The Vitruvian Man In The Contemporary Open Water Swimming World

The Vitruvian Man In The Contemporary Open Water Swimming World

Courtesy of WOWSA, Venice, Italy.

The Vitruvian Man is a world-renowned drawing created by Leonardo da Vinci circa 1487. The drawing and accompanying text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions. The drawing shows and explains the correlations of the ideal human proportions as defined by Leonardo.

In a thought experiment, we imagined what Leonardo would have studied and drawn the Vitruvian Swimmer for the contemporary open water swimming community in the 21st century. We took an imaginary guess of this wacky idea. Extrapolating from Leonardo’s belief that the workings of the human body are an analogy for the workings of the universe, we see a swimmer’s body as an analogy for the workings of a healthy human being.

Based on Leonardo’s text as a basis for this thought experiment, the proportions and explanations for a Vitruvian Swimmer could be:

– the length of the outspread arms is greater than equal to the height of the individual. Ideally, the greater the length of the outspread arms, the better to catch water and gain maximum propulsion.
– from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of the individual. Keeping the head in line with the spine and the eyes faced down during a race puts the body in an ideal position.
– the circumference of the chest is the length of the torso, giving an indication of a large lung capacity and cardiovascular endurance capable of swimming fast for long distances.
– the ideal width of the shoulders is at least the quarter of the height of the individual and 25% larger than the hips, ideal for providing upper body strength and swimming with streamlined proportions.
– the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is at least a quarter of the height of the individual. Ideal for a high elbow catch and efficient arm stroke.
– the circumference around the upper arm is at least the length from the elbow to the armpit. An indication of large triceps muscles that are useful for an efficient freestyle stroke.
– the length of the hand is one-tenth of the height of the individual with the length of the fingers equal to the length of the palm. Ideally, large hands with long fingers provide greater surface area to push water backwards.
– the foot is one-seventh of the height of the individual. Ideally, with the flexibility of the ankle to be greater than 180° for an efficient freestyle kick.
– from the foot to the knee is a quarter of the height of the individual. Ideally, the longer the lower leg, the greater propulsion obtained with an efficient leg kick.
– the circumference of the thigh is no more than the length from the knee to the intersection of the legs and torso, an indication of a tapered, but powerful, lower body.

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