Dutto, D. J., & Cappaert, J. M. (1994). Biomechanical and physiological differences between males and females during freestyle swimming. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(5), Supplement abstract 1098.

Morphological, biomechanical, strength/power, and physiological characteristics were compared between male and female age-group swimmers.

Underwater videos of performance at 1.35 m/s were used to analyze biomechanical factors. An economy test (4 sub-maximum speeds, one maximum) was used to determine VO2max. Standard anthropometric measures were taken and strength/power was measured using a standard, decreasing-resistance protocol on a biokinetic swim bench.

Despite arm-length differences, females pulled deeper and narrower than males and had lower propulsive forces. Power was greater for males on the swim bench but when measures were expressed relative to lean body weight there were no differences at swimming-specific speeds. The economy lines of females had lower regression line slopes. At 1.35 m/s, females consumed a lower percentage of VO2max than males.

These data suggest that females were technically more efficient than males but lacked the absolute power to achieve comparable performance times.

Implication. The response of females to swimming appears to be one of emphasizing technique while that of males seems to employ more of their strength and power attributes.

This finding supports other studies which suggest that females respond in sports by emphasizing technical efficiency whereas males tend to use physical attributes more. An emphasis of coaching should probably differ between the sexes (i.e., be technique-oriented for females). If males can be convinced to emphasize technique over "trying physically" it could be an avenue for greater improvement.

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