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Physiological, Biomechanical and Anthropometrical Predictors of Sprint Swimming Performance in Adolescent Swimmers

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationships between 100-m front crawl swimming performance and relevant biomechanical, anthropometrical and physiological parameters in male adolescent swimmers. Twenty five male swimmers (mean ± SD: age 15.2 ± 1.9 years; height 1.76 ± 0.09 m; body mass 63.3 ± 10.9 kg) performed an all-out 100-m front crawl swimming test in a 25-m pool. A respiratory snorkel and valve system with low hydrodynamic resistance was used to collect expired air. Oxygen uptake was measured breath-by-breath by a portable metabolic cart. Swimming velocity, stroke rate (SR), stroke length and stroke index (SI) were assessed during the test by time video analysis. Blood samples for lactate measurement were taken from the fingertip pre exercise and at the third and fifth minute of recovery to estimate net blood lactate accumulation (ΔLa). The energy cost of swimming was estimated from oxygen uptake and blood lactate energy equivalent values. Basic anthropometry included body height, body mass and arm span. Body composition parameters were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Results indicate that biomechanical factors (90.3%) explained most of 100-m front crawl swimming performance variability in these adolescent male swimmers, followed by anthropometrical (45.8%) and physiological (45.2%) parameters. SI was the best single predictor of performance, while arm span and ΔLa were the best anthropometrical and physiological indicators, respectively. SI and SR alone explained 92.6% of the variance in competitive performance. These results confirm the importance of considering specific stroke technical parameters when predicting success in young swimmers.
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2010) 9, 398-404
http://www.jssm.org
Received: 22 March 2010 / Accepted: 28 May 2010 / Published (online): 01 September 2010
Physiological, biomechanical and anthropometrical predictors of sprint
swimming performance in adolescent swimmers
Evelin Lätt 1, Jaak Jürimäe 1, Jarek Mäestu 1, Priit Purge 1, Raul Rämson 1, Kaja Haljaste 1, Kari L.
Keskinen 2, Ferran A. Rodriguez 3 and Toivo Jürimäe 1
1 Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Institute of Sport Pedagogy and Coaching Sciences, University of Tartu,
Tartu, Estonia, 2 Finnish Society of Sport Sciences, Helsinki, Finland, 3 Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Cata-
lunya, Sport Sciences Research Group, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationships be-
tween 100-m front crawl swimming performance and relevant
biomechanical, anthropometrical and physiological parameters
in male adolescent swimmers. Twenty five male swimmers
(mean ± SD: age 15.2 ± 1.9 years; height 1.76 ± 0.09 m; body
mass 63.3 ± 10.9 kg) performed an all-out 100-m front crawl
swimming test in a 25-m pool. A respiratory snorkel and valve
system with low hydrodynamic resistance was used to collect
expired air. Oxygen uptake was measured breath-by-breath by a
portable metabolic cart. Swimming velocity, stroke rate (SR),
stroke length and stroke index (SI) were assessed during the test
by time video analysis. Blood samples for lactate measurement
were taken from the fingertip pre exercise and at the third and
fifth minute of recovery to estimate net blood lactate accumula-
tion (La). The energy cost of swimming was estimated from
oxygen uptake and blood lactate energy equivalent values. Basic
anthropometry included body height, body mass and arm span.
Body composition parameters were measured using dual-energy
X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Results indicate that biomechani-
cal factors (90.3%) explained most of 100-m front crawl swim-
ming performance variability in these adolescent male swim-
mers, followed by anthropometrical (45.8%) and physiological
(45.2%) parameters. SI was the best single predictor of perform-
ance, while arm span and La were the best anthropometrical
and physiological indicators, respectively. SI and SR alone
explained 92.6% of the variance in competitive performance.
These results confirm the importance of considering specific
stroke technical parameters when predicting success in young
swimmers.
Key words: oxygen uptake, stroke index, energy cost, front
crawl.
