Journal article

Front-crawl stroke descriptors variability assessment for skill characterisation

The goal of this article is to character ise front-crawl swimming skill based on variability pattern of technique descriptors. Nine national level and nine recreational swimmers performed three 300 m trials in a 50 m outdoor pool, at 70%, 80% and 90% of their front-crawl 400 m personal best time. Using wearable inertial measurement units (IMUs) and validated algorithms we assessed the variability of technique descriptors at each arm cycle (139 ± 17 per trial). We calculated the duration of pull, push and non-propulsive phases, index of coordination (IdC), stroke length, stroke rate and intra-cyclic velocity variation. To track intra-trial technique variability, we calculated the Cauchy index to quantify the stability of multidimensional technique descriptors in space–time. Skilled swimmers, having access to divers motor solutions, achieved significantly higher velocities at similar intensities and similar IdC (P < 0.01 ) with more stable motor pattern (smaller Cauchy index). Besides, the similarity of intra-cyclic velocity variation at different intensities denotes that skilled swimmers used a wider dynamic range of velocity. We also introduced cycle velocity variation as a new metric of propulsive pattern repeatability and showed cycle velocity variation changes is correlated to the Cauchy index (rx,y = 0.72, P < 0.01 ). These findings indicate that IdC can be used as a predictor of performance only when swimmers of homogeneous expertise level are studied and suggest the scrutiny of both intra-cyclic velocity variation and cycle velocity variation as a requisite to study the motor adaptations of the swimmer in facing new constraints.


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