Swimming: It's All About Speed

February 10, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
It was the 2008 Olympics and the swimmers dove in as the buzzer went off. Immediately I was on the edge of my seat not able to take my eyes of the churning water Michael Phelps had created. The water was disturbed as Michael Phelps glided through the chilled water in a tight streamline position. His arms immediately came out of the water and began to pull on the surface. During the last 50 meters of butterfly, my screams filled the apartment, bouncing off the walls. Right beside Phelps was Cavic his opponent. Both Phelps and Cavic drove towards the wall as their arms moved like windmills. With as much force as possible, both competitors slammed their hands into the wall. Impatiently I waited for the results, there it was by one tenth of a second Phelps had won. This was one of the most thrilling moments in Olympic history.

A great amount of Olympic swimmers spend most of their time swimming and keeping a healthy lifestyle.


Olympic swimmers train for many hours in the water and on land. A great amount of swimmers are very serious towards their workouts. Michael Phelps swims about 50 miles for 6 days out of the week and each day trains 5 hours and swims over 8 miles. These athletes also work above water in what is referred to as dry land. Dry land is to strengthen the upper body to increase strength which helps reduce time. A piece of equipment that is often used is dumbbells to work out the shoulders. It is important to work out the shoulders because it will help allow them to pull more water past them when swimming. Between both swimming and dry land, swimmers burn thousands of calories each day.

Olympic swimmers must eat carbohydrates that give energy and protein to help them improve and develop. A swimmer’s diet is important because studies have shown that 3% of a swimmer’s work depends on their diet. In order to stay healthy and meet nutritional needs, swimmers must have a certain amount of calories. Michael Phelps eats up to 8,000 to 10,000 calories every day. The average man would eat that amount of food in four to five days. Phelps is able to eat thousands of calories because his metabolism works very fast, allowing him to burn calories. Michael Phelps’ regular diet is usually three warm fried egg sandwiches topped with melted cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise, heated toast, an omelet, porridge, three sweet chocolate chip pancakes and two cups of coffee, and this is only his breakfast. With this amount, he would be able to feed the regular family. Imagine; how intense a swimmer’s workout is if they are able to stay fit and eat thousands of calories.


There are different techniques that many swimmers use. Deep catch gives swimmers a benefit. Deep catch is when swimmers immediately pulls his or her arm straight back through the water with as much force as possible, allowing them to glide through the clear water. Another method that is used is sculling where swimmers hands move in small circular motions like propellers. This helps create less drag. However, some athletes are naturally built for this type of sport and that gives them a bigger advantage. Some people question whether Michael Phelps is a dolphin or not because Phelps was perfectly built for the sport of competitive swimming. His largest advantage over other competitors is his long body that is broad and firm, along with his wingspan that is enormous allowing him to cover more area in the pool. Phelps has giant feet, size 14, which allows him to push water away making him swim faster. Phelps’ “secret weapon” is dolphin kick underwater where there is less resistance rather than on the surface. He also has extremely flexible ankles. For every swimmer, 90% of their speed comes from their ankles. Competitive swimming involves a great amount of technique and strategy, but it’s also how you use it to your benefit.


The environment can significantly affect a swimmers results, even 3 tenths of a second, which is a lot in swimming considering races can be won by 1 hundredth of a second.

The 2008 Olympics competitive swimming was held in Beijing in the Water Cube. It “was best known for being blue and bubbly and bright at night,” stated npr.org. The pool design of the water cube helps reduce disturbances in the water. The pool is about 3 feet deeper than a regular sized pool. It is just deep enough for the small waves created by swimmers to disappear. When the water is disturbed by swimmers, the waves don’t bounce back at them. Instead when the waves reach the side of the pool they are pushed into the gutters. This pool design provides less resistance for a swimmers race. In the middle of the pool between each swimmer are lane lines. Lane lines are also called eaters this is because they help stop churning water. The overall goal is to make the water as clear and leveled as possible. Olympic medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines said, “It’s by far the fastest pool in the world.”


