Exploring the Transfer from Drills to Skills in Elite Freestyle Swimming

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Brackley, Victoria ORCID: 0000-0003-2926-7385 (2020) Exploring the Transfer from Drills to Skills in Elite Freestyle Swimming. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Practice tasks that decompose the skill into smaller components are routinely prescribed by coaches to improve biomechanical qualities for efficient and fast swimming. Such practice tasks are typically referred to as drills and prescribed within part-whole training approaches. The Representative Learning Design (RLD) framework suggests that task decomposition may lack the capability to represent or transfer to the behavioural and movement skills required in competition. Consequently, current practice in swimming may be sub-optimal. This thesis aimed to examine the efficacy of current swimming practice approaches for improving competition performance. To address this concern, this thesis was broken into three studies. Study One (Chapter3) explored the most commonly prescribed training approaches used by elite swimming coaches to improve freestyle stroke technique. The findings indicated that swimming coaches seem to intuitively mention using variants of the constraints-led approach in their practice design. However, in practice, tasks that decompose the skill into smaller components are prioritised. This study provided the foundation to representatively assess the immediate effect task decomposition drills have in supporting freestyle performance. Chapter 4 encapsulated the design and calibration of a swimming 3D kinematic analysis system to allow for drill and freestyle analysis. The eight camera, multi-digital setup allowed for a reliable and accurate quantification of the multi-planar swimming movement. In Study Two and Three (Chapter 5 and 6), the action fidelity of two commonly prescribed upper-limb drills, Long Dog and Polo, were kinematically assessed using group- and individual-based analysis approaches. Six elite freestyle specialists swam a total of 300 m, for each drill, broken into two 25 m laps of drill then two 25 m laps of freestyle swimming. A number of significant kinematic differences and similarities were identified between drill and freestyle swimming. On a group basis, paired t-tests indicated that when swimming the Long Dog drill participants displayed no significant differences in upper-limb characteristics compared to freestyle, yet may not represent the medial- lateral hand pull path of race-pace freestyle. The Polo drill returned similar upper-limb kinematic characteristics to that encouraged for sprint-distance swimmers. Further, the results suggested that the Polo drill could lead to higher stroke rate values and inter-arm coordination that may be beneficial to race-pace freestyle. Individual-based analysis revealed that participants displayed significant individual-specific differences between freestyle and drill swimming. This indicated that certain drills may not be as beneficial for particular swimmers’, based on their distance specialisation and skill level. A combination of both group- and individual-based analysis provided a thorough examination of the effect of drill swimming on freestyle kinematics and performance. The body of work in this thesis provides both detailed insights into elite swimming coaches prescription of training tasks and empirical evidence to confirm or question current task decomposition drills.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/42163
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords swimming; drills; training; skill; kinematics; performance; freestyle; 3D kinematic analysis system; Long Dog; Polo; coaches; skill acquisition
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