Butterfly with Hand Paddles

This interview is an interview with Thiago Telles. Thiago has a great background in swimming with swimming and research and is applying his practical knowledge towards swimming research (see his research here). This interview mainly discusses his work on hand paddles and parachutes in butterfly (see here for the article).

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

I started on swimming in my childhood in Brazil, I was swimmer for some years on my teenager and after that, I decided to go forward and study it for my professional life. In the college I knew the biomechanics and thought why don’t I use both together? At the same time, I was invited to assume a job of coach assistant in my hometown swim club. For some years I have had hard work in both sides: academic and swim club. I had a biomechanics course, master and doctor; and in the swim team I became coach, head coach and director of the entire team. At one point, I had to choose between the swim team and the academic life and I decided to dedicate my life to my passion about academic works.

2. You recently published an article on the effects of paddles and parachutes in butterfly. First, what characteristics make an elite butterfly swimmers?

Actually in swimming it is too easy to separate the elite swimmers and the non-elite swimmers: the time. If the swimmer is capable to swim fast or not. But we might separate some skills that they must know how to perform. In my opinion, the first thing is about the undulation. They must know how to use it. After that, the coordination is also important: two leg kicks for each stroke. The relationship between the head and the hip along the undulation and the head recovery before the arms recovery in the breathing. But all these things depends directly in which amount of water the swimmer can move in each stroke. Others skills on the start, and a lot of details on the turn are also required to the high level.

3. What do we know about paddles and parachutes in freestyle swimming?

In the “academic world” there are several studies using front crawl with hand paddles and it is a little bit smaller using parachutes. The hand paddles increases the hand surface, so the swimmer is capable to move more amount of water in each stroke; to it, they must perform more strength in each stroke. It increases the size of each stroke and decreases the number of strokes to cover the same distance. Some studies shows that the direction of the strength application with hand can change in a good way, and the electromyography activity is similar with and without hand paddles. On the other hand, the parachutes increases the total drag. It increases the total resistance to be overcame by the swimmers. It also can change the hand trajectory. Both changes the coordination in front crawl, they induces the swimmers to keep the propulsive continuity.

4. What do we know about these resistance devices in other strokes?

We know that these implements also modified the front crawl coordination. It became better when the same gear sizes were used.

5. What did your study look at?

My study have tried to understand how the overload might change the coordination during their use. And after the results, we have tried to suggest some useful ways to put it on the training.

6. What were the results of your study?

We found that some conditions (using implements) improved the coordination on butterfly swimming.

7. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

We have showed which experimental conditions are better to use and which is not for the overloaded butterfly training.

8. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, elite or untrained swimmers?

Yes, for sure. The coordination changes with gender, age, skill level and velocity (and distance).

9. What does the research suggest about the power rack or power tower and swimming (free and any other strokes)?

These devices can be other options to be used for the overload on swimming. My main concern about these devices are the displacement on the swimming pool, the load should be accordingly with the swimmer, and have to allow the swimmer to move along the pool. They can’t be swimming on the spot. But I’m unaware about scientific researchers using it.

10. How much resistance with a parachute or how large of paddles should a swimmer wear? Does that depend on their speed, if so how can you figure an appropriate application?

It is a good question and a hard task. The coaches have to know that only swimmers with a good technique should use these implements. In addition, the coaches have to balance stroke rate and strength application by the swimmers. This way, they must swimming in almost the same way without gears. If they improve velocity, they will have to put more strength in each stroke.

11. What makes your research on butterfly with hand paddles and parachutes different from others?

Our research was the first one to analyze butterfly with hand paddles and parachutes.

12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

My Professor guide in Brazil was my main inspiration to do that and, on the other way, the lack of information about the use the implements by the teachers (actually coaches) in Brazil have inspired me a lot. It is good to contribute a little beat to improve the Brazilian swimmers training.

13. What areas of swimming research still need investigating?

When we put the implements on the spot, many things still need to be investigated, but for it, the researchers have to understand which the main concerns of the coaches are. The first step was the behavior with the implements, and now on the task is understand exactly how and why all this things have happened.

14. How would you implement parachutes and hand paddles for a fully developed elite 20-year-old swimmer?

They have to be adapted to use it and they have to put all the steps on a training program (almost like on the gym). The first step is the body’s preparation, they can use little load during big times in slow velocities (small rest times). After that, is possible to improve velocity and decrease the volume (rest time accordingly to the specialty of the swimmer), and the last step is to increase the overload (or the coaches can to that in each step before move to the next).

15. At what age do you feel these external aides can be used?

My suggest is to use it for high-level swimmers since 15, but the coaches have to use the right overload sizes, exposition time and set purpose.

16. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

Other studies evaluating resisted swimming with others kinds of implements, sizes of them and others perspectives (other methods) of evaluating will help the coaches to improve their training. I am already working on that and they will be soon be online.

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SSP 009: Motor Learning for Swimmers and IKKOS Training with Sean Hutchison

In this episode, I’m joined by the CEO of IKKOS Sean Hutchison. IKKOS applies neuroscience and mirror neurons for facilitating motor learning and skill acquisition. In swimming, skill acquisition is huge, as biomechanics are the largest contributor of swimming success. If you’re not familiar with Sean, check out his TED talk:


  • About motor learning in swimming.
  • The role of motor learning in swimming.
  • Current trends in elite swimming.
  • Future of swimming technology.
  • About IKKOS and how to implement IKKOS.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

SAY THANKS TO Sean Hutchison!

If you enjoyed this podcast, tell Sean thanks on Twitter!

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Myofascial Trigger Points in Shoulder Muscles

In my writings, I’ve frequently mentioned myofascial pain and trigger points (first mention is in referred shoulder pain post). In fact, much of the Swimmer’s Shoulder System and the work in progress Core Training for Swimmers focuses on myofascial trigger points. Personally, I’ve studied the research on trigger points and feel the research is quite vague on the effectiveness of treating myofascial trigger points in the shoulder. However, from personal experience, I feel the research poorly categories those with myofascial trigger points. For example, if someone has a presentation of inflammation in their shoulder, I’m not suggesting myofascial releases. Assuming everyone needs the same treatment for an injury is one major dilemma and pitfall of research, much like the swimming, an individualized approach of rehabilitation yields the greatest improvement. Nonetheless, understanding the influence of myofascial on shoulder pain can help determine the overall effectiveness and perhaps determine which people will benefit most from a myofascial treatment approach.

Background of Myofascial Trigger Points

Studies have found a high prevalence of muscles containing active and latent Myofascial Trigger Points (MTrPs) with high local mechanical pain sensitivity and referred pain in patients with chronic non-traumatic shoulder pain (Alburquerque-Sendin and others 2013; Bron et al., 2011b; Fernandez-de-las-Penas and others 2012; Ge and others 2006; Ge and others 2008). MTrPs are described as local points, highly sensitive to pressure causing characteristic referred sensations, pain, muscle dysfunction and in some cases even sympathetic hyperalgesia (Ge and others 2006; Simons and others 1999).

MTrPs may be classified as active or latent. Active MTrPs are characterized by the presence of clinical pain and constant tenderness, preventing full lengthening and leading to weakening of the muscle. Diagnostically, active MTrPs refer to patient-recognized pain upon compression and mediate a local twitch response in muscle fibers when adequately stimulated. When compressed, active MTrPs produce referred motor phenomena and often autonomic phenomena, generally in its pain reference zone. In contrast, latent MTrPs are clinically quiescent with respect to spontaneous pain, and are painful only when palpated. A latent MTrP may have all the clinical characteristics of active MTrP, always with a taut band that increases muscle tension and restricts range of motion.

Sergienko (2015) performed a literature review on the effectiveness of myofascial treatments on MTrPs (if you aren’t familiar with systematic reviews, please review this). Here is what the found:

Myofascial Trigger Points in Shoulder Muscles

MTrP palpation is a useful and reliable tool in diagnosing myofascial pain in patients with non-traumatic shoulder pain. Studies have shown a significant greater number of active MTrPs on the painful shoulder side. In contrast, no significant difference was found in the number of latent MTrPs between painful and non-painful shoulder muscles. Active MTrPs were most prevalent in the infraspinatus, upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles.

The effect of MTrPs on shoulder muscle function was evaluated in four observational studies. Reduced muscle strength, accelerated muscle fatigue and simultaneous overloading active motor units were found in subjects with latent MTrPs.

Summary of Myofascial Trigger Points in Shoulder Muscles

This review suggest MTrPs is a common finding in patients with shoulder complaints. This is likely why the Swimmer’s Shoulder System has helped many swimmers prevent (as MTrPs are likely common in swimmers due to overuse) and rehab from shoulder discomfort. Also, ignoring the influence of MTrPs may be why traditional programs are not effective in improving strength and perhaps preventing swimmer’s shoulder (Hibberd 2012).

Not sure if working on MTrPs is worth the time? Just try doing a self myofascial release (SMR) on your infraspinatus for 3 minutes. First, move your arms around like you’re swimming, doing internal rotation and all kinds of motions, then do 3 minutes of SMR, and re-check your shoulder motion…you’re welcome!


  1. Sergienko S, Kalichman L. Myofascial origin of shoulder pain: A literature review. Sergienko S, Kalichman L. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015 Jan;19(1):91-101. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.05.004. Epub 2014 May 15.

