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SWOLF - Swimming Efficiency Test

SWOLF is a measure of swimming efficiency. It is a simple and general measure, calculated by adding the time (in seconds) to the stroke count, for a given distance. Essentially the fewer strokes and less time you take, the more efficient you are in the water. As your swimming technique improves you should reduce your score. The name swolf comes from joining the words swimming and golf, as swimmers attempt to lower their score.

purpose: to get a measure of swimming efficiency.

equipment required: a swimming pool (25m or 50m), stopwatch and an assistant. Many smart watches are also coming with a swolf measurement mode.

pre-test: Explain the test procedures to the subject. Perform screening of health risks and obtain informed consent. Prepare forms and record basic information such as age, height, body weight, gender, test conditions. See more details of pre-test procedures.

procedure: After a standardised warm-up, swimmers are required to swim once over a set distance (50m is suggested - any shorter distance can be too variable), with the time taken to complete the distance and the number of strokes recorded. A stroke is counted as the number of hand entries - left and right combined. The swimmer may start the swim in the water with a push start from the wall, or a dive, however this must be replicated if swolf scores are going to be compared over time. Many smart watches have swolf measurement capability built-in which makes this measurement much easier. Otherwise, it is best to use an assistant to time the swim and count the strokes.

results: Use the time in seconds and stroke count for the swim and the formula below to calculate swolf. The swolf score will be different for each swim distance. For each swim distance, swimming faster will improve your score, and equally, your score can be improved with better swimming technique to lower your stroke count. As a guide, a swolf score of between 35 and 45 over 25m is very good, or over 50m scoring in the low-70s is excellent. Apparently Russian sprint champion Alexander Popov scored 45 in a 50m pool - 25 seconds at 20 strokes!

SWOLF = swim time (seconds) + number of strokes

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usage: It is difficult to compare swolf scores with other swimmers because each individual has different physical attributes (e.g. longer arm length therefore longer stroke) and swimming skill. It is better to focus on improving your own swolf score.

target population: this is a test for swimmers.

advantages: this is a simple test and calculation, and the whole testing can be done by the swimmer.

comments: it is possible to try and lower the swolf score by taking fewer strokes, but if this is achieved by gliding along in the water for longer then the time will be negatively impacted. This is why measuring stoke count only is not as good.

notes: if the fitness tracker has a GPS built-in, it is possible to measure Swolf in open water swimming. In this case, the swolf score is computed over 25-meter intervals.

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