Hawley, J. A., Williams, M. M., Vickovic, M. M., & Handcock, P. J. (1992). Muscle power predicts freestyle swimming performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 26, 151-155.

Swimming performances over 50 m and 400 m and distances per stroke in each were related to practical measures of muscle power. Swimmers (M = 12; F = 10) performed an upper and lower body Wingate Anaerobic Test. Peak power and mean power were determined for both sets of limbs. A maximal sustained power output test for the upper body was used to measure peak-sustained workload.

Males performed significantly faster and with greater stroke distances in the 50-m sprint than did females however, there were no gender differences in either factor over 400 m. All measures of power were significantly higher for males than females. There was no gender difference for peak-sustained workload.

Mean power of the arms for the combined group related to 50-m speed (r = .63). When 50-m times were predicted arms alone provided as good a prediction (about 40% accuracy) as when leg power was also added. This indicates that arm power is important for sprinting but is not the only factor. Peak-sustained workload predicted 400-m speed (r = .70), still only a moderately related variable.

Implication. Muscle power is important in sprint swimming (50 m) and the ability to continue working at a high level while fatiguing is important for middle-distance swimming (400-m). The development of muscle power in both the arms and legs, through swimming activities should improve sprinting times. For individuals who already have high levels of "swimming muscle power" improvements are likely to come from improvements in stroke mechanics than further attempts to improve muscle power. Performances over 400-m will be better trained by sustaining paced swims rather than improving raw muscle power.

At practices it would appear to be good organization to train sprint groups according to gender but for middle-distance and distance-training genders could be mixed.

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