Friday, October 09, 2020
When Wrong Feels Right - Part 2
Back in 2016 we posted our classic blog Why A Good Catch Is So Elusive: Wrong Can Feel Right - if you missed it first time around it's well worth a read, it's one of those posts we refer swimmers back to time and time again.
The post discusses the front of your stroke during the catch and explains why searching too hard for a "solid" attachment to the water can lead to you pressing down, to the side or even forwards on the water when you should be aiming to press it backwards:
That's the front of your stroke but in a similar way we need to be careful at the back too.
If you have tried to lengthen out your stroke then you might have put a lot of emphasis on finishing the stroke strongly with a big push on the water at the rear. Certainly if your stroke is too short and lacking rotation then a little more emphasis on finishing at the rear might be a good thing, however like anything in stroke technique, it's possible to over-do this.
The goal with your arm stroke under the water is to press the water back to the wall behind you in order to propel you forwards. That's true at all points in the underwater stroke: be it at the front, under your shoulders, body or at the rear by your hips.
As your hand finishes the stroke at the rear it is actually very difficult to apply a lot of pressure on the water with your hand. This is because biomechanically you are reaching full extension and it's difficult to match the speed of the water as you move through it.
If you are trying to feel a solid push on the water then very likely you are pressing the water upwards at the rear:
This is wasteful because pressing up does nothing to propel you forwards but worse than that it acts to push your legs downwards. As a result either your legs sink (creating a huge amount of drag) or you must kick very hard to keep your legs up (wasting huge amounts of energy).
So we definitely don't want to be pressing up, but how should we finish the underwater stroke?
Check out Olympian Jono Van Hazel's brilliant technique for the answer:
Notice how he has angled his hand to face directly backwards, then as he reaches the end of his travel he turns the palm inwards to neatly complete the stroke. In this way he has maximised his press backwards without pressing upwards at all.
This is great technique but it actually creates *less* pressure on the palm than pressing upwards. Another classic example of right feeling wrong.
One more thing to notice, at the rearmost point of this stroke Jono's elbow is still slightly bent:
That's because there's almost nothing to gain from those last few centimetres of his stroke - he's better of recovering the arm forwards to get more quickly into another stroke. Plus reaching as far backwards as possible would involve locking the elbow out straight which puts a lot of stress on the joint, commonly leading to medial epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in swimmers.
So the next time you swim, by all means focus on the rear of your stroke but instead of maximising your push, focus on the palm facing the wall behind you before neatly turning the hand in to finish. Do that smoothly and continuously and you should feel a nice sense of rhythm and speed developing in your stroke.