Dryland and Stroke Biomechanics

Take Home Points:

  1. Strength training may have a positive effect on swimming biomechanics.
  2. Individualized dryland programs are necessary, considering the effects of dryland on future biomechanics.
  3. More research on the effects of land strength and dryland are required.

This is an example chapter of Dryland for Swimmers. Order your copy to day for $59.99!
Biomechanics are the largest contributor for swimming success. A possible explanation for this might lie in the nature of swimming; forces being applied against a fluctuate element with the posture of the human body being the most important vector against propulsion. Swimming performance is thus determined by the athletes’ ability to produce forward motion while reducing water friction, or drag (Toussaint 1990; Pate 1984). The possible biomechanical effects (propulsive abilities and drag) from drylandmust also be considered. Unfortunately, many resistance training studies do not compare biomechanics, making the results of each study impossible to extrapolate the biomechanical results of training. 

Four studies observed improvements in stroke mechanics, specifically increased stroke length, (Toussaint 1990; Strass 1986), increased stroke rate (Girold 2006) and decreased stroke depth (Girold 2007) after strength training. None of the included studies investigated whether there was a possible training effect on active or passive drag.

Girold et al. (2006) found that improved swimming performance was positively associated with an increased stroke rate of the last 50m of a 100m freestyle time trial after 3 weeks of in-water resistance training (tethered to an elastic tube). Swimming velocity is the product of stroke rate and stroke length, (Craig 1985) and both factors should be optimized for maximal performance. Although stroke rate has been associated with maximal swimming velocity, (Wakayoshi 1995) stroke length is likely more important (Wakayoshi 1993).

For instance Craig and colleagues (1985) observed that stroke length was the factor that differentiated finalists from non-finalists during the US Olympic trials in 1984, and another study suggested that increased maximal velocity was an effect of increased stroke length (Wakayoshi 1993).

Girold et al. (2006) found decreased stroke depth after both combined resisted- and assisted-sprint swim training (tethered to an elastic tube pulling against or towards swimming direction), and dryland strength training. The researchers found increased stroke rate both in the combined resisted- and assisted-sprint group and in the control group, but not in the strength training group. Although the findings were not fully consistent, the authors concluded that the decreased stroke depth was a consequence of maintained stroke length when stroke rate was increased. However, if body rotation remains stable, decreased stroke depth may reduce the biomechanical momentum of the propulsive muscles, and thus decrease the potential for propulsion.

In the study from Toussaint and Vervoorn, (1990) they observed increased stroke lengths at equal maximal swimming velocities after resistance training on the MAD system. The observed change was suggested to come from increased maximal swimming power, although maximal swimming velocity was unchanged. Similar observations were also made after dryland maximal strength training in the study from Strass, (1986) but not in the studies from Aspenes et al., (2009) Trappe and Pearson, (1994) Tanaka et al. (1999) or Roberts et al. (1991). Faude et al. (2008) compared the effects of low volume training with high-intensity versus high- volume training with low intensity, and observed no differential effects on mean stroke rates in either 100m or 400m maximal freestyle. High volume, low-intensity training is sometimes recommended for improving swimming economy, but none of the studies included in this review support that notion. However, the hypothesis needs more studies before any conclusion can be drawn.

Strength training may have positive effects on stroke characteristics, but so far the evidence is inconclusive. Future RCT studies can probably be designed to study the effect of, or preservation of, stroke characteristics with strength training.

