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Analysis of Selected Kinematic and Physiological Performance Determinants During Incremental Testing in Elite Swimmers

Psycharakis, Stelios G1; Cooke, Carlton B2; Paradisis, Giorgos P3; O'Hara, John2; Phillips, Gary4

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: May 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - pp 951-957
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a6364
Original Research

This study examined the relationships between selected kinematic and physiological parameters and their influence on performance during incremental exercise in elite swimmers competing at the international level. Eleven men and ten women (all specialized in 200-m events) performed an incremental 7 × 200-m test in their specialized stroke. Stroke rate (SR), stroke length (SL), velocity (V), and blood lactate concentration (BLa) were measured for each 200 m. In addition to the cross-sectional group design, the longitudinal performance of a male swimmer was evaluated by 4 tests during a period of 20 weeks. Stroke rate increased and SL decreased with V, regardless of the age, stroke, or gender of the swimmer. Statistically significant correlations were found between SR and V (p < 0.01; r = 0.66 to 0.99), SR and SL (p < 0.01; r = −0.78 to -0.99), SL and V (except for women's freestyle and breaststroke) (p < 0.01; r = −0.67 to -0.98), and BLa and V (p < 0.01; r = 0.7 to 0.96). Changes in SR and SL were not affected by changes in BLa. Similar velocities were produced with different combinations of SR and SL. The fastest times reached in the test were generally slower than expected, and the performance in the test was not associated with competition performance. The case study revealed similar results to those of the group. The test used in this study was informative with respect to identifying the most economical and effective stroke kinematics combination for slow to submaximal velocities. It is possible that the swimming speeds were not maximal in the final 200-m swim because of cumulative fatigue, which is a major limitation for assessing race pace. An additional test that produces velocities similar to those used in competitions would be more useful for the purpose of providing optimal kinematic information specific to racing speeds, which would facilitate performance improvement through regular monitoring in training.

1School of Life Sciences, Napier University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; 2Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, United Kingdom; 3Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece; 4British Swimming, Loughborough, United Kingdom

Address correspondence to Dr. Stelios G. Psycharakis, s.psycharakis@napier.ac.uk.

© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association