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Swimming Research

A lot of scientific research is now going into swimming, much of it is relevant to survival swimmers, lifesavers and lifeguards, who sometimes have to swim in difficult situations. Especially in Japan and Australia researchers have come up with unexpected results.

An essential skill for lifeguards and lifesavers is swimming in clothes, as part of their job or to understand reasons for drowning. A substatial amount of research has gone into this, which we refer to in this section.

If you teach, review this section for a good background on swimming performance, practice with your class the various swimming strokes, and then power up with the endurance and resistance training.

The Quest for Better Performance

Swimming is often studied from a disciplinary perspective (e.g. biomechanics or exercise physiology). To better understand swimming performance, it might be wise to use a multi-disciplinary approach.

For example, swimming technique is strongly related to both the mechanical and the metabolic load which swimming at a certain speed elicits.

Rather than looking at any of these aspects separately, we seek to understand the relationships between metabolic, morphological, mechanical and coordinative aspects of swimming.

Increased Oxygen Uptake (VO2Max)

Scientists found out that while swimming at the same speed, you consume more oxygen when swimming fully clothed than when wearing a traditional swimsuit (Andersen, 1960).

The increase in energy consumption when swimming while wearing clothes probably results from increased water resistance, which hinders movement of the arms and legs (Keatinge, 1961).

Japanese scientists have found ways to increase the oxygen uptake (VO2Max) and thus almost double training efficiency.

Training Load and Performance

A major goal of the research programs is to gain a better understanding of the adaptive processes that occur in training, and in the short term as adaptation to fatigue due to maximal exertion.

With respect to training we like to relate the training load (input) to the change in performance capacity (output). Understanding and using this knowledge to optimise these input-output relationships (on an individual level) is the goal of our swimming research program.

Swimming Resistance

The resistance encountered during swimming is a major performance factor. When swimming through the water, the body will undergo a retarding force due to resistance, or drag. This force is, given the magnitude of the competitive swimming speeds, predominantly due to turbulence behind the swimmer.

Furthermore, when movement occurs at the water surface, additional resistance will arise due to wave formation by the swimmer.

This total drag force is depending on swimming velocity to the power of at least two. Drag is therefore one of the factors that may limit swimming performance.

Therefore, a much better training result can be achieved by simply using clothes as a way to adjust swim training load. You can adjust the resistance by layering your clothes and thus adding weight and drag.