Analyzing Dana’s Stroke
So next on the list of strokes that I pick apart is Dana’s. You might notice that Dana is no slouch. He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s raced in Kona among other places, but swimming is relatively new to him. He was a duathlete for a long time before he hit the pool. As you can see though, he hit the pool hard as he is a good swimmer.
As soon as Dana hopped in and started swimming I noticed that his back muscles were flexing on every recovery. Some call this a stiff stroke. I see it as a weak rotation and overcompensating by lifting your arms behind you in order to get your arms to clear the water during a recovery. Ideally, you want to to let your body rotation lift your shoulder out of the water. Then all you have to do is lift your arm straight up and drop it in the water. Very easy and very little effort. When you swim flatter in the water, you have to lift your shoulder/arm out of the water by flexing your back muscles in order to complete the recovery. The can get very tiring after a while and can also cause injury. I talk more about this type of injury here. In order for Dana to get the proper rotation, he needs to work on over exaggerating the body roll. We tried it a few times that day and Dana mentioned it felt very strange, like it was too much rotation. For me watching though, it looked just right.
One of the other things that I noticed right away, is that Dana has some limited flexibility in his shoulders. Upon mentioning it though, Dana told me that he had an injury in his shoulder and that the the main reason for his lack of mobility. This will be a bigger challenge if you are injured, but still a very important thing to work on. I am always stressing flexibility here, but if one arm is less flexible than the other, then that means you have to over compensate in other areas of your stroke to keep everything in check. Depending on what those adjustments are, you could cause further injury. So if you don’t have symmetry in your stroke for some reason, that is something you should work on right away.
Overall Dana has a good head and body position, but you can see that his feet do sink/drag a little. If I was teaching you the Total Immersion method, I would tell you that Dana needs to lower his chest in the water to bring up his feet. The truth, however, is that Dana’s issue has nothing to do with balance or body position. It has everything to do with his kick. A very slight improvement in his kick will bring his feet to the surface and fix the problem. By burying your chest deeper into the water to avoid the problem can cause more problems (rotation, timing of the breath, etc) and to me, that’s putting a bandaid on a broken leg. Fix the problem, don’t mask it.
Speaking of the kick, here’s something interesting that I picked up on while watching his videos (never saw it at the pool). It’s easiest to see on the clip above (DL5).Dana’s right ankle is more flexible that his left. Why? His body rotates more to the right, so it takes a bigger/better kick to rotate in the opposite direction. Remember when I mentioned earlier about overcompensating for his injury? I would be willing to bet that this ties in with his shoulder injury. So a injured shoulder causes one ankle
to be more flexible than another. If I just walked up and told you that you would think I’m out there huh? When you break it down though, it’s not such a stretch. Take that a step further, if Dana were to have a foot/ankle injury from running, it would all tie back to the shoulder. Crazy huh? Something to think about the next time you get hurt. Man I’m getting way off track here……Breathing every 3 in training and throwing on some fins from time to time with help his kick which will improve his rotation and the dropping/dragging of his legs.
In terms of pulling, Dana has a pretty good pull. This is usually the part of my post that I harp on dropping your elbow and losing power in your stroke. In looking at Dana’s stroke though, he has pretty good pull. He does drop his elbow a little and can work on that, but overall is good to go. I do notice though that his hands are pulling some bubbles. Very minor fix, but if he enters his hands a little sooner and still extends like he does underwater, he will correct that (He can also enter his hand a little steeper and then extend, it will accomplish the same thing.)
On second thought, Dana should swim less and race more using breastroke. I don’t really like it when he runs me down, so a little more buffer in the water would serve me well.