Swimming Energy Calculator

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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

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Are Warm Downs Necessary in Swimming?

In previous articles Perfect Swimming Warm Down and Warm Down Durations, Dr. John covered many key issues for warm downs and swimming.  But perhaps there’s a more fundamental issue to be addressed first…do we even need to warm down?  That question may seem heretical, as the importance of the warm down (or cool down as it is also called) has long been assumed, not only in swimming but in all exercise.  However, a recent New York Times article has reenergized warm down opponents, with multiple studies casting doubt on the efficacy of warming down after workouts.

The seminal study for the anti-cool down theory was by Lay (2007).  This study involved fifty two healthy adults of both genders.  Subjects walked backwards downhill for 30 minutes on a treadmill.   This unfamiliar exercise was designed to remove any training effect that might taint the results.  Experimental groups included 1) warm up only, 2) cool down only, 3) warm up and cool down, and 4) neither warm up nor cool down.  Warm ups and cool downs were both ten minutes.  Authors found, “Warm-up performed immediately prior to unaccustomed eccentric exercise produces small reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness but cool-down performed after exercise does not.”
Olsen (2012) had similar findings with subjects performing front lunges in the gym.  The control group (no warm up or cool down) experienced increased muscle sensitivity in the first two days post-exercise, which is another way of saying more soreness.  The warm up group, who performed twenty minutes of cycling prior to exercise, saw no difference in sensitivity on either day. The cool down group performed twenty minutes cycling after the lunge set.  The cool down group saw increased muscle sensitivity the first day but not the second day after exercise.

Rey (2012) studied professional soccer players with two groups: an active recovery group (cool down of 12 minutes easy jogging followed by 8 minutes static stretching) and a passive recovery group (twenty minutes seated on a bench).  Before training, athletes were tested on jumping, sprinting, agility, and lower limb flexibility.  Authors also tracked heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion, neither of which differed regardless of recovery strategy.  As for performance measures, sprinting, agility, and flexibility had no difference between groups but there was a significant improvement in Countermovement Jump in the cool down group.
In a companion study involving 31 professional soccer players in the same protocol as above, authors found no difference in muscle soreness or muscle contractility between the active (cool down) and passive recovery (non-cool down) groups.  (Rey 2012)
A related issue is incorporating cool downs within a meet, as swimmers frequently race multiple events at each meet.  We discussed this issue previously in Swimming Warmup Timing

“Toubekis (2008) studied swimmers in two 100-m time trials separated by fifteen minutes.  After experimenting with several active and passive recovery variations, results showed that five minutes active recovery during this fifteen minute period was the superior strategy compared to ten minutes active recovery and any duration of passive recovery.  

Similarly, Felix (1997) studied ten female D-III swimmers in two 200m time trials separated by fourteen minutes with three different recovery conditions: active swimming, rowing, and passive recovery.  Active recovery lasted ten minutes separated by two minute blocks from the first and second time trial.  Both active recovery conditions yielded better performance in the second time trial as compared to passive recovery.”  

Based on these studies, an active recovery between events (which was essentially a cooldown from the first race), resulted in improved performance versus the passive recovery.  These results would support the common practice of cooling down after each race within a meet and would support the traditional routine of cooling down after each practice.      

Though the tangible benefits of cool downs are still open to challenge, there has been no research to suggest cool downs are harmful.  However, based on this research, making athletes do a formal cool down after dryland appears less important, but again, there’s nothing to suggest it is harmful.   Further, modern practice has evolved more enlightened cool down methods than those used in the studies (submaximal running or cycling followed by static stretching were among the cool downs used).  Swimming studies did show improved performance when cooling down between races, which would seem more relevant than non-athletes walking on a treadmill or performing lunges in the gym.  


