Biophysical determinants of front-crawl swimming at moderate and severe intensities

João Ribeiro, Argyris G. Toubekis, Pedro Figueiredo, Kelly De Jesus, Huub M. Toussaint, Francisco Alves, João P. Vilas-Boas, Ricardo J. Fernandes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To conduct a biophysical analysis of the factors associated with front-crawl performance at moderate and severe swimming intensities, represented by anaerobic-threshold (vAnT) and maximal-oxygen-uptake (vVO2max) velocities. Methods: Ten high-level swimmers performed 2 intermittent incremental tests of 7 × 200 and 12 × 25 m (through a system of underwater push-off pads) to assess vAnT, and vVO2max, and power output. The 1st protocol was videotaped (3D reconstruction) for kinematic analysis to assess stroke frequency (SF), stroke length (SL), propelling effciency (ηP), and index of coordination (IdC). VO2 was measured and capillary blood samples (lactate concentrations) were collected, enabling computation of metabolic power. The 2nd protocol allowed calculating mechanical power and performance effciency from the ratio of mechanical to metabolic power. Results: Neither vAnT nor vVO2max was explained by SF (0.56 ± 0.06 vs 0.68 ± 0.06 Hz), SL (2.29 ± 0.21 vs 2.06 ± 0.20 m), ηP (0.38 ± 0.02 vs 0.36 ± 0.03), IdC (-12.14 ± 5.24 vs-9.61 ± 5.49), or metabolic-power (1063.00 ± 122.90 vs 1338.18 ± 127.40 W) variability. vVO2max was explained by power to overcome drag (r =.77, P ≤.05) and ηP (r =.72, P ≤.05), in contrast with the nonassociation between these parameters and vAnT; both velocities were well related (r =.62, P ≤.05). Conclusions: The biomechanical parameters, coordination, and metabolic power seemed not to be performance discriminative at either intensity. However, the increase in power to overcome drag, for the less metabolic input, should be the focus of any intervention that aims to improve performance at severe swimming intensity. This is also true for moderate intensities, as vAnT and vVO2max are proportional to each other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Coordination
  • Energy expenditure
  • Kinematics
  • Power
  • Propelling effciency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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