Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Summer Swimming Camp June 15-18, 2018 in Islamorada, FL

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The Race Club Islamorada, Summer Swimming Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us, your Race Club family. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns, 4 different types of dryland, the science of swimming and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, June 15th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, June 16th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, June 17th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, June 17th 11am-12noon Testing for Velocity Meter option
Monday, June 18th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Monday, June 18th 11am-12noon filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and Afternoon Camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before May 15th, you get a $200 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early for all sessions, you get the whole camp for $1400.   The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


Easter Swim Camp during Spring Break 2018 in Islamorada, FL

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The Race Club Islamorada, Easter Swim Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us, your Race Club family. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns, 4 different types of dryland, the science of swimming and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Thursday, March 29th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Friday, March 30th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, March 31st 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, March 31st 11am-12noon Testing for Velocity Meter option
Sunday, April 1st 8am-11am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Sunday, April 1st 11am-12noon filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and Afternoon Camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before February 28th, you get a $200 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early for all sessions, you get the whole camp for $1400.   The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


President’s Day Weekend Florida Swim Camp February 16-19, 2018

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The Race Club Islamorada, Florida Swim Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us, your Race Club family. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns, 4 different types of dryland, the science of swimming and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, February 16th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, February 17th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, February 17th 11am-12noon filming for Video Analysis option
Sunday, February 18th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, February 18th 11am-12noon Testing for Velocity Meter option
Monday, February 19th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Monday, February 19th 11am-12noon filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and Afternoon Camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before January 16th, you get a $200 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early for all sessions, you get the whole camp for $1400.   The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


March 16-19, 2018 Spring California Swim Camp

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The Race Club swim technique camp is unlike anything out there! In this March Swim Camp, we try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns, 4 different types of dryland, the science of swimming and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, March 16th 8am-11am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Friday, March 16th 11am-12noon Testing for Velocity Meter option
Saturday, March 17th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Sunday, March 18th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Monday, March 19th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Monday, March 19th 11am-12noon Filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and afternoon camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before February 16th, you get a $200 discount. The regular price of the whole camp is $1600. If you sign up early, it is $1400.  The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Brian Bent Memorial Aquatic Center, 818 Sixth Street, Coronado, CA 92118. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


January 12-15, 2018 Coronado Swim Camp

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The Race Club swim technique camp is unlike anything out there! In this January Swim Camp, we try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns, 4 different types of dryland, the science of swimming and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, January 12th 8am-11am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Friday, January 12th 11am-12noon Testing for Velocity Meter option
Saturday, January 13th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Sunday, January 14th 8am-11am and 2pm-4pm camp sessions
Monday, January 15th 8am-11am and 2:30pm-4:30pm camp sessions
Monday, January 15th 11am-12noon Filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and afternoon camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before December 12th, you get a $200 discount. The regular price of the whole camp is $1600. If you sign up early, it is $1400.  The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Brian Bent Memorial Aquatic Center, 818 Sixth Street, Coronado, CA 92118. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


How To Improve Your Backstroke Start

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Beautiful Backstroke Start

A great backstroke start is a thing of beauty. I liken it to a dolphin leaping out of the water and piercing the water through a hula-hoop, or David Boudia, scoring a perfect 10 off of the 10-meter tower. You see no splash and hear no splash.

Unlike from the starting block, the backstroker begins the race at a lower height. Gravitational forces are still important, however, so in order to take advantage of them, the backstroker must launch upward, not just backward, to achieve the greatest speed at entry. Further, in order to reach the highest speed on the backstroke start, the swimmer needs to avoid dragging any part of the body through the water. The body needs to go completely airborne during the start.

If you could freeze the backstroker at the very peak height of the start, you would find the feet and hands are very close to the water, yet the bum is a couple of feet above the surface of the water, with the body forming an upside down U shape. In other words, the body is arched way back, and is completely out the water.

