Friday, November 22, 2013

Does Your Stroke Need More Oomph?

If you're quite new to swimming, you're likely to fit the mould of one of two of our Swim Types: The Arnie or The Bambino. At first sight they may look quite similar in the water but in fact they are very different swimmers.

The Arnie is the classic swimmer who tends to fight the water, with a large crossover in the stroke, low lying legs and often a scissor kick. These are normally athletic guys and girls with a background in other sports who try to use their strength to power through the water but unfortunately they work much more against the water than with it, wasting a lot of energy:


See the full Arnie profile here to see if it fits your swimming.

The Bambino may have some of those faults too but uses a much lower level of effort with the hands slipping gently through the water with very little traction. They may take on water when they breathe as the lead hand collapses downwards on a breathing stroke giving them no support whilst taking a breath:


See the full Bambino profile here to see if it fits your swimming.

If you are an Arnie, slowing down your stroke slightly is a good idea to give you the time to lengthen out on each stroke. Focusing on getting more control is critical to improve your swimming. This is the traditional approach to swim coaching at work which will serve Arnies well. Of course, once you've developed your technique, you can speed things up again to get further gains in speed.

However, the Bambino responds in a very different way. Slow your stroke down and you lose what little attachment on the water you have and so things get harder, not easier. With your swimming you actually need a little more stroke rhythm - or as we like to call it: OOMPH!

The next time you swim, try focusing on positive movements in your stroke and getting a good rhythm going. You can do this simply from feel or use a Tempo Trainer Pro to make small adjustments and get things just right. These little beepers sit underneath your swim cap and beep a rhythm to you, like a metronome but for swimming. You simply time your stroke to the beep. At the moment you probably take something in the region of 40 to 54 strokes per minute but we suggest you try lifting that initially by 3-6 strokes per minute up to around 50-60 strokes per minute:

For an Arnie lifting their stroke rate would definitely make things harder and less efficient but for Bambinos a greater rhythm actually makes things easier as you gain a better feel the water and traction with your arms stroke. We're not looking to turn you into a thrashing beast but a little more purpose and oomph is definitely a good thing for your stroke style.

Once you've tried this and got the feel of swimming with a greater sense of positivity, introduce the One-Two-Stretch Mantra we talked about here: www.feelforthewater.com/2012/05/two-quick-tips-if-you-struggle-with.html. You'll soon be on the way to faster and more efficient swimming!

Swim Smooth!

3 comments:

Richard said...

You suggest that "Arnies" could improve their swim performance by not try to muscle their way through the water. Maybe a lack of buoyancy and very sinky legs force us to swim that way.

The body has a density very similar to water (because it is mostly water). Women and men with some body fat are slightly less dense, Arnies slightly more. It's pretty simple physics that this small difference makes a huge difference to swim performance. Floaters can use all their energy for propulsion, sinkers waste a large proportion just staying afloat.

If I push off the wall in a torpedo without stroking, I'm on the bottom of the pool in a very few metres (with lungs full). Lenthening my stroke is the worst thing I can do because I just lose momentum and sink if I don't keep moving.

What's the solution ? Swim in the ocean or wear a wet suit.

Jonas said...

I would suggest to Richard to train differently in the gym. More cardiovascular exercises and less body building, much less, in fact mostly exercises to tonify the muscles (less weight and more repetitions). And also a lot of stretching to be more flexible and open the range of movement in the water. This way buoyancy will dramatically improve. I would also suggest to learn to swim properly backstroke and of course to breathe correctly, especially exhaling correctly.

Alastair Dennis said...

I agree with Jonas above and would add that while some people are less buoyant it does not mean they can't be horizontal in the water albeit a little lower. Try reaching hands on entry deeper down into the water as this will lift the legs more as well as the obvious head down and possibly chest down positions. What Ive found with my athletes like Richard is that you need to ride them more (coach intensity) , like a bronco, until they learn to be in the water rather than fight it- as swim smooth say.
All the best.
Ali