Order Dryland for Swimmers 


  1. Girold S, Maurin D, Dugué B, Chatard JC, Millet G. Effects of dry-land vs. resisted- and assisted-sprint exercises on swimming sprint performances. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):599-605
  2. Girold S, Jalab C, Bernard O, Carette P, Kemoun G, Dugué B. Dry-land strength training vs. electrical stimulation in sprint swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):497-505.
  3. Aspenes S, Kjendlie PL, Hoff J, et al. Combined strength and endurance training in competitive swimmers. J Sports Sci Med 2009 Sept; 8 (3): 357-65.
  4. Aspenes ST, Karlsen T. Exercise-training intervention studies in competitive swimming. Sports Med. 2012 Jun 1;42(6):527-43
  5. Toussaint HM, Vervoorn K. Effects of specific high resistance training in the water on competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med 1990 Jun; 11 (3): 228-33
  6. Craig Jr AB, Skehan PL, Pawelczyk JA, et al. Velocity, stroke rate, and distance per stroke during elite swimming competition. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1985 Dec; 17 (6): 625-34
  7. Wakayoshi K, Yoshida T, Ikuta Y, et al. Adaptations to six months of aerobic swim training: changes in velocity, stroke rate, stroke length and blood actate. Int J Sports Med 1993 Oct; 14 (7): 368-72
  8. Trappe S, Pearson D. Effects of weight assisted dry-land strength training on swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res 1994 Nov; 8 (4): 209-13.
  9. Tanaka H, Costill DL, Thomas R, et al. Dry-land resistance training for competitive swimming. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993 Aug; 25 (8): 952-9
  10. Strass D. Effects of maximal strength training on sprint performance of competitive swimmers. In: Ungerechts BE, Wilke K, Reischle K, editors. Vth International Symposium of Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming; 1986 Jul 27-31. Bielefeld: Human Kinetics Books, 1986: 149-56
  11. Faude O, Meyer T, Scharhag J, et al. Volume vs. intensity in the training of competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med 2008 Nov; 29 (11): 906-12
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.

Race Analysis and Video: Katie Ledecky 400 Free World Record

Take Home Points on Race Analysis and Video: Katie Ledecky 400 Free World Record
  • Katie Ledecky broke the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle world records in roughly one and a half month, being the first American swimmer holding the big-three middle- and long-distance records after Janet Evans.
  • She swam the 1500m at a 1:02 pace, the 800m in negative split and the 400m with two splits bellow one minute.
  • There is a trend for the number of strokes per lap decrease with increasing distance (1500m: first half 38 and second half 39-40; 800m: 40-41; 400m: first half 39 and second half 40-41).
A good piece of news is when a man bites the dog. Katie Ledecky breaking another world
record is not a surprise or comes out of the blue. But to be the first woman after Janet Evans holding the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle records, that is truly… remarkable. We are talking about three world records broken in roughly one and a half month, wearing textile swimsuits and still on the road to the season´s major competition. On top of that, she posted the 2nd best time in the world at the 200m event (as on 10 August 2014; table 1).

As you can imagine I did not have much time to carry a deep analysis. So, my purpose for today is to compare the split times and number of strokes per split in the four events. Split times were retrieved from the competitions´ websites. I will report both the 50m (figure 1) and 100m (main text) split times. The stroke count (number of strokes per 50m split) was done after downloading the videos from the web. Unfortunately for the 1500m event, I failed to find the full race. There is one video available that is a 7 minutes condensed version of the race from beginning to end. So, I had to interpolate some missing data (dash line in figure 2). If you wish the number of stroke cycles rather than the number of strokes, just divide the figures reported by two.

Regarding the split times (figure 1): (i) a very stable swim pace at the 1500m (around 1:02) and she end the race in 1:00.7; (ii) we can see clearly the negative split at the 800m event; (iii) in the 400m, two splits bellow one minute (57.74; 59.98) and remaining two inside the “double-0” (1:00.68; 1:00.46); (iv) in the shortest event, splits where 56.64 and 58.52, respectively. Probably several countries would like to have their top-sprinters doing these 200m splits.

The partial difference (table 2) of Ledecky´s split times in the 1500m in comparison with the: (i) 800m is between -0.44% and 3.89%; (ii) 400m, 3.05-4.20%; (iii) 200m, 5.60-6.80%. I.e. the first half of the 1500m and the 800m paces are fairly similar (on average a 0.40s difference per 100m split). In the last 100m of both races (i.e. 1400-1500m and 700-800m) she clocked 1:00.7 and 1:00.12 (difference: 0.58s).

Concerning to the stroke counts: (i) there is a trend for the number of strokes per lap decrease with increasing distance; (ii) number of strokes increases in the second half of the 1500m event from 38 to 39-40; (iii) in the 800m event the number of strokes was rather stable, between 40 and 41; (iv) in the 400m event, we can see again that the number of strokes increases in the second half from 39 to 40-41; (v) as expected the 200m is the race with the highest number of strokes per split (38-41); (vi) it might be interesting to pinpoint that Katie did 33, 34 and 35 strokes (first split) and 38, 38 and 29 strokes (second and third splits) in the 1500, 800 and 400m events, respectively.

