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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 6, pp 1107–1118 | Cite as

Differences in kinematics and energy cost between front crawl and backstroke below the anaerobic threshold

  • Tomohiro Gonjo
  • Carla McCabe
  • Ana Sousa
  • João Ribeiro
  • Ricardo J. Fernandes
  • João Paulo Vilas-Boas
  • Ross Sanders
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to determine kinematic and energetic differences between front crawl and backstroke performed at the same aerobic speeds.

Methods

Ten male competitive swimmers performed front crawl and backstroke at a pre-determined sub-anaerobic threshold speed to assess energy cost (through oxygen uptake measurement) and kinematics (using three-dimensional videography to determine stroke frequency and length, intra-cycle velocity fluctuation, three-dimensional wrist and ankle speeds, and vertical and lateral ankle range of motion). For detailed kinematic analysis, resultant displacement, the duration, and three-dimensional speed of the wrist during the entry, pull, push, and release phases were also investigated.

Results

There were no differences in stroke frequency/length and intra-cycle velocity fluctuation between the swimming techniques, however, swimmers had lower energy cost in front crawl than in backstroke (0.77 ± 0.08 vs 0.91 ± 0.12 kJ m−1, p < 0.01). Slower three-dimensional wrist and ankle speeds under the water (1.29 ± 0.10 vs 1.55 ± 0.10 and 0.80 ± 0.16 vs 0.97 ± 0.13 m s−1, both p < 0.01) and smaller ankle vertical range of motion (0.36 ± 0.06 vs 0.47 ± 0.07 m, p < 0.01) in front crawl than in backstroke were also observed, which indirectly suggested higher propulsive efficiency in front crawl.

Conclusion

Front crawl is less costly than backstroke, and limbs motion in front crawl is more effective than in backstroke.

Keywords

Swimming Freestyle Backstroke Kinematics Energy Efficiency 

Abbreviations

3Duankle

Three-dimensional ankle speed in relation to the speed of centre of mass

3Duwrist

Three-dimensional wrist speed in relation to the speed of centre of mass

AnT

Anaerobic threshold

C

Energy cost

COM

Centre of mass

CV

Coefficient of variation

IVfluc

Intracycle velocity fluctuation

ROM

Range of motion

SF

Stroke frequency

SL

Stroke length

vAnT

Swimming speed at anaerobic threshold intensity

vCOM

Mean speed of the centre of mass during the upper limb cycle

vinst

Instructed speed

vS

Mean swimming speed during the whole testing

\(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_2}\)

Oxygen uptake

Wint

Internal work

ηF

Froude efficiency

ηO

Overall efficiency

ηP

Propelling efficiency

Notes

Author contributions

TG, CM, and RS conceived and designed research. TG, AS, JR, RF, and JV conducted data collection including protocol adjustment, participant recruitment, and testing. TG analysed data. TG wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Funding

This work was supported by YAMAHA Motor Foundation for Sports (YMFS) International Sport Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

421_2018_3841_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Health and Sport SciencesUniversity of TsukubaTsukubaJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health SciencesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Faculty of Life and Health SciencesUlster UniversityAntrimUK
  4. 4.Research Centre for Sports, Exercise and Human DevelopmentCIDESDVila RealPortugal
  5. 5.University Institute of Maia, ISMAIMaiaPortugal
  6. 6.Faculty of Sports, CIFI2D, and LABIOMEPUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  7. 7.Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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