Another Great Example - Different Strokes For Two Very Different Folks

Paul Newsome and the rest of the Swim Smooth coaching team have been here in Mallorca the last week running our 3 Day Coach Education Course at the Best Centre and then racing in the amazing Best Fest open water series (if you have the opportunity you've got to get out here for it!).

Meet two coaches who attended the Coach-Ed course. Nico (198cm tall) from Tenerife, Spain and Andrés (172cm tall) from Benidorm, Spain :

Both have developed their own swimming and stroke style around our Swim Types model to maximise their own performances given their height, build, arm-length etc.

As you can see from the photo, Nico is very tall and has very long arms and large hands. This makes him perfectly suited to the long stroke style of the classic Smooth Swim Type, which he fully embraces. He looks super smooth in the water - in fact it looks like he's barely trying at all (although of course he is).

On the other hand Andrés uses a shorter stroke with a faster turnover to great effect. We recognise this as the "Swinger" stroke style and done right it is an extremely fast and effective way of swimming. Just to prove that point, Andres is every bit as fast as Nico in the water, in fact he was slightly quicker in our CSS test during the course, posting 5:18 and 2:34 for his 400m and 200m splits, giving him a CSS pace of 1:22 /100m - great swimming.

So how do they look in the water? Here they are swimming one behind the other during that 400m swim:

No prizes for guessing which one is which! Andrés has managed to catch Nico and sit on his feet; that may skew his CSS result a little so be wary yourself of doing this with another swimmer intentionally during a CSS test - leave a big gap to the person in front or smoothly (and safely) overtake them.

It's worth noting whilst we are here that most Swingers enjoy the rough and tumble of open water swimming and are naturally good at drafting - like Andrés - while most Smooths tend to avoid it and prefer clear water to keep that range in their stroke long and continuous.

We've shown you quite a few examples over the years of how the stroke styles of great swimmers vary depending on their height, build, experience and flexibility. You might remember Byron vs. Brad a couple of months ago. We do this to re-enforce the point these differences are everywhere and extremely common - something this is so often overlooked with traditional swim coaching.

You might be sitting there thinking that this is an extreme example but really it isn't. In the group of 20 coaches on the Coach-Ed course Nico wasn't even the tallest and Andrés was about average height for the group (there were plenty of shorter coaches). Of course being well matched in pace terms makes these two interesting to compare here. These differences are EVERYWHERE when you look for them.

So every swimmer should be asking themselves the question: Am I trying to swim with the wrong style for my natural make-up? Doing so will SERIOUSLY hold your swimming back!

Swim Smooth!


Michele said...

Just a curiosity: swinger or smooth style, will it come "naturally" depending on individual built?
Or you think everyone should pursue on purpose the style that better suit himself?

Another question: I read on your blog about "ape index", what if you are short but with relatively long arms? which is the best swim type for you?

Very interesting article!

Michele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

Great swimming! I notice that both Nico and Andres are breathing every two strokes. Is this from the exertion of the CSS test?

Jonas said...

Very interesting comparison indeed, but there is a FLAW in it: if Nico increases his stroke rate, Andres has no chance against him in the SWIMMING POOL. On the contrary, in OPEN ROUGH WATER, if Nico keeps his Smooth style, increasing his stroke rate would probably not be enough to beat Andres.

So the difference between the Swinger and the Smooth styles has less to do with the physical characteristics of the swimmers than with WHERE they swim.

Antony said...

As someone who has a +15cm (6") Ape index, how would you recommend approaching swimming in choppy ocean water? With my Ape index, I would be more naturally suited to the smooth style, but I am wondering if going more swinger is better in the ocean, especially in long distances in cold water (1500M+, 14C/56F temperature, no wetsuit) where just keeping hypothermia at bay is an issue. Also, how much can one go swinging if their arms are long? Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying this as a know-it-all and I am certainly not in the position to criticise but I'm just curious about a couple of things that I noticed.

Nico's hands looks like they turn up slightly and elbows drop before his catch.
Andre seems to lift his head and as a result his left hand looks like it is slapping down and pressing down to support him.

I guess I'm just looking too close and those are just artefacts of the different stroke types?

Anonymous said...

The woman on the top with the snorkel has a beautiful smooth stroke.

Adam Young said...

Hi Michele, yes to a large extent it occurs naturally depending on your natural make-up if you identify stroke flaws and work on correcting them. However if you have a pre-conceived notion in your head that you must swim a certain way (for instance with a long stroke) then yes it may take a conscious decision to change direction.

Hi Steven, yes they are breathing every 2 - we'd like to see them breathing every 3 for the majority of their training to help balance out their strokes.

Hi Jonas, we STRONGLY disagree with you on that - there are many great smooths who excel in open water (with a few small stroke modifications) and many swingers who dominate in the pool too (heard of Gregorio Paltrinieri?).

Hi Antony, we liked your question so much we dedicated this week's blog to it! Check it out here:

Hi Anonymous, yes we're not holding them up as perfect swimmers and still have areas of their strokes to improve on. :)

Hi Anonymous2, yes a nice stroke indeed but perhaps more Swinger than Smooth?

Cheers everyone,


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