The Wingate Test: Peak Power Output And Anaerobic Systems In The College-aged Population

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Introduction

The Wingate test is a thirty-second anaerobic cycle ergometer test measured in watts. It is commonly used to assess lower and upper body performance (Bar-Or 1987). Essentially, it can act as a performance indicator for power, which can play an important role in specific sports and physically active individuals.

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Considerations taken into account while measuring power during the Wingate test include weight (kg), number of revolutions/second, distance per revolution, and time (sec). While Wingate testing is one of the most common tests for power performance and anaerobic capacity in athletes, other tests such as treadmill running, treadmill skiing, arm ergometers, rowing tests, and swimming wave tank tests are also applicable, depending on the individuals specific area of training. Previous research has compared upper versus lower body ergometry in elite athletes, showing peak power outputs for arm ergometry to be 55-77% lower than cycle ergometry (Price, 2014). In general, VO2max and cardiac output tends to be 30-90% slower in the upper compared to the lower body during the transition from rest to higher exercise intensities. Other studies have also looked at the contribution of various energy systems for the Wingate test, with aerobic contributions ranging from 16-29%, while the remainder of ATP is sourced from primarily the ATP-PCr and glycolytic energy systems in order to achieve peak power. However, these studies mainly examined athletes.

The majority of studies examining the Wingate tests and its effect on peak power have been predominantly on, as stated, elite athletes or highly trained individuals, taking into account factors such as VO2max, cardiac output, and lactate threshold (all common factors in increased-intensity exercise testing). The aim of this study was to examine peak power output (PPO) in association with the time intervals of the test and the energy systems utilized in a college-aged population. The subjects showed a range of activity levels, heights, and weights.

Methods

Five college-aged exercise science majors from Florida Southern College volunteered to be subjects in this study. The subjects height (cm), weight (kg), and resistance (kg: 7.5% of BW) were all measured and taken into account. All individuals were physically active, ranging from 3 to 17 hours/week. However, all individuals were trained both aerobically and anaerobically, expect for one anaerobic-only trained participant. The test included the participant themselves, a revolution counter, a timer, and a scribe. The test began with a five-minute warm-up and a 2-minute recovery. Peak power scores (PPO, relative peak power, low peak power) and fatigue index were measured during a 30-second cycle ergometer (Wingate) test, followed by a 2-5 minute cool-down. Revolutions per second were called at each 5 second interval within the duration of the 30 second test, with the first recording at the 5 second mark. Each participant was advised to wear athletic clothing in order to carry out this test prior to meeting. This test and its results were taken in an exercise science laboratory located on the Florida Southern College campus.

Discussion

The main finding of this study was that as time increased, average revolutions decreased in these college students. Starting out, on average, participants showed a 12.6 revolutions/second at the 5 second mark, with a fairly steady decrease in revolutions/second down to the 30 second mark of the test. This suggests that a high-intensity and short duration activity, such as the Wingate cycle sprint, will likely cause the body to utilize the ATP-PCr system as its dominant energy system in order to inquire lots of energy quickly. However, as compared to the oxidative system, the ATP-PCr system will be able to recruit ATP quicker, but yield less of it. Therefore, it is hard to maintain that energy and power level as the test goes on, especially when pedaling against BW (causing other factors to take place such as lactic threshold, O2 deficient, etc). 

A higher peak power, as well as a lower fatigue index, would suggest that the individual is anaerobically-trained. They have a more efficient oxygen uptake and utilization, so therefore, they will fatigue at a slower rate and be able to exert more power. Those who are highly trained and fit individuals can develop a stronger, larger left ventricle overtime, resulting in more efficient pumping of blood to the body’s skeletal muscles. So, over time, they may become more economically efficient with their energy/oxygen, making it easier to work less at the same workload/pace compared to one who is less economically efficient. Genetically, they may also have more Type IIx/IIa muscle fibers.

Although not consistent, there is some indication of an association between an increased BW and an increased PPO. This could suggest that a higher BW means a higher amount of muscle mass, predominantly in the lower body/legs as compared to the upper body, meaning the subjects who had a higher BW were able to exert more overall power. Further research is required to assess body fat percentages in relation to BW and PPO.

Limitations of this study include potential errors made by the timers, scribes, and revolution counters in the study, considering the individuals carrying out this study were primarily students in the learning environment and not licensed professionals. Data could also be influenced and slightly skewed due to faults by the participant, such as not remaining seated during the test or only giving sub-maximal effort. Factors such as what the participants ate before the test, hydration levels, self-efficacy in relation to the test, body fat, the type of anaerobic/aerobic activity that they regularly participate in (recreational swimming versus weight lifting versus jogging, etc), and how long they have been a physically active individual for were also not taken into account; and this could, therefore, influence the data.

Alternative measurements to this test are also relevant. For example, to assess a group of 100 lacrosse players for their anaerobic power, a vertical jump test is feasible. In the vertical jump test, the power output to obtain a maximal jump height is done within 1-2 seconds, which suggests that the ATP-PCr system is used with the time frame being so short (Changela and Bhatt, 2012). Both feet remain on the ground with one arm raised vertically, and the body stays in a static position. From there, the athlete will be asked to jump as high as possible, and touch the wall at their highest point with the tips of their fingers on the vertically-raised arm. This height will then be measured, and the test will be repeated for a total of three times. The results are then put into an equation in order to obtain peak power measurements. Some pros of this study include that it requires almost no equipment (only chalk to mark the height) and can be done anywhere (easily accessible to those who lack standard anaerobic testing equipment). Cons include the possibility that not all athletes will be able to perform proper jumping techniques to achieve a maximal score, and there is space for error if the athlete bends their knees or uses their arms to assist with the jump.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Wingate test demonstrated PPO from a short, highly-intense test that utilized the ATP-PCr system as its dominant system. It also showed that as time increased, average revolutions decreased in the college aged population. Furthermore, although not consistent, there was some indication of an association between increased BW and an increased PPO in the students. Further research is needed to assess body fat measures in correlation with the students total BW and PPO outcomes, as well as any other relevant information affecting the performance of the participants: hydration levels, activity type, etc. (as stated in the limitations). The Wingate test may be a beneficial assessment for not only elite athletes, but also for regularly, physically-active patrons, such as college students, in order to measure current levels of fitness and power.

References

  • Changela, P. K., & Bhatt, S. (2012). The Correlational Study of the Vertical Jump Test and Wingate Cycle Test as a Method to Assess Anaerobic Power in High School Basketball Players. History Studies International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 2(6).
  • Bar-Or, O. K. (1987). The Wingate Anaerobic Test: an Update on Methodology, Reliability, and Validity. Sports Medicine, 4.
  • Smith, J. C., & Hill, D. W. (1991). Contribution of energy systems during a Wingate power test. Bj R Sports Medicine, 4, 196–199.
  • Koppo, K., & Bouckaert, J., & Jones, A. (2002). Oxygen uptake kinetics during high-intensity arm and leg exercise. Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, 133(3), 241–250.
  • Price, M., Beckford, C., Dorricott, A., & Hill, C. (2014). Oxygen uptake during upper body and lower body Wingate anaerobic tests. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 12, 1345–1351.
16 August 2021

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