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

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

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2014 NCAA Swimming Championship Relay Performances

Take Home Points on 2014 NCAA Championship Relay Performances

    1. Team relay performances correlated with overall team finish for the men
    2. Georgia overcame a relay deficit to capture the women's title
    3. Men's teams placing 7-10 overall were not among top 10 relay teams

    Relays are undoubtedly among the most exciting races in college swimming, particularly in national championships.  With much publicity added this year due to a rash of disqualifications, relay performance has come under additional scrutiny. 

    Though relays are often assumed to be a deciding factor in many championships, it is worth closer examination to determine to what extent relays may affect point totals.  Now, it is difficult to completely separate relay performance from individual performance due to individuals also making up relay teams.  But looking at the point total breakdown may also lend perspective into the relative importance relays for the meet's outcome. 


    For additional discussion on technical elements of relay starts and finishes, see Relay Starts: Championship Implications, and How the New Omega Starting Blocks Affect Relay Takeoffs.

    MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP
    In the chart below, we list both the final point total for the top 10 squads and top 10 relay placings for the five total relay events.  


    Though the top three times were identical in relays and total points, Michigan and Georgia both improved their overall placing above Auburn on the strength of individual events.  Also of note is that Arizona, USC, Stanford, and Indiana all cracked the top 10 despite not being among the top 10 relay scoring teams for the meet.  

    WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP
    The chart below summarizes the women's breakdown.


    What stands out most here is that Georgia resoundingly made up the relay performance gap through consistent individual performances throughout the meet, despite Stanford almost sweeping the relay events.  Unlike the men, where several teams entered the overall top 10 without being among the top 10 relay scoring teams, each of the top 9 women's squads was also among the top 9 relay scoring teams.  

    CONCLUSION
    Though relays are critical for overall outcome, it is still possible to make up placing if a team is outperformed in relays for the meet.  Relays and individual events both reward team depth, but in different ways.  Putting together a winning relay and stacking an individual event final are both potential winning strategies. 

    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.

    Katie Ledecky Swimming Performances

    Take Home Points on Katie Ledecky Swimming Performances

    1. It is very challenging to predict during childhood if an athlete will be a world- or even a national-ranked swimmer at adulthood.
    2. The performance level at the end of the puberty can give some insight about those odds.
    3. During childhood and puberty, performance improvements between 4 to 9% per year are reasonable. 
    4. During adulthood, top-level athletes struggle to improve their personal best (up to 1% per year).
    It is on the November 24th that will be held the 10th annual Golden Goggle Awards (Los Angeles, CA). This is a charity event but also a great opportunity to honor and celebrate US swimmers that had outstanding performances in 2013. The award nominees list is packed up with great swimmers, but Kathleen Ledecky with four nominations might be the figure of the night: Relay Performance of the year (800 free Relay at Barcelona), Female race of the year (twice, 800m free and 1500m free both at Barcelona), Female athlete of the year. Only Missy Franklin has more nominations (3 relays, 1 individual race and Female athlete of the year).

    It might be unfair, but most of the times we, pay more attention to sprinters than to distance swimmers. 2013 seems to be different though. My bet goes to Katie. This is a great reason to learn how a young athlete that at eleven years old was not even among the 10 best swimmers of her age-group is the 800 free becomes the leading distance swimmer in roughly five years.

    Katie annual personal best at the 800 free race and the US national age-group top-10 list between 2008 (11 years old) and 2013 (16 years-old) were retrieved from the USA swimming website (www.usaswimming.org). It was also retrieved her performances for all the races available in the database for the last two years (2012-2013), including participations at grand prix, US trials, Olympic Games and World Championships (heats and finals). Whenever appropriate, searches were also done in another database (www.swimrankings.net).

    Firstly it was analyzed her performance over time (11-16 years old; 2008-2013). Between 11-16 years-old she had an impressive 20.43% improvement, 9.94% at 12-13 years-old, around 3 to 4% for the remaining ages and 0.14% this year (Fig 1). I do not have any inside intell, so one might speculate that this could be related to puberty. Scientific evidences suggest that these figures are quite reasonable (e.g., Costa et al., 2011). In 2009 (i.e., 12-y) she was ranked 7th at the 200 fly. In such young ages swimmers are supposed to race a little bit of every distance and strokes and later on eventually decide for a specialty. This can also be an explanation for the sharp improvement from 12 to 13 years-old.

    After bursting at the Olympic Games, it is obvious that would be hard to keep this pace of almost 4% improvement per year. Elite swimmers seem to improve around 0.6% to 1.0% (± 1.0%) per year (Anderson et al., 2006; Costa et al., 2013). Kathleen Ledecky improvement in 2013 is within these confidence intervals. Even so, an international top-level swimmer, such as an Olympic/World-Championship medalist or finalist faces bigger challenges to improve his/her performance than non-finalists. They have reached or are getting so close of their biological and psychological limit, that any margin of progression is quite slim.

    Figure 1. Kathleen Ledecky performances between 11 and 16 years-old.

    Another question is her ranking position (i.e. partial position against the top-10 swimmers of the 11-y age-group in 2008) at the 800 free race. She gets to the top-10 ranking only at the age of 13-y and snatched the first position on the following year (Fig 2.). At least three of the top-10 swimmers at the age of 11-y do not have data available for the five years under study. This suggests that approximately 30% of the swimmers shifted to other races or dropped-out the sport.

