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More on Tarzan, Plus a Coach’s Recollection

Effective freestyle that utilizes the mechanical advantage (law of levers etc) and the kinesiological principles (anatomy of muscular movement) and especially the first and second laws of motion dictates the hands should always be opposed to each other throughout the full arm cycle allowing for the most efficient application of muscular force, thus eliminating any stop and go movements that are created with an inefficient catch up stroke (the worst technique ever developed!)…Dara Torres has a very efficient freestyle.  Check it out. Rule of thumb – apply any of the ridiculous swim drills to walking, and you will get the idea!!

FasterSwimming Answer:

Remember to account for body position in your analysis… posture dictates execution and effectiveness, more than lever action.  Tarzan places added emphasis on full hip extension and a tight core that can transmit force.  Try swimming freestyle with your chin on your chest even if you have great oppositional arm force. Tarzan doesn’t replace efficient swimming but adds great cross training that develops core strength, shoulder and leg speed.

Another email about Tarzan, great story!

Hello Coach;

This is the first time I’ve seen your email letter and I got a kick out of the Tarzan article. I used the Tarzan drill a lot earlier in my career in the early 1970s.  I first saw it used by Don Gambril at Phillipps 66 Long Beach A.C. in 1969. Assistant Coaches were Ron Balatore and Flip Darr.

But here is one of my favorite memories of the Man, Tarzan. In 1967-68-69 (can’t remember which year) I was swimming in an East/West College meet at the Hall of Fame Pool. One evening there were some festivities at the pool and I was in the stands along with a few hundred other swimmers. In the late 60s all of those swimmers were baby boomers.  There was a featured sprint race between some of the best sprinters in the country and Johnny Weismuller. Tarzan still looked great and was in good shape.  But, none of us could quite figure out what was going to happen.  Weismuller was about 65 years old. He dove in, flew down the pool, beat everyone (and they were swimming fast), climbed out and gave the Tarzan yell.

They had laid a rope on the bottom of the pool- at night it couldn’t be seen- and Tarzan picked up the rope on the dive.  There were about 5 guys on the other side of the fence at the Hall of Fame Pool.  As soon as they got the signal that Tarzan had the rope, they took off running.

The interesting thing to me and I didn’t quite comprehend this until years later, was the tremendous almost instant togetherness type of yelling that went through the crowd of male swimmers who were kids born between 1945-1950. I think there was sort of a group epiphany.  A lot of us had grown up watching Tarzan movies, being swimmers, and thinking we were unique or alone in all these little towns across the USA. Many of us dreamed of being Tarzan, swimming like Tarzan and loving the Tarzan movies and being swimmers.

Yours;

Marc

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Why Swim On Top of the Water When the Fastest Part Is Under Water?

Momentum, Momentum, Momentum

“When an external force acts upon a body, it changes its momentum; however, when no external force acts, the momentum of the body does not change, a fact which is incorporated in the principle of ‘the conservation of momentum’. Therefore, momentum has come to be known as the force of motion that a moving body acquires in continuing its motion by virtue of inertia.” If you can understand this concept then you will be a very happy swimmer.

Maintaining a proper streamline and being able to time your breakout into your swimming is key to fast swimming. If you ever do anything underwater and feel yourself slow down then you have lost momentum. Momentum will be different for each athlete based on body type, flexibility and skill level. What and how you do your underwater mechanics and how you breakout into your swimming all effects momentum.

As often as possible you must try to keep the 4 H’s in line (Hands, Head, Hips and Heels).

The biggest momentum killer for all strokes is the transition from the underwater swimming to the actual swimming on top of the water. Swimmers and coaches do not spend enough time on this aspect of swimming. This is major especially when a swimmer comes off a wall in an un-streamlined position, not kicking, then deciding to breakout of the water too deep and deciding to breath first thing.

Sound familiar?

Use each wall in practice to break your bad habits. The fastest part of swimming is underwater when done correctly. Why do you think the 15-meter rule, and original rules of breaststroke were made?

BACKSTROKE:

A slow down in timing with improper body position will kill momentum. Keeping the head back, controlling the breathing and maintaining the speed of the kick will help maintain momentum. Increasing stroke count through (each lap) your swims will help maintain momentum.

