Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Some Great Shots Of The Bow Wave

The key challenge of freestyle over the other three competitive swim strokes is breathing. To stop the legs sinking and to not interrupt the rhythm of the stroke, you must breathe to the side whilst keeping the head low in the water.

To keep the head low enough you need to use the bow wave formed by your head moving through the water. It can be difficult to visualise what the bow wave looks like so here's some nice shots of it (click on images to enlarge):

Notice how there is a small lip formed in front of the head and then the water drops quite steeply as it passes your head and shoulders. Notice around where your ears are, the water's surface is significantly lower than the general surface of the pool. That's useful because you can rotate the head and breathe into that "pocket" of low water with your mouth while keeping your head really low.
That should look like this:

Notice how Paul is angling his mouth to the side to make sure he doesn't suck in any water. For obvious reasons we call that "Popeye Breathing"! Also notice how Paul has kept the top of his head in the water, he hasn't lifted it about the surface as you might have a tendency to do (more on this below).

Practising Bow Wave Breathing
When performing drills (e.g. side kicking with fins) your speed is very constant and the bow wave can become really smooth and glassy. So much so that side kicking with fins can be the perfect drill to practise keeping the head low when breathing to the side:

Remember keep the top of your head in position and breathe to where your ears are!

Don't Think You Have A Bow Wave?

We often hear from swimmers who find it hard to breathe without taking on water. If this is you, you might believe this is because you are not moving fast enough to create a bow wave but this is very unlikely to be the case. Much more likely you are either:

- Burying your head beneath the surface when you swim such that the water flows over the back of your head. Do this and a bow wave won't form at all!

- Lifting your head clean out of the water when you swim - again doing this will remove the bow wave and you'll have to crane your head really high to reach clean air.

- Breathing too far forward in position (B) where the wave is much higher. Remember, breathe by your ears (A) and the water's surface is much lower:

Further Swim Smooth Resources

Swim Smooth!

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