Introduction
Certain anthropometric characteristics must be taken into
consideration in analysing sprint swimming performance,
including body height, arm span and lean body mass
(Jürimäe et al., 2007; Strzala and Tyka, 2009). These
somatic attributes are largely inherited and determine
swimming technique to a high degree. However, data on
the relationship among anthropometric properties, physi-
cal capacity and sprint swimming performance in adoles-
cent swimmers are scarce. Since metabolic capacities as
well as skill acquisition, are affected by growth and de-
velopment (Malina, 1994), it can be suggested that factors
predicting swimming performance may vary for young
swimmers and may be different compared to adults. In
fact, Geladas et al. (2005) found that total upper extremity
length, leg power and handgrip strength could be used as
predictors of 100-m front crawl performance in 12-14
year-old boys. A multivariate analysis of swimming per-
formance in a large sample (n = 66) of male swimmers
(11-12 years) of high national level found that predictive
variables pertaining to the anthropometric (sitting height),
physiological (aerobic speed and endurance) and technical
(swimming index) domains explained 82.4% of competi-
tive performance (Saavedra et al., 2010). Overall, it ap-
pears that somatic traits play an important role in swim-
ming performance during the years of growth.
Energy cost is a key parameter to evaluate per-
formance in swimming and it has been described as a
predictor of performance in human locomotion, in both
terrestrial and aquatic environments (di Prampero, 1986;
Zamparo et al., 2005b). Traditionally, the energy cost of
swimming (Cs) is defined as the total energy expenditure
required for displacing the body over a given unit of dis-
tance (di Prampero et al., 1986; Pendergast et al., 2003).
Kjendlie et al. (2004a) reported significantly lower energy
cost in children (12-year-old boys) than in adults (21-
year-old males) at comparable swimming velocity, thus
confirming the results obtained by Ratel and Poujade
(2009) in a group of 12-13 year-old boys and 18-22 year
old men. Cs increases as a function of velocity (Capelli et
al., 1998; Poujade et al., 2002) and has usually been as-
sessed from the ratio of oxygen uptake (VO2) to the corre-
sponding velocity (vs) in swimmers (Kjendlie et al.,
2004a). When calculating Cs based in the VO2 and veloc-
ity, there are two ways to computing that. Some research-
ers use VO2-v3 to illustrate Cs with linear function (Kjend-
lie et al., 2004a; 2004b), but the common use is VO2-v
(curvilinear function) (Barbosa et al., 2008; Capelli et al.,
1998; Poujade et al., 2002; Zamparo et al., 2005a). How-
ever, it is also important that anaerobic metabolism is also
taken into account (Barbosa et al. 2005b, Barbosa et al.,
2006), since its relatively higher contribution during 100-
m distance.
The recent development of improved instrumenta-
tion and technology in breath-by-breath analysis has re-
sulted in new approaches to study VO2 also in aquatic
environments. The last generation of miniaturized breath-
by-breath metabolic carts can be used in combination of
newly developed snorkels to directly measure cardiorespi-
ratory parameters during swimming with acceptable accu-
Research article
Lätt et al.
399
racy and reliability (Keskinen et al., 2003; Rodriguez et
al., 2008). This instrumentation has also been used to
characterize VO2 kinetics during free swimming (Barbosa
et al., 2006; Rodriguez et al., 2003). However, no studies
using breath-by-breath gas analysis have been conducted
to determine oxygen consumption and Cs during sprint
swimming in adolescent swimmers.
The understanding of the behavior of stroke me-
chanics and its relationship to vs is one of the major points
of interest in biomechanical research in swimming (Ke-
skinen and Komi, 1993; Kjendlie et al., 2006; Toussaint
et al., 2006). Increases or decreases in vs are due to a
combined increase or decrease in stroke rate (SR) and
stroke length (SL) (Keskinen and Komi, 1993; Toussaint
et al., 2006). Stroke mechanics is considered to reach an
optimal balance between SR and SL when vs values are at
their highest level with a relatively low Cs (Barbosa et al.,
2008). It has been shown that increases in maximal vs
from the age of about 11 are related to increased SL,
while SR at maximal vs does not increase with age
(Kjendlie et al., 2004b). According to the literature, at a
given vs, Cs significantly increases with increasing SR
(Barbosa et al., 2005a; Zamparo et al., 2005b). Less con-
sistent is the decrease of Cs with increasing SL (Barbosa
et al., 2005a; Costill et al., 1985; Pendergast et al., 2003;
Zamparo et al., 2005b). High stroke index (SI) values are
strongly associated with low Cs (Costill et al., 1985). In
this sense, and following the referred authors, SI can also
be used as an overall estimation of swimming efficiency.