BREASTSTROKE:

Momentum is lost when a swimmer loses control of body position. Speed is in the kick. Swimmers must remember to never let the time between the finish of a kick and start of the next kick get slower. The time between the finish and start of the kick can tell the story of timing. A constant pace must be maintained at this part of the swim whether it is faster for sprints or slightly slower for other swims. You must control the timing of the kick while maintaining proper mechanics of the pull.

FREESTYLE:

Breathing, head position, finish of stroke while maintaining a constant kick will all affect momentum. Learning how to maintain these mechanics during the race will greatly affect the finish of the race and momentum.

Momentum is lost when a swimmer loses control of body position.

BUTTERFLY:

Momentum is lost when the speed of the kick slows. A non-kick, slow kick or bad timing will only make all the other mechanics worse. Timing is key to proper mechanics and momentum.

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More on Momentum

We have covered momentum before but it could be the most important concept for all swimmers to understand.

Do your best to convey to all swimmers the importance of maintaining and creating speed. This takes focus and efficiency!

Maintaining momentum from a start, turn, the finishing of strokes and kicking are extremely important.
Teach your swimmers not to slow down underwater before swimming on top. The underwater part of swimming off the start and turn is where a swimmer can be at their fastest. They must be efficient in their break-outs, streamline, underwater pullouts and of course fly kick. Why do you think we have the 15-meter rule in swimming? Because the underwater part of swimming can be the fastest part of the race. Plan practices accordingly and stress its importance.

I feel the next big momentum killer is the timing of the breath in all strokes. Teach the swimmers when to breath in each stroke. If the breath is taken at the wrong time the mechanics of the stroke will slow and will usually be accompanied with a slower kick. The timing of all strokes/kicking and breathing is covered in depth in the Faster Swimming book.

Judging the walls for turns is another biggie. If you can get the swimmers to understand that if they slow down into their turns it will affect the speed of the turn and the speed off the wall severely slowing momentum. Time their turns in practice and meets to get your point across. The 14 week and 23-week training books dictate when to time turns and plans for it weekly.

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Even More on Mechanics

MECHANICS:

There are five categories and I am going to elaborate on #4 Momentum as it could be the most important to understand. The others are talked about in the Coaches Guide.

  1. Back of the hand mechanics with “arm and hand” as one-paddle.
  2. The catch and finish of each stroke.
  3. Body position and reducing drag
  4. Momentum
  5. Timing and rhythm during the breathing and stroke.

Momentum

WHY SWIM ON TOP OF THE WATER WHEN THE FASTEST PART IS UNDERWATER?

Momentum, Momentum, Momentum

“When an external force acts upon a body, it changes its momentum; however, when no external force acts, the momentum of the body does not change, a fact which is incorporated in the principle of ‘the conservation of momentum’. Therefore, momentum has come to be known as the force of motion that a moving body acquires in continuing its motion by virtue of inertia.” If you can understand this concept then you will be a very happy swimmer.

Maintaining a proper streamline and being able to time your breakout into your swimming is key to fast swimming. If you ever do anything underwater and feel yourself slow down then you have lost momentum. Momentum will be different for each athlete based on body type, flexibility and skill level. What and how you do your underwater mechanics and how you breakout into your swimming all effects momentum.

Streamlined position:

The hands should be crossed hand over hand, some people teach a crossover grab. The biceps should be pressed upon the ears with the shoulders and chest stretched out as much as possible. The head will not be tucked chin to chest but in the same position it would be in as if you were walking. The midsection and hips will be in line with the thighs and feet following directly behind. The legs must be in the same plane as the hips thus reducing drag. This is the basic streamline (spike). Hands, Head, Hips and Heels in line. Once this has been achieved you may begin your breakout by starting your first stroke. Judging the depth of the water is essential for a good breakout by maintaining momentum.

Breaststroke underwater pull:

Upon entry to the water or after achieving a spike off of the wall, the body must be in a streamlined position. The key to the underwater pull will be to keep the head in the spike position. The body will go the direction that the head is tilted thus creating or eliminating drag and distance to be traveled. The hands will separate slightly, no wider than the shoulders. This is where the pull begins. The catch of the pull is very important for efficiency and power. The pull begins and ends along the line of the body, keeping the back of the hand facing forward and the “arm and hand” as one-paddle. When finishing the underwater pull by pointing the fingers to the toes the hands are recovered under the body as tight and close as possible thus decreasing drag.

