Swim Smooth are today very proud to announce our new coaching DVD: Catch Masterclass. Two years in the making, Catch Masterclass is packed with all of Swim Smooth's insightful video, drills, visualisations and techniques to improve your propulsive power and efficiency:

catch masterclass

The catch phase of the freestyle stroke is very elusive for most swimmers. If you don't fully understand how to generate good propulsion from this critical phase of the stroke, or you need to take your swimming to the next level, then this DVD is for you.

Many swimmers focus on reducing their drag in the water and whilst this is very important, if you compromise your propulsion in doing so you will soon hit a plateau or even become slower. Don't let this happen to you - use Catch Masterclass to develop your propulsive technique and become a much faster, more efficient swimmer as a result.

In the DVD we clearly explain what a great catch technique looks like and show you three champion swimmers employing the same great catch mechanics within their individual stroke style. After explaining where you might have gone wrong up until now, we give you all the methods, drills and visualisations for introducing a great catch technique to your own stroke.

The Catch Masterclass is suitable for any swimmer or triathlete who can swim freestyle. Find out more and view the trailer: here

Special offer: Until the 10th January we're shipping this DVD (and also our DVD Boxset) anywhere in the world for free!

Some stills from Catch Masterclass:

Paul Newsome takes you through the Catch Masterclass.
jono van hazel
Discover Jono's super-smooth secrets.
Instant pop-ups help make demonstrations real.
Shelley Taylor Smith - still the best.
new drills
New drills.
paul and lisa
Putting the Masterclass into practise yourself.
doggy paddle
Clearly understand the key focus of each drill.
Warning: DVD may contain images of extremely bright swimsuits.
Understand how Jono swims sub-50 seconds for 100m.
unco rhythm
Advanced level drills to perfect your rhythm and timing.
Avoiding common pitfalls.
Different stroke styles, same great catch mechanics.
Dryland conditioning.
Every angle covered leaving no question unanswered.
challenge stadium
Sorry, swimming pool not included.

Wishing you a fantastic 2011,

Swim Smooth!

The Most Common Mistake Swimmers Make

Over the festive season you may have a little time to think about and plan your swim training for the next few months. Be careful though, you could well be about to make a fundamental and incredibly common mistake - that of 'heading to the extremes'. For instance you could plan to:

- Only do technique work and no fitness training (or vice versa)

- Swim only with a pull buoy and/or paddles

- Focus purely on short sprints to develop your speed

- Aim to make your stroke as long as you possibly can

- Increase your stroke rate as high as you possibly can

- Only swim in the open water (one for our Southern Hemisphere athletes)

- Stop working on your water skills completely

We understand the temptation to take a 'one track only' approach to develop your swimming - all the coaches at Swim Smooth have been, or are currently, competitive swimmers or triathletes and have made these mistakes ourselves in the past. Unfortunately heading to the extremes like this very very rarely works out for the better. The people that become very fast efficient swimmers devote a portion of their training to areas of weakness but keep all the balls in the air with a well balanced all-round program.

If we were designing your swim program for the New Year it would include:

- The right technique work focused on your individual needs (e.g. see our Swim Type system)

- Some hard training, some longer aerobic sets and some lighter recovery sessions where you'll adapt to the hard work you're putting in.

- The use of fins during drills to gradually develop your hip flexor and ankle flexibility without having to do dedicated kick sets. Fins also help develop your kicking technique - in fact we do very few kick sets with a board here in Perth.

- If you plan to race in open water next year then we'd include drafting, sighting, pacing and mass start simulations in your pool sessions. Yes, we would keep practising this even in the off season because these skills are hard to perfect and can easily take minutes off your race times all by themselves. They're also a lot of fun and provide variety in your training.

- A focus on pacing skills - another critical aspect of your swimming technique as a distance swimmer.

- Combine these aspects into single sessions to make things more time efficient - for instance a session combining open water skills with fitness and pacing work.

- Keep it fun but be as consistent as you can with your training.

From everyone on the Swim Smooth team we'd like to thank you for all your feedback and messages of support in 2010, it's been a pleasure working with you. We've got a lot of exciting things in the pipeline for 2011 which we know you're going to love. Here's wishing you a fantastic Christmas break and a very Smooth New Year!


Swim Smooth!

Ross Davenport: What You Should (And Shouldn't) Try And Emulate About His Stroke

On our recent Coach Education Course in Loughborough, UK, we met up with Ross Davenport, double Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, to have a good look at his stroke and understand what makes him so quick in the water. Ross has a classic elite swimmer's build, he's very tall and broad with long arms:

As you might expect, when racing Ross has a long stroke taking about 36 strokes per length in a 50m pool or 14 strokes per length in a 25m pool. To investigate his stroke make-up, we asked Ross to kick 100m for us with a kick board:

His time? 1 minute 16 seconds - a very powerful and propulsive leg kick indeed! In his freestyle Ross uses this kick to push him along and lengthen out each stroke to create a long style that is very efficient for him. This is like yourself donning a long pair of fins/flippers and finding you can easily swim with a longer stroke, taking many fewer strokes per length.

