Swimming Energy Calculator

OttrLoggr: Energy Use Calculator

Swim Energy Usage


RER Value Guide

Slow (0.7)
A1 band - warm-up, recovery, cool-down sets
Moderate (0.85)
A2 band - aerobic capacity sets
Intense (1.00)
A3 band - aerobic power, VO2max sets

Data Source: Zamparo P, Bonifazi M (2013). Bioenergetics of cycling sports activities in water.

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

Freestyle data

Total Cost

Quick Food Reference

48g Carbs
25g Carbs
Peanut Butter
16g (2 tablespoons) *

External vs Internal Focus Cues for Optimal Acquisition and Retention

External vs Internal Focus Cues for Optimal Acquisition and Retention
  1. External focus cues may interact with different feedback strategies based on expectations of results
  2. There is some, but not definitive evidence, that males and females may respond differently to different focus strategies
  3. Evidence suggests no difference exists in efficacy of external vs internal focus cues for simple tasks, but external focus cues may be more appropriate for complex task
A couple years ago we posted a well received post on different strategies of attentional
focus (External vs Internal Focus for Optimal Skill Acquisition).  In general, focus strategies can be grouped into external focus versus internal focus.  Think of external focus as being related to external factors, such as a whole movement pattern or an external object (“push the water back”), or internal factors, such as movement of a body part (“pull your arm back”).

This is a relatively novel line of research with much of the evidence appearing in the last 10-15 years.  Though a relatively simple concept, there are many different ways to apply this concept, with the best approach often not as simple as one strategy being uniformly better than the other.  While most of the evidence tends toward favoring external focus strategies over internal focus strategies, different situations may call for different approaches. (See also, Age Group Swim Coaching Tips: External Cues For Reading the Clock and Leaving on Time).

As with most general research, specific swimming applications are limited, so we must extrapolate from non-swimming studies (but note, Freudenheim 2010, external focus superior in 25m sprint trials).  One non-swim study with potential swim applications (Ille 2013) involved external vs internal focus strategies on sprint start performance.  Novice and expert athletes were tested in sprint starts under three different conditions: external focus, internal focus, neutral instructions.  Authors found that, “The reaction time and the running time were significantly shorter in the external focus condition than in the internal focus condition, for both expert and novice participants.”

Yet rarely does any focus strategy occur in a vacuum.  Focus cues must always be interpreted with the myriad of thoughts and feedback circulating throughout the swimmer’s head simultaneously.   For example, a focus strategy in which the athlete is blinded to the results may be different than how the swimmer processes information  when results are known (and that doesn’t even account for the added variable of “real” competition results, which can’t be replicated in the lab).  

Pascua (2014) partially addressed this issue in a study blending focus cues with performance expectancy, meaning subjects were provided with social-comparative feedback before subsequent trials were attempted.  All subjects were tested under external vs internal focus combined with enhanced expectancy or non-enhanced expectancy.   Results showed that external focus combined with enhanced expectancy (positive feedback), had the best results in target throwing accuracy and skill retention in the novel throwing task performed with subjects’ non-dominant hand. 

Finally it’s possible, that situational and intrinsic factors may both affect the optimal focus strategy.  Becker (2013) studied children and adults of both genders in novel balancing tasks classified as simple or complex.  In contrast to many studies showing uniform superiority of external focus cues, this study showed no difference in performance or retention for simple tasks.  However, consistent with prior literature, external focus was superior for the complex task both in performance and retention.  Note though, this latter finding was only applicable for males. 

Practical Implication

As with prior findings, recent literature shows that external focus cues result in better performance and better retention for complex skills.  In general, coaches should frame technical cues in external focus terms, but this guideline is not universal.  One recent study has shown that males and females respond differently to different cueing strategies in a novel balance task, but more research is needed to clarify if fundamental gender differences exist. 


  1. Becker K1, Smith PJ2.  Age, task complexity, and sex as potential moderators of attentional focus effects.  Percept Mot Skills. 2013 Aug;117(1):1172-86.
  2. Pascua LA1, Wulf G, Lewthwaite R.  Additive benefits of external focus and enhanced performance expectancy for motor learning.  J Sports Sci. 2014 May 29:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Ille A1, Selin I, Do MC, Thon B.  Attentional focus effects on sprint start performance as a function of skill level.  J Sports Sci. 2013;31(15):1705-12. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2013.797097. Epub 2013 May 28.
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.