My guess (my bet?) is that the figures I report here might be of no use by the end of the summer. After the Pan Pacs, to be held in late August, we may need to update this post. I hope you enjoyed the analysis though.

By Tiago M. Barbosa that earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a faculty position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Drills to Ditch: Side kicking and 6-beat switch

Take Home Points on Drills to Ditch
    1. Hip rotation may contribute less to rotation than previous belief
    2. Hip stability is crucial for energy transfer
    3. Reconsider drills that teach hip rotation beyond the degree used in the full stroke
      Many non-scientific beliefs exist in swimming. One form of dogma is the role of hip

      rotation in long axis strokes.  Conventional wisdom says that increasing hip rotation is critical for propulsion, hydrodynamics, and healthy biomechanics.  While most would agree that a completely flat stroke devoid of any rotation is suboptimal, there’s great uncertainty in how much is optimal, both in general terms and for each individual.

      Some factors that may dictate hip rotation include:
      • Individual stroke preferences: Different types of freestyle (Body Roll in Freestyle)
      • Injury patterns: Some swimmers must adjust their strokes to avoid pain, as everyone brings different alignment to the pool.
      • Event: It has been suggested that sprinters require less hip rotation than middle distance and distance swimmers.
      • Kicking patterns: 2 beat versus 6 beat kick may dictate body roll patterns.
      Unfortunately, most data on hip rotation comes from the naked eye and from 2D still and video images.  Unlike land based sports such as baseball, golf, and tennis, there is far less data on swim strokes readily available to the coach.  Still there has been enough research for authors such as Maglischo (2003) to conclude,

      "Rolling the body from side to side is essential to efficient front-crawl and backstroke swimming, although not for the reasons usually espoused.  Body roll does not add to propulsive force, except indirectly."

      In an interview on this site, Dr. Jan Prins noted from research in his own lab (paraphrased):

      "Because water is unstable, stability must come from the hips. Hips are translators of velocity and roll in reaction to movements of the hands and feet. Hip velocity tells us how fast you are going. People assume you roll your body but that is incorrect. Previous biomechanical models were based on fixed resistance (land), but water is an unstable medium. Hip stability allows force transfer initiated by the hands and feet. Roll occurs naturally via arm extension. Don’t try to swim on your side like a fish." 

      Previously, Dr. John had begun a series on drillsto ditch segment focusing on traditional drills that deserve rethinking.  The discussion here begs the question whether drills involving side kicking merit continued use in light of what we know (or don’t know) about hip rotation.  Now, if the purpose of the drill is to improve side kicking (such as out of a wall), then perhaps that is more defensible.  But if the goal is to teach a swimmer to swim on their side mid-pool, the latter justification seems to sit on shakier ground. 

      Two drills coming to mind are side kicking and 6-kick switch on side.  Both drills may have merit for coaching beginners with zero concept of body rotation, but do they have merit for anyone beyond the beginner level (if even for novices?)?  Ultimately, there is no definitive answer, but given what the trends are regarding hip stability, perhaps any attempt to exaggerate hip rotation may infect the overall stroke pattern that we are aiming for. 


      While part of this post is as much theory and conjecture as the drills themselves, it does reflect how much is still unknown in this area.  Anecdotally there seems to a movement away from emphasizing hip rotation for the sake of hip rotation, as many now recognize that more factors come into play.  Ultimately, our drill selection should follow accordingly with changes in knowledge.    

      1. Maglischo, E.  Swimming Fastest.  Human Kinetics.  2003
      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.

      3 Things you Didn't Know About Ultra-Endurance Swimming

      Take Home Points on 3 Things you Didn't Know About Ultra-Endurance Swimming
      1. Ultra-endurance swimming often doesn't result in maximal fatigue, cause hunger, or alter swimming hand path.
      2. This form of training isn't as negative as some suggest on swimming skill.
      Many associate ultra-endurance swimming with pain and fatigue. However, we know little
      on the subject, despite it's growing popularity. Now, many swimmers have performed ultra-endurance swimming during practice through the forms of tests sets (Timed 30 minute swim or timed 3,000) and Allan Philips has discussed some of the risks/benefits of this training previously. Most swimmers would likely agree these sets are arduous times. For one, there is no break. Another difficulty is the pure mental strength required for the task. These are two reasons some coaches (for one Bob Bowman) enjoy these sets. Unfortunately, these are anecdotal reasons for this form of training. Scientifically, little is known on ultra-endurance swimming. Here are three misconceptions on ultra-endurance swimming.

