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The "speed" of a swimmer moving through the water is effected by two main factors : Propulsion and Resistance. Each stroke has differing propulsion and resistance qualities.


Propulsion is achieved by the action of the swimmer with their arm stroke, kick and even body movement. As the swimmer improves their technique, they will achieve greater propulsion from the same amount of effort.
Resistance ie broken down into three parts: Frontal, Eddy and Skin. Frontal and Eddy resistance is directly linked to streamlining. For example, a swimmer that swims with their head above the water increases the amount of Frontal resistance as they have more surface area at the front, and this also increases the amount of Eddy turbulence behind them which generates a "pulling" from behind force. Skin resistance is the water passing the body as it moves forward. Skin resistance is reduced when the surface area of the swimmer is reduced and when the body is smoother.