  1. Law RY, Herbert RD.  Warm-up reduces delayed onset muscle soreness but cool-down does not: a randomised controlled trial.  Aust J Physiother. 2007;53(2):91-5.
  2. Olsen O, Sjøhaug M, van Beekvelt M, Mork PJ.  The effect of warm-up and cool-down exercise on delayed onset muscle soreness in the quadriceps muscle: a randomized controlled trial.  J Hum Kinet. 2012 Dec;35:59-68. doi: 10.2478/v10078-012-0079-4. Epub 2012 Dec 30.
  3. Rey E, Lago-Peñas C, Casáis L, Lago-Ballesteros J.  The effect of immediate post-training active and passive recovery interventions on anaerobic performance and lower limb flexibility in professional soccer players.  J Hum Kinet. 2012 Mar;31:121-9. doi: 10.2478/v10078-012-0013-9. Epub 2012 Apr 3.
  4. Rey E, Lago-Peñas C, Lago-Ballesteros J, Casáis L.  The effect of recovery strategies on contractile properties using tensiomyography and perceived muscle soreness in professional soccer players.  J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):3081-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182470d33.
  5. Toubekis, A. G., Douda, H. T., & Tokmakidis, S. P. (2005). Influence of different rest intervals during active or passive recovery on repeated sprint swimming performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 93, 694-700.
  6. Felix, S. D., Manos, T. M., Jarvis, A. T., Jensen, B. E., & Headley, S.A. (1997). Swimming performance following different recovery protocols in female collegiate swimmers. Journal of Swimming Research, 12, 1-6.
By Allan Phillips. Allan and his wife Katherine are heavily involved in the strength and conditioning community, for more information refer to Pike Athletics.

Brief Swimming Review Volume 1 Edition 1

In an attempt to improve swimming transparency, a brief swimming related literature review will be posted on Saturday. If you enjoy this brief swimming review, consider supporting and purchasing the Swimming Science Research Review.

All 200-m strokes Result in Similar Inspiratory Muscle Fatigue
Inspiratory muscle fatigue (IMF) has been suggested as a contributor to fatigue in swimming. Now, Lomax et al (2013) have concluded IMF is similar across the four competitive strokes during a 200-meter race.

"Inspiratory muscle fatigue was evident after each 200-m swim (p < 0.05) but did not differ between the 4 strokes (range 18-21%) ... These results demonstrate that IMF occurs in response to 200-m race-paced swimming in all strokes and that the magnitude of IMF is similar between strokes when breathing is ad libitum occurring no less than 1 breath (inhalation) every third stroke (Lomax 2013)."

Remember, breathe as much as you want, as long as it doesn't increase your energy expenditure and/or impede your horizontal velocity. Want some weekend reading?

Breathing and Swimming

Breathing During Swimming
Optimizing Breathing Patterns
Breathing in Swimming

Inspiratory Muscle Training
All You Need to Know About Inspiratory Muscles Part I
All You Need to Know About Inspiratory Muscles Part II
All You Need to Know About Inspiratory Muscles Part III

Swimming Warm-down; Land Warm-down
Lomax (2013) has been busy! Another study suggest either coach or individual based swimming warm-down reduces blood lactate greater than land based warm-down. 

"The results of the present study suggest that it does not matter whether a self-paced continuous steady rate swimming velocity or a swimming recovery consisting of various strokes, intensities, and rest intervals is adopted as a recovery activity. As both swimming recoveries removed more blood lactate than the land-based recovery, swimmers should therefore be advised to undertake a swimming-based recovery rather than a land-based recovery (Lomax 2013)".

'Perfect' Swimming Warm-down

Body Size and Glide Efficiency
Body size and gliding efficiency are commonly associated in swimming. Glide efficiency is essential, as drag is the largest inhibitor of horizontal velocity aka the more drag, the slower you go! In this study, 

"[e]ight male and eight female swimmers performed a series of horizontal glides at a depth of 70 cm below the surface. Glide efficiency parameters were calculated for velocities ranging from 1.4 to 1.6 m/s for female swimmers (and at the Reynolds number of 3.5 million) and from 1.6 to 1.8 m/s for male swimmers (and at the Reynolds number of 4.5 million) (Naemi 2013)".

The results suggest:

"glide coefficient was significantly correlated to the chest to waist taper index for both gender groups. For the male group, the glide coefficient correlated significantly to the fineness ratio of upper body, the chest to hip cross-section. For the female group the glide coefficient had a significant correlation with the waist to hip taper index. The findings suggested that gliding efficiency was more dependent on shape characteristics and appropriate postural angles rather than being dependent on size characteristics (Naemi 2013)."