      1. You Don't Reach Maximal Fatigue: Fatigue is multifactorial, associated with a decrease in muscle performance. Swimming fatigue is most noted with an increase in energy cost and a change in biomechanical stroke parameters. Despite the frequent discussion of physiological factors influencing fatigue, psychological factors are also thought to impair swimming. For example, when swimming for an extended period of time rating of perceived exertion (RPE) increases. Conscious information is the memory of the RPE of a familiar task. When an athlete is performing a novel exercise or distance, a conservative pacing approach is performed. This is why many can raise their effort level at the end of a task. The decision to cease the task would be mainly due to two psychological factors: the potential motivation and the perceived exertion. A recent study analyzed the effects of a 25-km time trial on national and international swimmers (not ultra-endurance swimmers) and found a significantly higher RPE, but not a maximal RPE during the swim. The reason for not reaching maximal RPE may be due to the novelty of the race for these swimmers (mostly sprinters) or the positive experience of finishing the task. Now, the results may be different with highly trained ultra-endurance swimmers, but for most swimmers you aren't even reaching maximal effort during ultra-endurance swimming! 
      2. You Don't Get Hungry! Hunger, like fatigue, is a complicated subject. One would expect a swimmer to become hungry during an ultra-endurance race due to the amount of calories burned. This high caloric expenditure creates a negative energy balance, yet during a 25-km swim, swimmers don't report hunger! The authors concluded "the reduction in leptin compensated for a negative energy balance due to the prolonged effort through an increase in appetite". Despite the lack of hunger, consuming some calories is paramount for ultra-endurance training. For example, if an ultra-endurance swimmer is not consuming calories they may lack in energy for maximal performance. The swimmers may also risk hyponatremia, low blood salt. Hyponatremia is a deadly condition, which kills a couple ultra-endurance runners each year. Now, the swimmers don't need to eat something, but could simply drink a fluid containing calories.  
      3. Hand Path Doesn't Change: Many coaches avoid ultra-endurance sets as they are adapting the principle of specificity. However, this study noted no change in the hand path of the swimmers during an ultra-endurance race. This doesn't imply they are using "race" specific biomechanics, but that they are locking into a pattern which isn't changing form. Since the hand path isn't changing one could argue this form of training isn't as negative as previously thought.
      These three things you didn't know about ultra-endurance swimming are from one study, of non-ultra-endurance-swimmers. More research on trained ultra-endurance swimmers is warranted, as one would assume they can reach higher levels of fatigue during this racing.

      If you are prescribing ultra-endurance training sets, keep this notions in mind, as safety and maximal performance are two main goals!

      1. Invernizzi PL, Limonta E, Bosio A, Scurati R, Veicsteinas A, Esposito F. Effects of a 25-km trial on psychological, physiological and stroke characteristics of short- and mid-distance swimmers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Feb;54(1):53-62.
      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.

      Ankle Mobility Important for Swimmers, Maybe Not!

      The newest edition of the Swimming Science Research Review comes out today. The theme of this edition is dryland, make sure to order your copy to stay current with the latest research on dry-land. Below are the tables of contents of this edition. 
      Order today and find the answer to the following questions:
      1. Ankle Mobility Doesn’t Alter Dolphin Kick Performance
      2. Open and Closed Chain Exercises have Different Knee Stress 
      3. Different Exercises Activate Different Areas of the Hamstrings
      4. Baking Soda in High-Altitude Training is Not Warranted
      5. Grunting Increases Power Production
      6. Battling Ropes are a Highly Metabolic Exercise
      7. Individual Responses Occur with High-Intensity Exercise
      8. Alternating Upper and Lower Body Decreases Squat Performance
      9. Push-up and Bench Press have Similar Gains
      10. Negative Ion Bracelets Don’t Alter Performance
      11. Two-Minute Rest Allows Power Recovery
      12. Power Resistance Training Improves Running Performance
      13. Wider Grip Activates Lats and Infraspinatus 
      14. Greater Aerobic Capacity Increases Resistance Training
      15. Protein Supplementation Benefits those with Low Protein
      16. Squat Jump and Squats Have Different Muscle Activation
      17. Low-to-Intermediate Repetition Range Increases Hypertrophy
      18. Balance Training Improves Lifting Performance
      19. Abdominal Bracing Activates Core Musculature
      Also, remember to stay current and on top of the literature for the health and benefit of your swimmers! If you're interested in the SSRR, Order your copy today for $10!