By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the owner of COR, Strength Coach Consultant, Creator of the Swimmer’s Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

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USRPT Science and Standards of Evidence

Take home points:

  1. Modern evidence is evaluated based on the evidence hierarchy.
  2. USRPT has been informally backed by volumes of research, but as never itself been tested in formal research.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with backing by lower levels of evidence, so long as claims align with the actual level of support.

Perhaps nothing sparks heated debate in swimming these days like Ultra Short Race Training (USRPT). Part of the controversy stems from the endless debate of high mileage versus low mileage. But part of the controversy results from bold claims from the USRPT community about being “more scientific” than traditional training methods. In this post, we’ll explore whether such claims are justified based on modern standards of evaluating scientific evidence.

Despite some critical words about the USRPT science that I’ll write below, I currently use USRPT for my own swim training as a triathlete and have been training this way for one full season. So, I really have no axe to grind against USRPT. It is important to note that USRPT is more than just doing short reps at a fast pace. Dr. Rushall has outlined specific guidelines detailing nearly every aspect of programming and workout execution. Intentional failure is another key concept within the USRPT system that makes it inappropriate to lump it into generalized HIIT. So it would be a mistake to critique Dr. Rushall’s specific USRPT program as “nothing new” because it is in fact a very unique application of many different principles in physiology, psychology, and motor learning.

The modern convention for evaluating scientific evidence is the evidence based pyramid, which ranks evidence from highest quality to lowest quality. Meta analyses and systematic reviews rank highest, followed by randomized controlled trials, case series, down to clinical observation (which in the coaching realm might be called “coaching wisdom”). When conclusions of higher level evidence conflict with lower level evidence, it does not mean one is “right” or “wrong”. It simply means you might have more reason to follow the higher level conclusion, but in fact the conclusion from lower levels may be more appropriate for the individual situation.

Clearly USRPT has not been studied at any higher levels. One reason is that designing a formal long term study would be nearly impossible. Yet the same thing could be said for nearly any training approach. The best evidence we have of USRPT is anecdote from word-of-mouth and a few scattered internet postings. In other words, the best evidence for USRPT itself lies within the bottom rung of the formal evidence hierarchy. But the lack of formal evidence is hardly a conclusive strike against any methods.

In the absence of direct evidence, the next step would be to evaluate the evidence used to support the claims. If we can’t evaluate the method itself (USRPT), we can at least evaluate the evidence relied upon. Key point is that quality rules over quantity. Now, Dr. Rushall has cited volumes of information, but that alone does not determine a scientific basis. That said, the main point is that without direct study of a particular intervention (of which there is none for USRPT in the peer reviewed published literature), the best we can do is make inferences…no different than any other method.

Conclusion on USRPT and Standards of Evidence

USRPT might be the best program out there. Or it might not be. What’s important for this discussion is to evaluate claims against agreed upon standards of evidence. Sometimes “because it works” is the best evidence…and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if any claims are made about being more scientific or more supported than other methods, it is important to test those claims against the standards of the research community.

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

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Weekly Swimming Round-Up

Each week we aggregate recent swimming journals and blog posts relating to swimming biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, psychology, etc. If you wish to add, please add an article to the weekly swimming round-up in the comments section.

Journal Round-up

  1. Effects of 12 weeks high-intensity & reduced-volume training in elite athletes.
  2. Coordination and propulsion and non-propulsion phases in 100 meter breaststroke swimming.
  3. Immediate changes in pressure pain sensitivity after thoracic spinal manipulative therapy in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome: A randomized controlled study.
  4. EPAS1 gene variants are associated with sprint/power athletic performance in two cohorts of European athletes.
  5. Blood flow restricted and traditional resistance training performed to fatigue produce equal muscle hypertrophy.
  6. Influence of different sports on bone mass in growing girls.

Blog Round-up

  1. SSP 008: Strength and Conditioning for Swimmers with Dr. Lee Brown
  2. #Physiology #Performance | VO2max values in the Winter Olympic Endurance Disciplines | By @YLMSportScience
  3. Okinawan strength: Developing the “Iron Body”
  4. End of Race Perception in Swimmers
  5. The “Viking Method” Experiment
  6. Optimizing Dryland Training: Installment 2
  7. 5 Tips for Hypermobile Swimmers
  8. How to Swim the 200 Fly
  9. How to Swim the 50 Freestyle

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HIT for Swimmers

Much of this post is taken from a free publication which can be accessed here

If you follow SwimSwam or Swimming World Magazine you’ve certainly noticed the great interest in ultra-short race pace training (USRPT) and elite age-group professional swimmer Michael Andrew. Posts on these topics receive massive traffic and great controversy regarding training and many other topics.