Elevate

If a swimmer is to have any chance of reaching this extraordinary height on the start, he or she must launch from a high position. Taking your mark, the swimmer must elevate the body until the bum is right at the surface or above the water. This is most effectively achieved when the toes are very near the surface and gripping the touch pad. On a flat wall, the feet can be placed slightly above the surface of the water.

Upon elevation of the body, the back should be straight and the chin held upright, rather than looking downward. Some backstrokers prefer to keep the bum further away from the wall than the head, while others are positioned more straight up and down. Just like doing a pull up, it requires a lot of strength to reach this high position. With the additional weight from the body leaving the water, there is also more risk of the feet slipping down the wall. World-class backstrokers Missy Franklin and David Plummer know what that feels like, as that mishap occurred to them in the Olympic Games and World Championships, respectively.

Much of the risk of the feet slipping has been mitigated by the introduction of the backstroke wedge, an adjustable plate that sits against the wall under the surface, helping prevent the feet from slipping down. This device is now approved by FINA for all major swimming championships.

When given the option of a vertical or horizontal bar on the starting block to grasp to elevate the body for the start, most elite backstrokers at the World Championships chose the vertical over the horizontal bar. Those that chose the horizontal bar, always selected the higher bar, not the lower one.

Bend Backward

Once elevated, with the sound of the beep, the swimmer throws the arms more or less straight back overhead, and extends the head backward, as if looking upside down to the end of the pool. The energy of the arm swing and the head snapping backward are both coupling motions that augment the force of the feet pushing the body upward and backward. With the back fully arched, the swimmer avoids contact with the water until the hands enter first, and with the high launch, reaches a greater speed at entry. The hands should be wrapped together wrist over wrist at entry in a tight streamline.

A third potential coupling motion on the backstroke start is the kick up of the feet and legs just prior to entry. This motion ranges from very little movement or energy up to a huge kick, such as is being done by world class backstroker, Luca Spinazzola, whom we video’d at The Race Club. Luca’s unique backstroke start will be featured in an upcoming webisode.

Just before the hands enter the water, the head begins to come up and the back begins to straighten to avoid going too deep with an overly arched body position. Since the heel of the foot is the first part of the foot to reach the water, the foot actually relaxes from its plantar-flexed (pointed) position to create the least amount of drag at entry.

Hold Your Breath While Power Kicking

Once the body is underwater, the real backstroke race begins with the dolphin kicks. In fact, in short course races, more of the race is swum underwater dolphin kicking rather than on the surface backstroking. The faster the kicker, the better the start becomes. Since the swimmer usually goes deeper with a backstroke start than with a freestyle start, the minimum number of dolphin kicks to reach the breakout is usually 5 or 6, with the maximum to reach 15 meters usually 10 to 12 kicks. The right number of kicks to reach the surface for each swimmer depends entirely on the speed of the kicker.

Both Missy Franklin and Tyler Clary have convinced me that wearing a nose clip in backstroke makes perfect sense… unless you have one of those upper lips that can occlude your nose. The reason is that with the nose clip, the air can be retained in the lungs, keeping the body weight at zero right up to the break out. With much of the air expired out of the lungs, the body weighs about 8 lbs by the time the swimmer is ready to break out. Another advantage of the nose clip is that the swimmer can burst exhale right before breaking out and does not need to take a gaspingly deep first breath to refill the lungs. The quicker first breath enables the swimmer to explode out of the breakout with less delay and a faster stroke rate.

We’re Talking About Practice

The best way to improve your starts is by practicing starting. But first, watch the amazing start of World Champion backstroker, Junya Koga.  At The Race Club, we often do backstroke sets by beginning with a start, rather than a push off the wall, just to get that extra practice in.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


How to Breathe While Swimming: Air Lubrication System

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Quick and Shallow

First, I want to dispel one myth about breathing during intense exercise. In no sport does an athlete ever take a complete inhalation or expiration. The breaths during intense exercise are relatively quick and shallow, meaning that a little O2 comes in and a little CO2 goes out with each breath. It is an air exchange, not a deep breath.

