Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Flaws In A Seemingly Perfect Stroke

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If you've seen a "Smooth" Swim Type in action, you may have felt a little jealous of their silky smooth stroke which allows them to slip through the water, seemingly effortlessly. Of course they're not actually effortless, they're working as hard as any other swimmer but they're so controlled and smooth that it looks deceptively easy.

Elite swimmers such as Rebecca Adlington and Jono Van Hazel epitomise this long smooth stroke style but there are many strong masters swimmers and fast swimming triathletes who swim this way too. Despite these swimmers looking like a picture of perfection, there are a couple of stroke flaws that Smooths exhibit surprisingly often:

Flaw 1: Turning The Hand Outwards At Full Extension

Turning the hand outwards at full extension is quite subtle and you may need to watch a swimmer from the end of the lane swimming towards you to see it happening:

Like many Smooths, elite triathlete Guy Crawford has a
tendency to turn his hand outwards at full extension.
Turning the hand out harms the initiation of the catch that follows and can cause the elbow to drop slightly underwater as the swimmer leans on it, further harming their engagement with the water. This might happen on one side of the stroke only, or on both.

A good visualisation to help correct is to become aware of the middle finger on each hand as you swim. Enter the water and extend forwards, keeping that middle finger pointing gun-barrel straight down the lane, even on a breathing stroke. By straightening out the lead hand you should immediately feel a better sense of rhythm and fluidity to the stroke.

Flaw 2: Late Breathing Timing

Good breathing timing involves turning the head away from the arm as it enters the water and extends forwards. If you were to watch this in slow motion, the head turns slightly ahead of the shoulders:

Guys's breathing timing is excellent, rotating his head to breathe just ahead of his body roll.
Late timing means the shoulders roll and then the head turns slightly afterwards. The reduced window of time available to breathe can make a big difference to your breathing efficiency. When you see a swimmer with late breathing timing, their head appears to flick to the side in a jerky action instead of turning smoothly.

If your breathing timing is late, you may be completely unaware it is happening. You can check by thinking of turning the head away from lead arm as you enter and extend forwards on the breathing stroke. Try it the next time you're in the water, improved breathing timing should feel smoother and more relaxed.

Smooths And Stroke Correction

Smooths are very proprioceptive swimmers who can normally makes changes to their stroke very easily, however they may find these two particular habits hard to break. Be persistent and expect the changes to take about six sessions before they feel "right".

Take heart if you're relatively new to swimming freestyle, sometimes even great swimmers like Smooths find improving their stroke challenging!

Swim Smooth!

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