Winter Training - Focus On Your Limiters: The Swim Part 2

speedo girlswim 300In the last blog post I revealed to you all that I have hyperventilated before the start of a race, or two, all because of a lack of confidence in my swimming abilities. Then we discussed two key areas that can help you, and me, improve our swimming! The areas emphasized in Stroke Mechanics Part One were Body Position and Entry. 

Today we wrap up our discussion on Stroke Mechanics with three more critical areas. In the coming weeks we will emphasize Strength & Flexibilty to help us with our swim.

If swimming is your limiter, improving on what you know is easier than you  might think! Remember: technique and mechanics. Mainly Stroke Mechanics, Strength and Flexibility. Today we are going to focus on Stroke Mechanics, Part One. In the coming weeks we will address Stroke Mechanics, Part Two, Strength, and Flexibility.

Focus On Your Limiters: Stroke Mechanics ~ Part Two

1. The Pull - There are 3 key phases to the pull: Catch, Release (diagonal), & Finish.

a. Catch - The first moment in each stroke cycle when the swimmer has positioned their hands and arms back into the water. This allows for good use of lift and drag force in a forward facing position.

  • - Do you feel the pressure on your hand and then your forearm?
  • - Does your elbow "face out"?
  • - Are you medially rotating (twisting) your upper arm?
  • - Are you sweeping your upper arm wider than shoulder width when transitioning from the extension to the bent elbow catch?

b. Release (diagonal) - Following the catch, after the swimmer begins to press back on the water, the first directional change occurs. When this is done correctly, both the lower & upper arms create a 45 degree angle in relation to the waters surface. To do this correctly you need to:

  • - Release the medial rotation in the upper arm.
  • - Press the hand/forearm slightly up and in.
  • - **Your elbow should now point up. Not out.** To point elbow up pop the elbow up slightly. The forearm is now like a paddle facing straight down with elbow closer to the waters surface creating less stress on the shoulder.

c. Finish - This is the last directional change. The hand makes a directional change to lengthen the stroking path and move the arm to an adjacent plane of water.


PRACTICE: Catch Up Drill - Push off the wall with both arms extended. Begin a freestyle stroke while keeping the opposite arm extended in front of you. Complete the stroke with the opposite arm still extended. Once arms are parallel, the initial extended arm can start to stroke leaving the other arm extended out. Swim 25-50 yards with :20-:30 sec. rest on the wall.

PURPOSE: To improve balance in the water and better control of your breathing. 


2. What are your  Fingers & Hips doing?

a. Fingers - Are they cupped with a slight gap making a large "paddle"?

  • - Are they relaxed?

b. Hips - Are they "up"? Hips generate power in the swim and the run.

  • - Are they rotating?


PRACTICE: One Arm Swimming - Swim with one arm back along the side. Keep head slightly up at the beginning to watch your stroke. Hand is pointed down, middle finger aligned directly at the end of the pool. Imagine a smiley face on the palm of your hand - it should be facing straight back. ALWAYS keep wrist below elbow, elbow below shoulder. As you reach out rotate at the hips but do not straighten arm out so elbow drops. Breathe opposite side of forward arm with shoulder back. Glance up with eyes only and see if your hand/forearm is straight like a paddle with smiley face on the palm coming straight back. Do 4-6 x 50 yards (25 per arm) before and after your swim with :20-:30 sec. rest on the wall. 

PURPOSE: Smooth entry. Less stress on the shoulder. More powerful catch. Improved reach and rotation. 


3. Check your Head Position.

a. Remember: A head that's up sinks the hips. A head that's down raises the hips.

b. A head that is "up" is better for sprint/olympic distances.

c. A head that is "down" is better for endurance races.



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