the five most important things for efficient swimming
Swimming requires us to feel the water all over our body and look for lighter / lesser sensations which indicate less drag. We need to learn to feel for the ideal body position / movement patterns in our stroke. To achieve this we must calm our thinking and turn up the volume of our body and water awareness. We need to get out of our minds and into the interface between our body and the water.
We need to be curiously aware, observing as if this were our first ever swim. If we are ale to do this or at least to improve in this body/water focus we instantly accelerate our learning. When the going gets tough this is the point to come back to – feeling the water on our skin whilst feeling our body posture and alignment.
Holding aquatic posture (a flatter, longer back than normal posture) is critical to efficiency. With good posture swimmers minimize drag whilst encouraging their body to utilize the correct muscles for the movements required for effective propulsion. This is all but ignored by all but the very best coaching programs and is absolutely critical to moving through water effectively and to utilizing the most powerful swimming muscles. Good posture is also a pre-requisite for...
Keeping the length of the body horizontal, aligned and balanced as you move along a “clean” line in the water. When we attempt to go faster or further per stroke we often lose our balance and line as our propulsive efforts take us into our bodies as we apply effort thus losing our connection with the place we held in the water and therefore the straight line we want to move along. As points 2 and 3 improve swimmers become more comfortable and efficient when….
I would be a rich man if I had spent my swim coaching career focused solely upon teaching the front crawl catch position, but alas I have a conscience.
Most swimmers obsess over the catch before ever developing its pre-requisites, i.e. body position, balance, alignment and feel. I have never seen a swimmer who develops an effective catch before they have first learnt to swim with good posture, alignment and balance. This is because the most effective catch position requires the swimmer to be balanced from their core with loose relaxed shoulders and a sense of lightness in the hand/arm.
The earlier (forwards of the shoulder), relatively shallow catch known by coaches as the early vertical forearm (EVF) is in my opinion widely misunderstood. Most swimmers aiming to emulate this somewhat advanced manouvre begin to pull from a fully outstretched arm/hand position when in fact to perform it correctly one must set up the catch into its EVF position passively (i.e. no forwards propulsion) before vaulting past it whilst holding onto the water that has been “caught”.
We begin to teach correct positioning early on in the balance and alignment drills encouraging a gradual development of the swimmers catch so that it improves all through the learning process. My experience has been that when a swimmer has developed the necessary pre-requisites mentioned above that their catch is very effective and can often be developed into a full-blown pro swimmers EVF often seen by freestyle swimmers as the holy grail of performance.
Here at Oneflow we aim to build the swimmers stroke from the mid-section of the body. We consider the core-body to be the driving force behind all propulsion. With this in mind we focus upon developing a strong aquatic line through the swimmers core / latts. Once we have developed the swimmers ability to keep the shoulders relaxed and supported by the core the catch becomes easy to develop.
A musician may spend years learning all the skills required to be able to play their instrument to a reasonable standard however it is their ability to play with rhythm and timing that determines just how well. Swimming is no different....arguably one of the best ever swim coaches ever Gennadi Touretski would repeatedly coach his protoge Alexander Popov with the words "Rhythm, range and relaxation".
To swim efficiently / fast these two factors are essential and require full present moment awareness or 'feel'. For many top swimmers this is the 'zone' and is one of the most addictive aspects of swimming. We believe that this zone is available in all drills and at all speeds. In other words becoming present and feeling the water begins as soon as you start swimming.
Top swimmers incorporate their breathing seamlessly yet comfortably into their stroke. This is the single most difficult swimming skill there is yet we have found many good tricks to help fast track this potentially difficult and critical stroke component. We have observed that at every level of swimming the slowest swimmers are those that decelerate the most when breathing whilst the fastest actually accelerate when they breathe. As swimmers master breathing they are able to gain relaxation... When we relax we can generate more force with less effort and less stroke disruption. As movements become looser and lighter so does breathing helping us feel the water better and thus improve our propulsive techniques and movements. It is at this point that we begin to tune in more and more to the final pieces in the jigsaw: The development of the catch, kick, stroke rhythm and timing that helps you develop a range of different swim speeds.