As written previously, here are the differences between the various forms of training:

  • HIT: High-intensity training (HIT) involves performing maximal efforts with long rest. For example, 25s sprint on 3:00.
  • HIIT: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) utilizes maximal effort training with short rest. For example, 8×25 @ :10 rest.
  • USRPT: Ultra short-rest race pace training (USRPT) uses a similar approach to HIIT, but provides slightly longer recovery for avoidance of fatigue and a larger emphasis on motor skill learning. 30×25@~:10 – :20 rest, emphasizing one biomechanical improvement.
  • Traditional: Higher volume training emphasizing a period of oxidative (aerobic) training at slower than race pace or sprint pace.

High-intensity training (HIT), such as 4-6×30 s all-out exercise bouts interspersed by 3–5 minutes of rest, has proved to be a potent stimulus for muscular and cardiovascular adaptation in untrained persons and athletes. In untrained participants, as little as three sessions of HIT per week for 6 weeks causes a ∼7% increase of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) and reduces the respiratory exchange ratio ∼0.01 at 65% of VO2 max.

The swimming community has been shifting towards high intensity training over the past 30 years. Over the last couple of years, ultra-short race pace training (USRPT; a branch of high-intensity interval training, but very different) has gained popularity and prompted questions regarding traditional swimming training. Unfortunately, few studies have compared long-term adaptations of the two types of training, especially in elite swimmers.

Mohr (2014) split sixty-two sedentary premenopausal women with mild to moderate arterial hypertension into a high-intensity training (HIT), a moderate training (MOD) group, or a control group (CON). This study suggested HIT results in greater fat loss and similar results in improvement. However, can we extrapolate this study to elite swimmers…of course not!

HIT Adaptations in Trained vs. Untrained

At the muscular level in untrained subjects HIT induces mitochondrial biogenesis, reduces lactate production and increases capacity for lipid oxidation. In trained subjects, skeletal muscle oxidative enzymatic potential is not always improved, but has been observed to increase after one week of HIT in elite distance runners. Thus, the mechanisms responsible for performance improvements with HIT may be different in untrained and trained subjects. There is evidence that HIT leads to a reduction in plasma K+ concentration and increased ability to work at high intensities. Reduced plasma K+ appears to result from increased skeletal muscle Na+, K+ pump.

Once again, you can’t extrapolate results from untrained or older women to elite swimmers. Luckily, there is a new study on elite swimmers!

High Intensity Training in Elite Swimmers

Kilen (2015) had forty-one healthy Danish national level senior elite swimmers (30 males and 11 females) were recruited for the study. Age: 20.0±2.7 years, height 179.9±6.5 cm and body mass 72.0±10.6 kg. The athletes had been training and competing on a regular basis for a minimum of 5 years, and they were swimming 8–16 hours per week with an average weekly distance of 20.000 m–60.000 m. The enrolled swimmers primarily competed in 50 m–200 m events.

Training Volume

An intervention period lasting 12 weeks was carried out in the competitive mid-season from February to May. A two-group parallel longitudinal study design was used. Subjects from four different teams were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (HIT group; n = 20, 14 males and 6 females) or control group (CON group; n = 21, 16 males and 5 females). From each team, swimmers were assigned to both HIT and CON groups. In the HIT group, regular training volume was reduced by 50% and the amount of high intensity training was more than doubled. In the CON group, training was continued as usual. Additional dry-land training with focus on core-stability was performed for approximately 20 minutes per day and strength training with focus on upper body strength was performed for up to 2 hours per week.

Before (PRE) and after (POST) the HIT intervention period, participants underwent a series of physiological evaluations: body composition analyses; determination of swimming economy and swimming peak oxygen uptake in a custom built swim flume; a pool based 5×200 m freestyle swim test with increasing speeds and blood analyses. Additionally, performance was evaluated by analyses of 100 m freestyle all-out and 200 m freestyle completed in competition.

Performance of 100 m all-out freestyle was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT (60.4±4.0 s vs. 60.3±4.0 s; n  = 13) and CON (60.2±3.7 s vs. 60.6±3.8 s; n = 15) group. Likewise, performance of 200 m freestyle in simulated competition was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT (133.2±6.4 s vs. 132.6±7.7 s; n = 14) and CON (133.5±7.0 s vs 133.3±7.6 s; n = 15) group. Also, average speed of a 200 m freestyle performed after four preceding 200 m swims with increasing speed was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT and CON group (1.48±0.10 m×s−1 vs. 1.50±0.08 m×s−1; n = 15 and 1.52±0.09 m×s−1 vs. 1.52±0.09 m×s−1; n = 16). Stroke- rate and length was similar (Trial: p = 0.39; Group: p = 0.52; Trial×Group: p = 0.65) during the paced 200 m before and after the invention in both the HIT (29.9±2.3 strokes×min−1 vs. 29.8±2.3 strokes x min−1; n = 15) and CON (29.4±3.3 strokes×min−1 vs. 29.0±3.6 strokes×min−1; n = 16) group.

