Friday, November 14, 2014

Video: How Trying To Glide Harms Your Catch

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[Warning: If you are on a mobile or slow internet connection you may need to give the video in this post a short time to buffer and play smoothly.]

If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while, you'll know that we advise against adding a pause-and-glide into your stroke to try and make your stroke longer. One reason is that water is 800x more dense than air and you simply decelerate during the glide before have to re-accelerate on the following stroke - which is a very inefficient way to swim.

Another reason is that trying to glide has a strong tendency to harm your catch technique at the front of your stroke. Here's Paula who is relatively new to swimming:

Paula's trying to pause the lead arm out in front of the head to make her stroke longer. Like nearly all swimmers who are trying to do this, she is dropping her elbow and wrist, and showing the palm forwards. Here's a slow motion close-up of the front of her stroke:

You can clearly see how she's leaning on the water in order to try and pause her lead hand in front of her head. Not only is she applying a brake and slowing herself down but by dropping the elbow and wrist like that it's almost impossible to get a good hold of the water and press it backwards effectively during the stroke that follows.

If you push forwards like this in your own stroke then you will feel quite a lot of water pressure on the palm of your hand. Don't mistake that feeling for a good catch - it isn't! In fact, when you correct this position (see below) you will actually feel less pressure on the palm of the hand, which can feel wrong at first.

Pushing forwards on the water has many knock on effects in your stroke, such as sinking the legs downwards at the back. If you look back to the top video again you can see how hard Paula is having to kick to try bring them up to the surface and to make up for a lack of arm propulsion in her stroke. Kicking that hard is hugely energy sapping!

Gliding And The Catch

Instead of dropping the elbow and showing the palm forwards, we should be entering and extending with the elbow slightly higher than the wrist and the wrist slightly higher than the elbow:

In this position there's no braking effect on the lead hand and the swimmer is perfectly set-up for engaging with the water and pressing it backwards.

The important point to appreciate is that when the hands extend forward into the correct catching position, the flow of the water actually pushes your hand and arm into commencing the catch. Elite swimmers use this little push from the water to engage the catch and keep their stroke continuous and flowing at the front. Here's marathon swimming legend Shelley Taylor-Smith doing just that:

If you are trying to deliberately pause at the front of the stroke there's really no other way to stop the next stroke commencing other than learning to push forwards against the water. This is why nearly all Overgliders have learnt to 'put on the brakes' like this in their stroke (as you can see in this Youtube sequence).

The solution? Take a leaf out of the elite swimmer's book and don't try and glide in the first place! Don't rush the stroke but keep it continuous and flowing to give yourself every chance of developing a great catch and pull, you'll be a much faster and more efficient swimmer as a result.

Swim Smooth!

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