The BMI Chart Part 3 - Elite Swimmers & The Rich Roll Podcast

Newsflash: Check out the latest Rich Roll Podcast featuring Chris Hauth, one of the world's most respected endurance and ultra endurance coaches. It's a great listen as always; here's a quick excerpt from their discussion on swimming:

RR: I think the biggest mistake most inexperienced swimmers and triathletes make is they’re so worried about their conditioning and their fitness that they just want to get in the water and swim back and forth for a certain amount of time to feel like they got a workout in. There’s no structure to the workout, no intentionality behind it and at the same time they’re not working on their fundamentals or their stroke technique…they’re fighting the water… they don’t understand how to make the water work for them.

CH: There’s also a few programs out there - I really like the Swim Smooth program - they have animations, so a lot of it you can swim on your own, and they also have Certified Swim Smooth Coaches around the country and the world who you can then schedule video sessions and 1-2-1 time with. And what’s really cool about those Swim Smooth Certified Coaches is that they often run a Master’s Program on the side as well that you can join… seeing yourself swim, working with animation and getting 1-2-1 instruction - combine all 3 of those and you’re going to learn a lot quicker than working on your own.

Listen here:

And find your nearest Swim Smooth Coach here:

The BMI Chart Part 3 - Elite Swimmers

A few weeks ago on the blog we took a look at the "Swim Smooth BMI Chart" and how you can use it to assess your own stroke technique: Is your stroke too long and slow, too short and fast, or about right?

But where are elite swimmers placed? Where do some famous freestyle performances lie on the chart?

Of course, being super-fast, elite swimmers are all on the right hand side of the chart, so let's expand out the red box area:

And add in some famous swimming performances:

All of these data points are Olympic medal-winning or world record performances from 200m to 1500m swims. The triathlon performances are in open water.

The Y axis on the chart is how many strokes each swimmer takes per minute (not per length). This is equivalent to cadence on the bike. You might be surprised at the large range of stroke rates these swimmers employ but it just goes to show that there's more than one way to swim effectively depending on your height and build (more on that below).

As you would expect, these performances lie within the confines of the white zone of the chart (or very slightly outside in the case of Janet Evans and Emma Snowsill). Remember, this is the area where your stroke is "about right" - neither too fast or too slow for the speed which you are swimming.

We would split out these swimmers into two groups. The "Smooths" such as Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett who are swimming with that classical long smooth style (blue circle). And the "Swingers" (red circle) such as Janet Evans, Laure Manadou and Emma Snowsill, using a shorter punchier stroke and a much faster turnover:

Find out more about each of those styles at and

Also note the large variation in their heights:

There's a definite trend of shorter swimmers using a faster stroke rate and taller swimmers a longer style. This explains why Emma Snowsill and Janet Evans are both edging slightly into the red zone - both are short by elite swimmer standards and simply have to turn their arms over more quickly to develop their race-winning speed. Fortunately they can do that without fighting the water.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

Love the data use - thanks!

Trevor said...

It would be interesting to chart the men's shoe sizes in that elite group.

I get disappointed when I change in the change rooms in the mornings when the 18 year olds are still training and I see their school shoes. They are like surf boards.


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