Active and Passive Drag in Swimming

Analysing your active and passive drag when swimming is vital for success

force velocity science for sport
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Serious swimmers understand how active and passive drag affects their swimming performance

Drag is the natural resistance from the water which counteracts your forward propulsion and exerts a detrimental impact on your performance.

A key factor to improving your swimming performance is by reducing your exposure to this resistance ( drag ). It becomes crucial for swimmers and coaches to accurately ascertain the magnitude of drag generated during swimming AND devise strategies to mitigate this adverse force.

Generally, two different types of drag will affect your swimming performance.

Active drag resists your forward motion during the swimming stroke.

Passive drag is experienced when you are gliding through the water. For example, immediately after a dive or push off.

As a swimmer, a substantial portion of your energy is dedicated to overcoming active drag, emphasising the need for minimising it’s impact.

A thorough understanding of your active drag profile is necessary to optimise your technique, minimise resistance from the water and maximise your forward velocity.

swimming drag velocity science for sport
Image Credit: Biophysics of Swimming. David Robert Pendergast et al. Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming. 2006

Reducing your drag to improve your swimming performance requires a number of important steps.

  1. Accurate measurement of your drag. Develop your unique drag profile. All swimmers have different drag profiles.
  2. Review the individual factors that create your individual drag profile. This provides insights into resistive forces guiding technique refinement for efficiency and speed.
  3. Develop your individual coaching strategies and technique to minimise your drag exposure.
  4. Ongoing reassessment of your drag, to adapt, monitor effectiveness and refine your coaching strategies. This will flesh out improvements in your performance.

In a sport where fractions of a second in a race are critical to your success, measuring and understanding your unique exposure to drag is a key determinant in assisting your pursuit of attaining excellence.

swimming drag science for sport
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Understanding swimming drag is essential in competitive swimming. At Speed Technik, we assess your active and passive drag and provide you with objective data to assist you and your coach to maximise your swimming speed.

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