Individual Responses to HIT

VO2 max determined during freestyle swimming with increasing speed in a flume was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT and CON group. In contrast, VO2 max expressed relative to body weight was affected by the intervention with a decrease in HIT (55.7±7.2 ml O2×min−1×kg−1 vs. 52.7±7.0 m lO2×min−1×kg−1; n = 14) and no significant difference in CON (55.0±5.9 ml O2×min−1×kg−1 vs. 53.8±6.4 ml O2×min−1×kg−1; n = 13). For the HIT group (n = 16) the increase did not reach statistical significance (15.4±1.6% vs. 16.3±1.6%). In the CON group (n = 17) body fat percent increased from 13.9±1.5% to 14.9±1.5%. The other variables were the unchanged.

Conclusions on HIT for Swimmers

Clearly, much more research on HIT and swimming is needed. However, for elite swimmers, it suggests HIT is a possible method of improvement. It is likely many coaches already implement a form of HIT in their training, but questions will persist if it is the only method needed for improvement. Unfortunately, this study does not answer that question.

Some will suggest, that HIT worked in this study as it worked with elite swimmers and they knew how to “push themselves” harder. However, earlier work has suggest age-group junior triathletes (Zinner 2014), age-group swimmers (Sperlich 2010) and teenage swimmers ( also perform similarly with HIT compared to traditional training. Therefore, the claims many make that HIT is damaging to long term athletic developed seems unwarranted and purely anecdotal, as HIT throughout the swimming career could be more as effective on performance and perhaps more effective in reducing injuries and increasing enjoyment. Think about, less strokes, less shoulder stress, reduced injuries with 50% the volume. Now, volume isn’t the only factor in shoulder injuries, but multiple studies correlate swimming volume with shoulder injuries (albeit they didn’t look at swimming intensity, which may negate the reduced volume) (Sein 2010). Also, if a swimmer can have similar results with HIT as traditional training and enjoy it more, then why not let them try it? The zealousness of both HIT and traditional based camps is amusing, as neither group works for everyone, as the second figure shows, some swimmers had improvement with each approach. In order to know more, longer term studies analyzing HIT and traditional training, as well as different types of HIT would be beneficial. Also, studies which have a fully mature swimmers switch between HIT and traditional training would be greatly beneficial. Unfortunately, this study design is expensive, time consuming, and potentially limiting the swimmers potential of improvement (all the switching of programming).

Nonetheless, the major findings were that more than a doubling of high-intensity training (HIT) in combination with a 50% reduction of training volume for 12 weeks did not change swimming performance, swimming specific VO2max, swimming economy, blood metabolic markers or body composition as compared to a control group. How you take this information is up to the coaches, as they can run their own experiments with their swimmers.


  1. Kilen A, Larsson TH, Jørgensen M, Johansen L, Jørgensen S, Nordsborg NB. Effects of 12 weeks high-intensity & reduced-volume training in elite athletes. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 15;9(4):e95025. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095025. eCollection 2014.
  2. Mohr M, Nordsborg NB, Lindenskov A, Steinholm H, Nielsen HP, Mortensen J, Weihe P, Krustrup P. High-intensity intermittent swimming improves cardiovascular health status for women with mild hypertension. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:728289. doi: 10.1155/2014/728289. Epub 2014 Apr 10.
  3. Sperlich B, Zinner C, Heilemann I, Kjendlie PL, Holmberg HC, et al. (2010) High-intensity interval training improves VO(2peak), maximal lactate accumulation, time trial and competition performance in 9-11-year-old swimmers. Eur J Appl Physiol 110: 1029–1036
  4. Zinner C, Wahl P, Achtzehn S, Reed JL, Mester J. Acute hormonal responses before and after 2 weeks of HIT in well trained junior triathletes. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Apr;35(4):316-22. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1353141. Epub 2013 Sep 30.
  5. Sein ML, Walton J, Linklater J, Appleyard R, Kirkbride B, Kuah D, Murrell GA. Shoulder pain in elite swimmers: primarily due to swim-volume-induced supraspinatus tendinopathy. Br J Sports Med. 2010 Feb;44(2):105-13. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.047282. Epub 2008 May 7.

By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the owner of COR, Strength Coach Consultant, Creator of the Swimmer’s Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

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Comparison of the Short Course Meters Woman’s 100 Breaststroke World Record

Take Home Message:

  1. The aim was to: (i) compare Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) WR in Moscow (October 2013) and Alia Atkinson (JAM) in Doha (November 2014), both with a time of 1:02.36; (ii) learn the effect of the taper on Alia´s performance (Singapore vs. Doha races, 5 weeks apart).
  2. Water entry and water break was not different comparing Ruta and Alia.
  3. Alia Atkinson showed a shift in the stroke kinematics between the Singapore and Doha events (decrease in the clean speed, stroke length and efficiency but increase in the stroke rate).
  4. Alia’s breakout was around the 8-9m and 9-10m distances in Singapore and Doha, respectively. She not only stayed underwater longer, but the turning speed was also higher (10.6% and 6.9% faster in the first and last turns).

