Swimming Souplesse With Emma Pooley

In the world of cycling, great rider's pedalling techniques are studied and admired. Through training for tens of thousands of hours and turning millions of pedal strokes, a professional cyclists movements are a finely tuned model of efficiency. By applying just the right pressure to the pedals, in the right direction, at the right time, they make pedalling look deceptively easy - in fact almost effortless.

The French have a word for this - Souplesse - which is hard to translate perfectly into English but speaks of a rider's pedalling suppleness: a fluidity of movement, the smoothness of transition from one pedal stroke to the next and a sense of seamless rhythm. All time cycling greats such as Coppi and Anquetil were famous for their souplesse and the sense of artistry it brought to their riding.

Co-incidentally, in Perth Paul Newsome has been working with cycling World Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist Emma Pooley on her swimming. Emma's got a background in triathlon before cycling and is getting back into the sport, winning the Swissman Extreme Triathlon last year. Whilst working on developing her freestyle stroke, Paul asked her about Souplesse in cycling. Here's a brief extract:

[R-L] Emma, Paul and Richard Stannard in Perth yesterday
After his morning swim, we also quickly asked Perth squad regular Matt Illingworth (triple Commonwealth Games medallist) about his transition from cycling to swimming:

Of course it's not just cyclists who have souplesse, great swimmers also use a finely coordinated sequence of fluid movements. And just like with cycling all that hard training has - ironically - brought their stroke to a point where it can look deceptively effortless too.

If you've been focused on trying to take as few strokes as possible per length then it's quite likely you've started to lose touch with the smoothness and continuity of your stroke. Perhaps you need to work a little more on your swimming souplesse, making your movements relaxed but continuous, smoothly transitioning from one stroke to the next.

As you do this, still use the full range of your stroke but keep things smooth and rhythmical - without any hitches or pauses - and you'll soon be on the way to becoming a faster and more efficient swimmer.

Swim Smooth!


Hector Rodriguez said...

Guys I really like your newsletters. You find a way to keep then interesting.

Also your knowledge on swimming technique is amazing. Being a competitive swimmer myself I still learn from you guys.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading it and putting a lot into practice.
I swam for years and now coach an awesome group of kids in Decatur, Alabama.
I have been looking for a way to describe the smoothness and rhythm that makes the best swimmers look like they are putting little effort into their phenomenal strokes.
You gave me it!!! Thank you!!!
Have an awesome day,

Adam Young said...

Thanks Hector and Dawn, that's nice of you to say.

All the best with your swimming and coaching - spread the word about us and we'll continue to work hard for you! Deal? :)


Rudolf said...

Totally none-related question here.

I found a scientific study conducted by some entity in Western Australia that concluded goggles do raise inner eye pressure and point out the risk for anyone with glaucoma or that it could lead to that.

I have some reason to consider thinking about this issue and would have loved to hear / read your opinion on this.

I'd assume the young guns have nothing to worry about, but, have you ever heard of such from a bit older swimmers who may swim A LOT??

Any alternatives to goggles or alternative exercises that do not need the goggles be put on, such as kicking with kick board or ... ???

Cyndy@swimsmooth said...

Hi Rudolf,

Interesting results from that study- I'll check it out as it also runs in my family, thanks for the tip!

As for alternatives, you could torpedo kick on your back without goggles or I suppose find a freshwater pool to swim in?

Anonymous said...

Incredible post.

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