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Undulation

un*du*la*tion

What Is The Definition Of Undulation In Swimming?

1. Undulation is a wavelike motion of the body. Similar to how stingrays create propulsion through the wavelike, flapping motion of their large fins, swimmers can utilize this same movement with their body for their own propulsion.

How Does Undulation Work?

Undulation occurs when the body conducts a rolling motion. 

First, the head and chest dip downwards, creating a slight piked position with the body. Then, the head quickly moves upwards followed by a slight arch of the back so that the body opens up with the hips fluidly following. Lastly, the legs follow before the head dips again. 

The motion is repeated many times and is especially useful coming out of turns to create speed. A dolphin kick often accompanies undulation to generate more propulsion.

Which Strokes Use Undulation?

Most commonly, undulation occurs with the butterfly stroke

Butterfly swimmers are taught to control their body’s undulation for faster speeds in the water. Swimmers of the butterfly use undulation to propel their bodies out of the water for a breath, as well as use less energy under the water. If the trunk of the body creates speed under the water, the extremities need to do less work.

Do All Swimmers Undulate In The Butterly?

Not necessarily. Michael Phelps championed a “flat” approach, meaning he kept his upper body still while undulating. By undulating flatter, Phelps required less depth of movement from his body, which reduced energy needed. However, this also created more work for his legs and arms, which he easily made up for with a quick kick. 

On the other hand, Caeleb Dressel undulates dramatically. In fact, he derives a large portion of his speed from undulation, which is why his turns seem so quick. Dressel uses his back to create an even deeper undulating motion upwards to produce more speed with his dolphin kick.

Swimmers can utilize either approach, but a control of undulation will result in a better performance regardless of approach.

Examples Of How Undulation Is Used In Commentary

1. Phelps‘ body has very minimal undulation as he cuts through the water at a record pace.

Sports The Term Is Used

1. Swimming

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