This is a terrific article regarding the development of a better swim stroke that was in the NY Times the other day. Check it out here.
Delineating the Perfect Swim StrokeBy GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Should a swimmer’s arms serve as paddles or propellers? That question, abstruse as it might seem, underlies a long-running controversy in swimming about the best, most efficient technique for the freestyle and the backstroke. It also prompted a new study from a group of scientists at Johns Hopkins University that, in seemingly answering the question, is likely to provoke even more debate. The concern about how best to position and move the arm during the freestyle stroke (also known as the front crawl) and its inverse, the backstroke, first gained prominence back in the 1960s, when James E. Counsilman, the famed Indiana University men’s swimming coach known as Doc, decided to apply scientific principles of propulsion and fluid dynamics to swim techniques.
The physics of swimming are simple enough. To move through the water, you must generate thrust. To do so, you can use dragging or lifting forces. Drag is created by, unsurprisingly, dragging back against the water and, in the process, pushing an object, like the swimmer’s body, forward.
Lift, on the other hand, is created mainly by the flow of fluid around an object moving at an angle through the water. The fluid flows faster around the more curved side of the object, lifting and thrusting it forward. Ship propellers work on this principle.