The LZR swim suit is designed as “technology doping,” said Michael Phelps. It is a loophole in competitive swimming. It is shown by about 1.9 to 2.2 percent that the swimsuit is less drag giving swimmers a greater benefit. This has lead to swimmers setting at least six world records by using the LZR suit. It has been said that the LZR suit takes 30 minutes to just put on because it is so tight, which allows very little drag. It’s like a rubber band wrapping around your waist and cutting off blood circulation. The LZR suit was created by AQUALAB, where they were able to find spots on a swimmer where there was friction on their body. By being able to find the friction areas on an athlete, designers were able to place low friction fabric in certain areas that were needed, which increased swimmers speed. Since the swimsuit gave a large advantage to swimmers, they banned the suits. This now requires swimmers to rely on technique and training.

Visualize, one tenth of a second. It’s faster than physically thinking. For Phelps to win such an outstanding race there was more than just the basics. “Cavic was left to wonder if he should have shaved his knuckles,” stated nytimes.com. But where Phelps stands now is partly because of his determination, dedication, and effort. But it is also because of his training and techniques along with his physical body structure that gives him an advantage. But what also gave Phelps a reduced time is his surroundings such as the pool design and the specialized swimsuits. “Everything counts,” said Cavic. As Michael Phelps said, “There are No Limits.”


Deep Catch-

With as much force as possible when your arm enters the water, swimmers pull their arms straight back.

Dolphin kick-
A motion where swimmers move both feet together up and down in the water.

Dry Land-
Swimmers work outside of the water, on land to strengthen the upper body.

Water is pulled into and filtered.


Allows the elbows of swimmers to stick out, which makes it easier for swimmers to move through water as the hands are moving like propellers.

Work Cited Page

“A New Swimsuit is Shattering Records- and Unleashing Debate.” Icantseeyou.typepad.com. N.P, 11
June 2008. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.
Berkes, Howard. “China’s Olympic Swimming Pool: Redefining Fast.”Npr.org. N.P, 10 Aug. 2008. Web. 10
Jan. 2013.
Brasor, Philip. “Celebrity Rules as the Olympic Strays far from its Ideal.” Japantimes.co.jp. Japan times,

10 Aug.2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
“Breaking Down Phelps, Stroke By Stroke.” Sports.espn.go.com. ESPN, Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
Clive, Rose. “Michael Phelps Wins Silver in the 200m Butterfly.” Abc.net.au. ABC news, 1 Aug.2012. Web.
28 Jan.2013.
Crouse, Karen. “Phelps Wins 7th Gold with 0.01 to Spare.”Nytimes.com. New York Times, 15 Aug. 2008.
Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
“Engineering the World’s Fastest Swimsuit.” Phys.org. University of Nottingham, 28 Feb. 2008.Web. 10
Jan. 2013.
“First Olympic Games In 16 Years Without Full Body Suits Will Come Down To Technique Says Effortless
Swimming Head Coach Brenton Ford.”Prweb.com. N.P, 3 July. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
Hanisch, Jane. “Workout Plans For us Olympic Swimmers.” Livestrong.com. Live strong, 28 June.2011.
Web. 19 Jan. 2013.
Kramer, Miriam. “How to Swim Like a Champion (According to Science).” Popularmechanics.com. N.P,
29 June. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
“Michael Phelps Diet.” Michaelphelps.net. N.P. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
“Olympics Day 4- Swimming.” Fanpop.com. N.P, 31 July 2012.Web. 29 Jan. 2013
Phelps Michael, and Abrahamson Alan. No Limits the Will to Succeed. New York, New York: Free press,
“Ryan Lochte’s Diet: How to Eat Like a Champ.”New102.cbslocal.com. N.P, 2 Aug. 2012. Web. 23 Jan.
St. John, Allen. “After 8 Gold’s for Phelps, 8 Big Questions on Beijing’s Super Pool.”
Popularmechanices.com. N.P, 18 Dec. 2009.Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
“Swim Like Michael Phelps, or at Least Try.” Fitsugar.com. N.P, 16 Sep. 2008. Web. 18 Jan. 2013
“The Water Cube in Beijing, China.” Architecture.about.com. N.P. Web. 29 Jan. 2013
“Water Cube National Aquatics Center.”Chinatourguide.com. China tour guide. Web. 29 Jan. 2013
Van Dusen, Alison. “How to Train Like an Olympian.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 8 July 2008. Web. 15 Jan.
Wade, Jon. “Michael Phelps-Greatest Olympic Swimmer-Workouts and Diet.” Motleyhealth.com.

Motley Health, 14 Aug. 2008. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

lulualex said...
Apr. 7, 2013 at 6:58 am
Omg this is fantastic!! It is filled with so many details and I really learned a lot! Well done! :)
Site Feedback