General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Swim Myth #8....busted. Rss Feed  
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2010-06-10 6:17 PM

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Subject: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Myth #8: All swimming drills are good for you. 

I am a great believer in doing drills. In fact, if most swimmers would spend a little more time doing drills and not worry so much about getting their hour or so of aerobic fitness in, they might come out ahead. The biggest problem with drills is that too often, they are being done without any real understanding of what they are supposedly teaching you. Unless you are planning to enter a drill race, there is not much point in doing a drill unless you understand what it is for. Coaches often go to great lengths to explain how to do a drill properly, but then forget to mention what the drill is for. 
And sometimes the drills that are being recommended actually teach you the wrong thing. For example, if you have no kick and you are trying to get faster by learning how to increase your stroke rate, then a catch-up drill may be doing you a big disservice. Or if I ever see anyone who has been told to flick water with their hand/wrist out the back end of their stroke, I kindly ask them to hit the delete button. Or what does sliding your finger tips across the surface of the water (finger tip drill) teach you that helps you swim faster? 
So all I ask is that you do drills nearly every time you jump in the water, even if for warmup. But that you understand what the drill is trying to teach you AND that the drill is designed for the technique you are trying to learn. 

Gary 


2010-06-10 6:27 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
The obvious follow-up question is "Where can I find a list of drills with purposes explained?"
2010-06-10 6:51 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Yeah, I never understood the "Finger Tip" drill and it's in my workouts sometimes. I do like "catch-up" to a point, or "DPS", or "Fist", that's a good one sometimes for high elbows.
2010-06-10 7:50 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
I thought that the purpose of the finger-tip drag drill was to get you to relax your forearm and keep your elbow high during recovery.

Of course, one might wonder whether these are worthy goals, and maybe that's the point here, but I thought that the purpose, at least, was clear.

I would certainly second the request for further info about which drills one might fruitfully use.
2010-06-10 8:43 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
A great site for some swim drills is www.goswim.tv

The have videos and explanation. I have learned a lot from the site. Hope others find it helpful.
2010-06-10 9:26 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
If your not careful, the fingertip drill will cause you to enter your hand into the water too close to your head and then you will have to do the "tap the top of your head and then reach for the water" drill to correct that!


2010-06-10 10:26 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Dragging the fingertips without any guidance on what path along the water between exit and entry point...is pointless. Which is Gary's point. If, however, you have some guidance, as part of looking at exit and entry points, then dragging the fingertips can help you reach the point where you are using minimal exertion to get your arm from exit to entry. Unless you subscribe to a straight arm recovery, but thats another discussion.
2010-06-11 9:27 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Drills are just like everything else in swimming where there's a purpose for doing the activity.  If you're just going through the motions then don't expect any gains.  I've gone to great lengths to get my swimmers to understand why we do a specific drill in the water or on land.  They should be able to apply the philosophy behind the drill to their stroke.
2010-06-11 9:43 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
AdventureBear - 2010-06-10 11:26 PM Dragging the fingertips without any guidance on what path along the water between exit and entry point...is pointless. Which is Gary's point. If, however, you have some guidance, as part of looking at exit and entry points, then dragging the fingertips can help you reach the point where you are using minimal exertion to get your arm from exit to entry. Unless you subscribe to a straight arm recovery, but thats another discussion.


I do it as a "zipper pull" drill - I drag my thumb along the side of my body at the surface of the water - because when I do fingertip drag my hand just takes a lazy path out in the water, the right hand (my less flexible/non breathing side) going far out from the body, making the high elbows pointless.
2010-06-11 9:54 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Holy cow!  I couldn't agree more.  I do the "finger tip" drill to get my elbows high (because my recovery was UGLY before) but outside of that one drill, I have no clue what the purpose of individual drills are.  No clue.  I thought the catch-up drill was to show you how awkward it is and not to teach you to "keep it in the front quadrant"....you know like sensitizations drills teach you how much it sucks to do it that way.

I don't remember when the last time a coach told me to do a particular drill (or more importantly told me why).  I never do drills when I'm swimming on my own because I don't know which ones would be of benefit to me.
2010-06-11 11:00 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
How about some clarification then?

