I met with John over at FINS a couple of weeks ago to look over his stroke. A couple of things caught my eye right away.
First and foremost, take a look at John’s kick. As he finishes breathing and begins to rotate, you can see a big scissor kick. This isn’t all that uncommon. The reason for it is not the fundamentals of his kick, but rather the over rotation of his body when he turns to get a breath. Many of you have heard the phrase “rotate from your hips” or “rotate from your core” . Well, this is true, but only part of the story. When you swing a bat or a golf club, the power of that swing is not really coming from your arms so much as it is your core. The hips rotate first and the bat/club follow. When you try and make that statement in swimming though, you leave out one MAJOR piece of the puzzle. That is, when you swing a bat/club and rotate from the hips, your feet are firmly planted on the ground. This allows you to twist. In the water, you are floating in the water and not planted to anything, so the only way you can twist, or rotate, is to kick. So if your kick is lousy, there’s a really good chance your rotation is too.
In John’s case, his over-rotation is the cause of the big scissor kick as the only way he can get all the way back over. Conversely, he doesn’t rotate much to the other side so there isn’t a need for the giant kick. That’s why he doesn’t scissor on the other side. So what’s the fix? How do you fix this kick? Answer: breathing. This is one of those knee-bone connected to the thigh-bone answers. The kick is caused by the over rotation. The over rotation is only on the side that he breathes. So to break the chain, John needs to fix how he breathes. By breathing every third stroke, John will balance his stroke out, and by that I mean that the actions of each side of his body will mirror each other.
In the first 25 that he swam breathing every 3, his scissor kick was reduced by 50%.
So what else?
In the next clip, John’s right arm is extending and gliding (and therefore pulling) different from his left arm. Watch as the right arm drives toward the bottom of the pool and the left arm extends further out and more horizontal before the pull/catch begins. This also happens to be caused by the overrotation that I just discussed. By entering and extending downwards when he should be extending out, John misses all the benefits of a glide as well as the most powerful part of his pull. Some call this front quadrant swimming. From the point at which your hand enters the water and extends out horizontal to the pool bottom to the point in which the arm is perpendicular to the pool bottom is where you generate the most power. By extending downward, in say, a 4 o’clock position, John has just eliminated a huge chunk of power, not to mention the lack of glide that is created. The other problem that this creates is crooked swimming, which will be a major headache come raceday.
The fix is simple. Point where you want to go. In addition to bilateral breathing to balance his stroke out, if John simply points where he wants to go the problem will correct. In this case, he should point to the wall at the other end with his hand as it enters the water.
Lastly, is the kick itself. For John, I think the fundamentals of his kick are pretty sound (except for the scissor kick of course). It starts at the hip, moves through the knee and finishes through the ankle/toes. The problem is the flexibility. I know I probably sound like a broken record here, but in order to realize the power that your kick is producing, the ankles have to be flexible enough to produce that final snap. So my best advice here is to stretch and kick with fins. A little flexibility will go a long ways.
Now go sit on your ankles.