As of fall 2005 you are now allowed one fly kick down with the recovery of the fly kick (up), starting the recovery phase of the breast kick. You may begin your one fly kick down at the start of the underwater pull and should complete it with the finish of the arms of the underwater pull. Doing the fly kick before or after the arm phase of the pullout will not help maintain and utilize momentum and needs to be completed during the arm phase. During the recovery stage of the pull the kick is initiated and controlled behind the hips in a streamlined position. Don’t bring the knees up under the stomach or out wider than the hips. The arms are straightened out into a tight spike while the kick is being completed. The swimmer must take a breath during the onset of the second pull and begin swimming. Each stage of the underwater pullout is initiated before the loss of momentum. If a swimmer slows down in the water before starting the next phase of the pullout then they have waited too long.

SPEED IS MAINTAINED AND CREATED BY THE LEGS

LEARNING HOW AND WHEN TO TAKE A BREATH DURING A RACE IS VERY IMPORTANT.

A swimmer can blow a race by not breathing enough or too much at the beginning of a race. This is a fact that the spectator or parent would never know and the finger is usually directed at training when a swimmer doesn’t succeed because of this very simple but an often made mistake. The biggest momentum killer for all strokes is the transition from the underwater swimming to the actual swimming on top of the water. Swimmers and coaches do not spend enough time on this aspect of swimming. This is major especially when a swimmer comes off a wall in an un-streamlined position, not kicking, then deciding to breakout of the water too deep and deciding to breath first thing.

Sound familiar?

Use each wall in practice to break your bad habits. The fastest part of swimming is underwater when done correctly. Why do you think the 15 meter rule, and original rules of breaststroke were made?

BACKSTROKE:

A slow down in timing with improper body position will kill momentum. Keeping the head back, controlling the breathing and maintaining the speed of the kick will help maintain momentum. Increasing stroke count through (each lap) your swims will help maintain momentum.

BREASTSTROKE:

Momentum is lost when a swimmer loses control of body position. Speed is in the kick. Swimmers must remember to never let the time between the finish of a kick and start of the next kick get slower. The time between the finish and start of the kick can tell the story of timing. A constant pace must be maintained at this part of the swim whether it is faster for sprints or slightly slower for other swims. You must control the timing of the kick while maintaining proper mechanics of the pull.

FREESTYLE:

Breathing, head position, finish of stroke while maintaining a constant kick will all affect momentum. Learning how to maintain these mechanics during the race will greatly affect the finish of the race and momentum.

BUTTERFLY:

Momentum is lost when the speed of the kick slows. A non-kick, slow kick or bad timing will only make all the other mechanics worse. Timing is key to proper mechanics and momentum.

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All Swimmers Need…

  • To feel comfortable in the water.
  • To know stroke counts (per lap) for all strokes.
  • To understand timing of all strokes.
  • To have excellent walls and turns.
  • To practice with proper stroke mechanics.

A swimmer also needs experience racing and that takes, a long time and hundreds of races for mechanics and strategies of each race to sink in, not to mention the pain factor. When in pain, how well do you think about what you should really be doing? Most swimmers worry about breathing and finishing the race first, especially as they are learning.

Let’s use the 50 freestyle to continue our “all swimmers need”

  • A quick start with proper form remembering to use legs more than the upper body to get off the block.
  • To enter the water in a streamlined position and maintaining this position during the breakout.
  • To maintain a streamlined position off of the dive while enabling either a proper fly kick or free kick through the first two strokes of the race (breakout). Being able to know where you are in the water so not to stop the momentum from your dive and underwater kick into your breakout.
  • To maintain a sprint kick even while breathing.
  • Knowing when to breathe (timing) while at the same time preparing for the turn, after judging the wall correctly in warm-ups.
  • To complete a proper turn.
  • A proper streamlined position off the wall of the turn with a proper breakout, while getting past the flags.
  • To finish the race without losing momentum. Proper judging of the wall is where it is won or lost provided, that is, the swimmer has not succumbed to the pain. You must judge the wall in warm-ups.
  • Not to breath at the end of a swim, while maintaining a sprint kick, while holding together proper stroke mechanics, not to mention sprinting the entire race since it is only a 50…

There are tons to know, swimming takes brains, retention, and motivation. Just try to handle it one thought at a time. Try to remember this as a coach and especially a parent. When you say something to your swimmer like, “how did you miss that turn?” Try to remember all that goes into racing.

