency at max when comparing competition or test order. Maximal heart rate was greater in the competition compared to the baseline test (185±5 BPM vs. 178±7 BPM, p<.05); no differences were seen in test order. Conclusion: There appears to be an order effect causing increases in relative VO2max between baseline and trial 3, but with no corresponding increase in power. Regardless of these results, competition had no effect on the ability for subjects to increase maximal power, suggesting the CG did not behave any differently during competition.

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