Get Inspired: SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING

Beyond the lipstick, sequins and fixed smiles you'll find synchronised swimming requires lung-busting endurance, athleticism, artistry and technical skill.

Analysis

Andrea Holland, BBC Sport

"The athletes train so hard for this unique sport, putting in 10-hour days at least five days a week. It is very acrobatic and the skill is just incredible."

The swimmers perform precision routines which require them to hold their breath for periods of more than a minute as they carry out a succession of dizzying turns, kicks and flips, most of which are done while upside down in the water.

When they emerge from beneath the surface they must resist the urge to gulp down air, instead holding a smile to make it appear as though the whole display is effortless.

At the same time they are treading water, often using a technique known as the egg-beater, which keeps them afloat while they perform a series of arm movements.

Since synchronised swimming's introduction in 1984, the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan have been the dominant forces in the Olympic pool.

Why is it good for you?

Synchronised swimming is a strenuous and skilful sport that places huge demands on competitors, who need strength, flexibility, rhythm and flair to succeed.

This is exemplified by the egg-beater move, which is a powerful way of treading water while making arm movements above the surface, and one of the most important techniques in synchronised swimming.

It requires massive levels of endurance as the swimmers execute routines, often holding their breath under water, which can last up to four minutes, depending on which part of the programme they are competing in.

The effort required to compete saw synchronised swimmers ranked second only to long-distance runners when the aerobic capacities of athletes from the different Olympic sports were compared.

Abdominal core muscle strength and endurance are also boosted due to the strain of having to stay afloat in water while performing complex lifts and poses.

Synchronised swimmers must also exercise away from the water. Lung capacity can be boosted through long-distance running, weight training helps build muscle mass and flexibility is improved through gymnastic and ballet-like routines.

Get involved

For people (both male and female) who enjoy modern dance, ballet and gymnastics, synchronised swimming is the perfect way to transfer those skills to the pool.

It is essential that beginners receive tuition from qualified coaches to ensure that they learn the different techniques. Other than that, all that is needed are some swimming trunks or a swimming costume.

There are more than 1,500 swimming clubs in the UK, and they provide the best foundation for those looking to develop as synchronised swimmers.

Visit the British Swimming,  Swim Ulster,  Scottish Swimming  and Swim Wales  websites for information about the different membership schemes.

British Swimming is working with the BBC to get the UK into the pool in a celebration of swimming called the Big Splash. 

A wide-range of activities,  including competitive races, swimming lessons and aqua aerobics, are being put on in swimming pools throughout the country.

Sign up to British Swimming's mailing list  to be sent details of the latest events and use their pool finder  to find out where you can get started.

For those wanting to watch synchronised swimming, visit the British Swimming website for a list of upcoming events. 

To keep up-to-date with synchronised swimming at London 2012, use British Swimming's companion site. 

More on the British Swimming website 

History

Synchronised swimming has its roots in ornamental water ballets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which evolved into the Busby Berkeley Hollywood water spectaculars popularised by Esther Williams in the 1940s and 50s.

Between 1948 and 1968 it was an exhibition sport at the Olympics and finally became an official event at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Duet and solo events made up that first Olympic programme but they were dropped in 1992 and replaced by a team event. The duet was reinstated in 2000.

Synchronised swimming was one of two sports at London 2012 to be contested only by women, the other being rhythmic gymnastics.

More on the IOC website