Identify Your Stroke Faults With 'Stroke Mirroring'

Your 'proprioception' is the technical term for your awareness of the position of parts of your body and their movements. Since we can't see ourselves as we swim, we all rely heavily on our proprioception to develop our swimming.

Note that in some areas of your stroke you will have great awareness but in others you will have gaps or holes where you can't feel or judge things nearly as well. It could be that in front of your head you are unaware of where your arm and hand is pointing, which can easily lead to a crossover:

Or during the catch you feel like you are pressing backwards but in fact are pressing downwards with a straight arm:

So these gaps in your proprioception can easily lead to stroke flaws. It's why when you see yourself swimming on video and spot a fault you think "Wow, I could have sworn I wasn't doing that!". (For an amusing example of the power of video analysis, see:

This also explains why even when you become aware of stroke flaw it can still be hard to fix. It's not just a habit you have to break but a position in which you need to develop better proprioception.

Stroke Mirroring

Here's a super-simple technique to help you identify flaws in your stroke and fill in those gaps in your proprioception. It works best (but isn't limited to) when you have a stroke fault on one side but not the other. We call it 'Stroke Mirroring':

As you swim, pick an area of your stroke and become aware of what each side of your body is doing in turn and mentally compare the two sides. With what path does the left hand travel under the body and then how does the right hand do it in comparison? Are they different and which side needs an adjustment? Maybe it's both sides!

You can do this with any part of the stroke but make sure you try the following areas:

- The position and angle of your head when you breathe to either side. Do you lift it? Or look forwards or behind?

- The straightness of your legs - where do they point and do you ever bend the knee significantly?

- Where your hand and arms are as they enter the water and extend forwards (even when you breathe).

- How do your arms carry over the surface of the water?

- How are your shoulders and hips rotating to the side?

- As you enter the water and extend forwards, are you keeping your elbow higher than your wrist and your wrist higher than the fingertips?

Comparing the two sides of your body in this way can be surprisingly insightful. Make sure you are swimming normally with a good rhythm and spend around 50m on each area, moving on if you don't find anything interesting.

Swim Smooth!


Jonas said...

Very important post here: the difference between what we think we're doing and what we're really doing. I am not sure the 'Stroke Mirroring" can work for everybody. Instead what surely works is to be filmed (over the water and under the water). I did this with Swim Smooth and it works terrifically. If you accompany this with an instructor really getting IN the water with you and correcting your mistakes directly, the results are guaranteed !!

RikV said...

using mirrors realy can help.
The best thing about using mirrors is instant feedback.
Video is very good and supports, but in the water mirrors can help you.
A great and, for a group, cheap investment.

sjl4444 said...

Could you please clarify the following quote from this post? I can't picture this.
Susan from North Carolina

- As you enter the water and extend forwards, are you keeping your elbow higher than your wrist and your wrist higher than the elbow?

Adam Young said...

Hi Susan, sorry that was a typo in the post - it's been corrected above!


Unknown said...

Can you please recommend a cheap underwater video camera for us to look at our strokes ?

Rudolf said...

May i add my request from last newsletter here again?

I asked for your analysis of this NEW TREND among elite swimmers (especially from the US) to copy Michael Phelps "hiphop freestyle" (or you could call it yoyo freestyle if you wish, where one side of the body always swings / pulls higher than the other).
I just saw also a Brazilian elite swimmer here at the Flamengo Club's pool now doing the exact same thing, so, there is a trend going on, Kathy Ledecky with her fabulous times, even Ryan Lochte does it now, and finally the Brazilians pick this up as well, and they all are VERY fast with it, and it sure ain't "smooth" looking - but in any case, i would really really love to get to the bottom of this and take it to the pool and start trying with the right info on how it's done...

Thanks a million oriental rugs in advance.

wackerb said...

It seems like the time is ripe for some software that can split left from right and then superimpose the images to highlight any differences.

Adam Young said...

Hi Simone, you have a lot of options! The cheapest way might be to buy a waterproof housing for your phone. "Lifeproof" make some excellent cases:

Hi Rudolf, I'm not sure if it's a trend (or even new, Michael Phelps won his first Olympic Golds 11 years ago after all!) but I did reply on the post two weeks ago to you.


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