    The boxes and the dashed lines are “channels” (it can be computed based on percentiles, tertile or quartiles). Pretty much like the ones medical doctors use to assess the height, weight or body-mass index of children and predict these features in adulthood. But this time around, it is used to assess the performance stability (Kowalski and Schneiderman, 1992). An athlete has a stable performance if he/she stays in the same channel over time. This can be good or bad, depending in which channel the athlete is. If he/she is in the lower channel (i.e. better race times), it is desirable to stay there and have a stable performance. E.g., the swimmer that was ranked as first at 11-y in 2008 kept her position in that channel until 14-y. But when she turn up 15-y, she jumps to another channel. On the other hand, if he/she is in a higher channel (i.e. poor performances) training should help the athlete “jump” to a better channel. That is exactly what happened with Katie (blue line, Fig 2.)
    Figure 2. Comparison of Kathleen Ledecky performances against other age-group contenders. Blue line- Kathleen Ledecky, Gray lines – each line represents one of the 10 best swimmers for the 11-y age-group at the 800 free race in 2008, Red boxes – top-10 performances for a given age-group, dash lines - channels

    It is possible to quantify the performance stability with Cohen’s Kappa and auto-correlation. If Cohen’s Kappa is selected, stability is (Landis and Koch, 1977): (i) excellent - when higher than 0.75; (ii) moderate - between 0.40 and 0.75; (iii) low - bellow 0.40. Overall, these eleven swimmers between 2008 and 2013 presented a rather low stability (table 1). The low stability seems obvious after a visual inspection of Fig 2. It is a busy graph, where the lines (called as spaghetti plots and each line represents one swimmers) are always crossing each other’s and changing from channel all the time.


    Table 1. Stability of the performances with Cohen’s Kappa (N= 11).

    K ± SE
    95CI
    Girls 800 free (11-16-y; 2008-2013)
    0.22 ± 0.05
    0.11 - 0.33
    K - Cohen’s Kappa; SE – standard error; 95CI – 95% confidence interval


    Using the auto-correlation it is possible to breakdown the stability per year and have a deeper insight. With this procedure, stability is considered to be (Malina, 2001): (i) high - if above 0.60; (ii) moderate - between 0.30 and 0.60; (iii) low - bellow 0.30. A couple of findings can be highlighted (table 2). The first is that the stability between two consecutive years (e.g. 12-13-y, 14-15-y, 15-16-y) is most of the times “high”. Second, stability between non-consecutive years is “high” between 14- and 16-y, but not before those ages. Hence, it seems that it is around puberty that the chances of predicting who will be an US national-ranked athlete at the 800 free starts to be more clear. The end of the puberty increases sharply the odds of getting a better answer to that question.

    Table 2. Stability of the performances with auto-correlation (N= 11).

    References

    1. Anderson ME, Hopkins WG, Roberts AD, Pyne DB (2006). Monitoring seasonal and long-term changes in test performance in elite swimmers. Eur J Sports Sci 6: 145-154 
    2. Costa MJ, Marinho DA, Bragada JA, Silva AJ, Barbosa TM (2011). Stability of elite freestyle performance from childhood to adulthood. J Sport Sci. 11: 1183-1189 
    3. Costa MJ, Bragada JA, Marinho DA, Lopes VP, Silva AJ, Barbosa TM (2013). Longitudinal study in male swimmers: a hierarchical modeling of energetics and biomechanical contributions for performance. J Sports Sci Med. On-line first. 
    4. Kowalski CJ, Schneiderman CD (1992) Tracking: concepts, methods and tools. Int J Anthrop. 7: 33-50. 
    5. Landis J, Koch G (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics. 33: 159-174. 
    6. Malina RM (2001). Adherence to physical activity from childhood to adulthood: a perspective from tracking studies. Ques. 53: 346-355.
    Tiago M. Barbosa earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

    The Difference Between Men's Division I and Division III Swimming

    The Difference Between Men's Division I and Division III Swimming

    Take Home Points on The Difference Between Men's Division I and Division III Swimming

    1. An average time in an NCAA Division III Men's finals typically would qualify for the national championship meet but place near the bottom of an NCAA Division I championship field.
    2. Top Division III performances would rank above average, but below elite in the Division I ranks.
    3. The difference between elite and “pretty good” is often less than two seconds in shorter events and less than a half second in the 50 freestyle.

    For previous analysis on the Division I and Division III Women’s Championships, see The Difference Between Women's Division I and Division III Swimming.
       
    In general, the trends observed in the women’s fields replicate themselves in the men’s championships.  Though NCAA Division III performances would place higher in the men’s field at Division I, fewer men competed in the Division I national championship meet. 

    The chart below compares the average time from D-III “A” finals with the average time for D-I “B” finals.  Because D-I finals represent one of the fastest set of finals on the planet, that data is probably not a meaningful comparison for athletes “on the bubble” trying to find the best place for their talents in college.  With each event, we also note where the D-III finals average would place in the entire D-I nationals fields ("D-III place" in the charts).   

     

    Conclusion

    Though similar trends are present to the women’s championship, one thing standing out in the men’s data is how close the averages are, despite the stereotypes attached to “Division I” versus “Division III” athletics.  The average male “B” finalist time in the NCAA Division I meet was 43.13 compared to 44.47 in Division III, the latter of which could surely contribute on many Division I relays.  Likewise, less than a half second separated the 50 freestyle averages (19.68 versus 20.09). 

    Setting aside financial and geographic considerations, Division III should be considered a viable option for many athletes determining the best fit for their swimming talents.  Though depth is far less in the distance events compared to Division I, finals at the Division III level display similar times to those barely making or on the cusp of the Division I national meet.