I do a lot of:

Fingertip Drill: promotes high elbow during recovery?

Catch-up drill: focus on staying long and the pull?

Fist drill: promotes high elboy during pull?


2010-06-11 11:10 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
ionlylooklazy - 2010-06-11 12:00 PM How about some clarification then?

I do a lot of:

Fingertip Drill: promotes high elbow during recovery?

Catch-up drill: focus on staying long and the pull?

Fist drill: promotes high elboy during pull?


 I'm a rank amateur so take this for what it's worth, but I think that a lot of drills can serve multiple purposes, depending on what aspect of the drill you are focused on.
2010-06-11 1:37 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Doing zipper pull (in my opinion) encourages over rotation of the body, "stacking" your shoulders on top of one another and destabilizing you in the water. Keeping a slightly less rotated body allows the extended arm to act as an outrigger which helps keep you stable for both breathing and for swimming in waves and with other people swimming around you.

If you know where you should be entering the water with your hand (opinions will differ on this), try tracing a straight line backwards from your entry point to your exit point, then retrace so that there is no extraneous movement (wasted energy). dragging your fingertips on the surface of hte water while you do this rehearsal helps you focus on the shortest path from exit to entry...but best learned by tracing the path backwards.

Zippering up the side of the body is not the shortest distance from exit to entry.

I think the term "high elbow recovery" is a mis-used phrase...the term high elbow should really just refer to the catch/pull. "Elbow lead" recovery would be more appropriate phrasing, and a wide elbow lead recovery helps keep you from overrotating as mentioned above.

2010-06-11 1:55 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
AdventureBear - 2010-06-11 2:37 PM Doing zipper pull (in my opinion) encourages over rotation of the body, "stacking" your shoulders on top of one another and destabilizing you in the water. Keeping a slightly less rotated body allows the extended arm to act as an outrigger which helps keep you stable for both breathing and for swimming in waves and with other people swimming around you. If you know where you should be entering the water with your hand (opinions will differ on this), try tracing a straight line backwards from your entry point to your exit point, then retrace so that there is no extraneous movement (wasted energy). dragging your fingertips on the surface of hte water while you do this rehearsal helps you focus on the shortest path from exit to entry...but best learned by tracing the path backwards. Zippering up the side of the body is not the shortest distance from exit to entry. I think the term "high elbow recovery" is a mis-used phrase...the term high elbow should really just refer to the catch/pull. "Elbow lead" recovery would be more appropriate phrasing, and a wide elbow lead recovery helps keep you from overrotating as mentioned above.


hmm...interesting...possibly part of why i like zipper so much...i barely rotated at all before and now when i'm just swimming i have a nice smooth roll...
2010-06-11 2:15 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
AdventureBear - 2010-06-11 11:37 AM Doing zipper pull (in my opinion) encourages over rotation of the body, "stacking" your shoulders on top of one another and destabilizing you in the water.


Only if it is taught badly.


If you know where you should be entering the water with your hand (opinions will differ on this), try tracing a straight line backwards from your entry point to your exit point, then retrace so that there is no extraneous movement (wasted energy). dragging your fingertips on the surface of hte water while you do this rehearsal helps you focus on the shortest path from exit to entry...but best learned by tracing the path backwards. Zippering up the side of the body is not the shortest distance from exit to entry.


If it isn't the shortest path (since the hand has to come straight from the hip/thigh area to straight ahead) what is?


I think the term "high elbow recovery" is a mis-used phrase...the term high elbow should really just refer to the
catch/pull. "Elbow lead" recovery would be more appropriate phrasing, and a wide elbow lead recovery helps keep you from overrotating as mentioned above.


How does the elbow lead the recovery? Or are you talking about just the portion where the arm is exiting the water?

John
2010-06-11 2:51 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
This video is nice because it compares Phelps, Cullin and TI coach Shinji

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ENDX_e7aRg&NR=1

Watch the elbow of the recovery arm leads the relaxed forearm and hand...there is no reaching out with the hand until the arm is ready to enter the water. Also note that none of them are on their side, the only position in which running the fingers in a "zipper" up the side of the body would be the shortest path. if your elbow/hand exits just wide of your hip, adn enters in front of the shoulder, then bringing the hand to your side creates a c or reverse C shaped path. it may not seem like a big deal, but when the aim is to "turn off" any muscle groups not contributing to either decreasing drag or increasing propulsion, points like these start to add up. IN each of these 3 swimmers, note how the forearm and hand seem to just dangle without effort from the elbow until entry is made.

