Want to Swim Faster? Open Your Fingers

By Sam Gibbs on at

This seems a little counter intuitive, but apparently the fastest way to claw through the water is with splayed hands. That classic cupped oar-like technique is just plain rubbish compared to forked fingers.

It's all to do with surface area. Spreading your fingers generates a bigger surface area to drive water passed you because the gaps between your fingers act a bit like webbing, at least according to a new study constructal-law dictates that it must. As professor Adrian Bejan from Duke University in North Carolina put it:

"It is a counter-intuitive idea, the fact that you should paddle with a fork, not with an oar."

Too right, but apparently professional swimmers are already embracing the technique. Precise finger spacing, between 20 and 40 per cent of your finger width, can boost your paddling force by up to 53 per cent. That's quite a lot for just spreading your fingers.

So, next time you're doing laps in the pool trying to beat your personal best, spread your fingers a little and watch yourself fly. [Journal of Theoretical Biology via Daily Mail]

Image credit: Swimming from Shutterstock