to Videolink arrow

Newton logo to print

Olympic Training Center



Scientists have developed many devices to analyze every detail of an athletes performance. Advanced sports technology employs high-speed cinematography, force and torque measurement equipment, ergometers, electromyography, wind tunnels, mathematical modeling and many other devices. Athletes also employ biomechanics in their training. Biomechanics is the study of how the laws of physics can be applied to the human body. The biomechanics of swimming were ignored for years because it was very hard to quantify results in a open pool. But with the flume, a kind of treadmill for swimmers, scientists can now bring high-tech measurement and analysis to the Olympic swimmer. To understand how the flume helps the swimmer improve the streamlining of a stroke, involves a basic understanding of hydrodynamics. Swimming differs from land sports in that energy must be expended to overcome drag forces which oppose forward movement of an object through a fluid. The swimmer pushes down into the water with the hand. The water resists this motion, and this force, called drag, is transmitted through the swimmers arm to propel the swimmer through the water. If the swimmer curves the hand and arm, an additional force comes into play: lift. The flow of water over the hand creates the same kind of lift force generated when air flows over an airplane wing. The goal of a winning swimmer is to maximize both the drag and the lift forces. This can be achieved with the assistance of the scientific measurements and analysis made possible by the flume. Even non-Olympic exercisers now have access to much new technology: weekend joggers or bikers can have a videotape of their performance analyzed for biomechanical advice. Fitness clubs have stationary exercise equipment that offers instant feedback on current and average speeds, distance traveled and calories expended.


You can learn more about your musculoskeletal system and improve your athletic performance by watching yourself participate in sporting activities. Materials -Video camera -Blank videocassettes -Television -Videocassette Recorder (VCR) -White Paper and Pencil
  1. Decide on an activity like running, swimming or skating for your performance analysis.
  2. Have friends or family members videotape you as you exercise.
  3. Use the still frame on your VCR to look at specific points in the action. Diagram the motion by tracing a sequence of these still-frames on a single sheet of paper.
  4. Invite your gym teacher or coach to view the tape and help you analyze the biomechanics of your performance.


  • Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie. Touching Base With the New Push-Button Machines. Womens Sports & Fitness, May 1989.
  • Hilgers, Laura. Cool School Days. Sports Illustrated for Kids, February 1991, pp. 40-45.
  • Milton, Joyce. Greg Louganis: Diving for Gold. New York: Random House, 1989.
  • Roessing, Walter. Tommy Moe: Downhill to the Olympics. Boys Life, January 1991, pp. 29.
  • Vandeweghe, Ernest M. and Flynn, George L. Growing with Sports. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979.
  • Weintraub, Pamela and Teich, Mark. Body and Seoul. Omni, September 1988.