The most detrimental part of breathing in swimming is likely not the associated increase in frontal drag, though that can be significant, depending on how the breath is taken, but rather the slowing of the stroke rate. Particularly in shorter races, a long, ‘star-gazing’ breath that slows the stroke rate can have disastrous consequences for both speed and inertia. To help with stroke rate and frontal drag, getting the breath quickly and with the least amount of change in body position is vital. In freestyle, that means turning the head minimally (keeping one goggle lens in the water during the breath), elevating the mouth to one side to meet the air, and rotating the head posteriorly (backward) rather than straight to the side or forward.

In butterfly, it means extending the neck forward maximally for the breath, keeping the mouth close to the water, while maintaining the body in a more horizontal position. Or in cases where swimmers can’t seem to avoid lifting the shoulders too high for the front breath, breathing to the side in butterfly may be a better option. It is important to be aware of these details in order to effectively develop an air lubrication system while swimming fast!

Hold or Let Go?

While in land-based sports, the inhalations are immediately followed by expirations and vice versa, or, in other words, there is no ‘breath holding’, in swimming, there may be a theoretical advantage in doing so. On land, our weight does not change appreciably with each breath, but in the water it does. The weight of a swimmer ranges from zero with the lungs inflated to around 8 lbs (4kg) after a maximal expiration (there is always some residual volume of air in the lungs). The buoyancy of the human body also goes from neutral to negative after expiration.

The question is, do we hold the air in our lungs for as long as possible after putting our face back in the water, then exhaling with a quick burst prior to capturing the next breath? Or, do we do as the Red Cross teachers told us to do as children, trickle the air out of our nose or mouth, prior to the next breath?

The changes in body weight and buoyancy can impact frontal drag of a swimmer, particularly while swimming on the surface. The higher the swimmer can be on the surface, the less frontal drag and the faster the swimmer can go. A swimmer is faster in salt water, where there is more buoyancy, than in fresh water. The density of water is so great that just a few millimeters of difference in body position on the surface can have a significant impact on a swimmer’s speed. So, it would seem logical that swimmers would want to keep the air in the lungs as long as possible, weigh less, be more buoyant and burst the air out of their lungs at the last moment, before turning the head for the breath.

What Do the Best Do?

But that is not what great swimmers do. Katie Ledecky, Sun Yang, Grant Hackett, Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps and virtually all of the other great freestylers release some air through the nose immediately upon planting their faces back in the water after the breath. The great butterflyers of the world do the same. With the speed of their bodies moving forward, those air bubbles from the nose move underneath their bodies before finding their way to the surface. The rest of the exhalation comes just before and while the head is turning or elevating for the next breath. In that manner, the inhalation can begin immediately once the mouth reaches air, so the head can return promptly to the face down position without slowing the stroke rate.

Air Lubrication System

I did not recognize the significance of those bubbles until one of my swimming colleagues at the pool in Islamorada, Florida brought the Emperor Penguins to my attention. The Emperor Penguins of the Antarctic Ocean have evolved to develop an air lubrication system in order to escape the wrath of the hungry seals chasing them or launch themselves out of the water. Under the plumes of their feathers, they manage to trap air bubbles. When the seals are chasing the penguins for lunch, the penguins release the air from under the feathers and gain a significant amount of speed, presumably while kicking with the same amount of force with their webbed feet and wings. By releasing the air bubbles, surrounding themselves with air instead of water, they effectively lower their frontal drag forces, which enables them to spurt forward out of harm’s way.

Think of those air bubbles under your chest as if they were marbles on concrete. It is much easier to move over the concrete with marbles. The same is true with air bubbles in water. Cruise ships and shipping companies have recently developed an air lubrication system to release air bubbles underneath the hull in order to reduce a ship’s frictional drag.

The Art of Breathing

Could it be that the air bubbles under the swimmer’s body released after the breath do the same as an air lubrication system to a lesser degree? Perhaps. What I do know is that great swimmers usually do the right thing, whether they understand the reason for doing so or not. Releasing some air through the nose after the breath may just be another example of that. So that is what I do and recommend others do.

