Physiological and anthropometrical comparisons between the triathlete and the runner, cyclist and swimmer

Zetisky, Jonathan V
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Development in triathlon at the elite level can be improved by knowing the physical, physiological and anthropometrical characteristics of current elite triathletes and single sport athletes, and isolating those factors that contribute to high levels of performance. Much research on this topic has been done with regard to the single sport disciplines of running, swimming and cycling. However, less is known about triathletes. The primary purpose of this study was therefore to see whether and how triathletes differ from the single sport athletes in the disciplines of swimming, cycling and running, and by so doing, to develop a profile of an elite South African triathlete. Thirty-four subjects (triathletes: n = 12; runners: n = 8; swimmers: n = 6 and cyclists: n = 8) were measured for the physical characteristics of age, mass, height, body fat and lean body mass. Anthropometric measurements (skinfolds, bone breadths and girths) were also taken along with the physiological components of VO2 maximum (maximal oxygen consumption) and running economy. Muscle strength and endurance were also measured. The results showed that triathletes do not differ significantly from the single sport athletes (swimmers, cyclists and runners) in any of the components measured. In fact, they are generally most similar to cyclists in all of the categories measured and in each of these, lie between runners and swimmers. Runners and swimmers however, were significantly different (P<0.05) from each other in terms of mass (kg), lean body mass (kg) and maximal oxygen consumption (ml O2/kg.min-1). 3 No significant differences were noted between the triathletes, swimmers, cyclists and runners in endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy somatotype ratings. Swimmers (2 – 3,9 – 2,7) and cyclists (2 – 4 – 2,8) as well as the triathletes (2 – 3,8 – 2,8) fall into the ectomorphic-mesomorph somatotype while runners (1,8 – 3 – 3,5) on the other hand, were classified as mesomorphic-ectomorph. The study therefore suggests that no single physical, physiological or anthropometrical factor determines successful performance. Rather, it is a blend of physical and physiological traits observed in the single sport athletes that makes a successful triathlete.
Zetisky Jonathan V 9213052F Master of Science in Medicine Faculty of Health Sciences M.Sc (med) Prof Rogers, G
Triathletes, Runners, Swimmers, Cyclists, Anthropometric, Physiological, Somatotype, measurements, Rating