QUESTIONS CONCERNING TESTING SWIMMERS' PHYSIOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS
Rohrs, D. M., Mayhew, J. L., Arabas, M. S., & Shelton, M. (1990). The relationship between seven anaerobic tests and swim performance. Journal of Swimming Research, 6(4), 15-19.
Tests of anaerobic power and capacity were related to performance in a heterogeneous group of college male and a homogeneous group of female swimmers. The tests were: 1) vertical jump (VJ), 2) Margaria-Kalamen stair climb (M-K), 3) seated shot put (SSP), 4) Wingate arm crank test peak power (WATP) and mean power (WATM), 5) biokinetic single right arm pull (SRP) and biokinetic single left arm pull (SLP), 6) 30 sec biokinetic bench power test (BBP), and 7) a 30 sec tethered anaerobic swim test for power (ASTP) and mean force (ASTM). Tests were administered in random order. Swimming performances were crawlstroke over 25 yd (22.86 m), 50 yd (45.72 m), and 100 yd (91.44 m).
Performance in males was related to VJ, M-K, WATP, SRP, SLP, and BBP (r = .86 to .88). The highest relationship occurred in the test which best simulated the crawlstroke (BBP alternate arm pulling). What is surprising is that the tethered swimming test was not related.
Performance in females was related to ASTM (r = .62 - .44). That is the most related of all the activities to swimming.
The difference between the sexes can be partly explained by the groupings. Determining relationships is facilitated if the group being tested is heterogeneous, that is, it comprises a wide range of performance and capacity measures. The male subjects were a diverse group. However, with homogeneous groups (similar abilities and capacities), relationships are difficult to find.
Implications. The anaerobic testing of a homogeneous group (e.g., a national team) will not yield valuable scientific information. All that can be determined is scores for the tests. Within the group, if one athlete scores better than another, that does not mean anything of significance about swimming performance. It is incorrect to compare swimmers on results from tests like these when the swimmers all perform at the same standard. The only value would be to compare each swimmer's past scores on tests, if changing test scores is important. It should be remembered that alterations in test results are not related to alterations in swimming performance in high-standard swimmers.
There may be some value in using anaerobic tests for talent identification. The swim bench test might be a good preliminary test to locate non-swimmers who have high anaerobic power and capacity. However, it should be remembered that these tests only partially reflect what is involved in swimming and that they should be used in conjunction with other screening devices.
If any anaerobic testing is to be done with higher calibre swimmers, it should be done in the water, an activity that is more swimming specific than those done on land.
For swimming physiology research, before any testing is conducted, the nature of the group should be assessed if relationships are to be investigated.
The authors caution, "It is questionable if a noninvasive test can assess an athlete's anaerobic condition if it is not specific to the athlete's sport." (p. 15)
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