I have been teaching adults how to swim as well as how to take their current stroke mechanics and become more efficient based on their current fitness and goals.
It’s no secret that swimming is a technique-intensive sport. Whether your goal is to develop a healthy, injury-free fitness routine or perform faster in races, good form is a fundamental prerequisite.
The first things I consider when analyzing the freestyle swim stroke is breathing, body balance and rotation, which are all interrelated. If one of these aspects is “off” it affects the other two. If you are struggling with breathing then it becomes more difficult to focus on the mechanics, the 3 main phases of the arm stroke: Recovery, hand entry, catch and push pull phase of the stroke. Proper body balance and rotation help with breathing which also impact swim mechanics.
Many swimmers who learn to swim as an adult tend to have similar issues when it comes to swim technique.
- Breathing- Not exhaling as they turn on their hip to rotate for a breath, lifting their chin (tilting their neck) and not leaving their arm extended in front of them to balance.
- Body Balance- body on the surface of the water, not dragging your legs. Not having the weight of their body on their front end, sternum, not leaving your arm extended when they breath and doing a scissor kick when breathing
- Rotation- not driving your hip rotation with the underwater pull to rotate to both left to right hip. When you swim you are either on your right or left hip. When you rotate from hip to hip, your shoulder is in line with your hip. If you are a frequent one side dominate breather, you tend to be comfortable rotating on the opposite hip you breath on while ignoring the balance of hip rotation to the other side
- Recovery- what happens when your arm exits the water. If you are not leading with your elbow using hip rotation when your arm exits the water, and instead reaching with your shoulder with a straight arm and flat hand and / or reaching for the ceiling vs keeping fingertips below the wrist below the elbow, shoulder problems can occur as well as inefficient hand entry, under water catch and push
- Hand entry- what happens at the point of hand entry and following hand entry. I believe how the swimmer’s hand enters the water is the most important phase of the stroke because hand entry set the swimmer up for a strong “catch” and “push”, the pull phase of the stroke. Most swimmers that learn to swim at an adult are taught to reach as far as they can either before or after entry. This can put too much stress on their shoulder and often creates a dropped elbow catch and push. Entry phase means an angled, deep hand entry, which can help create a high elbow catch and pull phase. Because of what is going on above with recovery, hand entry is flat and shallow, vs entering with your fingertips, below your wrist, and letting your hip rotation help extend your arm deeper out in front of you.
- Catch and Push which create the underwater pull. Because of what is going on with recovery and hand entry, flat and shallow, the athlete is not setting themselves up for a strong deeper high elbow catch and push, past their hip, Lengthen from behind. By not completing your stroke past your hip, you are not pulling the greatest amount of water with every arm stroke for the work you are putting in.