    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. 

    The Difference Between Women's Division I and Division III Swimming

    Take Home Points on The Difference Between Women's Division I and Division III Swimming

    1. An average time in an NCAA Division III Women's finals typically would place around 50th in an NCAA Division I championship field.
    2. The difference between Division III and Division I swimming is greatest in the longest events, perhaps because there is less depth in Division III, requiring the most talented swimmers to focus on sprints and relays.
    3. Top Division III performances would rank above average, but below elite in the Division I ranks.
    Selecting a college is one of the most important milestones in a swimming career. For many swimmers, the choice between a Division I, II or III program can be confusing. Unlike sports such basketball and football, the difference between women's Division I (D-I) and Division III (D-III) swimming at the “lower” levels Division I and "higher" level Division III programs is marginal.  Yet despite this comparability, D-III athletics often carry a stigma, especially among young kids wanting the status of being a D-I athlete.
       
    As a former, D-III athlete it is often frustrating to see athletes make their college decisions based on faulty assumptions and misinformation.  Certainly Division I programs have more financial resources to alleviate tuition, in addition to there being more opportunities for in-state tuition status.  Further, with most D-I programs also being major academic institutions with, there are often unmatched educational resources. 

    For this post, I we'll compare how closely Division I and Division III swimming stack up.  Now, no metric is perfect, but for this post, I chose to compare the average time from D-III “A” finals with the average time for D-I “B” finals.  Because D-I finals represent one of the fastest set of finals on the planet, that data is probably not a meaningful comparison for athletes “on the bubble” trying to find the best place for their talents in college.  With each event, we also note where the D-III finals average would place in the entire D-I nationals fields ("D-III place" in the charts). This post includes the Women’s NCAA Championship meets from 2013, to be followed in a future post with the men.  


    Conclusion

    As noted in the outset, the difference between Division III and Division I performances at the national championship level is greatest in the longest events.  In fact, an average Finals time in Division III would notably distant from the last place finisher in Prelims at the Division I level in the 400IM and 1650 freestyle (also note that Division III only swims finals for the 1650, further emphasizing the difference).  

    However, top Division III athletes generally are capable of meeting NCAA D-I cuts, but are significantly short of achieving qualifying times for finals.  The divergence in distance events may be a matter of resource allocation: with less overall depth, D-III coaches can't afford to have their best athletes specializing in distance.    

    Whether one considers these comparisons as comparable or not depends on your perspective.  For some swimmers, it highlights the choice between contending for national titles in D-III versus working to potentially make an D-I national meet cut.  For everyone, it is a reinforcement that overall depth in US college swimming remains strong from D-I to D-III.  

    Click here for a similar analysis of the men's fields.  

    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. 




    <?The Difference Between Women's Division I and Division III Swimming>

    Take home points:
    • An average time in an NCAA Division III Women's finals typically would place around 50th in an NCAA Division I championship field.
    • The difference between Division III and Division I swimming is greatest in the longest events, perhaps because there is less depth in Division III, requiring the most talented swimmers to focus on sprints and relays.
    • Top Division III performances would rank above average, but below elite in the Division I ranks.
    Selecting a college is one of the most important milestones in a swimming career. For many swimmers, the choice between a Division I, II or III program can be confusing. Unlike sports such basketball and football, the difference between women's Division I (D-I) and Division III (D-III)swimming at the “lower” levels Division I and "higher" level Division III programs is marginal.  Yet despite this comparability, D-III athletics often carry a stigma, especially among young kids wanting the status of being a D-I athlete.
       
    As a former, D-III athlete it is often frustrating to see athletes make their college decisions based on faulty assumptions and misinformation.  Certainly Division I programs have more financial resources to alleviate tuition, in addition to there being more opportunities for in-state tuition status.  Further, with most D-I programs also being major academic institutions with, there are often unmatched educational resources. 

    For this post, I we'll compare how closely Division I and Division III swimming stack up.  Now, no metric is perfect, but for this post, I chose to compare the average time from D-III “A” finals with the average time for D-I “B” finals.  Because D-I finals represent one of the fastest set of finals on the planet, that data is probably not a meaningful comparison for athletes “on the bubble” trying to find the best place for their talents in college.  With each event, we also note where the D-III finals average would place in the entire D-I nationals fields ("D-III place" in the charts).   This post includes the Women’s NCAA Championship meets from 2013, to be followed in a future post with the men.  


    Conclusion

    As noted in the outset, the difference between Division III and Division I performances at the national championship level is greatest in the longest events.  In fact, an average Finals time in Division III would notably distant from the last place finisher in Prelims at the Division I level in the 400IM and 1650 (also note that Division III only swims finals for the 1650, further emphasizing the difference).  

    However, top Division III athletes generally are capable of meeting NCAA D-I cuts, but are significantly short of achieving qualifying times for finals.  The divergence in distance events may be a matter of resource allocation: with less overall depth, D-III coaches can't afford to have their best athletes specializing in distance.    

    Whether one considers these comparisons as comparable or not depends on your perspective.  For some swimmers, it highlights the choice between contending for national titles in D-III versus working to potentially make an D-I national meet cut.  For everyone, it is a reinforcement that overall depth in US college swimming remains strong from D-I to D-III.  

    Stay tuned for similar analysis of the men's fields.  

    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. 