To our knowledge, no studies have investigated the
influence of different anthropometric, physiologic and
technical parameters together to determine sprint swim-
ming performance in young swimmers. There is also lack
of studies using breath-by-breath technology, and thus
being able to characterize oxygen consumption, in during
swimming in adolescent swimmers. Accordingly, the
purpose of this study was to investigate the contribution
of different anthropometrical, physiological and biome-
chanical parameters to sprint swimming performance in
adolescent boys. We hypothesis that sprint swimming
performance at that young age could be predicted from a
relatively low number of selected variables pertaining to
these three testing domains.
Methods
Participants
Twenty-five adolescent male swimmers (15.2 ± 1.9 years)
participated in the study. All swimmers had a training
background of 5.6 ± 1.5 years and over the last two years
they had been practicing for 5.6 ± 1.5 h/week. Swimmers
were recruited from local swimming clubs on a voluntary
basis. Biological age was measured according to the
method of Tanner (Tanner and Whitehouse, 1976), which
uses self-assessment of genitalia development and pubic
hair stage in boys. The participants were given photo-
graphs, figures and descriptions, and asked to choose the
one that most accurately reflected their appearance. This
study was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of
the University of Tartu. All swimmers and their parents
were informed of the purposes and methods of the study
and a written informed consent was obtained from the
parents before participation.
Procedures
Test and assessments were conducted on two different
occasions during the study period. On a first visit, anthro-
pometrical parameters and biological age were assessed.
The same day, a second testing session consisted of an
all-out 100-m front crawl swimming test in the pool. On a
second day, body composition parameters were measured.
Anthropometry and body composition
Body height was measured to the nearest 0.1 cm using a
Martin’s anthropometer, body mass (kg) was measured to
the nearest 0.05 kg using calibrated medical balance
scales (A&D Instruments Ltd., UK), and body mass index
(BMI; kg·m-2) was then calculated. In addition, arm span
was measured to the nearest 0.1 cm Anthropometrical
assessments were performed by internationally certified
ISAK level 1 anthropometrist.
Body fat mass (kg), fat-free mass (kg), bone mass
(kg), total bone mineral density (g·cm-2) and spine (L1-
L4) bone mineral density (g·cm-2) were measured by
DXA using the DPX-IQ densitometer (Lunar Corpora-
tion, Madison, WI, USA) equipped with proprietary soft-
ware. The procedure was conducted by a qualified radi-
ologist. Coefficient of variation (CV) for measured body
fat mass, fat-free mass, bone mass and bone mineral den-
sity values was less than 2%.
Maximal swimming test
The Cs of swimming, peak oxygen uptake in
swimming (VO2peak) and stroking parameters were as-
sessed during an all-out 100-m front crawl test performed
in 25-m swimming pool. Restricted as they were by the
gas sampling devices, the swimmers started without div-
ing from the wall and did not perform regular turning
motions at the end of the lane but instead resumed swim-
ming immediately without gliding underwater after the
turn. Turns were made to the same lateral side at both
ends of the pool to avoid distortion of the gas analyser’s
sampling line. Swimmers performed a 400-m warm-up
swim, followed by a 10 min passive resting period before
the 100-m all-out trial. A respiratory snorkel and valve
system with low hydrodynamic resistance was used to
collect breathing air samples (Keskinen et al., 2003; Rod-
riguez et al., 2008; Toussaint et al., 1987) and was con-
nected to a telemetric portable breath-by-breath gas ana-
lyzer (Metamax-3B, Cortex, Leipzig, Germany) (Aspenes
et al., 2009). Values were averaged for 10-s periods. The
respiratory device, connected to a portable gas analyzer of
similar technical characteristics (K4 b2, Cosmed, Italy)
has demonstrated good validity and accuracy (Keskinen et
al., 2003; Rodriguez et al., 2008) and has been used in
recent published works (Barbosa et al., 2005a; Rodriguez
et al., 2003). Swim performance was assessed from the
time spend in seconds. The swimmers were familiarized
with the snorkel by letting them swim 100-m at moderate
speed with the breathing apparatus preceding the maximal
trial.
Capillary blood samples for the measurement of
blood lactate concentration (La; mmol·L-1) were taken
Factors affecting swimming performance
400
from the fingertip pre exercise and at the third (La3) and
fifth (La5) minute during the recovery period (Capelli et
al., 1998) and analysed using an enzymatic photometric
method (Lange Microanalyzer, Lange GMBH, Berlin,
Germany). The net increase of blood lactate concentration
(La) was obtained by subtracting the pre-trial value from
the peak value attained during the recovery phase.