In the upcoming third and final article of this series, we will examine the most controversial breathing topic of all and that is how often to breathe.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read: How Oxygen Affects Our Bodies in a Swim Race: The Art of Breathing Part I

Read: Oxygen! How Often Should I Breathe in Swimming?: The Art of Breathing Part III

The Race Club Aqua Notes Air Lubrication System


Improve Your Track Start in Swimming

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The Track Start

Nearly all swimmers today use a track start with one foot forward and the other back on the starting block. With the introduction of the back wedge on the top of the block in 2009, virtually all swimmers adopted the track start. Regardless of the type of start used, the favorable angle of the back wedge increases the potential force from the feet using the track start. The only swimmers that I do not recommend using the track start are older Masters swimmers that have trouble with balance and equilibrium. They are better off with both feet forward on the edge of the block.

There are two distinctly different types of track start, weight forward and weight back (or slingshot). With the weight forward start, the majority of the swimmer’s weight is placed on the front foot with the toes wrapped over the edge of the block. With the weight back start, at the command of ‘take your mark’, the swimmer shifts the majority of the body weight to the back foot by leaning backward a few degrees. In watching the Olympic Games in Rio, there appear to be a significant number of swimmers using both types of track start, weight forward and backward. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Weight Forward

Advantages

  • Faster reaction time to get off the block quicker
  • Enables fast dolphin kickers to get in the water sooner

 

Disadvantage

  • Less propulsive force generated with nearly all force derived from front foot

 

Weight Back

Advantages

  • Potential for more propulsion from arms, back and front foot
  • May increase the coupling energy from the arm motion

 

Disadvantage

  • Slower reaction time to get off the block

 

With the weight forward start, most of the propulsion is coming from the front foot and since the weight is positioned further forward, it is the fastest way to leave the block. The center of the body’s mass is positioned directly over the hands which are either pulling upward on the front of the block or the bars on the top of the block. From that position, it is impossible to generate any meaningful propulsion from the arms. It is the front foot (leg) doing most of the propulsion, with some coming from the back foot.

With the weight back start, it is important that the body does not shift backward too far, which would require too much time for the swimmer to leave the block. Only a few degrees of motion are needed to shift the majority of weight to the back foot. From that position, with the center of mass behind the hands, one can generate some propulsion from the arms, with the hands wrapped around the front of the block or on the bars above the block, by pulling the body forward. The propulsion begins with the arms and the back foot simultaneously, then shifts to the front foot as the body moves forward. With the weight back start, there are three potential sources of propulsion, back foot, front foot and arms (hands), while with the weight forward start, the front foot does most of the work.

What’s Correct for You?

Deciding which track start to use is not easy. The outcome of either start, however, should not be judged by the reaction time to leave the block, but rather where the swimmer breaks out from under the water. This is influenced by the time required to leave the block, the propulsive force leaving the block (vertical leap ability), the frontal drag caused from arms, body, legs and feet upon the water entry, the mass (weight) of the swimmer, the speed of the underwater dolphin kick and the frontal drag and transitional speed at breakout.

In general, the weight forward start may be preferred by swimmers with exceptionally fast dolphin kicks, as it will enable the swimmer to enter the water sooner. The weight-back start is often preferred by swimmers that have strong upper bodies and arms, and with a bigger vertical leap (more fast twitch muscles). In order to overcome the disadvantage of the delay in leaving the block with the weight-back start, one must take advantage of using the forces from the arms and both feet.

The question of which foot goes forward is controversial. I have found that most swimmers prefer to place the dominant foot forward. Yet I have also seen some excellent swimmers that did the opposite. What is most important is that the swimmer feels comfortable in the selected position of the feet and that it results in the best start.

