The purpose of this study was to investigate the wave characteristics of breaststroke swimming. Particular emphasis was accorded the question of whether modern breast-stroke is "flylike" (referring to the butterfly stroke) and whether "waves" travel along the body during the breaststroke cycle. Selected body landmarks and the center of mass (CM) of 8 Olympic breaststroke swimmers were quantified. Fourier analysis was conducted to determine the amplitude, frequency composition, and phase characteristics of the vertical undulations of the vertex of the head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. The differences in phase between these landmarks for the first (HI) and second (H2) Fourier frequencies were investigated to establish whether body waves traveled in a caudal direction. While the motion of the upper body was somewhat flylike, the velocity of the HI wave from the hips to ankles was variable among subjects and, for all subjects, was too slow to be propulsive. Contrary to what one would expect, the range of vertical motion of the CM was inversely related to the range of hip vertical motion. The two highest placing subjects, based on preliminary heat times (SI and S4), were distinguished by a large range of hip vertical motion and a small range of CM vertical motion.
Ross H. Sanders is with the Department of Human Movement Studies, Joondalup Campus, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. Jane M. Cappaert is with the International Center for Aquatic Research (ICAR), Colorado Springs, CO. David L. Pease is with the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.