To exclude the influence of turning and starting,
the average swimming velocity (vs; m/s) attained by each
swimmer during the trial was measured over 15 m within
two points 5.0 m apart from each end of the pool (vs =
D/t15, where D = 15 m and t15 = time for the 15-m dis-
tance) (Poujade et al., 2002; Zamparo et al., 2005a).
Swimming velocity and stroking parameters were
measured by means of time video analysis (Huot-
Marchand et al., 2005), by two independent evaluators.
SR (cycles·min-1) was calculated as the average number
of strokes completed by the swimmers during the 15-m
distance (Poujade et al., 2002). One SR cycle being de-
fined as the time between the entry of one hand until the
following entry of the same hand (Huot-Marchand et al.,
2005). SL (m·cycle-1) was calculated as the ratio between
average velocity and the corresponding SR (Poujade et
al., 2002). SI (m2·s-1·cycle-1) was calculated by multiply-
ing swimming velocity by SL (Costill et al., 1985). Total
energy expenditure (Etot; mLO2·kg-1·min-1) corrected for
body mass was calculated using the net VO2 (i.e. differ-
ence between the value measured at the end of the 100 m
trial and the resting value), and the oxygen energy equiva-
lent of net blood lactate concentration (i.e. difference
between the value measured at the end of the task and the
resting value) (Rodriguez 1999). The VO2 energy equiva-
lent was assumed to be 2.7 mLO2·kg-1 min-1, as that pro-
posed by di Prampero et al. (1978) for competitive swim-
ming. Cs was calculated as the ratio between Etot and vs
(mLO2·m-1), and then converted into the SI units (kJ·m-1)
by assuming that 1 mLO2 is equivalent to 20.1 J (di
Prampero et al., 1986; Pendergast et al., 2003).
Statistical analysis
The normality of distribution was assessed on all data
using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. Means, standard
deviations, minimum and maximum values were calcu-
lated for all parameters (Table 1). Partial correlation coef-
ficients (rp) with age as control variable were used to
determine the degree of association between assessment
variables and swimming performance. For each type of
assessment backward stepwise linear regression analyses
were used to assess the potential relationships with
swimming performance and to evaluate which group of
parameters (i.e., anthropometrical, physiological, biome-
chanical) best characterized swimming performance.
Additionally, multiple linear regression (MLR) models
using the backward stepwise procedure were developed
entering all variables.
A p-value .05 was considered to be statistically
significant. SPSS for Windows, version 13.0; (SPSS Inc.;
Chicago, IL) was used for all analyses.
Results
Mean (± SD) 100-m performance time was 77.6 ± 9.1 s.
The average vs without gliding start and turnings was 1.34
± 0.14 m·s-1. Descriptive statistics for anthropometrical,
physiological and biomechanical parameters and their
relationship with 100- front crawl performance time with
age as control variable are presented in Table 1. Partial
correlation analysis showed that swimming performance
was significantly correlated (p < .05) with body height,
bone mass, spine bone mineral density and arm span
Table 1. Anthropometrical, physiological and biomechanical parameters and their correlate with 100-m front crawl swim-
ming performance in adolescent swimmers (n = 25). Data are means (± standard deviations, SD), minimal and maximal val-
ues, and partial correlation coefficients (rp) with age as control variable.
