European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 10, pp 3511–3518

The determinants of performance in master swimmers: an analysis of master world records

Original Article


Human performances in sports decline with age in all competitions/disciplines. Since the effects of age are often compounded by disuse, the study of master athletes provides the opportunity to investigate the effects of age per se on the metabolic/biomechanical determinants of performance. For all master age groups, swimming styles and distances, we calculated the metabolic power required to cover the distance (d) in the best performance time as: \( E _{\text{maxR}}^{\prime } = C \times d/{\text{BTP}} = C \times v_{\max } , \) where C is the energy cost of swimming in young elite swimmers, vmax = d/BTP is the record speed over the distance d, and BTP was obtained form “cross-sectional data” ( To establish a record performance, \( E_{\text{maxR}}^{\prime } \) must be equal to the maximal available metabolic power \( (E_{\text{maxA}}^{\prime } ) \). This was calculated assuming a decrease of 1% per year at 40–70 years, 2% at 70–80 years and 3% at 80–90 years (as indicated in the literature) and compared to the \( E_{\text{maxR}}^{\prime } \) values, whereas up to about 55 years of age \( E_{\text{maxR}}^{\prime } = E_{\text{maxA}}^{\prime } ,\) for older subjects \( E_{\text{maxA}}^{\prime } > E_{\text{maxR}}^{\prime } ,\) the difference increasing linearly by about 0.30% (backstroke), 1.93% (butterfly), 0.92% (front crawl) and 0.37% (breaststroke) per year (average over the 50, 100 and 200 m distances). These data suggest that the energy cost of swimming increases with age. Hence, the decrease in performance in master swimmers is due to both decrease in the metabolic power available \( (E_{\text{maxA}}^{\prime } ) \) and to an increase in C.


Master athletes Maximum performance Ageing Swimming 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurological, Neuropsychological, Morphological and Movement Sciences, Faculty of Exercise and Sport SciencesUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Exercise and Sport SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Medical and Biological SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly

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