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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Swimming Machine

A swimming machine is a resistance swimming apparatus, often self-contained, enabling the swimmer to swim in place. This may be accomplished either by accelerating the water past the swimmer or by supporting the swimmer, either in water or on dry land. The first type, known as a countercurrent swimming machine, usually consists of a water tank at least twice as long and about one and a half times as wide as an average person with the limbs extended. The swimmer swims unrestrained against an adjustable stream of water set in motion by means of mechanical devices, such as jets, propellers or paddle wheels.

Countercurrent swimming machines made their appearance in the 1970s, initially in the form of pump-driven jetted streams, which caused a certain amount of turbulence and an un-natural swimming environment. They were followed up in the 1980s by propeller- and paddle-wheel driven machines. These provided a smoother stream of water. Many users find them relatively easy to swim in, though some are bothered by the considerable chop – inherent to these small pools, especially when performing symmetrical strokes such as the breaststroke or the butterfly. These machines are also criticized for being expensive, noisy, and wasteful of energy. (A typical machine requires special power connections delivering 3 to 4 kW for the pressure-driven machines, and 6.5 to 11 kW for the volume-driven machines, aside from any power needed to heat and filter the water--usually an additional 5 kW for an electric heater and around 1.5 kW for a pool pump and filter.)

Two types of exercise machines make up the second group. Hybrid systems - self-contained micropools similar to the counter-current type but using a flexible tether to keep the swimmer in place are one type. These systems, being human powered, need neither machinery or electricity but have to be carefully designed to suppress wave formation. The second type of swimming machine allows a person to remain on dry land while simulating certain swimming strokes. Machines of the latter type however can not compensate for the weight of the body and the limbs and thus deprive the user of the benefits of exercise in an aquatic environment. However, the higher effort required by such machines, in the absence of the metabolic effects of immersing the body in water, makes these devices more effective than true swimming if one's purpose is to achieve weight reduction. Similar in purpose, but not qualifying as swimming machines since they require access to a swimming pool, are various tether systems.

Pressure-Driven Machines

These systems depend on one or more pumps. The best ones are engineered to maximize the volume of water delivered, at the expense of high head which here is not needed as the water need not be lifted, only set in motion. Discharge rates of 13 L/s (200 US gal/min) and more are possible, from motors of three or four horsepower (2 or 3 kW). One of the earliest models on the market - introduced in 1973 - was the Badujet which is available only in the form of a bare propulsion system, to be installed into either an existing or newly-built pool.

Also in this category are a number of swim spas, usually fiberglass shells equipped with several pool pumps to set the water in motion. Seen as more convenient since they come pre-assembled, the quality of the swim has been criticized as being somewhat turbulent, as the strength of the current comes from the speed and pressure of the discharged water, rather than its volume.

Volume-Driven Machines

In the 1980s a new type of machine made its appearance. In an attempt to correct problems of turbulence and resulting discomfort from swimming against a jet of water, systems were devised to set the water in motion in a smoother fashion. The first, in 1984, was the SwimEx, developed by Stan Charren together with two MIT-trained engineers. This machine, consisting of a fiberglass pool with the machinery housed in an adjacent compartment, sets the water in motion by means of a paddle-wheel, thus generating a steady stream of water as wide as the swimming pool itself.

In the late 1980s the Endless Pool® was developed by James Murdock, in an attempt to build a less-expensive alternative to the SwimEx. This machine places the water-moving equipment - a large propeller encased in a stainless steel box and powered by a remote hydraulic pump, and its stainless steel water circulation tunnels - inside the body of a vinyl-lined metal pool. Its stream of water is narrower than that of the SwimEx, though the swimming experience is comparable. A couple of copy-cat systems have sprung up since its introduction.

Around the same time, the Swim Gym, a propeller-driven propulsion system developed by engineer Peter Davidson became available commercially. This machine is encased within a large (10" diameter) PVC tee which is then incorporated into the concrete wall of a swimming pool. It delivers a current equivalent to that produced by the Endless Pool.

Hybrid Systems

A number of "still-water" mini-pools have been built over the years, designed to be used in conjunction with various resistance-swimming tether systems. These human-powered devices combine the self-contained aspect of counter-current swimming machines with the low cost and simplicity and freedom of movement of tether systems used in athletic training. They have major cost and energy-use advantages over mechanical swimming machines. They are valuable for aerobic exercise, endurance and strength training, and for stroke practice. However, they cannot replicate open water conditions, in which the water courses at speed past the swimmer, so that for competition training their use has to be combined with open-water practice. One example of such a device is the Swimergy Swim System, which also makes use of wave-reduction technology.

Dry-Land Swim Training Machines or Swim Benches

Since the 1800s, a number of dry-land swimming simulators have been designed to hold a person in a position in which swimming motions could be carried out. The earlier swim training devices were devised for swimming instruction, while later machines were built for the purpose of physical exercise. The Vasa Trainer, Vasa Ergometer and DrySwim Trainer and Exerciser are examples of the latter type. These machines of course are completely silent and require no electricity.

The Vasa Trainer, introduced in 1988, is a sport-specific, strength training machine. You can do over 200 exercises for strength, endurance, power, and rehabilitation, making the Vasa Trainer one of the most versatile exercise machines available today. It works by lifting your body weight up the inclined monorail and then lowering it back down. It has many slope incline settings as well as several other options for changing resistance. It allows swimmers (and surfers, triathletes, physical therapists) to simulate swim strokes to improve technique while increasing functional strength.

The Vasa Ergometer was introduced in 2004. The "erg" allows athletes to simulate swim strokes with variable wind resistance that can be adjusted to feel like a fast or slow current. You can vary the resistance, your stroke rate and your stroke power to fine tune each workout - from light, range of motion, rehab work to swim-set simulations to race intensity simulations to maximum power intervals. An electronic performance monitor that provides precise feedback for: time; distance; pace; stroke rate; right & left arm force; and watts. If one side is weaker than the other, the monitor displays it. It is ideal for doing repeatable training workouts, performance testing, or even indoor racing without getting wet. This latter point is important and useful for those people who have allergies, skin problems or respiratory ailments caused by swimming in harsh pool environments.

The DrySwim Trainer and Exerciser, invented by Swim Coach James Davis and Chief Engineer Paul Dowd, is the first truly ergonomicly designed exercise machine for swimmers. The DrySwim Trainer conforms to the natural and desired body rotation to maintain a steady pace while conserving energy and swimming with “the body” and not just the “arms and legs”. There is nothing that you can do in the water that you can't do on the DrySwimTrainer. You can train distance or sprints. You can do long workouts or short ones. You can do drills including "the catch up" or "single arm drills". In fact, swimming on The DrySwim Trainer burns more fat then swimming the same workout in the water.

Source : Wikipedia

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