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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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Breaststroke Continues to Change!

I think as long as we keep thinking about the best ways to reduce drag with regards to each swimmers body type this stroke will continue to morph.  As you all know there is a lot of motion in the breaststroke that creates drag and this reduction in drag will advance your swimmers the quickest in the short term.

We also need to consider how to create and maintain momentum with the recovery of the stroke and kick. Body position is extremely important and streamlined swimming is essential to achieve as much as possible.

Here are a few comments from other coaches and athletes in the sport taken from the web to help you think about how to teach and advance this stroke.  Please feel free to comment on certain thoughts or provide new ones.

Questions and Comments from the web:

How wide should your hands go on the outsweep of the stroke? The outsweep is a function of strength and speed and a rough idea is about the same as your fly pull.

Lift propulsion is,for practical purposes,sculling. You use your hands like propellers. It’s called lift as the force is similar to what lifts an airplane wing. There is a heated debate as to which is more important in swimming. I suspect you are generating more force with your new pull than you think. Try just doing the pull and see. If you are doing the heart shaped pull remember to accelerate through the pull so that the insweep is the strongest part.

Regarding lift, Bernoulles Principle is that as a fluid flows faster it’s pressure decreases. An airplane wing is curved on top so the air has to travel further in the same time on top relative to underneath. Since it is moving faster the pressure is lower so the wing rises. Moving a hand through the water at an angle can cause the water on the back of the hand to move faster than over the palm so the hand will lift. The actual situation for a swimmer is much more complicated.

I consider the entire pulling phase of the stroke as triphasic, i.e. outsweep, insweep and recovery. I would characterize the outsweep as a setup for the more propulsive insweep phase, emphasizing a more constant velocity through the outsweep. Consider the swimmer moving through sheets of parallel planes of water: During the outsweep, the arms remain straight and confined to a plane near the surface of the water (six to 10 inches). At the widest part of the stroke (which depends on individual strength) the insweep begins to take form, characterized by increased velocity through to the recovery phase.

The insweep takes form as the inside edge of the arms (which I refer to as the blade-thumb-side) begins to take the lead. The edge extends from the fingertips to the elbow. Consider the edge to cut through the series of parallel planes with the elbows maintaining their position within the original plane. The blade therefore cuts through these planes much like a propeller, creating resistance and propulsion on the inside of the arm. Through the completion of the insweep, the swimmer finds the hands coming toward each other with the elbows trailing and ending closely together. The position of the hands at this point should be above the level of the elbows as the swimmer begins the recovery phase. Through the insweep phase the shoulders and back lift while driving forward (this is stressed so as not to create too much upward motion-thereby sacrificing forward movement). Also during this phase, the elbows remain fairly close to their original planar position.

Reduction of drag should characterize the recovery to the extent that the hands are held close together with the elbows also being close together through the forward extension. Whether or not this phase needs to occur above the surface or below the surface is not as important as emphasizing that the hands should not be lifted out of the water into the recovery phase. More important is that at the beginning of the recovery phase, the hands are at a position slightly higher than the elbows, and that recovery occurs straight forward as opposed to downward. As the arms recover, the head is maintained in a position in line with the back and settles between the arms ending the stroke cycle in a streamlined position.

Among the factors that are important to the breaststroke kick is a concentrated effort on heel speed, especially during the recovery phase. The biggest mistake breaststroke swimmers make in kicking is the manner in which they train. Very little effort is placed on the recovery phase of the kick-specifically the acceleration of the heels during recovery. The heels should be drawn up toward the hips with maximum speed and the toes are turned outward to initiate the propulsive phase. The heels should continue to be the leaders and with the heels in a position outside of the knees, propulsion begins. The heels take an elliptical path as the legs are extended-pressure maintained on the bottom of the feet. At full extension the heels come together and the completion of the kick occurs as the toes are extended to maximize the streamlined position.

In my mind, there are certain components of the stroke where timing can be evaluated and corrected. In the pull, I look to the velocity characteristics of the outsweep and insweep. I look to see that there is a relative constant velocity through the outsweep with an increase in velocity through the insweep into the recovery. During the kick and the initiation of the heel recovery, I suggest that the swimmer feel the recovery begin through the outsweep so that as the recovery phase begins, the propulsive phase of the kick occurs nearly simultaneously. In all, there should be a sense that during the propulsive phase of the arm stroke the recovery (and hence the drag phase) of the heels is occurring and vice versa.

Lastly, I look for the lift of shoulders and back to occur through the insweep phase of the stroke with the head staying in-line with the back.

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A Variety of Video Explanations

From time to time we get questions about a variety of swim related topics. The following videos were created to pair with our Monthly Workout subscription, which you can find here. If you have any questions, post it below!











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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