Monday, October 11, 2010

FORCING Your Way Down The Pool? Reduce Drag By Improving Swimming Stroke Technique

With the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games in India, many of the top level swimming meets have concluded, and most of the world’s top swimmers have put in their best swims of the season. It is clear that for the most part, swimming performances this year obviously in general have been slower. Many reports, blogs, and swimming discussion forums during the Summer of 2010 are full of statistics by event, stroke, and age.

It would seem that at least in the near future the quickest path back to the performance times attained using the high tech swimsuits would be strategies aimed at reducing the effects of drag. No matter what your opinion of how high tech swimsuits attained the performance results that shattered the swimming record books at almost any level, there is probably little disagreement that the performance results were attained by the reduction of drag. Obviously, reducing swimming drag not only allows a swimmer to go faster, but swimming science has objectively shown for years, it can also reduce the energy cost of swimming. Just like in motor sports, methods of reducing drag allow the car to go faster, even though the horsepower of the car remains unchanged.

Nevertheless, to my surprise all through the Summer of 2010 on many blog and discussion forums was more dialog and great debate about how to increase propulsive FORCE to improve swimming performance. There were numerous posts about this term called “EVF” an arm position believed to generate better propulsive force in freestyle swimming, and videos of swimmers proclaiming that now in order to get faster they needed to somehow work even harder to get back to those tech suit times.

But what about working harder in the right direction?

So why did all the dialog about FORCING our way down the pool continue? For decades in swimming, we tried to reduce the area of fabric in swimming suits, or made them so paper thin you could see right through them. Now we find that more fabric covering the body is actually better at lowering the drag. Tech suits did not improve propulsive FORCE or power or even allow us to swim “down hill.” This technology put us right on top of the water and probably higher than ever before. For decades in swimming, the best have been emphasizing that increasing the power or the FORCE in swimming is the pathway to success. But in the blink of an eye, the suit did not change stroke technique, improve fitness, or make anyone stronger or more powerful. It was a passive device that went along for the ride. The tech suits simply reduced the drag by most accounts from 2 to 3 percent. Even in the face of the biggest short-term performance improvements in swimming history, I was continually surprised to read the same basic dialog and debate about increasing the FORCE or power as the main pathway to improved performance.

Just as new technology changed the configuration of swimsuits, a similar configuration change can be made that will improve swimming technique. Velocity Meter/Video Telemetry was used in the early development and measurement of high tech swimwear that dates back to the mid 1990’s. Today, it can be incorporated in the same manner to identify the drag characteristics in swimming technique. Being able to objectively observe that the instantaneous changes in velocity during one stroke cycle that can fluctuate sometimes 30 to 40 percent (see above) provides swimmers and coaches a clear picture for making more informed decisions. Specific phases of the stroke cycle once identified can easily be transferred everyday at practice to objectively design training strategies aimed at the weaknesses in our swimming technique. Just having the knowledge of exactly where the drag phases occur during a stroke cycle without guessing is a first important step. This technology presents a microscopic view of swimming technique because the measurement process collects velocity telemetry at 1,000 data points a second that is significantly higher than the human eye is capable of sensing.

Therefore, if you feel like you are continually trying to FORCE your way down the pool, you might consider working with the individuals that developed the methodology used in reducing the drag in tech suits, and begin working on reducing the drag in your swimming technique. Not only can you go to the pool with a new swimsuit, but a new swimming stroke as well! We helped swimming suit companies using this technology achieve optimal results by reducing the drag, so why not accomplish the same goal by reducing the drag in your swimming technique?

It is a simple plan that stars with working harder in the right direction!

Budd - TeamTermin Sports Performance