Breaking Down Mike’s Stroke
Not too long ago Mike contacted me from New York with a few questions regarding his swim technique after reading my swim articles. It’s always easier to comment on something when you can see the stroke, so I asked for a video clip. I thought it might help others if I took Mike’s stroke and critiqued it here on the site. It should be noted that Mike has been swimming now for about 4 months now, which I find amazing since his stroke as a whole is pretty darn good. I should also mention that I am only commenting on some key areas, as fixing the bigger things will often correct the smaller things automatically.
Since it was a kicking question that started this whole discussion, I thought that’s where I would start. From what I can observe from the above water shot the flutter kick looks pretty good. Ankles need to flex a little more in order to create a more effective kick, but the fundamentals are there. No scissor kicks, no kicking in circles, etc. The reason Mike is kicking so much is because he is using his kick to fight his body position. If he were to stop kicking altogether his legs would sink immediately and he would end up vertical in the water.
The main reason for the body position being too upright is the position of the head, which is riding too high in the water. He is wanting to see where he’s going which is common, but more importantly, it looks like he is having a little trouble seeing the world from a horizontal perspective. Both of which are very common in newer swimmers. Your mind wants to see everything in a vertical orientation, like in everything else you do. It’s common and will take a little time to adjust. So, the first thing he needs to do is lower his head in the water. How much? Just as you would when you’re standing straight and looking forward. Head stays in line with your body. Now, this means that you’ll be looking straight down, and that’s OK (that’s what the lines and crosses at the bottom of the pool are for). Once you get used to that then you can crane your neck (or stick your chin out) and then look up slightly to see ahead of you. The neck crane will lower your head further into the water so that when you shift your eyes/head to see ahead, they will cancel each other out. Make sense?
Let’s discuss the pull…
I can see that with both of Mike’s arms that he is dropping his elbow as he pulls (see my article on this topic). Doing this drastically reduces the efficiency of the pull. Part of the reason is that the bend in the elbow is too great. As your arm begins to fatigue it becomes very easy to drop your elbow without noticing that your form is falling apart when your arm is bent this much. So once the head and body position are adjusted, I would suggest that he tries to pull MUCH deeper. The bend in the elbow should be more like 10 degrees than 90 degrees. This should give you some more power, further reducing the big need to kick.
Finally, the body rotation. Once he gets the hang of the other stuff, it’s time to start focusing on rotating his body from one side to the other. (Swimming flat in the water also can cause a shift in body position like he is experiencing, as the beginning of the pull creates lift) This will help your pull, make your recovery easier and start to get you more streamlined. While focusing on the deep pull, take that same deep pull but this time roll your shoulders into it so that the pull is deeper than before. You ultimately want to feel like you are rolling all the way from one side of you body to the other, but it’s gonna feel strange at first, so ease into it. I know this just hitting the highlights of body rotation, but I’ll drill into that another day.
After those skills are improved upon, another review should be done to work on the next set of skills.
Questions? Let me have it. Have a video of your stroke that you would like me to breakdown? Let me know. You know where to find me.