Fin swimming is the closest you’ll get to being a mermaid, thanks to the use of the fin that propels the athlete through the water. Athletes use both floating and breathing equipment to race. In fact fin-swimming involves four techniques, each determining a type of race.
Types of Fin-Swimming
'Surface Swimming' is where swimmers use a mask, snorkel and monofins and remain at the surface of the water.
In 'Bi-Fins Swimming', swimmers also remain at the surface of the water but use a mask, snorkel and a pair of fins.
'Apnoea Fin-Swimming' involves swimmers using a mask and mono-fin while swimming underwater, holding their breath.
And in 'Immersion Swimming', a mask and mono-fin are used while swimming underwater using breathing apparatus.
Respiratory Muscle Function in Fin-Swimming
Fin-swimming requires inspiratory power to 'breathe-in' sufficiently while swimming. But the respiratory muscles are not just essential for breathing, they're also important in body movement. Furthermore, the auxiliary respiratory muscles remain active as the main respiratory muscles tire. And as a fin-swimmer, you will not want any of your locomotor muscles to tire.
Respiratory Muscle Function in Swimming
Research shows that respiratory muscle function can influence swimming performance. Studies also show that respiratory muscle training (RMT), or inspiratory muscle training (IMT), influences performance in a positive way.
Breathing Challenge in Fin Swimmers
Like swimmers, fin-swimmers perform both on the surface and underwater. This is to a depth of 1-2 metres. But fin-swimmers include practising a temporary cessation of breathing, or apnoea, during training. This inevitably puts a great demand on their breathing. As a result, the strength of their breathing muscles is challenged, as is the flexibility of their rib cage.
Another aspect of fin-swimming that will affect respiratory mechanics, is the racing swimsuit. Unlike a swimming costume that covers only the torso, this swimsuit envelops as much of the body as possible. As a consequence, the fin swimsuit causes considerable muscle compression and an increase in the work of the inspiratory muscles.
As a result, the inspiratory muscles need to overcome not only hydrostatic resistance but also resistance from the swimsuit. And now, as the discipline of fin-swimming is on the increase, coaches are looking for ways to improve athletic performance
So, the aim of this study is to verify if one month of Respiratory/Inspiratory Muscle Training (RMT/IMT) is beneficial to fin-swimmers. In order to do this, researchers assess the effect of this type of training on the respiratory muscles, and on maximal underwater distance.
This study concludes that 4 weeks of respiratory muscle endurance and strength training increases respiratory muscle strength and has a positive effect on the swimming performance in fin-swimmers.
So for fin-swimmers, this study demonstrates the possibilities for targeted sports training that focuses not only on swimming performance and general physical fitness but also on respiratory performance.
It also enables coaches and others interested in fin-swimming training to expand their knowledge and training methods, which can positively influence the athletic performance of young fin-swimmers.
The study, The Effect of Respiratory Muscle Training on Fin-Swimmers’ Performance, is published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine.