Havriluk, R. (2010). Performance level differences in swimming: Relative contributions of strength and technique. A paper presented at the XIth International Symposium for Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming, Oslo, June 1619, 2010.

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This study determined how faster swimmers perform better than slower swimmers due to the relative contributions of strength and technique (coefficient of drag). Swimmers (M = 40; F = 40) were filmed swimming four trials (one of each stroke) over a 20-m course. Underwater video, hand-force data, and swim time were collected over the last 10 m. The coefficient of drag was calculated. Ss were stratified into faster and slower groups based on the velocity for each stroke.

Regression analyses found significant curvilinear relationships with velocity for both strength and the coefficient of drag for all strokes for both genders. The magnitude of the difference between faster and slower swimmers in both strength and coefficient of drag was calculated as an effect size for all eight combinations of gender and stroke. In 7 of 8 gender/stroke combinations, the effect size for the coefficient of drag was significantly greater than strength. The mean coefficient of drag effect size was almost double the strength effect size, indicating that the advantage faster swimmers have over slower swimmers is derived more from technique than strength.

Implication. Coaches can be more effective by emphasizing technique instruction and regularly measuring swimmers' coefficients of drag. Because of the large gains in velocity that result from small decreases in the coefficient of drag, even the fastest swimmers could benefit from improving technique. Faster swimmers would also gain a further advantage from a more effective use of strength.

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