Video: The Science Behind Swimming

The Phlex Crew is back in the New Year. We wanted to start off by giving you a preliminary look at the four fundamentals of swimming. Swimmers are essentially made faster and more efficient by mastering these fundamentals so pay close attention!

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Music: One Of Us – Brock Berrigan

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Will this be followed by videos with detailed explanations of each of these principles with more content?


I can give some real basic stuff from an undergrad fluid dynamics course, but the problem with any kind of detailed explanation of the effects each of these forces has on a swimmer is that, aside from gravity, they are all constantly changing depending on velocity, stroke, breathing, and even what phase of the stroke one is in. This ran a little long, but I tried to keep it simple. Also, I’m pretty sure a certain swimswam commenter holds a masters or PhD involving fluid dynamics, so hopefully he sees this and chimes in anything I messed up/left out. For example, drag varies proportionally with velocity when moving through fluid that has a laminar flow, but it varies by the… Read more »


And this will make me a better swimmer how?


Knowledge of drag, propulsion, etc. have led coaches to innovate technique and streamline every aspect of the sport. If you’re constantly thinking of ways to minimize the detrimental effects of these forces, while maximizing the beneficial effects, you’re going to improve. Without coaches who know about these concepts and can teach them to swimmers, we’d still be thinking that a guy breaking 1:00 in the 100m free is impressive.


If the buoyancy is that important then why swimmers are trying to swim as much time under water as allowed.


Why swimming underwater face up is more efficient than doing same body movements face down?


Yozhik- First off, I said buoyancy is not something most people should worry about. Second, I was referring mainly to the actual swim portion of the race rather than the underwaters. That’s a whole different sport. For your second question, there are a few different factors. My personal opinion is that it is mostly because the forward kick is more propulsive than the backward kick, so the upward pull of buoyancy is opposed when on the back and more of the resultant force is applied in the lateral direction. When on the front, the vertical component of the forward kick actually aids the upward buoyant force and forces the swimmer to either change the way they’re kicking or surface early.… Read more »




Poor naming choice here for one of these, guys. A force is what causes a mass to accelerate (F=ma), so acceleration can’t be a force by definition. It would be more fitting to refer to the force which causes forward movement as the propulsive force.

Steve Nolan

And just poor video? Just because I know gravity is a thing ain’t gonna make me better at swimming.


It’s not a thing, it’s a distortion of space-time.

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