      Ankle mobility is commonly associated with swimming success. In fact, this reviewer has suggested being able to have the toes touch the floor reduces drag. This results in many swimmers putting their ankles in the rack and/or sitting on their feet for hours on end!

      Although it is well established (by Allan Phillips) ankle flexibility is only one variable for ankle range of motion and performance in swimming! Unfortunately, this advice has been based on anatomy and experience, not formal research…

      What was done
      Twenty-six healthy competitive swimmers (M=15, F=11; ~16.4 years; minimum 500 FINA score) underwent a passive plantar flexion range of motion test, bilateral active and passive internal rotation ROM, isometric strength, and an underwater dolphin kicking analysis.  The swimmers also underwent a trial using a tape, preventing ankle range of motion.

      Ankle dorsiflexion and internal rotation muscle strength were positively correlated with
      dolphin kick velocity. There was no correlation between plantar flexion and external rotation strength and dolphin kick velocity.

      Despite popular belief, active and passive plantar flexion and internal rotation ROM were not significantly correlated with the dolphin kick velocity.

      During the kick condition, ankle flexibility and dolphin kick velocity were significantly impaired.

      It seems ankle mobility plays a small role in reducing drag.

      Practical Implication
      Ankle flexibility doesn’t correlate with dolphin kick velocity, yet research must assess if improved ankle range of motion further improves dolphin kicking. Also, research on flutter kicking is also essential before completely ruling out ankle flexibility programs.

      1. Willems TM, Cornelis JA, De Deurwaerder LE, Roelandt F, De Mits S. The effect of ankle muscle strength and flexibility on dolphin kick performance in competitive swimmers. Hum Mov Sci. 2014 Jun 28;36C:167-176. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2014.05.004. [Epub ahead of print]
      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.

      Sarah Sjöström LCM 50 Fly World Record: Race Analysis and Video

      Take Home Points on Sarah Sjöström LCM 50 Fly World Record: Race Analysis and Video

      1. The start, clean swimming and finish took 26.56%, 8.47% and 64.97% of the race, respectively 
      2. So during non-breathing cycles for one side the drag is lower and the propulsion is higher, leading to higher speeds. 
      3. The duration of the underwater path is higher performing non-breathing cycles and this is more obvious during the most propulsive phases (insweep and upsweep) 
      4. Performing non-breathing cycles at butterfly, the frontal surface area and the drag is lower 
      5. Sarah Sjöström did not perform one single breath during the race 

      The news of the week is that Sarah Sjöström (SWE) shaved 0.64s to Theresa Alshammar´s WR, clocking 24.43s in the LCM 50 Fly during the Swedish National Championships.

      For this analysis I retrieved the video from Youtube. Procedures are almost the same reported earlier in another post. Please bear in mind that we have over here some shortcuts as the video is far from being the best. Albeit the challenge, hopefully the analysis will provide us some insight about this amazing race.
      Some points to highlight from table 1:

      1. The water entry is almost the same reported for Ruta Meilutyte´s WR last October. Sarah did the water entry at 2.86m and Ruta at 2.85m. A swimmer should try to enter the water as far away as possible. Air resistance is lower than water resistance enabling a higher speed (Vantorre et al., 2014). 

      2. The start represents 26.56% of the full race (6.49s in 24.43s). The finish (i.e. last 5m) took 2.07s (8.47%). So the clean swimming represents the remaining 64.97%. For more details about the partial contribution of each race segment to the final time, I invite you to read another post.

      3. Sarah breaks the surface 4.46s after the starting signal. I have no way to report an accurate distance. I would say that the water break happened around the 12th meter, because she did one and a half stroke cycles (almost two cycles) till the 15m mark. For a SL of roughly 2m, this means that after breaking the water surface, she traveled 3m to reach the 15m mark. There is evidence that drag is lower fully submerged than on surface. On surface, drag force is the sum of three components (friction, pressure and wave). If one swims fully submerged, there is no wave drag. Wave drag is 50–60% of the total passive drag on elite swimmers (Vennell et al., 2006).

