Pacing the phasing of leg and arm movements in breaststroke swimming to minimize intra-cyclic velocity fluctuations

Josje Van Houwelingen*, Melvyn Roerdink, Alja V. Huibers, Lotte L.W. Evers, Peter J. Beek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


In swimming propelling efficiency is partly determined by intra-cyclic velocity fluctuations. The higher these fluctuations are at a given average swimming velocity, the less efficient is the propulsion. This study explored whether the leg-arm coordination (i.e. phase relation ϕ) within the breaststroke cycle can be influenced with acoustic pacing, and whether the so induced changes are accompanied by changes in intra-cyclic velocity fluctuations. Twenty-six participants were asked to couple their propulsive leg and arm movements to a double-tone metronome beat and to keep their average swimming velocity constant over trials. The metronome imposed five different phase relations ϕi (90, 135, 180, 225 and 270) of leg-arm coordination. Swimmers adjusted their technique under the influence of the metronome, but failed to comply to the velocity requirement for ϕ = 90 and 135. For imposed ϕ = 180, 225 and 270, the intra-cyclic velocity fluctuations increased with increasing ϕ, while average swimming velocity did not differ. This suggests that acoustic pacing may be used to adjust ϕ and thereby performance of breaststroke swimming given the dependence of propelling efficiency on ϕ.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0186160
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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