Approximately eight years ago, FINA banned high-tech suits. Personally, I felt the suits needed some regulation, but I liked them. I thought it allowed more suit companies to compete and create an exciting element to the sport. In addition, it helped athletes with yards swimming.
The suits were banned with one amusing thought of keeping their prices down for the consumer (this was a joke, they still seem a tad expensive to me :)). After the suit ban, it took a while for times to continue to improve, but over the past few years the yards swimming records have been slaughtered.
Remember when guys couldn’t break 19 seconds? How about women breaking 47 seconds? Now we have an 18.2 and a 45.5 in the record books! If you’re like any of the swimmers, you’re probably wondering what’s going on.
Here are four reasons yards swimming is getting so flippin’ fast!
1. Generation of Swimmers Being Coached Dolphin Kicks their Whole Career
Although Misty Hyman was showing the potential of underwater dolphin kicking in the mid-90s, it took a few years for this form of swimming to be accepted. It allowed swimmers to go faster. Eventually, it was taught to youth swimmers.
Currently, we have college swimmers who started their swimming in ~2000. These swimmers were coached dolphin kicks and practiced it an early age, helping adaption inspiratory capacity for the 15-m mark and more importantly, maximizing the skill. This has improved swimming speed, but also point #2.
2. Greater Time Underwater Reduces Overall Body Stress Improving Endurance
Has anyone else noticed nearly every 50-yard freestyler is also a great 200-yard freestyler? What happened to the era of Anthony Ervin drop-dead sprinters?
With the emergence of underwater dolphin kicks, sprinters are able to save their arms more during the race, helping distribute the main areas of stress and elongate fatigue. For example, if a swimmer is going 5-m longer off each turn in a 200-yard free, they are full body swimming 35 less yards! If we stretch this out to 10-m longer they are swimming 70 less yards of full body!
This reduction in full body swimming reduces the stress on the arms –the main areas of propulsion during free, back, and fly –allowing sprinters to begin to dominate the 200-yard events.
You may ask “how did breast stroke improve so much?” See point #3.
3. Breaststroke is a Completely Different Stroke
Does anyone remember doing pullouts in his 200 IM to the 15-m mark…heck no!
Now, non-breaststroke swimmers are so good at streamlining and implementing a dolphin kick, they can go 15-m underwater and split a :30 on this leg like Ryan Murphy!
Elite breaststroke swimmers not only go this far off each wall but are able to maintain this turning velocity and maintain a long distance per stroke in the 200 when doing yards swimming. Sprint breaststroke swimmers are also able to split 22 seconds in the men’s 200 medley relay and a miraculous 56 in the women’s yard breast to the adaptation of a superimposed swimming stroke. This maximizes propulsion and minimizes drag or “dead points” in the stroke.
4. Improved Technology for Yards Swimming
Despite the ban of the high-tech suits, technological advancements have further progressed the sport.
Kickback Starting Blocks: Research suggests this improves swimming 0.3 seconds.
Backstroke Starting Blocks: Another avenue of great improvement, likely >0.3 seconds.
Drag Reducing Goggles: I haven’t seen any evidence of this, but we will give it 0.05 seconds per 50 yards.
Many more, but this is a good start!
Originally posted April 2013