    Nathan Adrian vs James Magnussen Performance Predictions from 2013 World Championships

    The men 100m free is the main race in any major competition, such as Olympic Games and World Championships. Everybody talks about that race long before the competition kicks off, including media that dedicates a lot of articles about it. Who will get a seed at the final, who are the main contenders, what will be their main strategies and so on. But the media aren't the only people chatting, as swimming fans often do the same, and me and my friends are no exception. Right after the semi-finals, the day before the final, we were chatting about all this and I came out with the idea of profiling the two main contenders (at least in our view and most of the media): James Magnussen (Australia) and Nathan Adrian (US).

    Let’s start with some background about sports performance profiling. A profile is a collection of features that might characterize someone. Sports performance profiling can include anthropometrical, biomechanical, physiological, psychological variables besides others. It should be stressed that rather than predict the performance, profiling aims to help athletes get awareness of their strongest and weakest points, as well as, from their main competitors. So, we can use this technique to identify the main race strategies of a swimmer.

    Hence, my idea was to carry out an analysis of James Magnussen and Nathan Adrian based on their performances between 2012 Olympic Games (London) and 2013 World Championships (Barcelona) semi-final and then see if that matched with the race on the following day (i.e. the final).

    Races times between 2012 OG and 2013 WC semi-finals (i.e. on July 31th) were retrieved from a database (www.swimrankings.net). Relay races were only considered if the swimmers lead off the relay. Reaction time, first lap split time, second lap split time and final time were compared. This analysis included sixteen races for Nathan Adrian and thirteen for James Magnussen.

    Two profiling techniques were selected. The ones reported by James et al. (2005) and by O’Donoghue (2005). James et al. (2005) technique represents performance as a collection of all variables, determines the median and the 95% confidence interval for the median for each outcome. O’Donoghue (2005) technique produces a profiling based on quantiles. This is done calculating the quantiles for each variable selected and plotting it on a radar chart.

    According to data collected, Nathan Adrian is the fastest on the block and the first split but James Magnussen is quicker during the second lap and might win the race (table 1). Nathan Adrian performances seem to be more consistent than the ones from Magnussen (table 1 and figure 1). The perception, from a qualitative point of view is that the upper limits of the 95% CI are little bit too high. The explanation to this has to be related to the fact that during prelims in major competitions and even races at the beginning of the season, strategies might be different from the ones in the final.




    Table 1. Performance profile for the two main contenders of the 100 m free final at the 2013 World Championships (Barcelona).

    Our profiling was put to the test on Aug 1st, as the two squared off. Results were as follows:

    James Magnussen (reaction time: +0.68s; 1st split: 22.80s; 2nd split: 24.91s; final time:47.71s);

    Nathan Adrian (reaction time: +0.64s; 1st split: 22.38s; 2nd split: 25.46s; final time: 47.84s);

    So, actually Nathan Adrian was the fastest on the block and in the first lap, while James Magnussen was quicker during the second lap and won the race. Most results are within the 95% CI, even though some prelim and earlier races in the season turn out those limits a little bit too wider than expected. This could be solved removing those races (but would decrease even more the small dataset obtained) or inserting a correction factor to fine-tune the profiles (e.g. importance of the competition).

    However as we learned on that same day, Nathan Adrian was third while James Feigen (USA) was second (reaction time: +0.69s; 1st split: 22.91s; 2nd split: 24.91s; final time: 47.82s). These same techniques could be used to profile all finalists and if possible identify an outsider, an underdog. Eventually this should be done complementing the profile obtained with some tracking techniques, such as the ones reported by Bragada et al. (2010) in middle-distance running.

    A few limitations must be addressed: (i) strategies might be different from race to race (i.e. beginning of the season vs. main competition; prelim vs. final, etc.); (ii) there are more accurate techniques (e.g., considering the effect of different type of competitions, quality or ranking of the performers involved) which might fine-tune the profile obtained; (iii) not all finalists were profiled, being this techniques most convenient and useful to identify and characterize underdogs rather than the favorites or top dogs, as the last ones are very well-known; (v) overall, a higher dataset and more time to carry out the analysis would increase the accuracy of the profiles obtained.

    References

    1. Bragada JA, Santos P, Maia JA, Colaço P, Lopes VP, Barbosa TM (2010). Longitudinal study in 3000m male runners: relationship between performance and physiological parameters. Journal Sport Science & Medicine. 9: 439-444
    2. James N, Mellalieu SD, Jones NMP (2005). The development of position specific performance indicators in professional rugby union. Journal Sport Sciences. 23: 63-67
    3. O’Donoghue PG (2005). Normative profiles of sports performance. International Journal Performance Analysis Sports. 5: 104-109.
    Tiago M. Barbosa earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

    Holiday Interview: Dr. Tiago Barbosa Discusses Buoyancy tests, Talent ID, and Much More, Must Read!

    1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).
    My name is Tiago Barbosa and I hold a position at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). I earned my PhD in 2005 at the University of Porto (Portugal) and habilitation (I guess this is an academic degree available in a few European countries) in 2011 at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (Portugal).

    My main research interest is the development of deterministic models to explain and predict sports performance, including competitive swimming.

    2. You recently published an article on vertical buoyancy and the horizontal glide test, could you briefly explain this study?

    That paper is part of a wider research project. But for the case, age-group coaches and researchers usually select affordable and straightforward testing procedures. The vertical buoyancy test is one of those procedures to estimate the hydrostatic behavior. The swimmer remains in the deep-end of the swimming pool, on the vertical position and holding the breath. The evaluator records with an ordinal scale the water level at a given anatomical landmark of the head. It is considered that larger portions of the swimmers body emerged represent a greater buoyancy capacity. To estimate the hydrodynamic profile, it is often used the prone gliding test. In this case, the swimmer is asked to push-off from the wall at a given immersion level and glide in the streamlined gliding position for the higher horizontal distance they are able without moving the limbs. It is measured, on the pool deck, the horizontal distance traveled by the swimmer until he stops gliding. 