Variable Mean (SD) min max Partial correlation with 100-m time (rp)
Body height (cm) 1.76 (.09) 1.52 1.89 - .536 *
Body mass, BM (kg) 63.3 (10.9) 45.0 89.0 -.480
Body mass index, BMI (kg·m-2) 20.2 (2.2) 15.6 24.9 -.247
Body fat (%) 12.8 (3.3) 7.5 18.4 .061
Total body fat mass, (kg) 8.0 (2.2) 4.1 11.6 -.174
Fat-free mass, (kg) 54.7 (9.6) 39.0 77.4 -.506
Bone mass, (kg) 2.7 (.6) 1.60 3.84 -.543 *
Total bone mineral density, (g·cm-2) 1.12 (.10) .95 1.33 -.462
Spine bone mineral density, (g·cm-2) 1.06 (.15) .79 1.28 -.516 *
Arm span (cm) 182.8 (11.5) 152.5 200.5 -.557 *
Velocity, vs (m·s-2) 1.34 (.14) 1.01 1.57 -.938 *
Stroke length, SL (m·cycle-1) 1.00 (.09) .84 1.22 -.506
Stroke rate, SR (cycle·min) 40.2 (2.9) 35.0 46.0 -.785 *
Stroke index, SI (m2·sec-1·cycle-1) 1.35 (.24) .85 1.83 -.643 *1
VO2peak (L·min-1) 3.51 (.82) 2.31 5.72 -.398
VO2peak (ml·min-1·kg-1) 55.2 (5.9) 44.4 70.6 -.017
VO2 (L·min-1) 3.02 (.79) 1.86 5.31 -.322
La3 (mmol·L-1) 6.40 (2.81) 2.64 14.20 -.525 *
La5 (mmol·L-1) 6.58 (3.03) 2.65 14.20 -.574 *
Blood lactate accumulation, La (mmol·L-1) 4.9 (3.0) 0.61 12.6 -.598 *
Energy cost of swimming, Cs (kJ·m-1) 3.99 (1.78) 1.31 8.50 -.544 *
Tanner sexual maturation stage (1-5) 3.9 (1.02) 2 5 -.285
* Statistically significant correlation (p .05); 1 controlled also for swimming velocity
Lätt et al.
401
Table 2. Backward stepwise linear regression analyses to assess the potential relationships with swimming performance and
to evaluate which group of parameters (i.e., anthropometrical, physiological, biomechanical) best characteriz swimming
performance. Multiple linear regression (MLR) models using the backward stepwise procedure were developed entering all
variables.
Variables Variables entered in model R2 Adjusted R2 t p F p
Biomechanical SR, SI .911 .903 19.902 .000 (2;24) = 112.87 .000
Anthropometrical
Arm span,
height, bone mass, spine bone
mineral density
.559 .458 4.115 .001 (4;16) = 5.503 .012
Physiological La, La3, La5, Cs .551 .452 4.558 .000 (4;22) = 5.531 .004
In all variables SR, SI .936 .926 16.867 .000 (2;15) = 94.412 .000
(anthropometrical parameters), SR and SI (biomechanical
parameters), and Cs, La3, La5 and La (physiological
parameters). SL was correlated with vs, but not with 100-
m.
Multiple linear regression analysis demonstrated
that SI (R2 = 0.788; p = 0.000), arm span (R2 = 0.485; p =
0.001), and La (R2 = 0.317; p = 0.003) were the best
overall predictors of 100-m performance in adolescent
swimmers, respectively. Thus from this analysis, it ap-
peared that biomechanical factors, that were entered into
the model (Table 2) characterized best the 100-m swim-
ming performance in these adolescent swimmers (90.3%;
p < 0.05), followed by anthropometrical (45.8%; p < 0.05)
and physiological factors (45.2%; p < 0.05). Only these
parameters were entered to the models that were signifi-
cantly related to swimming performance. Multiple linear
regression model for all related variables with 100-m
swimming performance indicated that two biomechanical
parameters (SI and SR) explained 92.6% of the variance
(Table 2).
Additionally, as Cs was related to swimming time,
we evaluated the possible contribution of different pa-
rameters to Cs. Partial correlation analysis showed that Cs
was significantly related to vs (r = .576; p = .025), La3 (r =
.580; p = .000), La5 (r = .632; p = .000) and La (r = .646;
p = .000), but not to VO2 (r = .377; p = .833) or VO2 (r =
.288; p = .072).
Discussion
This study investigated the contribution of different an-
thropometrical, physiological and biomechanical parame-
ters to sprint swimming performance in adolescent boys.
The main findings are: 1) that biomechanical factors may
explain 90.3% of the variance in 100-m swimming per-
formance 2) that anthropometrical (45.8%) and physio-
logical (45.2%) parameters were also strongly related to
100-m performance 3) that the best single performance
predictors were SI, arm span and La; and 4) that two
selected variables included in the MLR model for all
varables (SI and SR) explained 92.6% of the variance in
100-m swimming performance in this adolescent
swimmrers.
Few studies have investigated the relationship of
different biomechanical and physiological parameters to
100-m front crawl performance in adolecent swimmers
(Kjendlie et al., 2004a; 2004b). Swimmers start heavy
trainings at relatively young age therefore, it is important
to assess which parameters may be the best predictors of
sprint swimming performance. This enables consideration
of specific parameters when predicting success and plan-
ning specific training programs in young swimmers.