Do Swim Lessons Impair Long-Term Performance?

Lessons (for competitive swimmers, not learn to swim) are an interesting, money making method for many swim coaches who do not have the ability or drive to instruct multiple swimmers during regular practice. Though one-on-one training is ideal for individualization, many coaches abuse these swim lessons, making lessons a necessity, to replace wasted practice time. More or less, many coaches give bad or poor workouts with the hopes of increasing the importance of private lessons.

However, lessons can also be a manipulative tool for parents. Many overzealous parents buy lessons for their children, hoping to get on the "good side" or "buying" a coach. 

Any of these practices or motives are embarrassing and/or hindering the sport as a whole. If a kid needs extra work, a coach must work harder during workout by providing different primes for learning. Extra lessons can also lead to overuse training and overtraining if swimming volume is not monitored.

As a coach, creating a team of biomechanists and peer evaluators is crucial (and possible) for long-term success, as no coach each swimmer for every second (no matter the size of the team). This makes it essential to teach the swimmer the goal and proper form of the task. This allows the swimmer to self-evaluate, a powerful tool. Once, a swimmer is capable of self-evaluation, they are likely capable of providing peer-evaluation. These tools are greatly beneficial for swimmers and fostering self-efficacy and love for the sport of swimming (Rushall 2011). Don’t throw away these virtues for a couple of dollars!

Further Reading:

  1. Rushall, B. S. (2011). Swimming Pedagogy and a Curriculum for Stroke Development (Second Edition). Spring Valley, CA: Sports Science Associates.
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. He is the founder of Mullen Physical Therapy, the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Do you want to do Another?

Building internal motivation and drive is essential for long-term success and elite performance. Internal motivation has been suggested to improve performance more than external motivation (Broedling 1975; Andrisani 1976). Internal motivation also has been shown as an important variable between championship caliber and non-championship caliber teams (Blegen 2012). 

In swimming, most swimmers are asked to perform a specific amount of repetitions. This typically forces swimmers to be content or pleased with simply finishing the requested amount or even failing the workout, but finishing the amount of yards. 

Looks like punishment fly to me!
Another commonality in swimming is the use of exercise or extra swimming as a punishment, associating the punishment and pain with swimming. I know everyone has heard of a coach making a group of young swimmers perform 20 x 25 fly. No wonder fly is likely the "hardest" and most "hated" stroke in the sport!

Instead, encouraging swimmers to do more is a method of increasing internal motivation. Moreover, allowing swimmers to determine the volume of their training associates swimming volume with success. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I know this method won't work for certain swimmers, as they must be taught proper methods of self interpretation, but at the end of a repeat set, instead of having your swimmers perform countless repetitions, simply ask, "do you want to do another?" at the end of a good set! This can change the mindset of an athlete and build motivation and confidence within a swimmer. 

  1. Blegen MD, Stenson MR, Micek DM, Matthews TD. Motivational differences for participation among championship and non-championship caliber NCAA division III football teams. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):2924-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182719123.
  2. Broedling, L. A., (1975). Relationship of internal-external control to work motivation and performance in an expectancy model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 65-70.
  3. Andrisani, P. J., & Nestel, G., (1976) Internal-external control as contributor of work experience. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, 156-165.
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. He is the founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

What Motivates a Team?

Building motivation in swimmers is necessary for a successful team. Unfortunately, knowing which factors increase motivation is highly individualized and difficult to assess. For this reason, many coaches feel research is not able to provide individualized tools of motivation for a team. In a recent interview (stay tuned for the whole interview), Kansas Women's coach Clark Campbell discussed the importance of motivation and developing a motivated team. He indicated knowing everyone's role is essential, as each team member brings a different element to the team.

This discussion got me thinking, what motivates a team? 

Most individual motivation is categorized as intrinsic (IM) or extrinsic motivation (EM). Blegen et al. (2013) surveyed 224 in-season Division III college football players (athlete's without financial incentive for performance) with a sport motivation survey. Blegen compared the results of football players on championship and non-championship caliber teams. 

The results suggest there were no motivational differences between starters and non-starters or year in school. However, players on championship teams had greater IM-stimulation, IM-accomplishment and IM-to know, as well as greater EM (Identification, introjection, regulation). This lack of importance on playing status and academic year, suggest the caliber of the team and likely the team environment is a large contributor to motivation. Moreover, improved IM is extremely important, as non-associative self talk is common during harder exercise (Gibler 2012). Non-associated self talk likely causes a dissociation from exercise, impaired  motor learning , and eventually decreased performance.

