Highlights from the USA Swimming Conference on Sports Medicine and
Sports Science in September 2003: Part II
By Jessica Seaton, D.C.
A Comparison of Body
Density and Center of Buoyancy in Competitive Swimmers and Full Body Suits presented
by Richard Hinrichs, Ph.D., Arizona State
University. Previous studies had
shown that the Speedo Fastskin suit decreased the passive drag effect in the
water. This current study looked at full-body suits by Adidas, Arena, Nike,
Speedo, and TYR, and compared them to a normal lycra suit (Speedo). Except for
Adidas, all were full-body suits without arms. The Adidas suit had arms. All
the suits were bought, not donated. The subjects consisted of 14 males and 16
females, with ages ranging from 18 to 36 years. All were swimmers.
The researchers first studied how the suits affect buoyancy
in general. In men, all suits except the TYR were more buoyant than a
conventional suit for the first minute. After 2 minutes only
the Adidas, and Arena were more buoyant than the conventional suit, but less so
than they were during the first minute. For women there was less
variation than for the men. These suits were about one tenth as buoyant as a
The second area the researchers explored had to do with a
shift in the center of buoyancy. If the gravitational force and the center of
mass are off center, the swimmer’s feet tend to sink. Conversely, the closer
together these are, the better one floats. Anecdotally many swimmers remark
that their legs feel like they are floating in the suits with legs. For the
men, who in general don’t float as well, TYR was the only suit that provided an
advantageous shift in the center of buoyancy. Women usually float better than
men. The only suit that showed a significant statistical advantage for the women
was the Adidas.
Strength, Power, and
Swim Performance presented by Joel Stager, Ph.D. Joel Stager run the
Councilman Research Lab at Indiana University,
the best known swimming research facility in the country. He presented some of
the results of a seven-year study focusing on sprinting, especially the 50
freestyle. Some of the highlights from his exciting and detailed talk included:
(force times distance over time) per stroke is the strongest determinant
of maximum swimming velocity.
and women are similar in how they apply power per stroke, but men have
more power and therefore faster velocity.
differences between individual swimmers are more important for men in
their swimming performances. Non-power measures account for more of the
differences in women’s performances.
composition, as far as percentage fat, is not important as far as sprint
performance (a correlation was not found). However, muscle mass is
important: more muscle is positively correlated with more power,
especially for men.
jump ability does not correlate well as a velocity predictor.
- By age
13 or 14 boys and girls start differing a lot in their power.
swimmers with longer arms are generally faster, but more so for men than
may be more important than we think.
- Dry land
strength training did not necessarily result in an increase in power in
the water. Working with the research center’s modified power rack did
increase in-water power. However, this training only starts becoming
effective at 14 for girls and at 15 for boys.
problem with training in a drag suit is that the swimmer usually alters the
stroke and swims more slowly. This defeats the purpose of the training,
because to swim fast, the swimmer has to practice fast swimming.
Science and Medicine
in Research and Training presented by Jack
Daniels, Ph.D. Dr. Daniels was a very entertaining
speaker, with many stories related to his years as an Olympic athlete, coach,
and scientist. He began by talking about what makes a champion: great ability
(anatomical, biomechanical, and physiological) and high intrinsic motivation. Beyond
these qualities, an athlete needs opportunities, such as facilities,
competition, equipment, the ability to travel, direction from a positive coach,
and good program. He explained that at some point you get as fit as you’re
going to get. After that getting faster means improving your
economy in the water (technique). In contrast to running, for swimmers
to swim faster they must expend a lot of energy. Conversely, a swimmer only
needs to slow down a little in order to save a lot of energy.
The purposes of training are 1. to
increase the available energy (better vascularization of the muscles, stronger
heart), 2. improve speed (power, technique), 3. improve economy
(technique), and 4. improve endurance. Every workout should have a purpose,
i.e., improving endurance, speed, or economy.
Training and competing require focusing on the task at hand
(concentration). He encouraged swimmers to trust success and question defeat, and
he cautioned you learn more from losing a race than winning one. Accept your very best as your norm. As a final ingredient of
success, Dr. Daniels mentioned luck!
Disordered Eating—Psychology versus Nutrition, Clinical Implications, and
Identification and Coping Strategies for Coaches presented
by Kristen Martin and Rebecca Morgan, M.D. These speakers work primarily with
female college students, but emphasized that disordered eating begins before
college. While it is not primarily a problem of masters
swimmers, it may have been a problem for some when they were younger, or they
may the parents of a child with a potential eating disorder. Eating disorders,
such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, begin as disordered eating. Disordered
eating can be any irregularity, from avoiding certain foods (i.e.,
carbohydrates), to eating only one meal per day. There is a spectrum from
disordered eating to eating disorders. USA Swimming published a booklet on eating
disorders/disordered eating authored by a task force of health professionals
involved in swimming.
Jessica Seaton, D.C.
is a chiropractic orthopedist in private practice in West Los Angeles. She swims with West Hollywood Aquatics and is chair of the USMS Sports
Medicine Committee. She can be reached at (310) 470-0282 or Jseaton@aol.com.