Thursday, March 05, 2009

Freestyle - It's NOT supposed to be like Butterfly

During my kicking set, I was watching a swimmer in a lane near me do some freestyle. Her technique needed work, but she wasn't a bad swimmer. But her errors were so common, they screamed blog post!

Today, I'll focus on the one that really stuck out to me. Poor energy conservation. Conservation of energy is key to swimming any distance at all without tiring. This is especially true for occasional swimmers who haven't built up any distance in their routines.

In the case of the swimmer I was watching, she was retrieving her arm from its pull, by pulling it out of the water from the back, near her thigh (good so far) and sweeping it forward via a long arc, as one might do with butterfly (think how both arms sweep out in butterfly ... this swimmer was doing this same thing, just one arm at a time). This is where I contend she was wasting energy.

It's natural to do the sweep thing, but not the best way to use one's energy. I contend that for freestyle, it's best to bring the back of one's arm as close to the head as possible, and drag the finger tips across the water. Doing so eliminates the additional weight of holding one's arm out.

You can try this on dry land to see what I'm talking about. Simply hold your arm out for fifteen seconds (feel the weight of your arm?). Now (warning: this is awkward) try holding the back of your arm next to your ear with your hand pointing forward for the same length of time (see, I told you this was awkward! ... it's not so in the pool, really). Feel the weight of your arm now.

Which did you find heavier? If you found the head/ear position lighter, try out that stroke in the pool. You may find that you use less energy over time and can thus go further with less fatigue. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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Finally, I must apologize for focusing this blog's content of late on the silly and odd. I've not kept to the promised theme of swimming dynamics. Reason, quite frankly, is that it's just easier some times. Writing about swimming dynamics sort of gets old after a while, hence the silly posts. If you've stuck with me through the long haul, thank you!

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