Instead of body size ratios may be more important for swimming speed. However, analysis of these parameters during actual swimming, not gliding are necessary before recommendations are warranted. 


Added Resistance Does Not Alter Freestyle Biomechanics?
Previous work (Maglischio) has suggested added resistance to swimming alters biomechanics. In this study,

"[e]ight female swimmers swam 25 m with maximal intensity, with and without added resistance. A bowl with a capacity of 2.2, 4 and 6 L was used as low, moderate and high added resistance, respectively. The underwater motion of the swimmer's right hand was recorded using 4 cameras (60 Hz) and the digitization was undertaken using the Ariel Performance Analysis System (Gourgoulis 2013)."

Gourgoulis 2013 indicated added resistance does not alter the velocity of the hand, pitch of the sweepback angles, and magnitude of drag or lift. 

Despite this, more research is indicated as Dr. Rushall suggested in a article review:
"[w]hether or not the change in force direction offered by resisted swimming does beneficially influence free swimming needs to be assessed."

Elite Swimmers Deficient in Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral in the body. Yet, evidence out of San Pablo Brazil indicates elite swimmers may have a deficiency in Zn, noted by the low Zn hemoglobin levels (Giolo De Carvalho 2013).

Having appropriate levels of minerals in the hemoglobin (and potentially the cells, yet testing is still too preliminary) is essential. Low Zn can result in an impaired immune system and alter motor control

Vertical Buoyancy is Unimportant!  
Barbosa (2012) looked at the correlation between vertical buoyancy and the prone gliding test and swimming velocity. The results found vertical buoyancy was unrelated to any swimmer parameters, but the prone gliding test had correlation between all the swimming variables analyzed except horizontal velocity!

Remember, static positional gliding (with or without horizontal velocity) are far from swimming! This is likely why these positions have little correlations with horizontal velocity.

Power Training Does Not Improve Youth Men Swimming Performance
The role of strength training in swimming is a never ending debate. However, a recent study looked at power training (circuit training in my eyes) and swimming success and noted no improvements in swimming following this type of training (Sadowski 2012). 

However, these 14-year-old boys did have an improvement in tethered swimming...but is this important?

Also, Exhaustive Resistance Training Alters Joint Biomechanics, keep this in mind when designing an appropriate dry-land program. If you need some direction, check out COR's team consulting.

Catch Phase is a Static Motion?  
During an isometric contraction, muscles typically contraction on each side of the joint (co-contraction) which prevents movement. A recent EMG study found in swimming, the catch phase resulted in similar levels of contraction in the elbow flexors and extensors suggesting an isometric contraction (Lauer 2013).  Remember, the body moves past a stable arm, at least this is what this implies.

That is it for today, enjoy Women's NCAA and if you like this review, leave a comment!

  1. Lauer J, Figueiredo P, Vilas-Boas JP, Fernandes RJ, Rouard AH.Phase-dependence of elbow muscle coactivation in front crawl swimming.J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2013 Mar 9.
  2. Sadowski J, Mastalerz A, Gromisz W, NiŸnikowski T.Effectiveness of the power dry-land training programmes in youth swimmers.  J Hum Kinet. 2012 May;32:77-86. doi: 10.2478/v10078-012-0025-5. Epub 2012 May 30.
  3. Barbosa TM, Costa MJ, Morais JE, Moreira M, Silva AJ, Marinho DA.
    How Informative are the Vertical Buoyancy and the Prone Gliding Tests to Assess Young Swimmers' Hydrostatic and Hydrodynamic Profiles? J Hum Kinet. 2012 May;32:21-32. doi: 10.2478/v10078-012-0020-x. Epub 2012 May 30.
  4. Giolo De Carvalho F, Rosa FT, MarquesMiguel Suen V, Freitas EC, Padovan GJ, Marchini JS. Evidence of zinc deficiency in competitive swimmers. Nutrition. 2012 Nov-Dec;28(11-12):1127-31. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.02.012.
  5. Gourgoulis V, Aggeloussis N, Mavridis G, Boli A, Kasimatis P, Vezos N, Toubekis A, Antoniou P, Mavrommatis G. Acute effect of front crawl sprint resisted swimming on the propulsive forces of the hand. J Appl Biomech. 2013 Feb;29(1):98-104.
  6. Naemi R, Psycharakis SG, McCabe C, Connaboy C, Sanders RH. Relationships between glide efficiency and swimmers' size and shape characteristics.J Appl Biomech. 2012 Aug;28(4):400-11. Epub 2011 Nov 14.
  7. Lomax M. The effect of three recovery protocols on blood lactate clearance after race-paced swimming. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):2771-6.
  8. Lomax M, Iggleden C, Tourell A, Castle S, Honey J. Inspiratory muscle fatigue after race-paced swimming is not restricted to the front crawl stroke. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):2729-33.
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.

