Do Tall People Swim Faster than People of Average/Shorter Heights?

3.2 based on 13 ratings

Updated on Feb 06, 2012

Grade Level: 8th - 9th; Type: Health Science/Physics

In this experiment, we will test whether tall people have the ability to swim faster than people of average and shorter heights.

Does height correlate with speed?

Many have attributed famous Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' amazing feats to not only his grueling practice sessions and determination, but also to his “perfect” physical stature for the sport. People have said that his arms are longer than average and at a height of 6'4”, he cuts through more surface area in one stroke than a short swimmer would. He also has large hands and feet which he can literally use like paddles to glide in the water.

Also, it is a fact that most competitive swimmers are tall. Does height really have an advantage in swimming? So how would a short swimmer compensate against all the advantages of being tall in the sport?

  • A pool
  • To keep the experiment a controlled experiment, the people you choose for the experiment should all have the same experience level in swimming (in other words, if you compare a recreational swimmer to a competitive swimmer, chances are, the latter will swim faster!)
  • A measuring tape
  • A timer
  • Pen and paper for notes

  1. Have your first swimmer swim a lap and back to their full potential. Time this. Be sure to record their height (yes, you should measure with the measuring tape because many people only estimate their height or are unsure.) You want to keep your findings as accurate as possible. You should also measure individually, the lengths of their arms, hands, legs, and feet. Jot this down.
  2. Repeat the above step for all your swimmers. It would be best to already have grouped them together by height for organization.
  3. Access whether their height or body proportion has something to do with speed. Find the average speed of each test group. Is there a drastic difference?
  4. Record your results.

Suggested Chart


Length of Arms
Length of Hands
Length of Legs

Length of Feet


Swimmer #1

Swimmer #2

Swimmer #3

Swimmer #4

Terms/Concepts: Surface area; Swimming


Katz, Jane (2003).Your Water Workout(First ed.). Broadway Books.ISBN0-7679-1482-1.

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