    It is considered that higher gliding distances represent the submission to lower drag force. The aim was to develop a path-flow analysis model to explain the relationships between vertical buoyancy and prone gliding tests with selected anthropometrical and biomechanical variables. Thirty-eight boys took part of this research. We assessed their body mass, height, fat mass, body surface area, vertical buoyancy, prone gliding after wall push-off, stroke length, stroke frequency and velocity at a maximal 25 meter sprint. The confirmatory model included the body mass, height, fat mass, prone gliding test, stroke length, stroke frequency and velocity. All theoretical paths were verified except for the vertical buoyancy test that did not present any relationship with anthropometrical and biomechanical variables nor with the prone gliding test. Bottom line is that, vertical buoyancy and prone gliding tests are not the best techniques to assess the swimmers´ hydrostatic and hydrodynamic profile, respectively.

    More details on this in: Barbosa TM, Costa MJ, Morais JE, Moreira M, Silva AJ, Marinho DA (2012). How informative are the vertical buoyancy and the prone gliding tests to
    assess young swimmers hydrostatic and hydrodynamic profiles? J Hum Kinetics 32: 21-32

    3. Based on the findings, what are the main practical implications for coaches?

    Based on these findings, it seems that the vertical buoyancy and the gliding tests do not depend exclusively from buoyancy force and drag force, respectively. If one might consider using such procedures must be aware that: a) vertical buoyancy score also depends from body composition and respiratory variables (e.g. lungs volume, vital capacity, residual volume and tidal volume); b) prone gliding test also depends from the lower limbs´ muscle power and/or stretch-shorting cycle pattern at the push-off.

    I understand that in some countries swimming associations implemented very recently programs that included competitions and/or evaluations very similar to these tests. Firstly, in most of the cases they acknowledge the limitations of the procedures. Secondly, those programs are a very interesting way to increase children’s adherence to competitive swimming.

    4. You've also researched about swimming energetics, what are some misconceptions about the energetics in swimming races?

    This is quite interesting because for long time, in several countries, training models were influenced by East European authors from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Those models are characterized by a very long preparatory period, then a short competitive period (i.e., season’s main competition) and transition period. During the preparatory period, most training sessions would involve high-volume and low-intensity training. However, there is a “but” in all these. Firstly, there are evidences that the aerobic: anaerobic partial contribution for the 100m, 200m, 400m races are around 40:60, 60:40, 80:20, respectively. So, anaerobic pathways are major players for the total energy expenditure. It is quite challenging to elicit anaerobic pathways (in training and competition) with low intensity training. Training sessions should mimic at some point what will happen in the race: “Train as you compete so that you can compete as you train”. This is a saying that I use quite often to explain the specificity principle. Then, we have swimmers that have several peak forms through a season. They participate in so many competitions (European Championships, World Championships, FINA World Cup Series, national championships, etc, etc) always at top-level that they must peak several times (or keep a plateau?) throughout the season.

    You may ask me: how about long-distance swimmers? Are those training models appropriate? When we see some swimmers (men and women) with crazy split times in the 1.500m freestyle race during the last Olympic Games and World Championship, they are even able to do astonish times in the 200m free (individual or relay races) just makes me wonder…

    Hopefully it seems that the new trends in swimming training are to decrease slightly the volume but on top of that, increase the intensity.

    5. There is a lot of discussion about ultra-short race pace training, being popularized by Dr. Rushall and dating back to Coach Termin (though he used other training methodologies), do you feel this training is appropriate for elite swimmers?

    I will give you a short answer, because in a way, my position on this is very similar to what I share with you in the previous question. First of all, the ultra-short race pace training embodies the specificity principle. Secondly, the body of knowledge about aerobic pathways (eliciting aerobic capacity and aerobic power) and how to design aerobic training sets is very solid. Unfortunately the same does not happen for the anaerobic pathways. Dr. Rushall and Coach Termin are very well-known and respected by both academic and swimming communities. Their framework is quite interesting. As hypothesis the reasoning supporting ultra-short race pace training seems to be more than reasonable. As happens in other scientific fields, evidences are most welcome. Not from one or two papers. Replication is an essential part in Science. So, in the first phase several independent research groups would design and carry on longitudinal studies (including several experimental groups each one), analyze the performance (and determinant variables) variation within a time-frame (i.e. between and within subjects comparisons). In a second phase, it should be developed a meta-analysis with all those studies and gather some insight about the main effect of ultra-short race pace training.

    6. What in water tests can a coach use to determine which form of training is most applicable to each swimmer?

    That is the million dollar question. We all are looking for the answer, one thing I agree with you. There is no such thing as a single recipe that can be used in each and every athlete. Each swimmer is different from the fellow that trains in the lane beside him. At this moment we are discovering and mapping the different pathways to reach a given performance (this is called as deterministic modeling). Two different swimmers might reach the same final time in a given event, but the race and training strategies are completely different. Just like two fellows that decide to go from LA to NYC by car. Both will take 40 hours to reach the City. But one travels through some north states, while the other decides to go by south. They have different routes, but the same outcome. In such case, the question is which route is the most efficient, right? Moreover, it is suggested that the strategies variability is higher in highly-expert (i.e. elite swimmers) and non-expert (i.e. recreational swimmers) than expert counterparts (i.e. national level swimmers).

