Friday, December 11, 2015

Supporting The Swinger!

SS Clinics and Camps:
In the fifth part of our Swim Type series we're going to take a look at a group of experienced swimmers who love swimming. The stalwarts of masters squads, Swingers are fast and efficient swimmers but go largely under appreciated.

At Swim Smooth we've been championing the Swinger's case for a while now - trying to win them some of the recognition they deserve. The question for you is, should you apply a little of their stroke style to your own swimming and unleash your own inner Swinger?


Swim Type Profile 5: The Swinger

The Swinger population is split roughly equally male and female, and nearly always has a swimming background as a child. They are highly motivated swimmers who love being in the water and getting on with things.

Swingers are natural distance swimmers and make brilliant open water swimmers but tend to struggle over shorter sprint distances, feeling they don't have the top speed of their Smooth counterparts.

Most elite triathletes are Swingers and many elite swimmers also use this style to great effect such as Janet Evans, Laure Manadou, Lotte Friis and David Davies.

Swimming as a child, their potential often goes unrecognised as most junior events are 200m or less, favouring the kids with sprinter physiology.

Here's a classic Swinger in action, elite open water swimmer Melissa Benson:



Notice there's a lot of punch and rhythm to the stroke and an open 'swinging' arm recovery, which is where this style get its name from. Swingers naturally prefer this style of recovery which is perfect for open water swimming as the higher hand easily clears chop and the open arm requires less stretch from a wetsuit.

From underwater we often see a vertical 'switch' kick:



This style of kick is technically called a 2-beat kick because there are two kicks per stroke cycle. A conventional flutter kick is a 6-beat kick. We see a roughly 50/50 split of Swingers using a 2-beat and 6-beat kick in their stroke.

In non-elite swingers we often we see a less formalised two beat kick that needs a bit of a tune up:



Stroke Length

Swingers don't use the classical long smooth stroke style (of the Smooth Swim Type) and can look hurried or choppy in their stroke. For this reason Swingers are very much under-appreciated in the swimming world and don't get the recognition they deserve. Don't be deceived though, performed well this style is a very fast and efficient way of swimming - and is the optimum way for many swimmers to swim.

You can think of this style of swimming as akin to spinning a smaller gear on the bike, each pedal or arm stroke takes less effort but you take more of them. The reduced force on each stroke makes this style suit elite triathletes who tend to be very lean in the upper body. By having a shorter stroke with a faster turnover they don't need to carry the muscle mass of an elite smooth swimmer - a huge advantage when it comes to running a fast 10K at the end of the race.

Depending on their height and arm length, a Swinger will take somewhere between 42 and 60 strokes per 50m (equivalent to 18 to 28 strokes in a 25m pool). Certainly a swimmer of their ability could take fewer strokes per length if they wanted but that isn't necessarily the best thing for them to do.


Should Swingers Try And Become Smooths?

In a word, no! Swingers swim with a style that naturally suits them and many Olympic Champion and World Record Holders have used it to great effect. The style is not limiting them or holding them back in any way. In fact for open water swimming it's a distinct advantage, the punch and rhythm of the stroke helping them move effectively through disturbed water.

Like any swimmer left to their own devices, most Swingers could do with a little stroke refinement but this should be done within their existing stroke style.

If you take a true Swinger (not an Arnie) and coach them towards using a longer smoother style, they become slower and less efficient. It simply doesn't work for them.


Quick Swinger Facts

Typical speed range: 3:50 to 6:30 for 400m

Typical stroke rate: 65 to 110(!) SPM

Likes: Swimming!
Loves: Long continuous sets they can get their teeth into.
Dislikes: Bitty technique sessions with lots of explanation from the coach.
Hates: Sprinting!

Learning style: Happy to give anything a go and likes to get on and try new ideas without too much planning or forethought.

Common professions: Teachers, coaches, event organisers, entrepreneurs.


Next Steps - Supporting The Swinger

We call our Swinger development process "Supporting The Swinger" because it recognises and re-enforces the strengths of the Swinger whilst tuning up any stroke flaws. It also looks at developing an effective two beat kick and fine tuning the stroke rhythm so you don't 'over-rev'.

By following this process and getting their training right, any Swinger can make significant strides forward. The process is contained within the Swim Smooth Coaching System:


And in the Swinger 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: www.swimtypes.com


Swim Smooth!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I confess a bit of an envy for the laid-back swinger style, both in personality and in swimming (I do a lot of open-water swimming)— but, true to my Snooty Smoothie roots, I will point out one thing about Swinging: it is not always a lane-friendly style. Even a short-armed Swinger can easily take up more than half a lane-width, and passing or overtaking can be hazardous. In the ultimate swim school, Swingers would get a dedicated extra-wide Swinger's Lane.

Adam Young said...

LOL, good points Anonymous!

Oliver K said...

I find one aspect here interesting/confusing/enlightening:

Sometimes for the swinger style the straight arm recovery is taken as most characteristic. But that doesn't seem right, since for example Scott Tucker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5YhN-bhzpQ
has a straight-arm recovery, but I think he is a "smooth" (using a powerful pull, as long as possible).

Why isn't that style (straight-arm recovery over the middle, not over the sides) more popular? The argument about "higher hand" is much more true here, and this recovery style doesn't have the disadvantage of the lateral forces, which are created when swinging over the sides? I have no idea about the wetsuit, but as you describe it, "swingers" also occur in pool swimming.

So what makes a "swinger"? The weaker pull?

And then, where does actually that weaker pull come from?? Because the swinger doesn't stretch out, and then perhaps also has less acceleration in the pull?

Adam Young said...

Hi Oliver,

Yes you're quite right, some smooths do use a straighter arm in sprint events and Scott Tucker is a good example of that. Perhaps the most famous example is Michael Klim. Interesting to see - they tend to have been coached in this direction rather than doing is naturally.

First thing to say is that when racing they won't have time to get their arm as high as when doing demonstrations as in your youtube clip. But that being said, you're right to say that it's probably higher than your classic distance swimming swinger.

The reason the Swinger's arm is lower is that their body rotation is less because their stroke length is shorter. That's fundamental to the 'turning a smaller gear on the bike' style of stroke. Sprinters are naturally very powerful and can create more force to make a longer stroke, which in turn makes for more body rotation and a higher arm.

As an important aside, it's important to note that 99% of smooths use a strong 6-beat kick to create that long smooth style - the less powerful the kick, the less stroke length, so less rotation and a lower arm.

> Because the swinger doesn't stretch out, and then perhaps also has less acceleration in the pull?

Yes, Swingers will have less acceleration during the pull but because their stroke is more continuous in terms of propulsion, they will have less deceleration between strokes too.

I hope that helps!

Adam