Friday, April 8, 2011

Have You Taken A Look Right In Front Of You?

Have you ever lifted your head a little to take a look at your freestyle hand entry, extension forwards and catch? It's so simple it's amazing we don't do it more often:


You might never have tried this before but it can be very revealing about your stroke. First, check that you are not crossing the centre line in front of your head, a stroke fault known as a 'crossover'. Aim for a nice straight hand entry and extension forwards without crossing the centre line:


It's best to try this exercise whilst swimming with fins on to keep your body position high in the water, bring your head up so your goggles are just underneath the surface and you'll get a great view of the action right in front of you. You can also check that you're entering the water fingertips first, not thumb first:


A thumb first entry is very bad for your shoulders and harms your catch.

Also check you are not dropping your wrist and elbow as you extend forwards, if you've worked on lengthening out your stroke this often happens and introduces a dead-spot to your stroke:


Finally look for what happens when you start catching the water. Are you pressing downwards? Or using a much better technique by pressing the water backwards with a bent elbow? :


This is just an exercise and will probably feel quite strange to look this far forwards but believe it or not there's quite a few swimmers who need this head position when they swim. The legendary Ian Thorpe looked straight forwards with his goggles just beneath the surface:


Ian had such a powerful kick he would literally start kicking air without lifting his head to look straight forwards. To see his amazing kick in action, watch the last 10 seconds of this clip with Ian swimming at race speed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDpxZyUYvqU

You might not have an incredibly powerful kick like Thorpie but if you are naturally buoyant in your lower body you too may feel very unbalanced with a low head position. Try a mid-head position, looking at the bottom of the pool about 1½ meters in front of you.

Or if you have very sinky legs, which the Arnie Swim Type tends to suffer from, then it may be necessary to look straight down towards the bottom of the pool to bring your legs up.

When looking at swimmers in the pool, always remember that head position is very much 'horses for courses', experiment with yours to see what feels best for your stroke. If you can maintain your body position then a higher head position is advantageous for your swimming posture, coordination of your stroke and for open water navigation.

Swim Smooth!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, as a matter of fact I have! Yesterday during my kick on side drill I was making sure my hand remained aligned with the line, when turning my head back into the water. When swimming freestyle with fins I check my hand entry more often than without them, but I make it a habit to check from time to time.

George

PS I often get a feeling that I have a "secret coach" watching my every practice, your advise never ceases to amaze me, it's always spot on!!!

joannek1 said...

Just having joined the Mr. Smooth, I have a question about the use or over use of pull-bouys during practices. Any opinions on this?

Jody

Mike said...

Another brilliant tip. I am experimenting with head position in relation to overall body position. Does anyone have a way of checking leg position for height in the water? I find it difficult to feel when heels are just breaking the surface.
Thanks for a great swimming site.

RadSwim said...

Very helpful post. Thanks.

Would you please explain 'horses for courses'. This phrase does not translate well from the native Australian into American.

Does it mean "to each, his own"?

Mike A said...

RadSwim, "Horses for Courses" is a common expression in the UK. In this context it means you have to take the approach that best suits the individual, rather than a "one size fits all" policy.

The origin of the expression is horse racing, where a horse that performs well on one racecourse might not do so well on a different one, depending on the particular characteristics of the course.

Rudolf said...

Woah this blog is not set up all that great for posting comments at the right spot, i recommend something more Wordpressing than blogger if you know what i mean, where you can do it your way all the way and have commenting always on for every new post, visible, not just a miniture "3 comments" link, just ask presseroo.co.cc

Anyway, lets get to the swimming stuff and your latest newsletter "... look in front of you ...".

For some this may have been old news, at least for Ian Thorpe :-) , and i have actually seen this video of him slicing up and down the lane several times before - yet, back than i looked about at everything - just not at his head!!

Once you pointed his head position out in that newsletter 8and i sure thank you for doing so!) i saw it and as always, i took the news to the pool and tried it - and now comes the big thing - to me, this was the tip of the century!

I have been following the standard advice to keep the head low so the feet will be high and just looked slightly ahead of me towards the bottom of all the pools i've been wetting my toes in.

Once i started to stick a float between my legs i realized that something is just awfully wrong with my style without any toys because there was to great a discrepancy, with the float fun and a breeze, without just a struggle, all though i was never really an Arnie, i also do my daily kicks training and always try to keep my butt and legs up straight.

Now i started to simply change and keep the head that little tad higher, almost can see my hands entering, but at least to just have the goggles minimally under water.

It took only 2 laps to understand what this changes:
For whatever illogical reason it seems to improve "body tension" (or core stability for lack of the right word to express this) and it actually lifts my butt all by itself that important tiny bit further up - and hence the entire kicking goes a lot easier and more powerful - and naturally that is also beneficial to the arm strokes.

One more beneficial side effect for all those swimming in crowded pools with slow swimmers to pass - looking forward like Ian Thorpe, rather than down like a little blind devil - helps you to spot the slow pokes you used to run into everytime with your head low, and that is a big help to slice around!

Besides, there is a former elite swimmer at my pool, he is the fastest guy in the water, yet, i was always wondering why he is so fast yet his head too was so high in the water.
I think this explains it to me, head down just afew degrees forward looking ain't the optimum, looking forward with the goggles just atad submerged is good for the overall swimming posture.

Maybe that was Ian's little secret, just like the equally legendary Leisel Jones has this odd looking little thing with her hands more or less upside down in breast stroke when she pulls them in front, i also copied that because it too helps to keep the upper body float a tad higher or better in the water while going for the breast stroke catch.

Sam from Breaststroke Technique said...

Interesting, I must admit I don't think I have ever looked forward at my arms during the freestyle stroke.

I just like the underwater photos! I gotta get an underwater camera/flip video recorder!

Sam

Emma Hardy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hoxn Ln said...

a mechanical process handbag replica or decorative art of the perfect performance of the stage.Among them, shape is slightly larger, at the same time watch convenience watch UK Replica watches became a popular option. In fact, the beginning of the epidemic as long as the Replica Rolex Watches 3 century watch from seventeenth Century, can be said to be the Watches Replica golden age for the development of the art of watchmaking, deeply influenced the process of technology today watch Designer handbags .