    More details on this in: Barbosa TM, Bragada JA, Reis VM, Marinho DA, Carvalho C, Silva AJ. (2010). Energetics and biomechanics as determining factors of swimming performance: updating the state of the art. J Sci Med Sports. 13: 262-269

    7. How do you think coaches should objectively evaluate biomechanics?

    Nowadays there are commercially available video cameras (including waterproof models) with very affordable price tags. With a quick search online easily we will find software (freeware) for motion analysis that in a very comprehensive and straightforward fashion-way allows us to assess the kinematics (speeds, trajectories, stroke length, stroke frequency, stroke index, angles, etc.) and perform some basic race analysis (start time, swim time, turn time, finish and if we will, to breakdown each one of these phases into sub-phases or critical events) [SS: see Underwater Video Analysis Software Review. With a few hours of training, data collection and data analysis accuracy improves sharply and the time spent per swimmer decreases significantly. 

    Regarding the kinetics, literature reports a few testing procedures characterized as being 3Ls (Less expensive, Less time-consuming, Less complex). As explain before, there are evidences of some limitations in those tests. As long as the evaluator is aware of the bias and there is no other way to gain insight about it, well, practitioners are most welcome to use it.

    8. What are the main biomechanical flaws in elite swimmers for each stroke? 

    It is not clear that all elite swimmers present a main flaw or mistake for each stroke. If we talk about elite athletes, as rule of thumb we should design customized test batteries. For each swimmer we should identify their strongest and weakest points (or main limitations) according to what was set as being the main goal. Based on that, the athlete, his coach, the national head coach and performance director decide which components should be assess and follow-up on regular basis up to the major competition of the season or the Olympic cycle. The battery designed for swimmer #A does not fits necessary to the needs of swimmer #B.

    9. What in the research do you think coaches could do a better job implementing?

    Coaches are cleaver, wise and brilliant people. They start to realize that Science and Technology are powerful allies. As happens in several other industries, coaches (from age-groups, all the way up to elite swimmers) perform an evidence-based practice. I.e., most of them are aware that swimming became a very high-tech sport, where research and development) are needed. However, coaches do not need to hold a PhD in Biomechanics or Physiology to help swimmers to excel. They just need to have access to the most update state-of-the-art in a comprehensive fashion-way (and this blog is a great source) [SS: Thanks Tiago!].

    10. Who is doing the most interesting research in swimming research? What are they doing?

    A lot of research groups are doing exciting things nowadays. This is a very vibrant community, with several well-respected research groups in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. This clustering might not be fair, but if there is any trend: a) Australia and America are dedicated to a more “applied swimming research”; b) Asia to the development of cutting-edge and high-tech procedures or equipment; c) Europe in some more “fundamental or theoretical swimming research” (if such thing exists for a scientific field so applied as it is this one…).

    11. What makes your research different from others?

    I am not so sure that our research group is so different from others. Having said that, the fact that in our research group several of us besides academics are coaches or swimming analysis (of a national team or top-level clubs) makes a difference. From 9am to 5pm we are academics in an office or a lab producing knowledge. From 5pm to late evening we are practitioners in a swimming pool developing an evidence-based practice. So, from 9-to-5 the question is how useful is what we are working on for our next training session or training camp.

    A more academic way to say it is that we are strongly focused on the translational research and transfer of knowledge. A swimmer is more than a genetic pool or biomechanical system or anthropometric features or physiological profile or psychological traces. A swimmer is a human where all these domains interact to determine the performance. Hence, swimming performance is a multi-factorial phenomenon and our models include several of these domains. In other scientific fields this is called as a holistic approach.

    12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?
    If you allow me, more than teachers I would like to acknowledge all that in some way influenced my research. Firstly, my dad that for decades worked in this same industry. Secondly, two gentlemen that I have the privilege to have as very good friends of mine, one of them my former supervisor: Antonio J. Silva and J.P. Vilas-Boas.

    The four guys that I overload with emails each and every day; and even so, they are available 24/7: Mário J Costa, Jorge E Morais, Daniel A Marinho, Nuno D Garrido.

    Last but not least, to all my former colleagues, grad and undergrad students.

    I learn a lot with all of them. So, as you can see, it is quite challenging and unfair to put only a couple of names under the spot light.

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

    We all saw recently that a lot of records, podium, final and semi-final spots were granted or lost due to “details” (e.g. 2013 World championships held in Barcelona). Those details are mostly related to the start, the turns and the finish. The interest about these phases of the race eventually will increase. Once again in a more academic way, for elite swimming the “marginal gains theory” will be a must. Computer fluid dynamics might help us on that.

    Then we have the talent ID. We want to design test batteries to identify, classify and follow-up talented swimmers from childhood to adulthood.

    Master swimming is becoming more popular as the number of participants is increasing. Master competitions are no longer some funny races for fitness-oriented people. Athletes dedicate so much time and effort to excel in master competitions, as tends to happen in elite sports. Master swimming is becoming a serious sport. So some research might be carry on about this topic as well.


    Thanks Tiago and don't forget to read his article from last week:

    From the Junior to the National Swim Team: A Milestone

    From the Junior to the National Swim Team: A Milestone

    Take Home Point:
    1. From the 87 finalists at the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships roughly 75% did not participate in any major event during 2012 or 2013.
    The shift from the junior to the national swimming team is one of the most challenging milestones in a swimmer’s career. Indeed there are evidences that the ability to predict swimming performance increases sharply around such chronological ages (Costa et al., 2011).

