Thursday, April 25, 2019

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:

#double check Ledecky stroke rate - is it higher#

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

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 range 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!

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