European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 12, pp 3949–3957

The determinants of performance in master swimmers: a cross-sectional study on the age-related changes in propelling efficiency, hydrodynamic position and energy cost of front crawl

  • P. Zamparo
  • A. Dall’Ora
  • A. Toneatto
  • M. Cortesi
  • G. Gatta
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-012-2376-y

Cite this article as:
Zamparo, P., Dall’Ora, A., Toneatto, A. et al. Eur J Appl Physiol (2012) 112: 3949. doi:10.1007/s00421-012-2376-y

Abstract

The decrease in swimming performance (vmax) that occurs with age is a not only consequence of the physiological decrease in maximal metabolic power (\({\dot{E}}_{\it max}\)) but can also be expected to depend on an increase in the energy cost of swimming (C) \({\nu}_{\rm max} = {\dot {E}}_{\rm max}/C.\) In turn, for a given speed and stroke C = Wd / (ηPηo) where Wd is hydrodynamic resistance, ηP is propelling efficiency and ηo is overall efficiency. The aim of this study was to measure C in 47 male masters (31–85 years old) swimming the front crawl at sub-maximal, aerobic, speeds. During the experiments propelling efficiency and projected frontal area (Aeff, an index of Wd) were also determined by kinematic analysis. “Elder” masters (60–80 years) swam at a significantly slower pace (0.65 vs. 0.91 m s−1), with a lower ηP (0.23 vs. 0.31) and a larger Aeff (0.39 vs. 0.23 m2) than “younger” masters (30–60 years). No significant differences in C (1.45 kJ m−1, on the average) were observed as a function of age or speed, but C values were significantly higher than those assessed in young elite swimmers at the very same speeds; the difference increasing with age with a rate of 0.75 % per year. With the due considerations (in this study the observed changes in ηP, Aeff and C can be either attributed to changes in speed or age) these data confirm the hypothesis that an increase in C contributes to the decrease in swimming performance that occurs with age.

Keywords

Master athletes Maximum performance Ageing Swimming 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Zamparo
    • 1
  • A. Dall’Ora
    • 1
  • A. Toneatto
    • 2
  • M. Cortesi
    • 3
  • G. Gatta
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Neurological, Neuropsychological, Morphological and Movement Sciences, Faculty of Exercise and Sport SciencesUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  2. 2.ASD G-Udine Nuoto MasterUdineItaly
  3. 3.Faculty of Exercise and Sport SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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