Timing The Rear Of The Stroke

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A couple of weeks ago on "How The Catch Should Feel To You", Mark Schnupp asked:

"I was wondering if you could expand upon this post and discuss the rotation of the hips and how they relate to the catch and pull to include timing, what to look for, what it should feel like and some drills to coordinate it. I know that I struggle with this and I'm sure others do as well. I know that all of the power comes from the rotation of the hips and would love to see a post on how that all is supposed to work."

That's a great question Mark. Many swimmers do struggle with timing their body rotation; it's one thing that separates intermediate from advanced level swimmers. Before we look at a visualisation to help you develop this, we need a quick word of caution: the reason most swimmers struggle with timing their rotation is that they have one or more fundamental stroke flaws in place. For instance:

- They have poor alignment with crossovers in front of the head or under the body.

- They have an over-glide in the stroke.

- They press down on the water during the catch phase.

- Their stroke falls apart when breathing.

Most beginner and intermediate swimmers have one or more of these problems in place in their stroke, which makes developing good rhythm and timing very difficult. If that's you it could well explain why you struggle to feel rotational power - work on those issues directly instead and good timing will start to follow naturally once everything else is right in the stroke.

That being said, if you are a stronger swimmer with a good basic stroke technique then a little focus on rhythm and timing can help bring everything together. At Swim Smooth we like to use a visualisation where we 'rotate the hips ahead of the hands':

Notice in the sequence above how the hip rotates out of the way before the hand reaches it. As your hand comes through and past your chest and stomach, visualise rotating your hip out of the way, maintaining a healthy gap between the two. Keep the effort in the arm stroke moderate and emphasise the hip rotation instead.

Try this visualisation out the next time you swim. It's at its most effective immediately after some catch development drills such as sculling and doggy paddle from our DVD Boxset or Catch Masterclass.

Swim Smooth!


drsean said...

Thanks for rotation tip, will try it. I see the swimmers hand/fingers are "open" . Has this (fingers "closed" or "open") been discussed ? if so which blog?

Unknown said...

What do you recommend for weight-training to improve the hands strength? I am trying to build up my endurance but my hands get tired realy fast.

Anonymous said...

I love this site. I teach lifeguarding in Vancouver and include a link in my course outlines. For myself, I have shaved off almost 5 seconds from my best 100m time. Now if only I could ask Mr. Smooth out for coffee....

Mark Schnupp said...

Thanks guys !! exactly what I needed to see and hear...I'll be in the pool putting these tips to good use. Thanks again.

Mark Schnupp

Tony said...

Hi Guys
The last two posts have been great! I'm trying to help a fellow swimmer improve. She swims well with a nice horizontal body position, but feels she lacks power to keep up with others she swims with. I thought her elbow was too stiff and her catch wasn't working; then you posted about the catch! Now I'm talking to her about connecting the pull to her hips through the core and getting power from her rotation; then you post this! How good is that!
Great work, guys - I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I have a fairly good freestyle stroke pattern but I am a terrible kicker. I love swimming open water in a wet suit or pulling in a pool using my pull buoy to float my legs (which I call my anchors). I have begun doing your kicking on my side drill with fins, and 6-1-6 drills. What drills can I do to coordinate the timing of my 2 beat kick with my arm stroke?

Rod said...

Hi Guys,

I am having a lot of trouble getting my kick working; legs spread too far and one leg kicking to the side!

Adam Young said...

Hi drsean, we talk quite a lot about that in our DVDs. We recommend holding your fingers lightly together without any gaps. It takes a great deal of skill for elite swimmers to hold them every so slightly apart - it gives them a very (very) slight advantage but get it wrong and you risk losing a lot from having the fingers spread too wide.

Thank Anonymous! Mr Smooth is flattered by your comments!!

All the best going forward Mark!

Hi Tony, how hard does your friend kick? Could she be kicktastic? http://www.swimtypes.com/kicktastic.html

Hi Anonymous, are you a natural two beat kicker or is this something you've learnt? What are you thinking about when you swim? Anything you've been working on recently? A two beat kick isn't for everyone, you actually need a high stroke rate and a great catch to make it work well. If in doubt stick with a light flutter kick!

Hi Rod, does this profile ring any bells? http://www.swimtypes.com/arnie.html

Scissor kicks are normally caused by a crossover in front of the head (this causes you to lose balance and scissor kick to regain it). To improve this check out:






karthic said...

Nice relevant article. My question is are the hips and shoulders rotating as one unit? or should the hips lead while the line joining both shoulders are still parallel to the bottom of the pool?
And if the hips leads when should the shoulders start rotating?
This is very important to me as I am stuggling and I rotate both hips and shoulders as one unit.
Thx much in advance

Adam Young said...

Hi Karthic,

Yes, the hips and shoulders should rotate together for distance freestyle swimming. There will be some slight differences in timing but in the main they are together and should feel as such.

If this doesn't feel right then it's very likely indeed there's a problem elsewhere in your stroke. For instance a crossover, core flex or poor catch technique. All of these will throw off your stroke timing and make the rotation and fluidity of your stroke feel awkward.

I hope that helps and makes sense.


Mark Lofting said...

Great top and great site thanks for all the help. One question on this then, if you we're to do the 'touch thigh' drill you make sure that when you are at the back end of the stroke and touching your thigh it would actually be on the surface of the water?

Adam Young said...

Hi Mark,

I guess it would depend which part of the thigh - if it's the front it would still be underwater.

However generally we recommend this visualisation above as an alternative to the toughing your thigh drill. After all there's a reason you don't touch your thigh when swimming properly - it's already out of the way. :)


Unknown said...

Great post!

Adam, after the catch is set up, should we start the pull through connected with the hip rotation? i.e., should we "hold" the water and wait for the hip rotation to pull through?

Unknown said...

Hi Unknown,

Yes that is the correct timing, but we wouldn't encourage you to 'wait' or be patient with the lead hand, as you'll simply end up putting on the brakes rather than set up and effective catch and pull through. Use UNCO to practice the timing of this drill- your stroke will feel amazing when you get his right!

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