So going back to the original point...doing drills without understanding why...it's easy to see how simply "dragging your fingertips" doesn't really help promote any of the points I outlined above. (whether you agree with that style or not)

Edited by AdventureBear 2010-06-11 2:52 PM


2010-06-11 3:01 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Nice video.  It's interesting to see how Coach Shinji's hand enters the water right in front of his head, while the other two extend the hand farther out before entering the water.
2010-06-11 6:19 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Thanks for the tip on GoSwim.tv.  I just spent some time there and now have some good drills to work. 

I've been trying to keep a more streamlined body while breathing and the one arm drills look like they might help focus on that aspect of my stroke.

I suppose it might help to have some one video my swim as well.  I know what it feels like, but that's not always what is happening.

oh, and Gary,  thanks for the myth busting
2010-06-13 8:55 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
AdventureBear - 2010-06-11 1:37 PM

Doing zipper pull (in my opinion) encourages over rotation of the body, "stacking" your shoulders on top of one another and destabilizing you in the water. ...

try tracing a straight line backwards from your entry point to your exit point, then retrace so that there is no extraneous movement (wasted energy). dragging your fingertips on the surface of hte water while you do this rehearsal helps you focus on the shortest path from exit to entry...but best learned by tracing the path backwards.


I'd like to amplify the two points Suzanne made here about recovery
1) Zipper Drill - In the early '00s the "zipper" action was part of the TI drill sequence. We stopped teaching it around 2005 or 2006 for two reasons: (i) We noticed, as Suzanne relates, that it encouraged over-rotation or "stacking" of the shoulders. (ii) We also felt that it led to a "cramped" recovery position.
Here's a simple exercise that will allow you to evaluate that:
- Hold your elbow out to the side so your upper arm is parallel to the floor and your forearm hanging from your elbow like a rag doll. Your forearm will be as far from your body as your humerus is long.
- Lift your elbow higher to bring your hand toward your rib cage. Then relax those muscles returning the forearm and hand to their wider position. As you lift the elbow higher, then relax it outward again, notice how much muscle gets activated and how much tension you create in the "zipper" position, compared to the wider position. Now imagine doing that 1600-2000 times during the swim leg on your next Oly race.

2) Straight Line recovery. I visualize a laser line from the point where my hand exits the water - which I want to be perhaps 6 inches wide of my hip - and the point where my hand completes its extension and will begin the next stroke - which I want to be directly forward of my shoulder.

On recovery I'd like to move my hand from exit to catch by the shortest possible distance. That means both following the laser line - eliminating outward-circling movement - and with fingertips barely clearing the water. This is one reason for practicing a fingertip-dragging movement on recovery. I think of "etching a line across the surface" with my fingertips, as a Stroke Thought. This also helps reduce the distance my hand must travel from the finish of one stroke to the beginning of the next.
2010-06-13 9:49 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
My opinion (as a swim coach   )
Drills are a very important part of technique practice.   They tend to emphasize and practice one part of the stroke and I like doing them best as combinations of drill/swim - so you can relate that bit you've been practicing straight away into full stroke.

However, drills are only good if you understand WHY you're doing them (goswim is a great resource for those without real life on hand coaches as it explains why and has some good footage of what it should look like) and also only if you are doing them correctly.

For the zipper/fingertip - I prefer to use fingertip if the person can do this properly - for leading elbow, relaxed arm recovery but I always make sure that the instructions add a reach forward afterwards.  It also does help with rotation for those that swim flat.  With some of the kids on our swim team and also some adults the don't "get" the fingertip drag drill immediately so we use zipper as it is easier to relate to.  Sometimes I find this makes people wiggle up the pool though so again it is a case of being able to do it correctly.