    The 4th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships are being held at this moment in Dubai. A question crossed my mind: what did happen to the swimmers that participated in previous editions of this competition. They will be competing at top-level, attending to major championships a few years later or not? Let’s consider an Olympic cycle. Since coaches have a long term view in what concerns to training design and periodization of talented and world-ranked swimmers, at least 3-4 seasons (i.e. an Olympic Cycle) (Costa et al., 2009) might be needed to have some clues. So, it was decided to do a retrospective analysis of what happened to the finalists of the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships (held in Monterrey, 2008). This analysis looked at which of these swimmers competed in the 2012 Olympic Games year and, the recent, 2013 World Championship, or both major competitions.

    The aim was to analyze and describe how many of the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships finalists also participated in the London 2012 Olympic Games and Barcelona 2013 World Championships, a little bit more than 4 years later (i.e., an Olympic cycle later).

    2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships results were retrieved from the FINA website (www.fina.org). All swimmers participating in any individual race final were identified (8 finalists per event; 17 individual events). Several swimmers participated in more than one event (a total of 87 male swimmers participated at least in one final). London 2012 Olympic Games and Barcelona 2013 World Championships results were collected from a database (www.swimrankings.net) for each one of the 87 junior finalists identified.

    Table 1. Descriptive statistics of the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships (Monterrey, 2008) finalists and its follow-up to London 2012 Olympic Games and Barcelona 2013 World Championships.
    From the 87 finalists at the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships roughly 75% did not participate in any major event during 2012 or 2013. Hence, twenty-one and twenty-three of the 2008 finalists got at least one seed in the 2012 Olympic Games or 2013 World Championship, respectively.

    Of the 21 swimmers participating at the Olympic Games, 16 did participate at least in one prelim (i.e., 17th place and following ones), two in a semifinal (9th-16th place), three in a final but without a spot on the podium (i.e., 4th-8th place) and no swimmer was medalist. This trend improves at the World Championship, but still only eight swimmers participated at least in one prelim (i.e., 17th place and following ones). Of these participants, fourteen got a seed in more than one prelim, eight in a semifinal (9th-16th place), four in a final without a spot on the podium (i.e., 4th-8th place), three were medalists, however none reached to the highest spot on the podium.

    This data suggests that the drop-out rate from junior to national team is quite high (approximately 75%). Some further investigation is needed to gather insight if they drop out the sport or continue to race and are not selected for the national swim team though. Nevertheless, those that are able to get a spot on the national team roster seem to be able to reach top-level spots even though their improvement is slow but steady and consistent. To caution, this is a retrospective analysis, therefore, caution extrapolating the phenomenon here described for any other generation of junior swimmers, including the ones participating right now at the 2013 Dubai edition.

    One might consider as main limitations of this descriptive analysis: (i) only individual races were assessed as relays are not included; (ii) data reported might not be representative of what happened to women (it seems that they reach the career’s peak earlier than men); (iii) some swimmers that did not participate in 2008 finals might have raced in one or both major competitions and were not considered for further analysis.
     
    References
    1. Costa MJ, Marinho DA, Reis VM, Silva AJ, Marques MC, Bragada JA, Barbosa TM (2010). Tracking the performance of world-ranked swimmers. J Sport Sci Med. 9: 411-417.
    2. Costa MJ, Marinho DA, Bragada JA, Silva AJ, Barbosa TM (2011). Stability of elite freestyle performance from childhood to adulthood. J Sport Sci. 11: 1183-1189.
    By Tiago M. Barbosa earned a PhD degree in Sport Sciences and holds a position at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

    Stats Saturday: London Olympics 100 LCM Free Finals

    The 100 Free at the London Olympics was an amazing race, as American Nathan Adrian upset the heavy favorite James Magnussen. 



    Prior to the race, it was well established James Magnussen was better at even splitting his race, allowing him to finish faster than Mr. Adrian. From the 50-meter splits, it seems this was the case once again, but the data and the results indicate otherwise.

    Adrian splits:
    TimeRankSplit
    50 m22.64322.64
    Finish47.52124.88

    Magnussen splits:
    TimeRankSplit
    50 m22.83522.83
    Finish47.53224.70

    Race Analysis

    First 15 Meters
    Adrian got off to a great start and it he was clearly ahead of Magnussen after the first 15 meters, in fact, he was already 0.2 seconds ahead. After 15 meters, both athletes have taken the same amount of stroke, 4.

    0 - 25 Meters
    At the 25 meter mark, Adrian slightly extended his lead above 0.2 seconds, but Magnussen took one less stroke, perhaps preserving energy for his storied finishing speed. 

    25 - 50 Meters
    At the 50 meter mark, Adrian slightly lost his lead, as James gained a few hundredths of a second into the wall. At the turn, Adrian was 0.19 seconds ahead of James, but James had taken a total of four less strokes in the first 50 meters!

    50 - 75 Meters
    Coming off the turn, James continued to transfer his faster velocity into the turn and brought the two swimmers even at the 65 meter mark. Then, the two athletes remained even to the 75-meter mark. However, both of these swimmers took the same amount of strokes in these 25-meters.

    75 - 100 Meters
    Being practically even as they entered the last 25-meters, made for an exciting finish. These two swimmers went nearly the same time on this lap, but it was done much differently. Specifically, Adrian went 0.10 faster on the last 15 meters, where Magnussum went 0.09 seconds faster from 75 - 85 meters! Both maintained the same stroke count over this distance.