Ross races 200m in around 1 minute 48 seconds and takes 36 strokes per 50m. Given his skill level and physical attributes he could easily swim this distance taking fewer strokes if he wanted but he would be less efficient and slower because that would mean overly-lengthening his stroke.

If you don't have Ross' skill level, flexibility, height and arm span - and you can't kick 100m in 1:16 - then trying to emulate his low stroke count might be a mistake. If you'd like to be a faster more efficient swimmer then target the others key things in Ross' stroke instead:

- great breathing technique
- a high body position
- good alignment in the water
- great catch and feel for the water
- a strong rhythm and timing

Get those basics right and you will start moving very quickly through the water - and your strokes per length figure will take care of itself. Don't let the tail wag the dog!

Swim Smooth!

A special thanks to Blue Seventy and to Ross for joining us in November.

Should You Perform The Other Three Strokes?

As a triathlete or distance swimmer looking to improve your freestyle, should you swim backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly sets in training?

Our answer is that it depends on how much you are swimming. If you're in the water up to three times per week then we think it's best to focus exclusively on freestyle to give you as much specific stroke and fitness work as possible. However, if you are swimming four or more times a week then a little variety is stimulating and the other three strokes are great for developing your feel for the water and your all round conditioning.

Saying that, if you're swimming mostly for health rather than specific race fitness, or enjoying some less focused off-season training, then introducing some non-freestyle sets is a great way to liven up your sessions.

Give Individual Medley (IM) a try too - this involves swimming all four strokes in succession without a break, normally in the order: fly-back-breast-free. This is pretty tough, so start with a set of 100s IM (25m of each stroke in turn) before attempting 200s (50m of each stroke) which are quite a bit harder!

With butterfly many swimmers struggle with getting their arms up over the surface of the water. Two quick tips on that: 1. Focus on an undulating rhythm through the core akin to doing a backwards and forwards hula-hoop at the hips. 2. When breathing lift your head early to inhale and then immediately dip your chin back down to your chest to continue the undulating action of the stroke.

Swim Smooth!

UNCO: The King Of Drills

Unco is a special drill which helps you develop the rhythm and timing of your stroke. We love Unco at Swim Smooth as it brings so many elements of the stroke together and forces you to time your catch, pull and body rotation correctly. You can even use it to polish up the timing of your breathing.

Australians love to shorten any word and put an 'o' on the end - in this case shortening 'uncoordinated' to make Unco. This probably tells you straight away that it is quite a challenging drill! We'd encourage any swimmer to give it a try but it is probably best suited and most beneficial for upper intermediate and advanced level swimmers. If you are a bit of an Overglider or have any deadspots or pauses in your stroke then give it a go, you'll find it really interesting.

Performing Unco

Unless you have an exceptionally propulsive kick, always use fins when performing Unco. It's a one arm drill, performed with one arm by your side whilst performing a full stroke with the other arm:







(sequence above taken from our forthcoming DVD "Catch Masterclass")

Breathe away from the stroking arm and breathe on every single stroke - even if you don't feel you need to - this helps drive your body rotation. We suggest you start with your right arm stroking and breathe to your left as shown in the pictures above. Once you get the hang of it you can swap sides every 25m or so.

The key to the drill is to make sure that you rotate your body fully to the dead side, ensuring that you dip your non-stroking arm and shoulder down into the water as shown in the last picture. The mantra of the drill is 'stroke and drip... stroke and dip...'. You will really have to emphasise dipping the dead shoulder into the water as there's no arms stroke on that side to help you. Get this right and your stroking arm will recover easily over the top of the water. However stay flat on that dead side and the arm recovery will be very tough!

If you struggle to coordinate the drill don't worry that's normal - in fact it's the whole idea and simply highlights that the timing of your stroke may need some work. When you get it right it should feel smooth and rhythmical.

Try 4x 100m with fins as: [ 25m left arm Unco + 25m right arm Unco + 50m freestyle swim + 20 seconds rest ]

You will feel the magic of Unco when you swim normal freestyle immediately after performing the drill. We recommend you perform a short swim every time following Unco, keeping the fins on and just feeling the rhythm and timing of the stroke. The improved smoothness and efficiency can be a revelation.

By the way, The Feel For The Blog has just exceeded thirty thousand subscribers, all since July last year! Thanks for reading, thanks for forwarding the posts to your friends and thanks to all our contributors. We've got some great material planned out for the coming months to keep you on an upward curve with your swimming and hopefully inspire you at the same time. Enjoy your time in the water!

Swim Smooth!

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