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Load-Velocity Profiling in Swimming

   Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

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  Dr Carla McCabe, Dr Rodney Kennedy  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This studentship is based in Belfast. 

The properties of muscles which enable them to produce high levels of force (F), velocity (V) and power (P) has attracted the attention of the scientific community for many years. The modelling of the F-V and P-V relationships in multi-joint tasks, such as vertical jumping, sprinting etc, allows us to determine the mechanical limits of the neuromuscular system to: (i) the maximal theoretical force at null velocity (F0); (ii) the maximal theoretical velocity at zero force (V0); and (iii) the maximal power (Pmax) that can be produced (Giroux et al., 2016).

Establishing the maximum force and velocity capacities of each athlete has seen research studies prescribe individualised training protocols aimed at increasing Pmax and shifting the F-V profile (by maximising force or velocity capability improvements of each athlete) (Cormie et al., 2007; Djuric et al., 2016; Samozino et al., 2012). To date, this strength and conditioning training principle has only been applied to land-based activities.

Measuring forces within an aquatic environment is challenging due to the dynamic interaction of the propulsive and resistive forces, in addition to the unsteady nature of water flow around the swimmer’s body. In the past, fully-tethered swimming has been utilised as a tool to obtain the propelling force that a swimmer must produce to overcome resistive drag at the maximum free swimming speed (Keskinen, 1997; Morouco et al., 2011). However limitations associated with this methodological approach include the inability to establish a force-velocity profile, induced kinematics changes and water flow is not representative of free swimming (Maglischo et al., 1984; Samson et al., 2019).    

Semi-tethered swimming is an alternative approach in which the velocity of the swimmer is measured with respect to known external loads; thus facilitating the establishment of load-velocity profiles (Gonjo et al., 2020; Olstad et al 2020). Recently, the 1080 Sprint (1080 Motion AB, Lidingo, Sweden), device has been found to report load-velocity profiles for front crawl swimming with high reliability from both five and three external loads (Olstad et al., 2020). Gonjo et al. (2020) and Olstad et al. (2020) reported a high linear relationship between external loads and swimming velocity (R2 ≥ 0.98), evidencing the potential to estimate V0 and L0 (in addition to other variables) and thus ability to assess the strength and velocity capabilities of the swimmer.  

To date, only two studies have examined the relationship between load-velocity profiles in male freestyle (Gonjo et al., 2021) and male butterfly (Gonjo et al., 2020) sprint swimming performance. Beyond establishing the load-velocity profiles within these studies, it is unknown whether these profiles could be adapted through an individualised training intervention protocol in order to optimise swim performance.

Therefore the aims of this PhD programme are to:

  1. Review the fully-tethered and semi-tethered swimming literature.
  2. Assess the reliability of load-velocity profiles across all strokes and race distance specialists.
  3. Establish individual load-velocity profiles to determine participant characteristics and evaluate the effectiveness of a resistive vs assistive training intervention.
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