Friday, September 10, 2010

Leading With Your Hands

Thanks for all your emails and comments following last week's blog - your questions were about our description of this picture:

We said it showed "Michelle's dropping her wrist whilst breathing", you said "no, she's dropping her elbow". This is such an interesting point of perspective that we decided to discuss it this week - it could make a big improvement to your swimming.

Here's a zoom of Michelle's forearm and hand:

We can see really clearly there that you guys were right, looking at the line between forearm and hand, the wrist angle is good. However, relative to the water, her wrist is dropped and the palm facing forwards.

The problem with the position Michelle's reached there is twofold. With the elbow lower than the wrist it's going to be hard to get a good catch on the water as she's going to have to commence the next movement by pushing the water downwards rather than pressing it backwards. Also, with her palm facing forwards she's creating drag and again it's hard to press the water backwards from there. Instead, she should be in a nice strong catch setup position, as demonstrated by Mr Smooth here:

If you can achieve this position you'll generate more propulsion for a given effort and automatically reduce any deadspots in your stroke.

The question we'd like to ask is what came first, did the dropped elbow cause the wrist to drop? Or did the hand position drop the elbow? Against convention, we'd argue the latter. As humans we have good awareness (technical term: proprioception) of our hands and so we naturally coordinate and lead the stroke with them. Our awareness of the arms themselves is much lower and so they tend to naturally follow. By focusing on correcting the hand position - tipping the wrist downwards into the position shown by Mr Smooth - the forearm automatically raises into a higher elbow position.

For this reason, within Swim Smooth we often talk in terms of wrist positions. It's an example of our cause and effect methodology that runs through all our coaching. Focus on the thing at the cause of the problem - in this case wrist position - and the rest will click into place. It's a much faster and less frustrating way to make stroke corrections.

Coaches, try this yourself: If you have a swimmer who drops their elbows, instead of telling them to keep their elbow high, ask them to focus on tipping their wrist into a slightly cocked position and going a touch deeper with their hands. It will feel alien to them at first but from the pool deck you'll see the improvement right away.

Swim Smooth!

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