Costill, D. L., King, D. S., Holdren, A., & Hargreaves, M. (1983). Sprint speed vs. swimming power. Swimming Technique, May-July, 20-22.

Swimmers were tested using a tethered isokinetic force measuring device that allowed forward progress, rather than maintaining a static position, while freestyle swimming. The amount of work, peak force, and duration of test was recorded.

It was found that small differences in sprinting speed were associated with measurable differences in swimming power and peak force. The correlation between a 25 yd sprint and power swim trial in the water was .84 while in another study using a land-based isokinetic swim bench it was only .62. It is interesting to note that in high performance swimmers the relationship between land-based power and speed drops to an insignificant amount (r = .25). This stresses the value of testing in the performance medium as opposed to away from it.

A major finding was that the technique of force application caused performance variation, not absolute power. The water-based power measures fluctuated with performance times over the season whereas land-based measures did not. The water-based measures better reflected the technique of power application.

Pulling alone produced only 51% of the power that was produced when the whole stroke was tested. Strong kickers were found to gain substantially more than weak or two-beat kickers when kicking was integrated into the stroke. It is erroneous to conclude that kicking contributes 49% of swimming power. Rather, the addition of the kick allows the arms to perform more powerfully. The contribution of the kick and its main function is to maintain body position while developing additional power.

Implication. The application of power in sprint swimming is important. Therefore, the technique of sprinting should be a primary focus of training. Coaches should not believe that extensive strength and power work on land will develop maximum sprinting potential. It is only when the physical attributes are applied correctly to produce the greatest propelling efficiency that best performances will result. Coaches should emphasize using physical attributes in the technically best manner possible.

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