Physiological responses in relation to performance during competition in elite synchronized swimmers

Lara Rodríguez-Zamora, Xavier Iglesias, Anna Barrero, Diego Chaverri, Pau Erola, Ferran A Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: We aimed to characterize the cardiovascular, lactate and perceived exertion responses in relation to performance during competition in junior and senior elite synchronized swimmers.

METHODS: 34 high level senior (21.4 ± 3.6 years) and junior (15.9 ± 1.0) synchronized swimmers were monitored while performing a total of 96 routines during an official national championship in the technical and free solo, duet and team competitive programs. Heart rate was continuously monitored. Peak blood lactate was obtained from serial capillary samples during recovery. Post-exercise rate of perceived exertion was assessed using the Borg CR-10 scale. Total competition scores were obtained from official records.

RESULTS: Data collection was complete in 54 cases. Pre-exercise mean heart rate (beats·min(-1)) was 129.1 ± 13.1, and quickly increased during the exercise to attain mean peak values of 191.7 ± 8.7, with interspersed bradycardic events down to 88.8 ± 28.5. Mean peak blood lactate (mmol·L(-1)) was highest in the free solo (8.5 ± 1.8) and free duet (7.6 ± 1.8) and lowest at the free team (6.2 ± 1.9). Mean RPE (0-10+) was higher in juniors (7.8 ± 0.9) than in seniors (7.1 ± 1.4). Multivariate analysis revealed that heart rate before and minimum heart rate during the routine predicted 26% of variability in final total score.

CONCLUSIONS: Cardiovascular responses during competition are characterized by intense anticipatory pre-activation and rapidly developing tachycardia up to maximal levels with interspersed periods of marked bradycardia during the exercise bouts performed in apnea. Moderate blood lactate accumulation suggests an adaptive metabolic response as a result of the specific training adaptations attributed to influence of the diving response in synchronized swimmers. Competitive routines are perceived as very to extremely intense, particularly in the free solo and duets. The magnitude of anticipatory heart rate activation and bradycardic response appear to be related to performance variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e49098
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Female
  • Heart Rate/physiology
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid/blood
  • Oxygen Consumption/physiology
  • Physical Exertion/physiology
  • Swimming/physiology


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