'Dan, what style of swimming do you teach? Is it the abc method or the xyz?’ I don’t actually teach a style. We never have at SFT. I look at your range of motion, your imperfections, strengths and weaknesses and start to improve your swimming technique. Good, bad or having just learned to swim, you will perform the mechanics of a swimming style. You might not feel it is pretty but at any level our style can always be improved. At a certain level this might be possible within the full stroke FC movement but it is not easy. Breaking things down with drills can help you restrict bad habits and encourage correct movements. Both will help. Making use of swim toys creatively can help, the pool deck and even other swimmers. Depending on your ability and current faults a few lengths to show us what is happening and we can then construct a process to help you improve.
What is a style?- the moment someone starts to mould you to their favoured style, the method they learned or developed or think they developed then making your unique style faster is no longer the focus. You might not fit their 10step plan. I prefer to talk about a coaching approach but again this is not always possible. From my work with the London Disablity Swim Club there is no one fixed style that suits all and no one way to deliver it even if there was. One way to help illustrate this is to think of each body part having some strict rules to adhere to in order to swim faster ie lower drag and increase propulsion. Then there are some guidelines that need to be played with & maniupulated to work out how best they might apply to you.
So the following outlines more of a process and method than a style. We look to lower drag and increase propulsion via the obvious but then we need to start working harder to identify the less obvious. This dawned on me years ago helping one of our Cerebral Palsy swimmers who could not create an ideal fingertip to elbow blade as his wrist was stuck at 90deg due to his disability. His propulsion was limited but by entering his hand into the water further ahead than previous he could minimize his drag. As body rotation reduced with fatigue, his arm reach was limited and more of the back of his hand ploughed into the water on entry. With a little more extension over the surface of the water he could just about place his fingertips in first and start to pull.
Generally, we find the leg kick which involves some of the larger muscles can do a lot of damage in terms of fatigue and drag. Often it is a good idea to start here and help correct the damaging movements that not only pull/push you in the wrong direction but cost a lot of energy to do so. The oxygen requirement to do so will be huge leading to rapid exhaustion. A recent dialogue with a swimmer regarding their legs.....
Kicking: It was honestly the hardest one to focus on. I kept avoiding working on/thinking about my kick for the first week... But, now, I’ve become a little obsessed with it. For one, I think I’ve finally come to understand what it means to kick from the glute. I always knew the theory, but not how it felt like…. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. It is making me swim differently – but I have also discovered that there are so many different ways to kick, and they all make me swim differently, and I am no longer sure which is the right way.
Different is good, different is change, don’t assume the negative. If practice has been diligent you will get there. The body will not be happy about making these changes and will try to trip you up along the way. Listen to the teaching points and be confident that despite the new muscles being tired at being used for the first time it will get easier. Add some rotation or improve how you create your rotation and if your balance in the water improves there is a good chance the arms will improve as they stop acting as stabilisers/counter balance working out and aligning/correcting the errors the rest of the body is making. Sometimes at a weekend workshop we don't have to spend long on the arms once they are allowed to perform correctly having improved the legs and rotation !
How to improve your Style.
Follow the golden rules ie the black and white. Nobody ever won at the Olympics in the pool with their palm pushing water down rather than backwards. Experiment in the grey areas that your body/ flexibility/ range of motion will dictate. Kicks per Arm cycle, tempo of arm pull, head position, breathing to one side, both sides, be familiar with a slower/longer turnover of arms if the water is flowing with you, shorter if against. Be adaptable. Your swimming style needs teaching points and if these are too rigid it’s not going to fit you because you are not a robot you cannot repeat swimming movements repeatedly one hundred percent.
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