Friday, March 12, 2010

Sunk Without A Good Torpedo

A good torpedo push-off helps develop your full stroke technique. That's why every swimmer and triathlete should perform them well, whether they are a beginner, intermediate or advanced level swimmer.

torpedo position
Before we get into why that is, here's how to set up your tuck position for a great torpedo push off:

- Place one hand aligned on top of the other. Tuck the top hand's thumb over to hold it to the bottom hand.

- With your hands in this position, reach tall and straight above your head. Ideally you should be able to get your arms behind your head in this position - this is straighter in the water and creates less drag if you are flexible enough to do so.

- Next squeeze your shoulder blades together to pull your arms in tight - as narrow as possible.

This is the tuck that elite swimmers use - it's extremely fast. You will feel the stretch through the arms and shoulders but also through your core. You have to stretch your core to become straight and tall in this position and that's great practice because you should look to do that in your full stroke too.

This tightly tucked position is extremely low drag and you will travel very quickly off the wall with a good strong push from the legs. Aim to travel about 50-60cm (2 ft) beneath the surface of the water, surfacing just as you take your first stroke. If you do this right you should take your first stroke at least five meters down the lap. If your pool has turn flags, these are 5m from the ends so use them as a guide. Remember: first stroke after the flags!

So why be disciplined and make every push off in the pool a great torpedo, even if you're a triathlete racing only in open water? :

1) The tall stretch reminds you that this is how you should swim - tall and straight in the water. It's a little re-focus at the beginning of every lap.

2) You are traveling very fast off the wall in this position (possibly twice your normal swimming speed) and the flow and feel of the water round your body gives you insight into what swimming at a higher level feels like.

3) When you start your first few strokes you will be moving faster than normal. This is valuable experimental time for you - try and maintain that speed as long as possible with your stroke technique.

4) A good torpedo tuck develops and maintains your upper body flexibility. You will push off between 40 and 100 times every session and each of those is a small stretch to your chest and shoulders. Over time this can make a huge difference to your range of motion and so allow you to have a better stroke technique.

5) If you are lazy with your push-off with arms and legs everywhere, you'll probably swim that way in your full stroke too. Good stroke technique starts at the push off.

6) Last but not least, a good torpedo push off is fast, meaning you'll swim quicker in the pool. That might be just what you need to join the next lane up in your squad or drop your training partners at will!

One last tip for those of you who push-turn. After you perform your last stroke, stay on your side into the wall, don't reach the wall with you torso flat. Then use the hand that reaches the wall to push back over your head through the air dynamically, this shove flips you over, rotating your legs underneath you into their pushing position on the wall. This is a lot faster than coming in flat and having to rotate horizontally. We call this a 'submarine turn' - very slow and not pretty to watch!

Swim Smooth!

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