Foot flexibility for swimmers. Student study

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Grad School Research

While at Baylor University in grad school, 1982-83, as a Physical Education graduate assistant, I had a keen interest in researching flexibility. With our swim programs, we had done a lot of partner stretching and a few routines were favorites and were taught to the swimmers on the teams that I coached.

Prior clinics had exposed me to a Canadian swim coach, Derrick Snelling. His exercises sparked my interest and turned this into a bit of a passion for around the pool deck. 

The research subjects included the the undergraduate students in a few of the swimming classes that were part of the physical education requirement at Baylor. As graduate students, we taught those classes. Furthermore, the B.U. men and women swimmers at Baylor were tested. And, testing occurred at a NCAA swim meet that Baylor attended along with five other college teams, men and women. 

Methods

1) Swimmer / athlete sits on floor.

2) With a straighten leg and without knee bend, and heel of the foot was set upon a wooden block. Its height was the width of a standard lumber 2-by-4. 

3) While keeping knee straight (not elevating up with a bend), and while keeping the foot in a straight line with hip/knee/ankle, a measurement was taken from end of the nail on big toe to the floor in millimeters. with a metric ruler. 

4) Both feet were measured.

5) The  first attempt counted. No re-do. No warm up. No pre-limbering nor stretching. I discovered that re-test measures within the same session didn't hold significant differences. The flex test results were able to be radically improved upon by those with poor foot-and-ankle flexibility after some pre-stretching. Those with poor results could improve to normative ranges. Rather than trying to control for the warm-up period, the measurements were taken at first blush. This made the test quick and easy to administer and also gave a larger diversity of results from best to worse.

Results

All of the best kickers and fastest swimmers (top 10%) were the most flexible. 

If the swimmer could make a toe-point measure of 12 or fewer millimeters from floor on the measurement, that person's flexibility would be in the top 25% of the squads.

Of interest: That meet's high-point swimmer had the most flexible toe point.

The measurement goal for swimmers to striving for was < 10 mm. Anything better than 10 mm was not causing much of a distinction in kick-speed performances. 

Those with average, below-average and poor ankle flexibility were never the top 10% in kick performances. There was no significance among their misery with lack of swiftness. 

If you desire more insights, email me, Mark@Rauterkus.com.

Long-term awareness

In the end, I discovered for myself that there were dozens of reasons why researchers are wise to avoid hanging their hat of professional advancements on the grossly-vague endeavor of researching human flexibility.

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