Olympic swimmers don't just dive into the pool like the rest of us. They start on a block called, appropriately enough, a starting block. London will see the Olympic debut of a track-style starting block with an inclined surface and a lip at the back.
The blocks, first used in international competition at the Swimming World Cup in 2009, let swimmers push off from a crouch with the rear leg at a 90-degree angle, optimizing the power of their launch. The block also can detect false starts.
Why does that even matter to a physicist? Because it's all about acceleration.
Unless appropriate paces and intensities of work are prescribed for individuals, some swimmers may under-work while others will overwork. The task is to prescribe optimal training activities which involve the correct mix of aerobic endurance, aerobic power, lactate tolerance, and sprint ability. Each of those forms requires different intensities, duration of repetitions, and rest intervals.
Sprint ability :
This is one's maximum velocity and is a function of muscle fiber type, level of creatine phosphate in the muscles, activity of creatine kinase in muscles, maximum muscle power, and neuromuscular recruitment patterns. A swimmer has to develop the skill of reaching maximum velocity as soon as possible in a race, to maintain maximum velocity for as long as possible, and develop the ability to call upon sprint ability in the middle and at the end of longer (>30 sec) races.
The usefulness of VO2 Max training has been a topic for a few years in the endurance sports world. At the elite athlete level, it is nearly impossible to train an improvement in VO2 Max, and it takes about 10 minutes of training for an athlete to achieve VO2 Max. Cyclists and runners have a large number of competitions that last longer than 10 minutes; swimming has very few. VO2 Max is also extremely difficult to test in the swimming population.
VO2 Max, or the Maximum Volume of Oxygen (O2) that can be consumed while breathing air during exercise at sea level, has always been difficult to measure for swimmers. Cyclists have stationary bicycles that can be precisely calibrated in laboratories while the riders are breathing into gas analyzers, and runners have treadmills, but none of this equipment translates very well to the pool. Many attempts have been made but they have failed to produce useful results. Coaches did what our country does best – improvise, trial & error, and repeat until they created what they felt to be the best approximation of VO2 Max training for their athletes.
The purpose of training programs in swimming is to produce metabolic, physiological and psychological changes that allow swimmers to perform better in competitions. In swimming, as well as in other sports, aerobic endurance is one of the most important components of the physical fitness of swimmers, while VO2max represents the most objective measure for its assessment. VO2max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during a one-minute exercise. Measurement of VO2max in swimming can be done in three ways, always using a method which is most similar to the swimming conditions during training and competitions. VO2max can be expressed in absolute and relative values, and in the case of elite swimmers ranges from 66 to 80 ml O2/kg/min. According to VO2max values, the work intensity in swimming can be optimized through exercise heart rate and subjective feelings of fatigue. Apart from VO2max, it is very important to measure the percentage of maximal oxygen uptake (%VO2max), which is the highest level of performance that an athlete can maintain over a longer period of time without becoming fatigued. In order to develop and increase VO2max, as well as other factors that influence the development of aerobic or cardio-respiratory endurance, it is advisable to take advantage of endurance training. This type of training can be divided into three levels: basic endurance training, anaerobic threshold endurance training and training above the anaerobic threshold. All three types of training influence the development of resistance, but it is considered that training at the anaerobic threshold is the most significant. Adaptations to training that increase maximum oxygen consumption can be divided into two groups; the first group increases the amount of oxygen that is supplied to the muscles, while the other increases oxygen utilization by the muscles. The latest studies presented in this paper indicate that the prediction of the results and success in swimming, according to the values of maximal oxygen uptake and the impact of training, will always be current in swimming. A single component of success in swimming is rarely the subject of research, in most cases it is usually an entire group of them. Therefore, the aim is to find and develop those factors (characteristics and capabilities) which contribute to the sport results of swimmers.
Swimming is one of the oldest and basic motor skills of a human. Humans probably started to imitate animal movements (dog) to swim. There is a number of proofs which show how popular swimming was mainly in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. There are tens of proofs of the popularity of this sport in ancient Egypt. They are mainly statuettes or paintings on walls or vases which depict swimming humans. Sometimes, also swimming women are depicted which proves that it was one of the few sports from which women were not banned. Mainly the nobility were interested in having their children taught to swim because they took it as a part of education. There is a famous quote by Plato: "He cannot neither read nor swim." Swimming was also important in trainings of the Roman army – specially trained swimmers were used in naval battles. In Greek mythology, there is a tale about Leander who used to swim every evening to his lover Hera (and back in the morning) through the Dardanelles (approx. 1,500 m + strong current).
