Sunday, 14 March 2010

Swimming techniques

ather than rewrite other people's ideas, I'm collecting links to useful bits:
A blog post by Tim Ferriss on Total Immersion techniques. Includes video demos.  Tim's top 8 tips:

1) To propel yourself forward with the least effort, focus on shoulder roll and keeping your body horizontal (least resistance), not pulling with your arms or kicking with your legs. This is counter-intuitive but important, as kicking harder is the most universal suggestion for fixing swimming issues.
2) Keep yourself horizontal by keeping your head in line with your spine — you should be looking straight down. Use the same head position as while walking and drive your arm underwater vs. swimming on the surface. See Shinj Takeuchi’s underwater shots at :49 seconds at and Natalie Coughlin’s explanation at :26 seconds. Notice how little Shinji uses his legs; the small flick serves only to help him turn his hips and drive his next arm forward. This is the technique that allows me to conserve so much energy.

3. In line with the above video of Shinji, think of swimming freestyle as swimming on alternating sides, not on your stomach. From the TI Wikipedia page:
“Actively streamline” the body throughout the stroke cycle through a focus on rhythmically alternating “streamlined right side” and “streamlined left side” positions and consciously keeping the bodyline longer and sleeker than is typical for human swimmers.
For those who have rock climbed or done bouldering, it’s just like moving your hip closer to a wall to get more extension. To test this: stand chest to a wall and reach as high as you can with your right arm. Then turn your right hip so it’s touching the wall and reach again with your right arm: you’ll gain 3-6″. Lengthen your vessel and you travel further on each stroke. It adds up fast.
4. Penetrate the water with your fingers angled down and fully extend your arm well beneath your head. Extend it lower and further than you think you should.This downward water pressure on the arms will bring your legs up and decrease drag. It will almost feel like you’re swimming downhill. I highly recommend watching the “Hand Position and Your Balance” video at the top of this page here.
5. Focus on increasing stroke length (SL) instead of stroke rate (SR). Attempt to glide further on each downstroke and decrease the number of strokes per lap.
6. Forget about workouts and focus on “practice.” You are training your nervous system to perform counter-intuitive movements well, not training your aerobic system. If you feel strained, you’re not using the proper technique. Stop and review rather than persist through the pain and develop bad habits.
7. Stretch your extended arm and turn your body (not just head) to breathe.Some triathletes will even turn almost to their backs and face skyward to avoid short gasps and oxygen debt (tip from Dave Scott, 6-time Ironman world champion).

8. Experiment with hand swapping as a drill:
It’s difficult to remember all of the mechanical details while swimming. I short-circuited trying to follow half a dozen rules at once. The single drill that forced me to do most other things correctly is described on pg. 91-92 of the TI book: hand swapping. Coach Laughlin’s observations of the Russian Olympic team practice were a revelation to me.
This is the visualization I found most useful: focus on keeping your lead arm fully extended until your other arm comes over and penetrates the water around the extended arm’s forearm. This encourages you to swim on your sides, extends your stroke length, and forces you to engage in what is referred to as “front quadrant” swimming. All good things. This one exercise cut an additional 3-4 strokes off each lap of freestyle.

Terry Laughlin commented on the post and offered these pointers:

These are focal points for Freestyle:
1) Release your head’s weight to the water, so your head and spine align.
2) Focus more on using your hand to lengthen your bodyline, less on pushing water back.
3) Relax your legs until the kick blends easily with your stroke.
4) Swim more quietly – minimize waves and splash.
5) Count strokes

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