Thursday, August 19, 2010

Should You Emphasise The Back Of Your Stroke?

Many swimmers are under the impression they should complete the back of the freestyle stroke with a big push as the hand passes the hip. Over-emphasising this can cause real problems for a swimmer:

- It tends to knock your hips off line, causing you to snake down the pool, adding drag.

- In tends to fling your hand out of the water at the back of the stroke giving an unbalanced arm recovery action. Not only does this harm your rhythm but it can also cause you to snake.

- Locking out your elbow causes a delay in the stroke timing. Since the other arm is extended forwards at this point it naturally causes a pause at the front too. In other words, over-emphasising the back of the stroke can harm your efficiency by turning you into an overglider.

- The amount of extra propulsion you gain is really quite small and it's an inefficient way to generate it. Swimming with a distinct push at the hip is very hard to sustain, the effort required is normally too high to keep going for more than a few laps. Swimming is quite deceptive in this regard, things that feel easy for 25m can very quickly become an all-out effort beyond 100m when a lack of efficiency really starts to tell.

If you watch elite swimmers racing, you'll see that they don't complete each stroke with a distinct push and they don't lock out their elbows straight. They normally finish the back of the stroke with a bent elbow in fact. Here's a nice clip of freestyle great Ian Thorpe showing just this:

Great swimmers like Ian finish their stroke naturally as a consequence of their body rotation and timing. We suggest you do the same: work on your catch, stroke timing and rhythm, and the back of the stroke will naturally follow and click into place when everything else is right. This flowing action from one part of the stroke to the next is the major cause of the 'sweet spots' you can find in your stroke with our ramp test.

Swim Smooth!

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