The obtained SR values (40.1 ± 2.8) were in rela-
tively same range as found in other studies (Dekerle et al.,
2002; Fernandes et al., 2008; Strzala and Tyka, 2009).
However, even SL parameters can not be easily compared
since most studies have not used respiratory snorkel that,
due to some resistance, has the impact on SL. In elite
swimmers using respiratory snorkel, SL was significantly
higher compared to our study (Dekerle et al., 2005; Fer-
nandes et al., 2008). However, their subjects were also
significantly older (19 years vs 15 years, respectively).
The present investigation showed that biomechanical
parameters (SI and SR) are close correlates of 100-m
swimming performance, SI being the best single predictor
of 100-m swimming performance in these adolescent
male swimmers. Previous studies have shown that SI is
strongly related to swimming performance in adolescent
swimmers also in longer distances (Jürimäe et al., 2007;
Lätt et al., 2009a; 2009b), as well as a good predictor of
overall competitive performance (Saavedra et al., 2010).
Therefore, it seems important to emphasize the impor-
tance of teaching and learning the correct swimming
technique from the early years of swimming training,
regardless of the event. Marinho et al., 2010 also recom-
mended that specific training sets concerning technique
correction and improvement in young swimmers might be
a main aim during training planning in swimming.
Cs is one of the commonly used parameter to pre-
dict the swimming performance (Kjendlie et al., 2004a;
Poujade et al., 2002; Zamparo et al., 2005b). In this study
we measured VO2 using modern procedures for collecting
and measuring breath-by-breath expired gas, which al-
lowed the characterization of VO2 kinetics during swim-
ming exercise. This method has been found suitable for
assessing swimming performance in young swimmers
(Keskinen et al., 2003; Kjendlie et al., 2004a; Ratel and
Poujade, 2009; Rodriguez et al., 2008). VO2 parameter at
similar age subjects has not been extensively studied. The
obtained VO2peak values in this study were in the same
range as in Strzala et al. (2005), where VO2 values were
measured during 100-m distance in adolescents Tanner
stage 4-5. However, they measured oxygen consumption
on cycle ergometer (Strzala et al. 2005). Two other stud-
ies (Dekerle et al., 2005; Fernandes et al., 2008) measured
VO2 in the pool, but their subjects were older (19 years
old) and at higher level, that resulted in high VO2peak val-
ues (> 70 ml·min-1-1·kg-1). Cs is a key parameter to evalu-
ate performance in swimming, but there are only a few
studies that have investigated the determinants of Cs in
Factors affecting swimming performance
402
children and adolescents (Kjendlie et al., 2004a; Poujade
et al., 2002). Previous investigations have found relation-
ships between Cs and body height, body mass and arm
span in adolescent swimmers (Jürimäe et al., 2007; Lätt et
al., 2009b; Ratel and Poujade, 2009), but this was not the
case in our study, where no relationships between anthro-
pometrical parameters and Cs were found.
In sprint swimming vs seems to depend mainly on
anaerobic capacity and swimming efficiencyin adolescent
swimmers (Strzala and Tyka, 2009), although peak VO2
has also been found to significantly correlated with 100-m
speed (r = .787) in adult swimmers (Rodriguez et al.,
2003). In our study C was significantly related to La3, La5
and La, but not to VO2peak or VO2 value. This may be
explaned by the fact that Cs is calculated based on both
aerobic and anaerobic energy expenditure (Barbosa et al,
2005b; 2006; di Prampero et al., 1986). We suggest that
swimming in our study was performed quite extensively
in anaerobic zone and thus general Cs relied mostly on the
anaerobic energy metabolism. The fact that Cs is related
to the VO2 may be due to the role of the anaerobic proc-
esses to the total energy expenditure, which is not always
taken into account or is obviously less important when
longer distances are used. The relative contribution of this
bioenergetical system to the overall energy expenditure
should not be disregarded (Camus and Thys, 1991). Str-
zala and Tyka (2009) also found that a large contribution
of anaerobic energetic processes in sprint efforts leads to
high post-exercise blood lactate concentration. Sprint
events are heavily reliant on the anaerobic energy proc-
esses, but children’s ability to generate energy via this
system is limited (Taylor et al., 2003), therefore Cs was
probably not related to 100m front crawl sprint perform-
ance. By investigating how anaerobic performance devel-
ops during growth and maturation, it may be possible to
identify the capacity for improvement and provide guide-
lines to coaches for the preparation of specific training
sessions for young swimmers.