As always in all swimming practicing incorrect technique/ drills won't help "perfect practice makes perfect"

Jackie D
usat level 1, asca level 2 swim coach
2010-06-15 6:22 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Just a couple of thoughts:

1) The shoulder joint acts as the fulcrum for the arm during recovery. The further the center of mass is away from the fulcrum, the more energy will be transferred when the arm decelerates as it enters the water. Keeping the hand close to the water and bending the elbow puts the center of arm mass much closer to the fulcrum.

2) When the body is rotated while swimming freestyle, the most relaxed position that the arm can be in is with a straight arm position (no bend in the elbow). The act of bending the elbow requires contraction of the muscles in the shoulder.  What makes straight arm freestyle recovery difficult, if not impossible, is not rotating the body enough.

3) Although the distance traveled by the hand is greater with a straight arm than with a bent elbow, I would argue that the difference in arm recovery time with the two techniques is negligible.  

4) Having said this, I do not advocate using straight arm recovery, in spite of Janet Evans success, because it is difficult to maintain this amount of shoulder rotation over a long distance, particularly with a higher stroke rate. I do think this technique works well for many in the sprints.

Gary Sr. 


2010-06-15 6:22 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
Just a couple of thoughts:

1) The shoulder joint acts as the fulcrum for the arm during recovery. The further the center of mass is away from the fulcrum, the more energy will be transferred when the arm decelerates as it enters the water. Keeping the hand close to the water and bending the elbow puts the center of arm mass much closer to the fulcrum.

2) When the body is rotated while swimming freestyle, the most relaxed position that the arm can be in is with a straight arm position (no bend in the elbow). The act of bending the elbow requires contraction of the muscles in the shoulder.  What makes straight arm freestyle recovery difficult, if not impossible, is not rotating the body enough.

3) Although the distance traveled by the hand is greater with a straight arm than with a bent elbow, I would argue that the difference in arm recovery time with the two techniques is negligible.  

4) Having said this, I do not advocate using straight arm recovery, in spite of Janet Evans success, because it is difficult to maintain this amount of shoulder rotation over a long distance, particularly with a higher stroke rate. I do think this technique works well for many in the sprints.

Gary Sr. 
2010-06-15 6:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
garyhallsr - 2010-06-15 7:22 PM Just a couple of thoughts:

1) The shoulder joint acts as the fulcrum for the arm during recovery. The further the center of mass is away from the fulcrum, the more energy will be transferred when the arm decelerates as it enters the water. Keeping the hand close to the water and bending the elbow puts the center of arm mass much closer to the fulcrum.

2) When the body is rotated while swimming freestyle, the most relaxed position that the arm can be in is with a straight arm position (no bend in the elbow). The act of bending the elbow requires contraction of the muscles in the shoulder.  What makes straight arm freestyle recovery difficult, if not impossible, is not rotating the body enough.



First, thanks very much for these posts.  Very helpful.

I'm not following something here.  Isn't it the bicep muscle that bends the elbow?  I would have thought, in fact, that a straight arm recovery puts more pressure on the shoulder, because the 'lever' (of which the shoulder is the fulcrum) is much longer when the elbow is straight.
2010-06-17 11:25 AM
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Subject: RE: Swim Myth #8....busted.
garyhallsr - 2010-06-15 6:22 PM Just a couple of thoughts:


2) When the body is rotated while swimming freestyle, the most relaxed position that the arm can be in is with a straight arm position (no bend in the elbow). The act of bending the elbow requires contraction of the muscles in the shoulder.  What makes straight arm freestyle recovery difficult, if not impossible, is not rotating the body enough.

3) Although the distance traveled by the hand is greater with a straight arm than with a bent elbow, I would argue that the difference in arm recovery time with the two techniques is negligible.  

Gary Sr. 


Gary, Thanks for your continued contributions to this fourm.  I've learned a bunch from you.

However, as a physicist (not a swim coach) I don't think #2 is correct.  The act of bending the elbow in freestyle only requires only relaxing the tirceps.  Gravity will pull the hand down toward the water.    Therefore it is my belief/experience that the most relaxed recovery is a bent arm one.

What do you think?

Note that I've only adoped the bent arm recovery in the past few years.  I swam for years with a straight arm recovery.

T
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