      4. Swim speed shows an “U” shape. I.e., a high speed in the first split, a slight decrease in the second (0.09m/s) and an increase in the last one (0.04m/s). These “U” and “zig-zag” profiles are reported on regular basis in the literature and any practitioner is aware of it. Having said that, she has an impressive average speed of 2.05m/s.

      5. Swim speed depends from the relationship between SR and SL. There was a trend for a SR increase and a SL decrease over the race, probably due to peripheral fatigue. Anyway, we should acknowledge that the SL is quite high. To increase the speed, most elite swimmers increase the SR because the SL is fairly high and constant no matter the swim pace (Barbosa et al, 2008). Likewise, the SI is also very high but tends to decrease slightly (11.4%) throughout the race.

      6. Sarah Sjöström did not perform one single breath during the race. If I remember, Theresa Alshammar did the same in 2009. There is evidence that performing non-breathing cycles at butterfly, the frontal surface area (i.e. the angle between the trunk and the horizontal plane) is lower (Barbosa, 2000). Therefore one might speculate that the intra-cyclic variation of the drag force will decrease.

      7. If we breakdown the stroke cycle into hands´underwater path and arms´ recovery, we can learn that the first took on average 0.56s (60.43% of the full cycle). Research comparing different breathing techniques reported that the underwater path is higher performing non-breathing cycles than frontal or lateral breaths, at least in national level butterfliers (Barbosa, 2000). This increase is quite obvious during the most propulsive phases (insweep and upsweep). It was also reported that the recovery will take less time holding the breath (Hahn and Krung, 1992). 

      8. So during non-breathing cycles the drag is lower and the propulsion is higher, leading to higher speeds. One way to understand such relationship between propulsion and drag is assessing the intra-cyclic variation of the mechanical impulse. When the mechanical impulse is positive, it means that the propulsion acting upon the swimmer is higher than the drag. If the mechanical impulse is negative, hence the propulsion is lower than the drag. In one paper it was reported that even though there was no significant differences, the intra-cyclic variation is lower performing non-breathing cycles (Barbosa et al., 2002). So, the swim stroke is smoother, with less variations and probably more efficient.

      9. However, the most impressive thing is that Sarah shaved 0.64s to a 50m sprint (2.55% improvement) wearing a textile swimsuit. During the high-tech era (2008-2009), manufactures claimed that their swimsuits would improve the performances in 2 to 4%. If so, that means that Theresa wearing a textile swimsuit at the World Championships held in Rome would had set a time between 25.57 and 26.07s.


      1. Barbosa TM (2000). Análise tridimensional da cinemática da técnica de Mariposa ao realizarem-se ciclos de inspiração frontal, ciclos de inspiração lateral e ciclos não inspiratórios [3D kinematical analysis of the butterfly stroke performed with frontal breathing, lateral breathing and non-breathing cycles]. MSc thesis. Faculty of Sport Sciences of the University of Porto (Portugal).
      2. Barbosa TM, Santos Silva JV, Sousa F Vilas-Boas JP (2002). Measurement of butterfly average resultant impulse per phase. In: K Gianikellis (ed). Proceeding of the XXth International Symposium on Biomechanics in Sports. pp. 35-38. Universidad de Extremadura, Cáceres.
      3. Barbosa TM, Keskinen KL, Fernandes, RJ, Vilas-Boas JP (2008). The influence of stroke mechanics into energy cost of elite swimmers. Eur J Appl Physiol. 103: 139-149
      4. Hahn A, Krung T (1992). Application of knowledge gained from the coordenation of partial movements in Breaststroke and Butterfly swimming for the development of technical training. In: D. Maclaren, T. Reilly and A. Lees (eds.). Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VI, pp. 167-172. E & FN Spon, London.
      5. Vantorre J, Chollet D, Seifert L. (2014). Biomechanical Analysis of the Swim-Start: A Review. J Sport Sci Med 13: 223-231
      6. Vennell R, Pease D, Wilson B. Wave drag on human swimmers. J Biomech 2006: 39: 664–671.
      By Tiago M. Barbosa that earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a faculty position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

      Anatomy of Muscles Inhibiting Ankle Plantarflexion (Toe Pointing)

      Take Home Points on Anatomy of Muscles Inhibiting Ankle Plantarflexion (Toe Pointing)

      1. Individual race analyses are required for determining the reason of fatigue or failure.
      2. Improved pacing, BFR and/or HIIT training may help improve a swimmer finish a race. 
      Ankle mobility is vital for swimming performance. In fact, many swim coaches and
      swimming “gurus” suggest aggressive ankle stretching of the plantarflexors by sitting on the ankles and rocking back and forth. Unfortunately, this approach only addresses one area impeding ankle plantarflexion, the soft tissues, specifically the anterior tibialis.

