Motivating The Smooth!

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In our sixth and final part in our Swim Type series, we look at the famous Smooth Swim Type, those brilliant performers in the water that many swimmers aspire to imitate.

Smooths make look near 'perfect' when they swim but being a Smooth is not without its challenges, as we'll outline below!

Swim Type Profile 6: Motivating The Smooth!

Smooths are always competent, stylish swimmers and have a significant swimming background as a child. Instantly recognisable in the water, they travel quickly and smoothly, and seemingly effortlessly, through the water. As any Smooth will tell you though, this is something of an illusion and there is actually plenty of effort going into their stroke.

Natural sprinters, Smooths always have great pool skills such as dives, turns and underwater work. They are talented, adaptable athletes who tend to be good at any sport they to turn their hand to.

Here's classic Smooth, Jono Van Hazel in action, showing us his long flowing stroke:

Notice the classic high elbow over the water with the fingertips passing very low to the water. If you have enough flexibility to do this, a high elbow recovery can work well in flat pool swimming conditions but in open water, swimming close to other swimmers, this can be a problem as the low hand tends to catch waves and chop on the surface.

A piece of advice we always offer Smooths is to open that arm out a touch to give a little more clearance over the surface when swimming in open water:

This is not as straight as a Swinger might take the arm but is just enough to give a little more clearance over the surface.

Under the water, Smooths nearly always use a continuous 6 beat flutter kick:

The push from their kick helps them develop that long stroke that they are famous for.

Many Overgliders have tried to combine a long stroke with a slower 2-beat kick but this is nearly always a mistake. If you're an Overglider and you want to be Smooth (we're sure you do!) then try using a light 6 beat flutter instead. This won't use much energy (your legs will quickly get used to it) and it will lift you higher in the water, saving you much more in reducing drag than you are expending in kicking.

Here's the underwater clip again, this time in slow motion:

Look carefully at the timing of the stroke. As one stroke finishes at the rear, the next stroke immediately starts at the front. Smooths may look like they are gliding down the pool but this is in fact an illusion, they move continuously from one stroke to the next as they swim, and so should you!

If they wanted, Smooths could certainly take fewer strokes by introducing a pause-and-glide at the front of the stroke but they don't do this, as it would make them slower and less efficient. To quote the legendary Ian Thorpe (perhaps the ultimate Smooth):

I've got it down to 24 per lap, which is about as low as I want it to get. I could reduce it by another four strokes but the danger is that I'd get to the point where I'm gliding rather than swimming efficiently.

Ian's talking about deliberately taking fewer strokes per lap during a technique set but the interesting point here is that when swimming in a race he actually takes 32 strokes per 50m. A full 10-12 strokes more than he could if he wanted to! Great swimmers haven't maximised their stroke length at all, they've found the right stroke length for them.


When watching Smooths they may appear to be perfect but there are a couple of small flaws that can develop (albeit fairly minor ones!) :

Smooths often turn the hand outwards at full extension in front of the head:

In this position it should be fingers should be pointing straight down the pool. Turning outwards like this acts to drop the elbow during the catch.

They may also turn their head to breathe a little late, reducing the time they have available to breathe. Do that and you may feel the recovering arm stroking across your face whilst you are finishing your breath:


When coaching Smooths, one theme that comes up time and time again is the tendency to feel a little demotivated or uninspired about their swimming. They're great swimmers (and they know it) but they often feel they have nothing to prove and lack that drive to train hard.

So a key focus when coaching Smooths needs to be to create goals and challenges that fire them up. This could be training using some different types of session in the pool than they are used to, or moving from racing in the pool to the open water - presenting new stroke technique and tactical challenges for them to adapt to.

Quick Smooth Facts

Typical speed range: 3:40 to 5:40 for 400m.

Typical stroke rate: 60 to 80 SPM

Likes: Technique sets with lots of variety.
Loves: Sprinting with lots of recovery!
Dislikes: Open water swimming (until they have got to grips with the environment)
Hates: Long continuous sets (e.g. Red Mist sessions)

Learning style: Highly proprioceptive and adaptive, Smooths only have to be shown something once to fix it.

Common professions: Doctors, Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, Pilots, TV Presenters, Politicians

Next Steps - Motivating The Smooth

We call our Smooth development process "Motivating The Smooth" because as well as giving their stroke a little tune-up, we also focus on inspiring Smooths with some new challenges and to show how to go about transitioning to being brilliant open water swimmers.

The process is contained within the Swim Smooth Coaching System:

And in the Smooth Swim Type Guide download:

About Swim Types

The Swim Type system is a way of understanding how the faults in a swimmer's stroke tend to cluster together in classic ways.

It gives you insight into the 'nuts and bolts' making up any swimmer and a highly developed step-by-step stroke correction process for each type to follow.

We've made the Swim Type system memorable and easy to understand by using a little humour and some cartoon characters. But don't by fooled, the insight behind each type is the result of a huge amount of empirical study involved thousands of individual swimmers over the last 10 years:

Find out more about the system on our dedicated microsite:

Swim Smooth!

1 comment:

Jonas said...

Jono van Hazel has the nicest swimming style I've ever seen. Other swimmers were faster than him but didn't have as nice a style as him. Even Ian Thorpe and Michael Helps don't swim as smoothly as him.

It was, of course, only natural to model Mr Smooth on Jono !

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