'Perfect' Swimming Warm-down

If you missed the 'perfect' swimming warm-up, read it already!

Warm-up research is minimal, warm-down is a different story. Vast research has looked at different warm-down speeds, lengths, and lactate level. As discussed in past pieces (check out Groin Kick Syndrome Part I), lactate is not the devil; the body's inability to convert lactate to ATP is a problem which leads to the fun acidic burning in your gut). If your body can improve this system, then you can tolerate more stress and improve workload and performance. Warm-down research is quite popular, whether Dr. G is pricking your ear or your buddy stabbing your finger, the result is almost always....you need more warm-down!
Make sure you know your individual plan and needs, but realize there are some generalities for everyone and if you don't have the available technology it shouldn't be held against you, even the late Steve Jobs won't be mad if you don't have the Blood Lactate Application.

We went over suggested Swimming Warm-Down durations before and concluded:

"Differences in opinions exist between warm down speeds and duration. One study determined swimming for 15 minutes at 55-75% of racing speed resulted in blood lactate retuning to below 2 mmol/L-1 (McMaster 1989). A more recent study have determined lactate threshold as an optimal pace for warm-down (Greenwood 2008). Toubekis 2010 found repeated sprints to recover best at a pace of 40% 100 free."

Despite the conflict in opinion on warm-down, one thing is clear; everyone needs a lot of warm-down. Just look at these suggested warm-down distances associated with their event:
Some things to note are different strokes elevate more lactate than others and sprinters typically need more recovery.

However, there is even research about passive recovery. Touberkis 2008 noted:

"Five minutes of active recovery during a 15-min interval period is adequate to facilitate blood lactate removal and enhance performance in swimmers. Passive recovery and/or 10 min of active recovery is not recommended."

These athletes swam at 60% of their 100-meter time and recovered within 15 minutes of the race. This mixed evidence, raises some conflict, which I feel is unable to explain at this time.
But these are purely based on blood lactate volumes and if you read me earlier I said lactate isn't the devil we once suspected.

The devil or forgotten Little Nicky for optimal race results is neural fatigue. This forgotten and unknown variable rises higher in events with high force production. Make sure the nervous system has achieved proper time to recover. If the nervous system does not recover it will not have adequate time to react and will fail...no good! It is estimated the neural system takes seven to ten times the length of the muscular system to recover.

Make sure you have enough time for recovery and are able to turn the brain off for optimal neural recovery.

Swimming recovery is essential after a race for neural and lactate improvement. The amount of active, swimming recovery should be around 60% of your 100-meter time and be performed for at least five minutes (typically much longer).
Next installment, will discuss what to do without a warm-down pool available...

  1. Toubekis AG, Tsolaki A, Smilios I, Douda HT, Kourtesis T, Tokmakidis SP.Int J Sports Physiol Perform. Swimming performance after passive and active recovery of various durations. 2008 Sep;3(3):375-86.
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 of Swimmer's Shoulder System

Lactate Removal with Electrical Stimulation?

Take Home Points:

  1. Swimming recovery is best for lactate clearance after a 200-yard swim.
Today I’ve got an interesting article to review. It was published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and looked at blood lactate levels before a 200 meter freestyle, after a 200 meter freestyle, and after 10 and 20 minutes recovery. The researcher’s manipulated the mode of recovery and had three groups, passive recovery, active submaximal swimming, and electoral stimulation (simple H-wave home model).

