Monday, May 30, 2011

Actually, There's Two Ideal Stroke Styles

Most people assume that the Smooth Swim Type is the ideal stroke style to have. Swimmers like Grant Hackett, Ian Thorpe and Rebecca Addlington epitomise this stroke style - their long strokes setting world records and winning multiple Olympic gold medals.

But, unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. There is another stroke style that sets world records and wins Olympic Gold medals too, that's the refined version of The Swinger. This shorter, punchier style of stroke can be extremely fast indeed, especially when combined with a 2 beat kick. Laure Manadou, Kate Ziegler, David Davies and Janet Evans used this style of stroke to win gold medals and set world records in the pool.

Smooths and Swingers sit
together at the top of the tree
In open water, the Swinger is the dominant stroke style of elite swimmers and triathletes and has significant advantages over the Smooth style in choppy conditions where the extra rhythm helps punch through disturbed water from other swimmers. A Smooth making the transition to open water needs to be very wary of this.

So, there are actually two 'top dogs' in swimming stroke technique, not one. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but they are both devastatingly fast and efficient strokes when matched to the right swimmer.

Which style should you choose for your swimming? In a sense you don't have to choose, your stroke should evolve one way or the other naturally. If you work on correcting and refining elements of your stroke technique you'll naturally gravitate towards one or the other depending on your natural buoyancy, strength level, gender, height and arm reach. Believe it or not personality can even play a part - Smooths tend to be more reserved and considered people while Swingers tend to be more extroverted and go-getting!

The mistake you might have made up until now is targeting a very long stroke, hoping to emulate Thorpe, Hackett or Phelps who are well over 1.9m (6'3") tall with very long arms. If you don't have the physical make-up to do this then you'll introduce glide to your stroke and you'll end up less efficient and slower as a result.

If you do have the attributes to develop a classic long Smooth stroke style then remember that to perform well in open water you're going to have to get into your catch a little sooner. This will shorten things slightly and add more rhythm to your stroke. You can do this without fighting the water but allow yourself some time to develop the modification as it will change the feel and timing of your stroke quite dramatically.

Swim Smooth!

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