Journal of Applied Physiology


Muscle samples were obtained from the gastrocnemius of 17 female and 23 male track athletes, 10 untrained women, and 11 untrained men. Portions of the specimen were analyzed for total phosphorylase, lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activities. Sections of the muscle were stained for myosin adenosine triphosphatase, NADH2 tetrazolium reductase, and alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) was measured on a treadmill for 23 of the volunteers (6 female athletes, 11 male athletes, 10 untrained women, and 6 untrained men). These measurements confirm earlier reports which suggest that the athlete's preference for strength, speed, and/or endurance events is in part a matter of genetic endowment. Aside from differences in fiber composition and enzymes among middle-distance runners, the only distinction between the sexes was the larger fiber areas of the male athletes. SDH activity was found to correlate 0.79 with VO2max, while muscle LDH appeared to be a function of muscle fiber composition. While sprint- and endurance-trained athletes are characterized by distinct fiber compositions and enzyme activities, participants in strength events (e.g., shot-put) have relatively low muscle enzyme activities and a variety of fiber compositions.