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Practicing Simple and Basic Concepts

I have been teaching a lot of adult lessons lately and it has reminded me of some very simple concepts that we as coaches most likely overlook and assume that our swimmers understand. Take some time during warm ups to review even with your best swimmers.  I review all of these concepts with my team this week and will need to continue to stress these concepts repeatedly.

1. The ability to rotate the whole body.

Most  swimmers can’t rotate properly.  Start the swimmer on their stomach having them rotate to the side, then on the back, back to the side and completing the whole circle to the stomach. If swimmers can’t rotate with proper form maintaining proper body position then how can they rotate their shoulders and core properly in the freestyle stroke, all the while working on the timing of the breath?

2. Timing of the breath including when to initiate and when to fully exhale and inhale.  This is the biggest mistake by many swimmers including some of the most accomplished swimmers. This is the hardest to teach to adults and younger swimmers. Here is one example of breathing with freestyle.

FREESTYLE: Timing of the breath and proper breathing is the most important concept toinstill. The first thing a swimmer must be able to do is learn how to exhale all air while the mouth is in the water. This will enable you to concentrate on inhaling while the mouth is out of the water. A lot of swimmers take too much time to exhale and inhale during the breath, when the mouth is out of the water. This creates a slow breathing process, throws off timing and body position by turning the head to a non-streamlined position creating drag and usually affecting the hips. The breathing process begins during the catch of the stroke and is completed at the front end of the pull. If you see your arm during the breath then you are breathing late. 

Timing of the breath is the most important beginning to freestyle. If you learn this it will eliminate many errors in mechanics. For example: If a swimmer doesn’t kick or the kick slows during the breath then the breath is too late. If a swimmer has a hip swing it could be due to the breath and lack of head control. Make sure the swimmer is finishing the stroke in the proper place as to maintain the rotation of the arms. Why is this so important for freestyle? It is the only stroke you breath to the side.

3. The ability to relax and float. Teach your swimmers how to float vertically. While teaching adult lessons this is the first thing I teach.  You can’t progress a swimmer unless they are able to relax.

4. Teaching swimmers how to kick with the whole leg while keeping the ankle relaxed.  Teach how to kick starting from the core, there is a slight bend in the knees during the kick but the legs are led by the foot.

5. Ankle flexibility or pointing the toes without flexing and using the ankle are key. You can always locate a swimmer with tight ankles and see it in their kicking. Usually they do a lot of scissor kicking or straight foot swimming. Teach swimmers how to stretch the ankle and relax the foot during the kick.

6. Teaching momentum

Momentum:  Maintaining a proper streamline and being able to time your breakout into your swimming is key to fast swimming. If you ever do anything underwater and feel yourself slow down then you have lost momentum. Momentum will be different for each athlete based on body type, flexibility and skill level. What and how you do your underwater mechanics and how you breakout into your swimming all effects momentum. 

7. Teaching body position the 4 H’s, Hands, head, hips and heels. Teach your swimmers to do this perfect from the beginning!

Streamlined position: The hands should be crossed hand over hand, some people teach a crossover grab. The biceps should be pressed upon the ears with the shoulders and chest stretched out as much as possible. The head will not be tucked chin to chest but in the same position it would be in as if you were walking. The midsection and hips will be in line with the thighs and feet following directly behind. The legs must be in the same plane as the hips thus reducing drag. This is the basic streamline (spike). Hands, Head, Hips and Heels in line. Once this has been achieved you may begin your breakout by starting your first stroke. Judging the depth of the water is essential for a good breakout by maintaining momentum.

You will be surprised what your swimmers don’t know.

Good Luck

Brad