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Huub M. Toussaint and Martin Truijens

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João Ribeiro, Argyris G. Toubekis, Pedro Figueiredo, Kelly de Jesus, Huub M. Toussaint, Francisco Alves, João P. Vilas-Boas and Ricardo J. Fernandes

Purpose:

To conduct a biophysical analysis of the factors associated with front-crawl performance at moderate and severe swimming intensities, represented by anaerobic-threshold (vAnT) and maximal-oxygen-uptake (vV̇O2max) velocities.

Methods:

Ten high-level swimmers performed 2 intermittent incremental tests of 7 × 200 and 12 × 25 m (through a system of underwater push-off pads) to assess vAnT, and vV̇O2max, and power output. The 1st protocol was videotaped (3D reconstruction) for kinematic analysis to assess stroke frequency (SF), stroke length (SL), propelling efficiency (η P), and index of coordination (IdC). V̇O2 was measured and capillary blood samples (lactate concentrations) were collected, enabling computation of metabolic power. The 2nd protocol allowed calculating mechanical power and performance efficiency from the ratio of mechanical to metabolic power.

Results:

Neither vAnT nor vV̇O2max was explained by SF (0.56 ± 0.06 vs 0.68 ± 0.06 Hz), SL (2.29 ± 0.21 vs 2.06 ± 0.20 m), η P (0.38 ± 0.02 vs 0.36± 0.03), IdC (–12.14 ± 5.24 vs –9.61 ± 5.49), or metabolic-power (1063.00 ± 122.90 vs 1338.18 ± 127.40 W) variability. vV̇O2max was explained by power to overcome drag (r = .77, P ≤ .05) and η P (r = .72, P ≤ .05), in contrast with the nonassociation between these parameters and vAnT; both velocities were well related (r = .62, P ≤ .05).

Conclusions:

The biomechanical parameters, coordination, and metabolic power seemed not to be performance discriminative at either intensity. However, the increase in power to overcome drag, for the less metabolic input, should be the focus of any intervention that aims to improve performance at severe swimming intensity. This is also true for moderate intensities, as vAnT and vV˙O2max are proportional to each other.