In Rome, solders were taught to swim in Tiber River on the famous Campus Martius. They were swimming with clothes and weapons. A different chapter in history of swimming is Roman spa. However, swimming and water activities were also profaned in Rome. Apart from its purification function, Roman spa was associated with centers of vice. Gladiator water fights in a basin, so-called naumachia, can be regarded a complete downgrade of the idea. Some aspects of Roman spa had a negative influence on the perception of swimming, bathing and hygiene in general by the Christians. In the Middle Ages, human body was perceived as the tool of the Devil. Clean complexion was said to mean dirty soul. Only few people did refresh themselves in rivers or ponds. This prudery was eased only in the period of humanism. But still at that time, Comenius warned against swimming in the open air. Only further development of the society brought a change in the opinion on bathing and swimming.
Basis of Sports Training
All activities which are part of human behavior were subject to a long-term development. Let us take throwing, which is regarded a basic motor activity, as an example. In the deep past, throwing was necessary for feeding and defense. At present, throwing has lost its importance as one of the above mentioned activities but it is involved in different sports to a great extent (e.g. athletics, handball, baseball, etc.). The task of a prehistoric hunter was to hit the target precisely to get food. The aim of a present-day athlete is to throw the javelin as far as possible. The result of the activity in both examples can be considered a performance. Performance is understood as an extent to which motor task is accomplished. With the prehistoric hunter, performance is evaluated dichotomically: hitting the target or missing and it is not restricted by any rules. In the case of the athlete, performance is evaluated following rules of the sports discipline which were set in advance, it is expressed by the length of the throw and is understood as a sports performance. An ability to achieve a given performance repeatedly is referred to as efficiency.
The aim of sports training is to achieve maximum individual or team efficiency in a selected sports discipline limited by rules.
Reaching maximum efficiency in any activity is not possible over a day. Efficiency is conditioned by several interrelated areas. Sports training focuses on reaching maximum efficiency in motor abilities connected to a certain sports discipline. Supposed performance depends on motor ability and motor skill which are closely related to the sports discipline. Motor abilities can be described as relatively stable sets of inner genetic presuppositions needed to carry out locomotive activities. They include force, speed, endurance, coordination and flexibility. Motor abilities are manifested on the outside by sports skills. Sports skills are presuppositions needed for implementing performance in a selected sports discipline which is limited by rules. Such presuppositions are gained through motor learning. It, however, would not be possible to implement sports skills or develop locomotive abilities without motivation. Motivation is understood as an inner incentive to carry out certain activity. The final area needed for performance implementation is represented by tactical skills. Tactics means conducting a sports competition in a purposeful way.
Athletes need multilateral physical development as a training base as well as overall physical fitness. The purpose is to increase endurance and strength, develop speed, improve flexibility, and refine coordination, thus achieving a harmoniously developed body. We expect athletes with a strong base and a good overall development to improve athletic performance faster and better than those without this foundation. In addition, such athletes will have a superior body form, which increases their self-esteem and reflects a strong personality.
Sport-specific development improves absolute and relative strength, muscle mass and elasticity, specific strength (power or muscular endurance) according to the sport's requirements, movement and reaction time, and coordination and suppleness. This training creates the ability to perform all movements, especially those required by the sport, with ease and smoothness.
Technical training involves developing the capacity to perform all technical actions correctly; perfecting the required technique based on a rational and economical performance, with the highest possible velocity, high amplitude, and a demonstration of force; performing specific techniques under normal and unusual circumstances (e.g., weather); improving the technique of related sports; and ensuring the ability to perform all movements correctly.
Systematic development of the individual components of sports training is a long-term dynamic process, which has a predetermined logical relation. The processes of learning and development components of sports training can be divided into three areas. Physical component is developed in the processes of morpho-functional adaptation. Technical component is learning the processes of motor learning and psychological component is shaped in the processes of psychosocial interaction. A special place is occupied by tactical component which interferes into processes of both motor learning and psycho-social interaction.
In very simplified form we can talk about the process of morpho-functional adaptation to increased physical activity (the creation of energy reserves and energy distribution, the activity of various organs, etc.). At the same time you need to learn many new moves, but their acquisition is necessary to rely on principles of motor learning. Psycho-social aspects of sports training interaction are determined by real relationships of the participants in training and competition depending on their individual psychic condition. Sports training as a part of morpho-functional adaptation.
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