A lot was already said about Alia´s WR and gold medal at the SCM World Championships held last December in Doha. It is great for her, for Jamaica and for the World swimming according to the reasons pointed out in a very comprehensive way in the specialized media. Let´s go back one month, November 2014. Early that month, a few weeks before the Championships, it was held here in Singapore the last leg of the 2014 FINA World Cup Series. Overall, the leg was fairly entertaining considering that: (i) most swimmers were away from home at several weeks to compete at the legs of the Asian cluster; (ii) each leg is a two-days meet packed with a lot of events; (iii) most swimmers race more than two events per day; (iv) there are claims that some of them still have training sessions between the morning and evening races; (v) probably they are looking forward to the World Championships in 4-5 weeks time. However, a couple of athletes posted very promising races, swimming at world record paces.

That time, my comment to a few friends and peers was that if Chad and Alia can race at WR pace 4-5 weeks before Doha, after a good taper, probably they will smash some records in December. So, we must keep an eye on them. Surprisingly, at least for some people, that did happen. So this bring us to today´s post: (i) compare Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) WR in Moscow (October 2013) and Alia Atkinson (JAM) in Doha (November 2014), both with a time of 1:02.36; (ii) learn the effect of the taper on Alia´s performance (Singapore vs. Doha, 5 weeks apart).

Race analysis was done as reported in my previous posts on Ruta Meilutyte’s 100 SCM World Record Race Analysis. The Doha race can be found on YouTube® and the one in Singapore I recorded on the stands.

Ruta is well known to be very quick on the blocks (i.e. reaction time). However the water entry and water break is not so different comparing RM and AA (table 1). Between Singapore and Doha, Alia covered one more meter fully immersed but only spent an extra 0.13s. Hence, one might consider that she improved the first and second glides in the start (RM: 2.43m/s; AA: 2.30m/s and 2.44m/s; an improvement of 5.8% in 5 weeks).

table 1

AA was slightly faster in the first split than RM (AA: 29.46s; RM: 29.56s) but that paid-off even though she was slower by 0.1s in the following one (Table 2). In Singapore, AA did the first split at the WR pace (29.58s). I am not sure if she was only testing paces, really wanted to break the World record but was too tired, saving energy for the remaining events of the session because she raced back-to-back two finals: the W100Br (at 06:24pm) and the W200IM (at 06:53pm). Only she and her coach have the right answer to that.

table 2

Surprisingly the Atkinson´s stroke kinematics were slightly lower than the one performed by RM (table 3). Clean speed, stroke length and efficiency (i.e. stroke index) are lower, but the stroke rate higher. Interestingly, the same trend can be verified comparing the Singapore leg with Doha´s final. In Singapore, 81.8% of the speed was related to the stroke length, while in Doha only 35.34%. So, it seems that she had a strategy based on the stroke rate in Doha, a nice and “smoother” technique in Singapore.

So far, we learned that Alia Atkinson start was quite good, and there was a shift in the stroke kinematics. This lead us to the question on how did she performed during the turns and the finish.
table 3

Over the three turns, AA increased the distance to the water break (table 4). She was doing the water break around the 8-9m and 9-10m distances in Singapore and Doha, respectively. Not only she stayed longer fully immersed but the turning speed was also higher (10.6% and 6.9% faster in the first and last turns). Regarding the finish, the difference between RM and AA is 0.06s. AA showed a slight improvement by 0.04s (1.2%) between November and December. Therefore, it seems that the turns were determinant for Alias Atkinson World Record.
table 4

table 5

To wrap-up, comparing RM and AA WR at the W100Br by the same time of 1:02.36, it seems that the start and the turns were determinants for the later swimmer´s performance. Over that race, the clean swimming relied more on the stroke rate than the stroke length or swimming efficiency. That improvement on the start and turns did happen between the race delivered in Singapore and the final in Doha. Moreover, there was a slight shift in the swimming mechanics (higher SR, lower SL).

Can’t wait for the long course meters woman’s 100 breaststroke world record showdown, any predictions?

By Tiago M. Barbosa PhD degree recipient in Sport Sciences and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The post Comparison of the Short Course Meters Woman’s 100 Breaststroke World Record appeared first on Swimming Science.

