Swimming training is mainly directed at improving swimming speed. However, a significant proportion of swimming races concern non-swimming skills of starts, turns, and finishes. The latest features of these skills were presented in the second issue of the Swimming Science Bulletin (Number 5).

It is possible to monitor fitness levels in swimmers by assessing stroke rate, distance per stroke, and mid-pool swimming times. This suggests a possible method for evaluating the effects of conditioning programs. The procedures need to be researched thoroughly with testing protocols and methods being described.

In short-course events, about 60% of a race is used for actual stroking, the rest being consumed by non-swimming skills. That figure increases to over 80% in long-course events. The net effect of these differences is that short-course energy requirements are approximately 13-15% less than similar distance long-course races. Thus, non-skill improvements are particularly important for both short- and long-course racing. They are vital for achieving short-course excellence.

In many of the races analyzed in this study, it was the degree of skill in the start, turns, and finish that produced the final placing, not swimming speed. It was striking how many top-level swimmers are not the fastest swimmers, but are the best at performing non-swimming skills. Their superiority in skills was sufficient to offset their minor deficiency in swimming speed.

Implication. The value of non-swimming skill development cannot be overemphasized. It is almost as important as swimming speed in short-course racing. The higher the level of the swimmer, the more important is the effectiveness of these skills for determining race placings. Sufficient practice time has to be set aside for training this aspect of racing.

Return to Table of Contents for ICAR 1989-90 Report.