      Allan Phillips has written about the ankles in detail, discussing the muscles and methods for improving range of motion. This was discussed in more detail in the Troubleshooting System.

      Like all mobility, ankle mobility is a combination of modifiable and nonmodifiable factors. If a swimmer has a long medial and lateral malleous, or a high calcaneus, their plantar flexion is likely limited. However, there are methods for improving ankle plantarflexion.

      Remember, if you are going to perform any mobility exercise, a pre- and post-test are essential for helping improve ankle range of motion.

      Ankle Range of Motion Test

      Long seated ankle pointing is a method of assessing ankle plantarflexion. Most elite swimmers are capable of touching their toes to the ground. Now, this may sound absurd to some of the rigid swimmers, but this is common in the swimming community. Now let us go through the muscles which limit ankle plantarflexion and toe flexion.

      Anterior Tibialis: The most notable muscle limiting ankle pointing is the anterior tibialis. This muscle is often tight and rigid and is the biggest muscle limting ankle plantarflexion. However, methods for simply sitting on the feet are not likely adequate for improving ankle plantarflexoin.

      Tibialis Anterior

      Lat tibia
      (upper 2/3)
      (IO membrane)

      Med cuneiform (med surf)
      (Base of 1st MT)

      DF ankle
      Invert IT (STJ)

      Deep fibular nerve

      Extensor Digitorum Longus (EDL): The extensor digitorum longus is a long muscle not only limiting ankle plantarflexion, but also toe flexion. This muscle runs alongside the tibialis anterior, but is located directly next to the tibia.

      Extensor digitorum longus
      Ant fibula
      (Lat tibial condyle)
      (IO membrane)
      Base of middle
      & distal phalanges 2-5
      (dorsal aponeuroses)
      DF ankle
      Evert IT (STJ)
      Ext MTP/IP 2-5
      Deep fibular nerve

      Extensor Hallicus Longus (EHL): The EHL limits big toe flexion, another component of ankle pointing. However, many do not work on improving on the big toe! Working on this area is possible with work around the tibia and across the ankle.

      Extensor hallucis longus
      Med fibula
      (IO membrane)
      Base 1st distal phalanx
      (Dorsal aponeurosis)
      DF ankle
      Evert/Invert IT (STJ)
      Ext MTP/IP 1
      Deep fibular nerve

      Fibularis (peroneus) tertius: The peronei brothers have one odd ball, the small tertius which can limit plantar flexion. Working on the side of the leg is essential and relaxing these areas is vital for improved ankle range of motion.

      Fibularis (peroneus) tertius

      Distal ant fibula
      (w/ EDL)
      Base of 5th MT
      DF ankle
      Evert IT (STJ)
      Deep fibular nerve

      Extensor Digitorum Brevis: Once again flexing the toes is a key component of pointing the toes. Too often toe pointing is a neglected aspect of ankle range of motion. Manual work on top of the foot can improve this mobility if limited.

      Extensor digitorum brevis
      Dorsal surface calcaneus
      Base middle phalange 2-4
      (Dorsal aponeuroses 2-4)
      Ext MTP 2-4
      Ext PIP 2-4
      Deep fibular nerve

      Extensor Hallicus Brevis: Last, but not least is the big toe. The big toe once again plays a huge role in mobility, ensure you have enough range of motion in this area for elite kicking. Once again, manual work on the top of the foot is best for this improvement.

      Extensor hallucis brevis
      Dorsal surface calcaneus
      Base prox phalanx 1
      (Dorsal aponeurosis 1)
      Ext MTP 1
      Deep fibular nerve


      Remember, no one muscle controls motion at the ankle. Also, mobility is simply one component of range of motion. From my experience, improving the soft tissue is the simplest method for improving the soft tissue in the area, yielding the greatest benefit.

      If you have poor ankle pointing, perform 3 – 5 minutes of self myofascial release (SMR) around the shin. After this, hop in the water and use this improved range of motion, as simply having more range of motion doesn’t make you use the new range! 

      If looking for other SMR and mobility methods, check out Mobility for Swimmers!

      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.