I need to first apologize for the long delay in getting some of the swim analysis posts up. For some reason, I was no longer able to embed videos here and ….blah blah blah. You get the idea. I got it fixed. Now onto Rip’s swimming.
Rip is an accomplished athlete but hitting the pool is a more recent endeavor. In watching him hop in the pool and go, a few things popped out at me right away. First off I noticed that Rip crosses the centerline of his body when his hand enters the water. This is more exaggerated when he breathes. Its pretty easy to see in this first video.
Pay attention to his right arm as it enters the water. Ideally, you never want your hand to cross over the top of your head. Imagine a skewer going through the top of your head and extending straight down through your body. With that as your guide, you never want your hand to cross that skewer and come over to the other side of your body. This will immediately cause you to swim crooked, among other things. So if you cross over with your right arm, you will most likely swim off to the left. If both arms cross, you get a bit of a wormlike stroke. An easy tell is if you see someone wiggle their behind back and forth as they swim. The fix is simple enough. Point where you want to go. Yep. That’s it. You can look up drills online til you’re blue in the face, but it really just boils down to pointing, or positioning your hand, so that it lines up with the direction you want to go. So as your hand enters the water, make sure your hand is pointing to the cross at the other end of the pool.
The next thing that I saw was very common if you read this site much. That is, Rip is dropping his elbow when he pulls. By dropping his elbow, he is losing a large amount of surface area that you use to pull, leaving each pull rather ineffective. This is a tougher problem to fix as this type of habit gets pretty well ingrained in your muscle memory. Additonally, as you get tired, you naturally begin to drop your elbow in order to keep the cadence consistent.
What Rip needs to do to fix this is a few things. First of all, the pull needs to be deeper. Try and get away from bending your elbow at 90 degrees and more like 10 degrees. A deeper pull and straighter arm will fix some of the issue almost immediately. Next try swimming while making a fist. If you lose the surface area of your hand, you will be forced to get though the water using your forearms as your “paddle”. This will bring your elbows up higher so that your forearms have a clear shot at the water. Takes a bit of work, but the results will be substantial.
Finally, I noticed this once we left the pool and I started looking at the video. It was pretty obvious, but I missed it at the pool b/c I am looking at a number of different things all at once as someone swims across the pool. That’s why video is so great!
OK, So take a look at Rip’s arm cycle. Notice how his arms are almost always opposite of each other, like a windmill. This causes a gap in his stroke in which the pulling arm is behind him and the recovery arm is still up in the air. With no arm in front helping to streamline and no arm pulling, your freestyle will hit the brakes in a frickin hurry. The fix is what some people call front quadrant swimming. In other words, most of the power and all the the streamlining happen from roughly the chest up. so as one arm pulls, the other arm should be gliding, which helps to maximize that pull. The common drill used to practice this is called ‘catch up’ drill. In catch up, that hand that is gliding doesn’t begin to pull until the other hand literally ‘catches up’ and touches the gliding hand. Like playing tag with your hands. It’s going to feel very strange at first, but you will start to notice that you are gliding more and that it takes fewer strokes to get across the pool. And less strokes across the pool allows you to take all that energy you just saved and apply it to the pull. Once you get that down? Duh… Winning!