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Front Physiol. 2019 Feb 15;10:73. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00073. eCollection 2019.

Skillful Swimming in Age-Groups Is Determined by Anthropometrics, Biomechanics and Energetics.

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Physical Education and Sport Science Academic Group, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore.
Research Centre in Sports Sciences, Health and Human Development (CIDESD), Vila Real, Portugal.
Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, Bragança, Portugal.
Department of Sport Sciences, Exercise and Health, University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal.
Polytechnic Institute of Guarda, Guarda, Portugal.


The aim was to compare the anthropometrics, biomechanics and energetics in young swimmers of different competitive levels. Seventy-five boys aged between 11 and 13 years-old with a broad range of performances were ranked based on their personal best time in the men's 100m freestyle event and then split-up into three tiers (Tier-1, i.e., top-tier, best performers; Tier-2, mid-tier; Tier-3, lower-tier). A set of anthropometric features was measured (height, body mass, arm span and trunk transverse surface area). Stroke kinematics (speed, stroke length, stroke frequency) was assessed by a Speedo-meter. Swim efficiency was then estimated (stroke index, speed fluctuation, Froude efficiency). Hydrodynamics assessment encompassed the estimation of active drag and drag coefficient by velocity perturbation method and a set of dimensionless numbers (Froude, hull speed, Reynolds). Mechanical power (to overcome drag, transfer of kinetic energy to water, external power) and power input were derived. There was a significant variation with moderate effect sizes in all anthropometric features but the trunk transverse surface area. Tier-1 swimmers were taller, heavier and with longer limbs than remaining counterparts. There were also significant variations in the stroke kinematics with moderate-large effect sizes. Tier-1 swimmers showed higher stroke frequency, stroke length, speed, stroke index and propelling efficiency but lower speed fluctuations. Reynold number, Froude number and hull speed were significantly higher in Tier-1 swimmers, denoting large effect sizes. The mechanical power and power input delivered were significantly higher in tier-1 swimmers, showing moderate effect sizes. As a conclusion, it was noted significant variations, with moderate-large effect sizes, among the three tiers, for the vast majority of the selected variables. The better performances by tier-1 swimmers were related to their anthropometrics, biomechanics and energetics.


efficiency; hydrodynamics; mechanical power; power input; swim stroke; youth sports

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