Cappaert, J. M., Pease, D. L., & Troup, J. P. (1996). Biomechanical highlights of world champion swimmers. In J. P. Troup, A. P. Hollander, D. Strasse, S. W. Trappe, J. M. Cappaert, & T. A. Trappe (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VII (pp. 76-80). London: E & FN Spon.

Video tapes that facilitated three-dimensional analyses of champion and non-qualifying swimmers from the 1991 World Championships and 1992 Olympic Games were examined and compared.

  1. Elite butterfliers exhibited lower trunk angles (they were flatter and more streamlined); had symmetrical pulling patterns, and pushed back further at the end of the stroke.
  2. Elite backstrokers rolled the hips and shoulders in unison and to the same degree. Non-qualifiers did the opposite, with hips rolling one way and the shoulders the other. The latter action decreases the ability to use trunk muscles to support arm actions. Elites also performed a larger kick from the knee down (over 70 degrees).
  3. Elite breaststrokers kicked earlier in the stroke than non-qualifiers. Mike Barrowman recovered his legs quickly and was ready to kick as his head entered the water. Non-qualifiers usually recovered the arms and waited until the body was flat before kicking. The value of the Barrowman timing is that it provided almost continuous propulsion to the swimmer whereas the non-propulsive phase in non-qualifiers produced a detrimental inertial lag. Barrowman also displayed a faster stroking rate but similar propelling phase time to the non-qualifiers.
  4. Elite crawl strokers had a symmetrical shoulder-hip roll while non-qualifiers produced opposite and less hip and shoulder roll (similar to the phenomenon in backstroke). Elbows were high early and were maintained high throughout the stroke. The power of elite and non-qualifiers' pulls were similar but the better streamlining (less resistance) of the elites produced greater propelling efficiencies.

Implications. Elite swimmers at world and Olympic championships were technically more proficient than non-qualifiers. Propelling efficiency resulted from better streamlining, the timing of stroke propulsion phases, and symmetrical unified hip-and-shoulder movements.

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