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Are you born to swim?
Around the Academy:

Are you born to swim?
Find out what makes the ultimate swimming machine
Got the physique to swim like a fish?

Dr Kevin Thompson, physiologist at the EIS, explains the physical characteristics that make up the ultimate swimmer.


Does height matter?
In freestyle and backstroke, it is thought that being tall allows swimmers to swim at the same speed as a shorter individual, but with less power required.

Ian Thorpe has the perfect swimming physique
The 'Thorpedo' has size 17 feet
Because of the standing start, taller swimmers can often cover a greater distance before they've even entered the pool, meaning less work to do once they're in. This is particularly important in sprint events.

They can also cover a greater distance per stroke, and turn and finish with an outstretched hand.

However, height doesn't always lead to extra performance - particularly in breaststroke and butterfly and even in women's freestyle and backstroke events.

Key characteristics
Whatever your stroke, there are certain characteristics that make the body better suited to swimming:

  • Wide shoulders

  • Slim hips

  • Large hands and feet

  • Large arm girth

  • High arm span to height ratio



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Built for speed
Michael Phelps has the perfect swimming physique
He's 1.95m tall, with large hands and size 14 feet, which act like flippers
He has an arm span of 2m
His elbows, knees and ankles are double jointed, giving him a greater range of movement


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:: English Institute of Sport

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