Even research in swimming suggest, the motivation of the team alters one own motivation. Dr. Rushall (2011) notes this in his book Swimming Pedagogy:

"Peer relationships are one of the most important motivational sources in swimming (McPherson,
Marteniuk, Tihanyi, & Clark, 1977; Reitter, 1982). Peer approvals of behaviors are much more
frequent and influential than those of the coach (Rushall, 1982). It is important for procedures to be
developed where swimmers have the opportunities to reinforce and recognize each other for good
behaviors and achievements. Experiments have shown that peer reinforcement in swimming settings
is more influential than coach reactions (McKenzie & Rushall, 1980)."

EM and IM have been previously suggested as the main modes of motivation in elite athletes. Specifically, IM appears to correlate with success. As a coach, it is vital to encourage a team of IMed athletes. Coaches of all levels, especially in those where financial resources are limited/irrelevant (Division II, III, age-group), should strive to increase IM and EM and their swimmers for the sake of motivating their team.


  1. Blegen MD, Stenson MR, Micek DM, Matthews TD. Motivational differences for participation among championship and non-championship caliber NCAA division III football teams. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):2924-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182719123.
  2. Campbell, C. (2013, Jan 23). Telephone interview.
  3. Rushall, B. S. (2011). Swimming Pedagogy and a Curriculum for Stroke Development (Second Edition). Spring Valley, CA: Sports Science Associates.
By G. John Mullen Doctorate of Physical Therapy founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, Dochead strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Acute Leadership

Leadership is defined as:
  1. The action of leading a group of people or an organization.
  2. The state or position of being a leader.
The duration of leadership is not determined by the definition. With college championships underway, I feel it is timely to discuss the importance of acute leadership.

Many people view leaders as constants. When you think of leaders you think of amazing men and women, but all these characters have flaws and glimpses of leadership and embarrassment. Leadership and leading is put on a podium, as leaders are thought as entities of great length or duration. However, great leaders still make mistakes, but their accumulation of acute leadership makes them great.

As an age-group swimmer I was damn good. I was always pushing Top 16 times from ages 10-14 while only attending three practices a week. I had high neural control allowing me to prosper over uncoordinated opponents. Whether I was successful due to my genes (ACTN-3 gene present), my high involvement in other sports helping me master my neural control, or both...genes are not entirely innate entities, I was success which allowed me to with elite swimmers.

I was fast enough to attend various select swim meets and will never forget one meet, the Central Zone competition. I don't necessarily remember the story, but was reminded of it recently by the person my acute leadership influenced.

At this meet, I was selected for a medley relay. As a highly competitive age-group swimmer, I knew the other fast swimmers in the area. I was also obsessed with times, constantly studying psych sheets and learning everyone's top times. This accumulated knowledge allowed me to make an educated hypothesis for the relay far beyond my years.

The zone coach worked on a local team and one of his swimmers was in the hunt for the backstroke relay position. At this meet, he selected the swimmer from his team instead of another swimmer at the meet. Little did he knew I studied heat sheets, like Tyrone Biggins hunted for a crack rock, and knew the swimmer he selected was not the fastest on the roster. I admit, I likely didn't know all the variables and idiosyncrasies at the meet, but I knew who was the fastest swimmer and voiced this concern with the coach. I, at 10 years-old went up to the coach and gave him a piece of my mind. I told him, his decision was incorrect and that he shouldn't select his own swimmers over more deserving athletes. After all my fuss, the coach didn't switch the athletes. I wouldn't expect him to change the order either; I was only 10 years-old! With all this commotion, I don’t even remember the result of the relay. I don’t remember if we won, or if the backstroker swam the race of his life.

However, this backstroker who I stood up for and didn't make the relay later moved out of Ohio and swam in the Olympics reminded me of this story. He was so moved by my acute leadership, he reminded me of it over 10 years later!

I'm not writing this to brag about acute bout of leadership, or my great age group success (remember age group success doesn't correlate with adult success), but to bring to surface the fact that everyone has performed many acute acts of leadership which have changed people's lives. Unfortunately, these moments are barely announced or discussed. Many people are afraid of leadership and proclaim they aren't leaders. It is easy to say you are not a leader, but realize acute leadership occurs and changes live.

Help proclaim those who have performed acute bouts of leadership. Tell them about these acute bouts of leadership and their influence on your life!

