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.