In this study, biomechanical parameters were
closely related to 100-m swimming time and SI was the
best predictor of performance. SI is an index of swimming
technical efficiency, since higher values denote that the
swimmer covers a given distance with fastest time and
with less number of strokes. We found a direct relation-
ship between swimming time and vs, as expected, and an
inverse relationship with SR, which is in accordance with
previous studies (Barbosa et al., 2005a; Strzala and Tyka,
2009; Vorontsov and Binevski 2003). Contrary to reports
proving that front crawl swimming results are most
strongly correlated with SL in elite adult swimmers
(Arellano et al., 1994; Kennedy et al., 1990), we did not
find a significant relationship between SL and swimming
time. Instead, sprint swimming performance in young
swimmers seem to be dependent on SR and its mainte-
nance on relatively stable level (Alberty et al., 2005 Pot-
devin et al., 2006; Seifert et al., 2007) and on higher and
stable increase of SL (Seifert et al., 2007). It is worthy to
note, though, that swimming technique could have been
affected by the breathing apparatus despite previous fa-
miliarization, since swimmers need to perform the test
with some discomfort and could not turn their head (and
probably their rolling motion was also reduced) or per-
form regular turns.
Previous reports have found that sprint swimming
performance is related to body mass, lean body mass,
body height and arms span (Geladas et al., 2005; Grim-
ston and Hay, 1986; Jürimäe et al., 2007, Silva et al.,
2007). In our study, 100-m front crawl swimming time
was significantly related to body height and arm span.
The consistent relationship between height and swimming
performance could be explained by the fact that taller
swimmers seem to glide better through the water (Geladas
et al., 2005; Toussaint and Hollander, 1994) and taller
swimmers usually show a larger arm span, which benefits
swimming efficiency (i.e. larger stroke length) (Saavedra
et a., 2010). The significant correlation between 100-m
performance and arm span, consistent with a previous
reports (Geladas et al., 2005: Saavedra et al., 2010), sug-
gests that the length of the upper extremities and shoul-
ders width combined may be related with biomechanical
factors relevant to propulsion.
We must acknowledge certain limitations of our
study. Firstly, as previously discussed, stroking parame-
ters and 100-m performance could have been affected by
the modifications imposed by the breathing apparatus
used for VO2 measurements (head turning, body rolling,
breathing rate, turns, etc.). Previous familiarization seems
an important requirement and, additionally, swimmers
should be instructed to minimize modifications in their
technique. Secondly, it cannot be discarded that certain
correlations with sprint performance, as in fact also evi-
dent in previous reports, could have been biased by co-
variance. Such may be the case of SI (i.e. the best predic-
tor of performance), which, by definition, depends on vs
and Cs, which is computed from La energy equivalent.
Thirdly, the seventh minute post exercise lactate concen-
tration was not measured, which could have had influence
to peak lactate values for some subjects. However, the
increase from third to fifth minute post lactate concentra-
tion was relatively small and not statistically significant
therefore, the possible influence of seventh minute post
lactate value would have had very small influence.
Conclusion
Present results indicate that biomechanical factors
(90.3%) explained most of 100-m front crawl swimming
performance variability in these adolescent male swim-
mers, followed by anthropometrical (45.8%) and physio-
logical (45.2%) parameters. SI was the best single predic-
tor of performance, while arm span and La were the best
anthropometrical and bioenergetical indicators, respec-
tively. SI and SR alone explained 92.6% of the variance
in competitive performance. To take into account these
results, it is of utmost importance to consider specific
stroke technique parameters when predicting success in
young swimmers.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the participants and their coaches for
their commitment during this study.
Lätt et al.
403
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Key points
This study investigated the influence of different
anthropometrical, physiological and biomechanical
parameters on 100-m swimming performance in
adolescent boys.
Biomechanical factors contributed most to sprint
swimming performance in these young male swim-
mers (90.3% of variability in performance), fol-
lowed by anthropometrical (45.8%) and physiologi-
cal (45.2%) parameters.
Two selected variables (stroke index and stroke rate)
explained 92.6% of the variance in competitive per-
formance in these adolescent swimmers.