Be a leader for a moment and change a life forever.

By Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS. He is the founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, and creator the Swimmer's Shoulder System.

Reactive Animal

Are we too smart? Does being an intelligent species inhibit our strength, power and instinctive nature? Thinking turns our body into an open circuit, leading to many pauses to make decisions. These microsecond pauses may seem negligible, but add up quick in athletics. Being a reactive animal is mandatory for success. This occurs in elite athletes when they don't remember their race; they turned up their sympathetic nervous system for success (Schulpis, 2009).

Allan Phillips elegantly discussed the use of cues. External cues and associating the outside world accelerate learning. Too often are coaches trying to complicate certain issues. Whether it pertains to dryland or swimming this occurs frequently as I've had a lot of varied settings to see this variation. The most specific example in rehabilitation is using internal cues such as finding 'neutral spine'. This mythical land is complex is hard for anyone to understand due to its high proprioceptive demand. In swimming this is excessively performed as coaches discuss 'feel' or connecting your nuchal line to your plantar fascia. These internal cues are not beneficial for athletes, especially young agile minds. These cues are too commonplace; they are pitfalls. Even thought I'm aware of the dangers of internal cues, I still catch myself from time to time using these cues and feel there is a correlation between knowledge base and use of this terminology. I know I'm not the only one trying to complicate issues with swimmers as I receive many e-mails from eager 12 year-old swimmers asking about neutral spine, or the exact distance of their finger spread sparked from my Swimming World articles. Perhaps I make topics too confusing, but I realize there is a fine line between knowledge and learning. I don't instruct elite National qualifiers to connect their whole latissimus dorsi from shoulder to pelvis let alone an eager 12 year-old.

The More you Know, the More you Learn

In fact, the more knowledge one obtains on a subject the more they realize the depth on the subject. Therefore many coaches attempt to teach swimmers in the pool and on land through complex terms and information. Many think transferring information is the best method to improve learning in sports. I think it is beneficial in elite athletes with the ability to flip on and off the switch, but teaching any new subject with in-depth, internal cues is dangerous. Swimming knowledge and performance don't always correlate. This is why many are jealous of the Superman Swimmers. These athletes use minimal cognitive thought and achieve high levels of success. I feel overall knowledge is beneficial for elite swimmers, but being able to flip the switch to become the reactive animal is essential. If you get stuck in knowledge land, your body is constantly checking in for directions, causing paralysis from analysis.

Not Just Swimming

In every sport, coaches and fans are aware of less than intelligent athletes. Many disgrace these athletes saying they don't even know anything about the sport. They make claim 'natural ability' rises these athletes beyond their competitors. These athletes are not the mudders, those who have to scrap for every inch and is why very few of them are coaches, but they do rely on an amazing ability to flip the switch. From my experience, some athletes are able to naturally flip the switch, but luckily this trait can be learned. These athletes tap into their fight or flight system resulting in remarkable outcomes.

It is unfortunate the smartest or most intelligent athlete does not equate as the best, but that is life. Being too smart or thinking too much is a negative influence in sport. Luckily, Allan Phillips and other researchers have made clear evidence using 'external' cues and solely relying on instincts are essential for success. As coaches and educators it is important to bridge the gap and be able to turn on these different switches. Having 'spiels' and sayings to teach athletes is important. As swimming educators we must: 1) transfer/teach information to swimmers, 2) understand the exact process to enhance the sport. Being able to differentiate and perform these two tasks will enhance the sport and our athletes. As coaches, we can't only rely on instinct. Understanding the knowledge of the sport is a must, but realize while teaching and talking with athletes to not clutter their mind. Allow them to maintain their instincts and remain a reactive animal. Feed the best, don't install a brake pedal.

  1. Schulpis KH, Parthimos T, Papakonstantinou ED, Tsakiris T, Parthimos N, Mentis AF, Tsakiris S. Evidence for the participation of the stimulated sympathetic nervous system in the regulation of carnitine blood levels of soccer players during a game. Metabolism. 2009 Aug;58(8):1080-6. Epub 2009 Jun 18.
I am nearing completion on the Center of Optimal Restoration Swimmer's Shoulder System. Help eradicate shoulder pain in swimmers. Order now and receive a 25% discount by entering the code 'preorder'.  
    By Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS. He is the founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration and head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club.