End of Race Perception in Swimmers

This is an interview with Nicolas Hanson. Dr. Hanson is one of the leading researchers in fatigue and end of race perception (endpoint). Dr. Hanson is an Associate Professor at Western Michigan University. This article discusses his latest research on endpoint percetion. Don’t forget to checkout all of his research.

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

My area of research is in Exercise Science, and I am particularly interested in the perceptions that we experience during exercise.

My Bachelor’s degree is in Biology, and I have a Master’s degree in Exercise Science (both from the University of Nebraska at Omaha). I recently completed my PhD in Kinesiology from The Ohio State University. I have a CSCS certification from the National Strength & Conditioning Association, and recently started as an Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University.

2. You recently published an article on effect of endpoint knowledge. Before we get into your study, what does the research demonstrate about knowing the endpoint of a race?

A landmark study that really sparked my interest in this area was by Hans Ulmer in the early 90s. He coined this term “teleoanticipation” which essentially involves knowledge of the endpoint and how we pace ourselves based on this.  It seems as though we really like to know the endpoint of a bout of exercise so we can work backward and know when we can really push ourselves hard.

3. What did your study look at?

Our study looked specifically at recreational endurance runners. We had them run to an “unknown” endpoint that was individually calculated for each subject based on their particular running history. Then they came back again and ran the same distance but this time they knew how far they were going to run. We wanted to see how that affected their perceived exertion, pacing strategy and heart rate during the run.

4. What were the results of your study?

First of all, the subjects ran faster when they knew the endpoint. We expected that to happen, because we assumed that they would be better able to pace themselves knowing roughly how long it would take them to complete the run. But what was interesting was that there were no differences at all in perceived exertion, affect (positive or negative feelings) or heart rate. Since the pace was different between conditions, this showed us that not knowing the endpoint of exercise can definitely affect the sense of effort. Sometimes coaches will have their athletes run without letting them know how long they will be out there – this research shows that it probably won’t make them feel any better or lower their heart rate so it may not be a wise practice.

Another interesting finding was that cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max) was a predictor of where the subjects’ attention was placed while running but only when the endpoint was known.  What this means is that the more fit they were, the more they used associative strategies during the known endpoint run. This is when you attempt to focus on things like your breathing rate, form, etc. rather than daydreaming or thinking about something non running-related. Some previous studies have shown that high-level (Olympic) runners tend to use associative strategies so this is something else coaches and athletes could take away. Maybe the next step in performance is to train the brain.

5. Although swimming typically has a set distance, there is an increased use of endless pools and non-specific distances. If coaches or swimmers are using pool like this, how can coaches and swimmers maximize training? 

I see endless pools as being very similar to treadmills, where you are in the same place the entire time rather than physically moving and covering distance.  With these endless pools, I think that one of the benefits is definitely the opportunity to complete a long-distance swim uninterrupted by other people or turns. An even bigger benefit, though, is the chance to try out the cognitive strategies of association and dissociation with changes in the current speed.

6. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, elite or differently trained athletes?

It is definitely possible that the results would be different with a different subject pool. I think the effect of training would be more impactful than the effect of age, though.

7. What should swimmers think about at the end of a race with an endpoint?

I would use a similar strategy as the subjects in the current study that were more aerobically fit. They tended to focus on internal cues such as form, breathing rate, etc. rather than dissociating and trying to focus their minds elsewhere. I think this is a particularly useful strategy when swimmers reach higher levels of performance and are racing for top finishing spot.

8. What should swimmers think about at the end of a race without an endpoint?

The idea of an “endpoint” being based on distance rather than time is very interesting – the way that we differentiate the two. Either way, if the race does not have an endpoint or if the goal is to cover as much distance as possible in a certain timeframe, I think it would be more beneficial to implement dissociative strategies. In this case, it may actually be better to try and think about things other than the race to try and keep your mind occupied with something else. I have heard anecdotal stories of people running very long distances (150+ miles) and they are dissociating so much that they nearly have out-of-body experiences and cover stretches of miles without even realizing it. This would be a good strategy for swimmers as well, to deal with the mental aspect of racing without a solid distance endpoint.

9. Who is doing the most interesting research currently in your field? What are they doing?

Dr. Ross Tucker is someone who I follow and has done some great work with pacing, especially in hot environments.  Ross worked with Dr. Tim Noakes, who I also follow. Dr Noakes has some controversial viewpoints but always creates great discussions amongst researchers. He is the one who coined the term “Central Governor”, which describes the mind-body connection and how it relates to human performance.

10. What makes your research different from others?

Well, I am just starting my career so I have a lot to learn and a long way to go.  But I think one unique aspect of this study in particular is that it implemented a self-paced protocol without a known endpoint; I don’t think this has been done before.

11. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

I have been fortunate to have great advisors in graduate school.  At UNO I was advised by Dr. Kris Berg, who allowed me to choose a project that I found very interesting and run with it.  At OSU I worked with Dr. Janet Buckworth and Dr. Steven Devor who really allowed me to simultaneously focus on both the psychological and physiological aspects of exercise.

12. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

As I mentioned, I’m very interested in perceptions during exercise. To go along with that, I’m looking at how we perceive time passage during exercise – I’m curious to see if there are differences between men/women and how core body temperature during exercise may be related to the perception of time.

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SSP 008: Strength and Conditioning for Swimmers with Dr. Lee Brown

In this episode, I’m joined by world-renowned strength and conditioning expert Dr. Lee Brown. Dr. Brown is a professor at Cal State Fullerton and has published numerous studies, most recently on cluster plyometric training.


  • What is cluster plyometric training.
  • Example strength training for sprint swimmers.
  • Example strength training for distance swimmers.
  • Example strength and conditioning for swimmers.
  • The use of specificity in swimming.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.


If you enjoyed this podcast, tell Dr. Lee Brown thanks in the comments!

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Optimizing Dryland Training: Installment 2

In the first installment of this series, I covered some of the bare-bones basics of dryland and how to implementing them into a successful swim program.  More specifically, I explained the importance of myofascial release (foam rolling), periodization of dryland training, and the pitfalls ‘functional’ training.  If you missed the first article in the series, or just want a recap, you can find it here.  Now I’m back with another segment and a few more tips to help you get the most out of your swimmers’ land-based training.

1. Skip the Running

There is a very logical, but flawed thought process among many coaches that leads them to believe that running is the best form of dryland training.  On the surface, this makes sense; but as I alluded to, it is a poor choice.

While running may help with energy system training when a pool is unavailable, it can cause burnout very easily.  Currently, in Strength & Conditioning, there is a growing idea that running (steady state, long distance running) may actually hinder performance through several mechanisms.  First, running can damage your hormonal profile, making it harder to recover and perform.  Running also hinders performance by either taking time away from pool-based training, or by going above and beyond pool based training into a dangerous area where overtraining is very possible.

The above thought process may then be applied to weight training: “Well if taking time away from the pool for running is bad, why should I take time away from the pool for weight training?”  While this may be a slippery slope, the fact is, weight training is restorative, while running is taxing.

While you may think running is making the best of a bad situation, many of my peers in strength and conditioning, as well as myself, believe otherwise.  If you are in a position where running is your only viable option to get a training stimulus outside of the water, I suggest high intensity runs like shuttle runs, suicides, bleacher runs, and especially sprints.

2. Spend Time Recovering

Although the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality is finally retiring along with some older coaches, it still exists, and is still interfering with the recovery and performance of athletes everywhere. The adage should actually be ‘stimulate, not annihilate’.   Why does taper work? Partially because the swimmers have an opportunity to rest and fully demonstrate the skills they have acquired through hundreds of hours of practice in a given season.

Whether it is in the pool or in dryland training, swimmers don’t necessarily always need more training, but frequently do need better training—this idea is proven in through the success of programs like the highly recognized USRPT.

Throughout the season, I tend to see swimmers for about the same duration. The biggest differences are what we spend doing in that time period throughout the season.  Closer to championship meets, the gross majority of our time is spent foam rolling, doing corrective work, and very little is spent with weights.  Again, just like with swimmers, what we do perform with weights is still very high intensity, as there is a very big difference between getting sufficient rest and laziness.

3. Don’t Fear Muscle

American Footballers avoided weight training for fear it would make them too slow, Baseball players thought it would make them too bulky to hit a baseball, and even the athletes who compete in golf thought it would only negatively effect performance.  Then in the early 80’s, footballers started weight training, which made the sport much faster and more competitive, in the 90’s, baseball players started to accept weight training, then home-run records started falling left and right.  And now, the most recognized man in golf, Tiger Woods can bench over 350 lbs.!

In swimming Ryan Lochte is flipping tires and training with as much intensity in the weight room as a world’s strongest man competitor.  Phelps, who has been pretty opposed to weight training due to personal disdain has accepted it simply because he recognized how important it is, and the best swimming programs in the NCAA all have well-developed Strength & Conditioning Programs.

Don’t think that muscle is going to slow you down, or that you need to train with only light weights, or in a manner similar to your strokes.  Train heavy, and train with the purpose of being the best in the world; champions aren’t forged with 5 lb. dumbbells.

Written by John Matulevich a powerlifting world record holder in multiple lifts and weight classes, as well as a Head D-2 Strength Coach, and previously a nationally ranked college athlete. His concentrations are in sports performance, powerlifting, and weight training for swimming. To learn more about how John trains his athletes, check his Twitter page: @John_Matulevich. He can also be reached at MuscleEmporium@gmail.com with inquiries.

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