FREELY CHOSEN STROKE RATES ARE BEST
Swaine, I., & Reilly, T. (1983). The freely-chosen swimming stroke rate in a maximal swim on a biokinetic swim bench. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 15, 370-375.
Seven subjects performed a maximum effort test on five occasions on a biokinetic swim bench using a free-style arm action. Stroke frequency was manipulated according to five rates.
The freely chosen stroke rate produced the maximum power and highest VO2peak but maximum swimming velocity corresponded to neither VO2max nor VO2peak. The rate chosen by swimmers was an attempt to attain maximum velocity in swimming performance.
Implication. There is a possible trade-off in that VO2 is minimized in submaximal work at a specific level of interaction of rate and stroke distance. In maximal work it is maximized at another level of interaction between the two factors.
A coach would be well advised to let swimmers select the rate of stroking for the task that they perform. An unnatural rate would increase the inefficiency of a swimmer's performance.
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