    Superman Swimmers

    When I was a kid there were two big, influential Superheros, Superman and Batman.
    I was never a fan of Superman. It wasn't because of his outfit (even though his Ian Thorpe USA colored bodysuit didn't help) or his fantasy world background, but he was too Super. I mean, look at his list of powers from his Wikipedia page:
    • Flight
    • Invulnerability
    • Superhuman Strength
    • Superhuman Speed
    • X-Ray Vision
    • Telescopic/Microscopic Vision
    • Heat Vision
    • Super-Senses
    • Super Breath/Freeze Breath
    • Eidetic memory
    • Regeneration
    • Longevity
    • Superhuman Olfaction
    • Superman Vision (under a blue sun)
    Seriously, super breath and Superman Olfaction...get real. Who could relate to this guy? As a scrawny white kid in middle class Ohio, I sure as hell couldn't.

    Batman I could relate to. He wasn't some mutant with every superpower ever imagined. Batman used his brain power, finances and work ethic to tackle problems head on, pretty close to the American dream. Batman also got the ladies, I wouldn't say Lois Lane wasn't bad, but Batman could get any girl, what an idol.

    Unlike Superman, Batman also has flaws. Who can't relate to his mistakes? Batman had difficulties trusting others, running his company and just being human. The only mistake Superman makes is when deciding how to cover-up his horrible work disguise and glasses. How dumb can the people of Metropolis be? He doesn't even wear a mask, all he does is hop in a phone booth and slip on his bodysuit, remove the glasses...even a caveman can figure this one out! Batman is much more cunning as he tricks and deceives the people of Gotham City.
    These two Superheros are like elite swimmers. The more I talk to elite swimmers, the more I can pick apart the Superman from the Batman. I was at a clinic a few weekends ago and I was talking to a few Superman swimmers. They told me they have read Swimming Science, but were quick to disclose their dislike for the content. Before no time, the two guys were telling me a grand scheme to alter the website into pseudo-porn website dedicated to hot girls in bodysuits underwater...I admitted their website would likely be more popular than Swimming Science, but I informed them this was not the purpose of the website. This response was possibly the first time someone disagreed with these monstrous, bronzed beings their whole life. It appeared these two swimmer's have had everything given to them, never forcing them to work hard. Don't get me wrong, they showed up for practice and went fast times, but they were 85% swimmers. 85% swimmers never know how to delve deep enough to make sets, practices or competitions truly hurt.

    Another encounter I had with a Superman was after Purdue University held woman's NCAA's. At the post-meet party, I was talking to one of the NCAA champions. She was a physical goddess as the three heads of her tricep were outlining as she help a Dixie cup. We began talking about biomechanics and technique. She scoffed my beliefs on the subject and told me she just dove in and sprinted everyday of her career. As she was getting another drink, we started a short discussion on energy systems and different practices her coaches made her do. She informed me she didn't really do any of the organized practices, she just did what "felt right". This Superman (or Superwoman) clearly had no idea about biomechanics, energetics or physiology. Also, unless she had the ability to feel every micrometer of hair grown on her body, I doubt she was this in tune with her body to calibrate herself with the pool. She was given a lot of talents and luckily her stars were aligning at the right time, unfortunately her work ethic was her own kryptonite. 
    Batman are the muts of the litter. These swimmers fight and scrap on every stroke, for every set, for every millisecond. I'm not saying they don't have any superpowers, but I don't think they have 14 Superpowers like Superman. These swimmers are watching every training video on Youtube, reviewing their underwater films and biomechanics with a glass of wine instead of downing liters of cocktails and standing with their coaches at swim meets to discuss race strategy. These athletes do everything they can to reach Superman, unfortunately they don't have kryptonite to get to his level.

    This article is not to bash all the Superman out there or to deflate the hopes and dreams of each of you Batman. In my opinion, there are a lot more Superman out there then we tend to admit. I also think a lot of Supermen out there only have 5-6 super powers with a bad ass Batman belt. Luckily, this Batman belt can be improved over years of training. Look at Batman, do you really think him and Lucis Fox (your coach) came up with the bat-lasso and bat goo gun on the same day? Hell no, they worked on these pieces for years, developing the perfect assembly for success.
    I hope this article reaches a few real Supermen swimmers who posses 14 or even more super powers. Realize, just because you are beating people, doesn't mean you shouldn't expand your tool belt or not use your Superman olfaction. I mean I would be pretty happy with X-Ray vision, but how kick ass would Superman be with Batman's belt!

    By Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS. He is the founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration and head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club.