Use A Smiley Face To Improve Your Swimming

Here's a super-simple visualisation to improve your swimming - it might seem really basic but it can help any level of swimmer from beginner right through to elite competitor:

The Smiley Face Visualisation

Start by grabbing a sharpie to draw a smiley face on the palm of your hand:



Now, when you jump in the water and swim, think about where that smiley face is pointing. During your pull through underwater, focus on keeping the palm of your hand showing the smiley face directly back behind you, to the wall you pushed off from:



By pressing the water backwards in this way you are propelling yourself forwards. But press water to the side, down (or even up) and you will working hard but not gaining any forward movement from the effort.

Keep Things Super Simple

Compared to other sports, it's extremely easy to over-coach swimming with too much complicated advice. Having too much to think about at any one time is a sure fire recipe for slow progress.

Much better to work on one simple thing at a time and really focus on it. That's why visualisations like this are so effective.

Try this one the next time you swim!

Swim Smooth
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6 comments:

RogDavis said...

So you really don't recommend a S, Keyhole or Hourglass shaped pull to elongate the stroke?
Straight through in line is more effective?
There seems to be quite a bit of contrary advice from different coaches on this.

Adam Young said...

Hi Rog, yes absolutely, you should think about pulling straight backwards. There will be a very slight curvature as your shoulders rotate from one side to the other but you are thinking about pulling straight back.

The S-Pull method was disproven over 20 years ago now, although I'm sure you might still find some swim coaches out there recommending it.

Best, Adam

Rae said...

Why is it whenever anyone shows a picture of a hand pushing the water back, all of the fingers are straight? I used to purposely straighten my fingers as I believed it resulted in a larger surface area and therefore greater propulsion. I learnt from experience however, that if I keep my hands in a relaxed more natural 'cupped' position with fingers slightly bent, I got a better catch. I thought about why this was so and have reasoned that 1) any surface area advantage is negligible and 2) you actually 'catch' more water with a slighly cupped hand. The way I have convinced myself of the later is by thinking that if I held my hand out, palm up, and poured dried sand onto it, I would most likely catch more sand in a cupped hand than a completed flat hand.
Any Thoughts?

Wolfgang Gruber said...

Hi Paul,
nice smiley. I like this idea.

There is one point, you can improve with your presentation. Coaches mostly show their instructions in an upright position with their hand moving horizontally. But this is always misleading. It looks wrong and if you imitate it, you get a wrong feeling.

It would be better to move your hand correctly from head to feet. Or even better to lay down in a horizontal position and move the hand from head to feet. If you do this at the border of the pool, you can even show the right body rotation.

Wolfgang Gruber, Coach Masters Markgröningen, Germany.

Jonas said...

Swim Smooth has been advocating for many years now for a straight pull backwards. The problem with that is that they don't follow their own advice :-)

I've watched many times Swim Smooth excellent videos and DVD's and, to begin with, Paul Newsome himself does not follow a straight line backwards: as many other great swimmers, after the catch, he brings his hand and forearm to the midline of the body and then slightly out to the hip for the final push. In my opinion that's the correct underwater path, but it's certainly not a straight line.

Also, very importantly, in that correct stroke the fingers don't point vertically down all the time during the movement. This is physiologically impossible if we want to keep the hand and forearm together forming a straight line, that is, we shouldn't twist the wrist to the side.

Adam Young said...

Hi Rae, we do very much advise keeping a straight hand/fingers (not cupped) held straight with a little tone. It’s how elite swimmers swim and does give more propulsion - both because of the increased surface area and because of how the water flows over the hand. Do you know our scull #1 drill? Try doing that with a flat hand as we recommend and then a cupped hand and you’ll notice the reduced feel for the water.

Hi Wolfgang, I get what you are saying here. I’m not sure how obvious it is from the photos and the angle they are taken but Paul is leaning forwards so the direction of pull is more realistic to the body. With the smiley face visualisation the key point is that the hand is facing backwards and demonstrating it in this way works very well to make that point. Demonstrating standing upright and pulling down vertically (as you describe) certainly has its strong points but it does require the swimmer to rotate things back to horizontal in their mind, which they may not easily do.

Hi Jonas, in my message to Rog above you will notice that I said “… you should *think* about pulling straight backwards. There will be a *very* *slight* *curvature* as your shoulders rotate from one side to the other but you are thinking about pulling straight back”.

What you are seeing when you study our video is the hand moving first out slightly under the head and then back in slightly at the back of the stroke. This is because the shoulders themselves have width and as you rotate your shoulders from one side to the other they come out and then back in. The pull relative to the shoulders is straight however.

The thing is that when you are coaching a swimmer if you say that there is slight curvature then they deliberately add it in and it becomes far too much. If you think about pulling straight then the rotation of your shoulders gives you the right amount and that’s why we teach it this way.

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