    Thoughts

    Unlike past races, Adrian was able to maintain his velocity, compared to either swimming overly fatiguing. The amount of strokes of Adrian in his other races should be studied to determine if this is significant.

    Magnussum took more strokes on his third 25 than his faster races. This reviewer feels this was due to the swimmer not staying to his game plan. These extra strokes likely caused excess fatigue, preventing him from his normal superior finish.

    The race seemed to be won on the start and finish for Adrian. His finish used his straight arm or body driven stroke into the wall. This appeared successful for this athlete, allowing him to maintain his stroke length.

    Magnussum had a great turn, as he accelerated in and out of the wall. Unfortunately, it seems he got off his race strategy, taking too many strokes on the third 25, and increasing his fatigue.

    Interested in having your stroke analyzed, sign-up for the Swimming Science Stroke Analysis.

    By G. John Mullen 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.

    How to Review Swimming Research Part II

    If you missed part I, read it or you'll likely be lost as understanding the different types of a research paper is essential. This week we are tackling the different parts of a paper and where to find quality articles.

    Parts of an Article
    Abstract: The abstract is a brief synopsis of the paper, AKA the cliff notes of research. Unfortunately, key points are often emphasized, without attention on the flaws often causing misinterpretation.

    Introduction: The introduction provides a background of the paper topic and provides the authors purpose for the research. The introduction also includes the researchers' hypothesis.

    Procedures: The procedures is the first "meat and potatoes" section of a research article. In this section, a description of the controls, what was tested, and what was done is discussed. In this area, it is feasible to begin interpreting the relation between the tests performed and intervention.

    Results: This section provides the numbers and stats for what was found. It often includes many stats to interpret the importance of their findings.

    Conclusions: The conclusion summarizes the results, typically in non-statistical terms, and brings to light the hypotheses.

    Discussion: The last part of the paper brings light to the applications of the results and real world application. This is important as many studies are done in controlled environment, inapplicable in many realms of life.

    Where and What?
    Now you know what are the types of studies, what the studies include, but where do you find quality articles? There are many websites, but none match PubMed. Unfortunately, the amount of whole articles is minimal compared to only abstracts. Therefore, it is important to know someone inside academia to get you access to articles, or find a great review of the articles (Swimming Research Reviewto stay up to date with the research.

    Brandon Patterson of ELifts suggest following these Journals:
    • Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Journal of Nutrition
    • Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism Nutrients
    • Int’l Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research Int’l J. of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
    • Journal of the American College of Nutrition Journal of Physical Activity and Health
    • Journal of Sports Sciences Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
    • New England Journal of Medicine European Journal of Applied Physiology
    • American J. of Physical Medicine and Rehab. Journal of Applied Physiology
    • Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine Research in Sports Medicine
    On top of this, I suggest:
    • Journal of Applied Physiology
    • American Journal of Sports Medicine
    • Journal of Orthopedic Physical Therapy
    • British Journal of Sports Medicine
    Now you have the tools, use them wisely!

    By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, and creator the Swimmer's Shoulder System and the Swimming Science Research Review.

    Stats Saturday: Men's 50 Free Anthony Ervin

    This past weekend in Austin brought a lot of interest to the men's 50 free (check out Stats Sunday: WR Comparison Men's 50 free). With all the "comebacks" for this upcoming Olympics, I will argue with anyone Mr. Ervin's is the most impressive. His 10 year departure and unorthodox career (a license tattoo artist) for an athlete is one of the most unusual in the sport. After his first retirement many whispers surround this young, talented athlete regarding wasted talent and laziness, but remember he did win Olympic gold in 2000 and is only 30 years old, putting him on the cusp of the age when men reach their peak strength. 



    His 10 years off appears to cause no more than a slight hiccup in his training. Ervin is still one of the best sprinters in the world as his ability to get into his catch and his high stroke rate are unfathomable. He is able find clear water better than any swimmer. Despite his good attributes, he still demonstrates flaws as the sport progressed towards underwater kicking he still hows a poor start with little to no underwater kicking causing early stroking. This flaw puts him behind the ball during every race and forces him to use a higher and faster stroke rate than his peers. In Austin he took 39 strokes, 3 more cycles than Cesar's 20.91and 2 more than Bousquet's 20.94 (Race Analysis: Cesar Cielo 20.91) . Sure this difference could be due to his slower overall time, or suits, but Adrian took 34 strokes and Bousquet 35 strokes. Taking two or more stroke cycles directly correlates his break out time of  2.48 seconds (nearly one second than Cielo's 20.91). These extra strokes will cause his body to transition from the creatine phosphate system (lasts approximately 10-15 seconds) to the glycolytic system earlier causing fatigue.

    Ervin never competed during the reign of the hi-tech suits which eased fatigue and provide invaluable core stabilization during fatigue. These benefits would have immensely helped him, considering the suits made vast improvements of the last 15 meters during a 50 meter race. To demonstrate, 0.5 of the 0.6 difference between Cesar's 20.91 and his 21.52 from World Championships came during the last 15 meters as lactate and fatigue s settle.




    Despite likely using all his creatine phosphate system, not having the hi-tech suits and having to use more glycolysis (producing lactate) than his peers, I still like Ervin's chances to make the Olympic Team. His catch and stroke rate unmatched.
    Simple improvements with his start could make him above his peers, but I doubt this will be changed due to his age and lost time. Luckily, he is talented enough to make the team without this correction and I like his chances.


    Bold prediction: 21.60 at Olympic Trials, placing him 2nd and making the Olympic team.

    What do you think?