The last weekend in June I organised another Swim Smooth weekend with New Zealand Swim Smooth coach Russell Smith from Hamilton. What an awesome weekend of swimming and learning. The morning was spent videoing and then analysing the video’s and the afternoon we were in the water correcting technique. It’s not often that you come across someone who has a great way with people and an awesome ability to coach. So while driving to the Sunday session I asked Russell a few questions about some of the things he had seen on Saturday.
We covered a few things yesterday and I know you mentioned head position, and breathing, what did you notice?
Yeah, more so the head movement while breathing but the head position in the water is also very relevant as there was one person who had her head looking backwards in the water. In this position her head was totally underwater so by rotating to breath as per normal she would be breathing into water, therefore she was lifting her head up at the front before taking a breath. Going back to the head movement when breathing, a lot of people were lifting or over rotating their heads to breath, which I find is quite common. So people should experimented in the pool with different head positions; looking backwards, looking directly down, looking slightly forward, and then looking forward to the other end of the pool, focusing on how this is affecting their body position and breathing.
From a body position perspective what do you think is the most common problem you see?
Just the low hips and legs, and you know there are a number of different reasons. There was a couple of swimmers extremely low in the hips and legs yesterday, they were both kicking a lot from the knee, but there are also other factors such as pushing down at the front of the stroke or having your head too high in the water. Ideally you’re trying to get your body horizontal within the water.
And what easy things can they do to work on that position to help get them into the right alignment?
Well just developing kick initially - eliminating kick from the knee, using pointy toes, slightly pigeon toed and generating the kick from the glutes not from the knee. Also if you hold your breath in the water it’s like a little balloon in your chest and therefore raises the chest up slightly which drops the hips so make sure you’re breathing out and relaxing in the water.
There were certainly a few legs that were dragging down low in the water, what sort of problems will that cause for someone’s swimming?
Well like I said just before body position. But it’s also inefficient when you’re kicking from the knee, it feels like you’re doing a lot of work but there’s not a lot of propulsion forward. It was quite interesting with one of the guys yesterday, he was quite a big knee kicker and said he found that when he changed his kick to a more efficient kick from the glutes, it generated less knee bend and he felt a lot more streamlined and quicker.
There was a lot of focus on the catch, and you had a good point on the way that people push the water down. And so in terms of the catch what should people be trying to avoid?
Well yeah that pushing down. When you get a good catch, you stretch your arm out front, pivot at the elbow, so you’re keeping the elbow high and the forearm and hand drops down below or slightly inwards of the elbow. There is not a lot of pressure on the arm at that point, so you don’t feel like you’re generating any propulsion, but you’re setting yourself up for the pull through which is where the propulsion comes from. When you push straight down at the front of the stroke there is a lot of pressure on the arm and hand and it feels like they are doing a lot of work, yet it’s not actually propulsion it’s pushing their chest up. The feeling they should get when they do a good catch feels unusually easy, like they’re not generating any propulsion.
If you would like to take part in the next SwimSmoth Weekend Clinic in Christchurch, 23rd September 2017, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 1388068.
You can also contact Russell directly at his website http://www.gobeyondlimits.co.nz