Japan has the 3rd most medals of any country in Olympic swimming history (if you don’t count the East Germans). Over the last 16 years, though, they have collected nearly 44% of their total medal haul.

So what’s the one thing that has made them consistently successful? After listening to Magnus Kjellberg, it seems that Japan has really honed in on hydrodynamics and biomechanics.

Magnus, a Swede, has been working with the Japanese Olympic team since 2013. They utilize underwater cameras similar to the Swedish AIM System which tracks all parts of the swim equation. Also, this helps both coaches and swimmers to visually understand tracks and trajectories related to turns/breakouts/underwaters.

Japan also utilizes the flume for ultra short, fast training sessions. In this video, you’ll see that they are going all out for 5 seconds with a 10 second rest period (a 1:2 work:rest ratio). Taking a tip from Bob Gillett, we know that elite stroke rates in fly average about 1.1 seconds per cycle.

Thus, said another way, they are going repeats of 5 strokes fast with 10 seconds of rest. 

“The flume helps to improve anaerobic and aerobic endurance and sprinting capabilities.” – Magnus Kjellberg

Japan doesn’t only use cameras and flumes. They also test hemoglobin levels using the ASTRIM Sysmex portable device. Hemoglobin is responsible for moving around about 40% of the oxygen in your blood. Altitude training increases your hemoglobin and thus your endurance ability. This is why altitude training is such a crucial part of an elite swimmers seasonal plan.

It should be no surprise that the 13th Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming International Symposium is being hosted in Tsukuba, Japan in 2018.