Friday, September 19, 2014

Clearing Up The Confusion About 'Front-Quadrant Swimming'

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Oct 11th
Full information here

For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Newsflash: Marathon Swimming Legend Shelley Taylor Smith is running a series of special swim clinics in the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai on the 24th, 25th and 28th September. Don't miss out if you live in or close to Dubai - Shelley features on our Catch Masterclass DVD and is an incredibly inspiring athlete, coach and mentor!

Hurry, the first 30 who register for the Pool2OWS clinic receive a personally signed copy of Dangerous When Wet - The Shelley Taylor-Smith Story:

You might have heard of something called Front Quadrant Swimming which has to do with the timing of your freestyle stroke. It's widely recognised as being an efficient way to swim and something that you should use in your own stroke technique but there's a lot of confusion about what it actually means - so let's clear that up!

If you drew two lines, one through the swimmer's head and one at water level you would create four quadrants:

Front quadrant swimming simply means that there is always one of your hands in one of the front quadrants (1 and 2) at any one point in time. Or, put even more simply, when your hands pass above and below the water, that should happen in front of your head, not behind it.

Let's look at some examples. Here's the amazing elite swimmer Jono Van Hazel from Perth:

Jono is a classic smooth and as you can see his hands pass in front of his head with classic front-quadrant timing. Jono's got brilliant stroke technique which is why he looks so smooth when he swims. Notice how when the recovering arm is passing the head the lead hand has started the stroke and is catching the water - it's not pausing and doing nothing (more on that below):

You can see more of Jono swimming here:

Interestingly, even swimmers using very fast stroke rates normally still have front quadrant timing. Here's former triathlon world champion Tim Don swimming at a rapid 90 strokes per minute:

It's closer but Tim's arms are still clearly passing in front of the head.

Here's an example of a swimmer with the arms passing behind the head, breaking the front-quadrant rule:

Clare's arm is collapsing downwards whilst she is breathing giving her no support in front of her head and making breathing much harder than it needs to be.

Taking It To The Extreme

The confusion with front-quadrant timing is that some swimmers believe it means a full catch-up at the front of the stroke, where the hands pretty much meet at the front:

To achieve this position you must hold the hand out in front of you with a long pause-and-glide whilst the other hand fully catches it up. This long gap between strokes (we call it Overgliding) is very inefficient as the swimmer decelerates in the water, having to use the next stroke to get up to speed again. It also leads to common stroke flaws such as dropping the wrist and putting on the brakes and the overglider kickstart.

This is technically still front quadrant timing as the hands do pass in front of the head but it is really taking things to the extreme. This is not what was meant by front-quadrant-timing when the term was created.

The Fear Of Windmilling

The idea with front quadrant timing is that it is trying to avoid truly windmilling in the stroke where the hands are at near opposite positions in the stroke resulting in the hands passing behind the head:

The thing is that if you tried to do this deliberately you would find it very hard to do - it really is an extreme way of swimming. Very very few swimmers employ such a stroke technique, even elite level sprinters who are trying to turn their arms over as quickly as possible for maximum speed.


So what can we learn from this? Simply that if you get the basics right in your stroke technique you will naturally swim with a front-quadrant style of stroke that is fluid and continuous. The dangers of windmilling are very much over-stated and in most instances where the hands pass behind the head the reason is normally related to breathing and poor awareness of what the lead hand is doing (as with Clare above).

A far greater risk is taking things to the opposite extreme and opting for a full-catchup style of stroke. This is a very inefficient stroke style and a very difficult habit to break once developed.

Swim Smooth!

No comments: