Expiratory flow limitation during exercise in competition cyclists

Susana Mota, Pere Casan, Franchek Drobnic, Jordi Giner, Olga Ruiz, Joaquín Sanchis, Joseph Milic-Emili

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In some trained athletes, maximal exercise ventilation is believed to be constrained by expiratory flow limitation (FL). Using the negative expiratory pressure method, we assessed whether FL was reached during a progressive maximal exercise test in 10 male competition cyclists. The cyclists reached an average maximal O2 consumption of 72 ml·kg-1·min-1 (range: 67-82 ml·kg-1·min-1) and ventilation of 147 l/min (range: 122-180 l/min) (88% of preexercise maximal voluntary ventilation in 15 s). In nine subjects, FL was absent at all levels of exercise (i.e., expiratory flow increased with negative expiratory pressure over the entire tidal volume range). One subject, the oldest in the group, exhibited FL during peak exercise. The group end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) decreased during light-to-moderate exercise by 13% (range: 5-33%) of forced vital capacity but increased as maximal exercise was approached. EELV at peak exercise and at rest were not significantly different. The end-inspiratory lung volume increased progressively throughout the exercise test. The conclusions reached are as follows: 1) most well-trained young cyclists do not reach FL even during maximal exercise, and, hence, mechanical ventilatory constraint does not limit their aerobic exercise capacity, and 2) in absence of FL, EELV decreases initially but increases during heavy exercise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-616
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • Dynamic hyperinflation
  • Exercise performance
  • Negative expiratory pressure


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