AUTHORS BIOGRAPHY
Evelin Lätt
Employment
PhD student on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Uni-
versity of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
MSc
Research interest
Swimming biomechanics and bioenergetics
E-mail: evelin.latt@ut.ee
Jaak JÜRIMÄE
Employment
Professor on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Univer-
sity of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Exercise physiology, coaching sciences
E-mail: jaak.jurimae@ut.ee
Jarek MÄESTU
Employment
Research fellow on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences,
University of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Exercise physiology, coaching sciences, training monitoring
E-mail: jarek.maestu@ut.ee
Priit PURGE
Employment
Research fellow on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences,
University of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Exercise physiology, coaching sciences
E-mail: priit.purge@ut.ee
Raul RÄMSON
Employment
PhD student on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Uni-
versity of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
MSc
Research interest
Training monitoring
E-mail: raul@biker.ee
Kaja HALJASTE
Employment
Lecturer on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Univer-
sity of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
MSc
Research interest
Swimming training, training monitoring
E-mail: kaja.haljaste@ut.ee
Kari L. KESKINEN
Employment
Secretary-general on Finnish Society of Sport Science
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Swimming biomechanics, swimming energetic
E-mail: kari.keskinen@lts.fi
Ferran A. RODRIGUEZ
Employment
Professor on Department of Health and Applied Sciences
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Swimming performance analysis, swimming biomechanics
E-mail: farodriguez@gencat.cat
Toivo JÜRIMÄE
Employment
Professor on Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Univer-
sity of Tartu, Estonia
Degree
PhD
Research interest
Exercise physiology, coaching sciences, body composition in
children
E-mail: toivo.jurimae@ut.ee
Evelin Lätt
Institute of Sport Pedagogy and Coaching Sciences, Faculty of
Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Tartu, 5 Jakobi Street
51014 Tartu, Estonia
... In several studies (Klentrou and Montpetit, 1991;Geladas et al., 2005;Lätt et al., 2010) a significant correlation between body height and swimming performance was found in young swimmers. Moura et al. (2014) found that body height was a significant predictor of the propulsive arm force in young swimmers, even after having controlled for maturation stage. ...
... The maximal stroke rate added another 5% of the explained variance. Whereas the participants in the study of Klentrou and Montpetit (1991) were age-group swimmers, Lätt et al. (2010) concluded that technique factors (stroke rate and stroke index) explained 90.3% of the variance in 100 m sprint performance in adolescent male swimmers. Anthropometric factors explained 45.8% of the variance. ...
... Anthropometric factors explained 45.8% of the variance. The participants in the studies of both Klentrou and Montpetit (1991) and Lätt et al. (2010) were youth swimmers. For adult swimmers the contribution of each domain might be different. ...
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... There are several variables related to swimming kinematics, but their true influence at each moment of swimming development at early ages is little studied 4,10,11 . Besides, since anthropometric characteristics fluctuations over time can influence swimming technique, and hence, kinematics and performance, it is important to monitor growth and other maturational aspects 12 . Identifying the swimmers' biological age provides base information for long-term athletic development 7,13 . ...
... Fatigue has also been viewed as either central fatigue, where the central nervous system (CNS) stops the muscle from exerting extraordinary effort to protect the muscle from injury, or peripheral, where the muscles homeostasis has been disturbed due to physical muscle damage and biochemical changes [10]. In swimming the level of BLa can be as high as 12.6mmol/L-1 [11], [12] and the main problem with lactate increase and the subsequent accumulation is the prevention of muscle contraction [13]. The increase of Bla leads to the increase in hydrogen ions which as a result increase the level of Adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and impairs the function of the muscle by creating a sodium-potassium-ATPase (Na-K-ATPase) imbalance [12]. ...
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... In view of the above, we assumed that the times that the participants achieved at the swim test depended mainly on their FC technical skills and, to a lesser extent, on other factors. We could not exclude the effects of the starting and turning performance (Veiga, & Roig, 2017) as well as the influences of anthropometrical (Rozi, Thanopoulos, Geladas, Soultanaki, & Dopsaj, 2018), physiological (Lätt, et al., 2010), energy (Pyne, & Sharp, 2014) and psychological (Sheard, & Golby, 2006) attributes. It seems that the FCTA tool discriminated the participants due to their degree of technical skills in a similar way as the measured time did. ...
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