Before I get into the results, I will discuss lactate build-up and recovery. Any competitive

swimmer has experienced acidosis, that burning sensation in the pit of your stomach, but what causes this build-up? For example, if you perform a 200 meter race you are using multiple systems to create energy. The first and fastest energy system is the creatine phosphate system, as stated this system is fast, unfortunately it runs out of gas quick (~30 seconds). Another energy system that would be utilized is used to transform carbohydrates (mostly, fats and protein can contribute) into energy, this system is called glycolysis. These systems provide sustainable forms of energy, but also release harmful byproducts (harmful in swimming, good for your health) hydrogen ions (H+) and lactate. In actuality, the H+ ions are more harmful to swim performance, despite what any commercial product states. These H+ ions cause your blood to become more acidic, which impairs calcium release for muscle contraction…got that? The H+ ions also inhibit enzymes that are used in the energy system glycolysis. If H+ is the Dr. Octopus of swim performance, then why do swimmers get their ears and fingers pricked for lactate testing? Lactate testing is used because, it positively correlates with H+ ion production and acidity, plus it is easy.

Back to the study, the subjects included 19 men (best 200 yard free time under 1:53.50) and 11 women (best 200 yard free time under 2:04.00) with an average age of 17.7. The subjects were tested three times with at least 24 hours between each testing session and they wore textile suits (I don’t actually know that, but they wore suits that exposed their legs). On each testing day, the swimmers warmed up for 15-20 minutes that included pacing, passively rested for 2 minutes, then performed their 200 yard maximal effort from a dive. Following this, blood lactate was obtained during a three minute period and then the subjects were randomized into one of the three recovery groups. Recovery group one was a seated passive recovery, group two was an active swimming recovery group that swam repeat 100 yard swims at approximately 65% of their 200 yard sprint time, and group three was 20 minutes of electrical muscle stimulation. Blood lactate was obtained after 10 and 20 minutes of the recovery. The electrical stimulation was used on the subject’s rectus femoris (quads), latissimus dorsi (lats), lumbar spinous processes L3 and L4 (I’m guessing this was on the paraspinal and quadratus lumborum muscles… sorry for the science talk, lower back) and triceps at a peak current of 35 mA and a frequency of 2 Hz. The amount of Hz was chosen because the manufacturer states this frequency is best used to elicit a peripheral muscle pump action. The intensity was chosen until the swimmers felt a “mild tapping” under their skin and then was adjusted during the 20 minutes as they adjusted to the intensity.
The results showed that active swimming recovery had the greatest drop in blood lactate levels following a 200 yard sprint performance, but electrical stimulation did produce a larger decrease in blood lactate levels than resting recovery. Some interesting notes from the paper’s discussion:
•Lactate rises approximately from 1.5 mmol/L to 6.5 mmol/L after a 200 yard sprint.
•In another study, repeated 100 yard recoveries were done at 75%, 65% and 55% of 200 yard time and all of subjects had the same blood lactate levels. However, the swimmers stated 65% was the most comfortable pace.
•Another past study compared active running and swimming recovery for lactate recovery and found running had the best lactate removal (unfortunately, this paper did not publish the parameters for this study).
•Another study compared an active swimming and rowing recovery and found swimming had a better lactate removal.
•The last study discussed a walking recovery compared to an active swimming recovery. This study found that the swim recovery had a better lactate clearance, but the walking regimen did lower lactate levels.

The main points from this paper are swimming or running recovery is optimal for lactate clearance following a 200 yard swimming performance. This recovery should be done for 20 minutes at approximate 65% of the participant’s 200 yard pace. At a meet where space is limited and a warm-down pool is inaccessible, electrical muscle stimulation can be utilized to decrease blood lactate.

What do you all think? What do you do or have your swimmers do for warmdown?


  1. Neric, F., Beam, W., Brown, L., Wiersma, L. Comparison of Swim Recovery and Muscle Stimulation on Lactate Removal after Sprint Swimming. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 23(9)/2560–2567.
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.