Use Your Head, Arms and Legs

Regardless of which track start is used, weight forward or backward, both dives should incorporate the three coupling motions to augment the swimmer’s propulsive forces leaving the block. The three coupling motions of the start are the head lift, the arm motion and the upward kick of the rear leg. The amount of kinetic energy in those three motions can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of the dive. In the next article, we will discuss those three important coupling motions.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Improving Your Start from the Block – Part II: Coupling Motions, The Head

Read Improving Your Start from the Block – Part III: Coupling Motions, The Arm Recovery

Read Improving Your Start from the Block – Part IV: Coupling Motions, The Leg Motion

Read Improving Your Start from the Block – Part V: Five Techniques to a Great Start


High Elbow Pull in Freestyle

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TRC Methodology

Teaching swimming technique is very interesting. Every client we have at The Race Club is different. Some learn easily. Some don’t. For those that struggle more with adapting to changes in technique or stroke mechanics, we find that our success often depends on taking a different approach or by using a different description or drill. A concept that is easily grasped by one swimmer may be completely incomprehensible to another. Our methodology in swim camps and private sessions gets down to the bottom of what each swimmer needs. Teaching the correct high elbow pull motion in freestyle is a good example of this challenge.

For every event, other than the 50-meter sprint, the pulling motion of elite freestylers is strikingly similar. We often refer to that correct motion as the high elbow pull. Some call it early vertical forearm. I have written extensively about why it works, but that does not make it any easier to learn. There is really nothing very natural or intuitive about this motion. Some would consider it downright awkward. It requires flexibility. It diminishes propulsion to some extent. Yet it may be the single most important change a swimmer can make in improving freestyle technique.

High Elbow Pull in Freestyle

Of all of the freestyle pulling motions we see with our Race Club clients, I categorize them into four different techniques; the out sweep, the in sweep, the deep pull and the high elbow pull. Excluding the 50 sprinters, I would say that upwards of 95% of our clients manage to find one of the three wrong pulling techniques. Very few learn the correct high elbow pull without some help.

Through years of teaching, we have developed three of our favorite drills for teaching this high elbow pulling motion. Yet, even after spending a great deal of time and effort using these drills on this one important technique, many still don’t get it right. So we are always searching for new ways to teach an old subject.

Keep Your Elbows Pointing Forward

Recently, I was working with one of our clients who struggled to pull correctly, so I decided to give her some advice that I had never given before.

“Once your arm enters the water,” I started, “initiate the pull with the hand and the forearm, but keep your elbow pointing forward, toward the end of the pool for as long as you can…in the direction you are swimming.”

Presto, she got it. It made perfect sense. Suddenly, her upper arms, the cause of most of the frontal drag during the pull, were less in harm’s way. They weren’t sticking out so far. She felt like she was slipping through the water. Not surprisingly, she was swimming faster.

So now, when swimmers are challenged by the high elbow pull in freestyle or the correct pull in backstroke, I simply tell them to keep their elbows pointed toward the end of the pool for as long as they can. For many, it really helps them with both freestyle and backstroke pulling technique.

Sometimes, old dogs like me can learn new tricks.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


For Butterfly and Breaststroke: Use Your Head

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Swimming Streamline

At The Race Club we have always preached to our campers to try to swim smarter. Not that there is any way to swim fast easily, but one can also improve time tremendously by focusing on the minute details of technique, by thinking about the right way to swim, rather than simply doing what might feel correct. When it comes to breaststroke and butterfly, in addition to using your brain for developing the fastest way to kick and pull, one can also benefit from the head in another way.

The adult human head weighs about 12 pounds and over all has negative buoyancy (the brain has neutral buoyancy but the skull has negative buoyancy).  However, since we lift our head completely out of the water on the front-breathing fly and the breaststroke, the weight goes from 12 pounds on the breath to perhaps a pound when it is immersed in the water. How one chooses to use this weight can make a difference in our swimming speed.

Chin To Chest

Most of the breaststrokers and flyers tend to lay their heads down softly after the breath like they are trying to protect them…a natural instinct. Not only that, they do not allow the head to go down far enough, which is when the chin is at or very near the chest. As a consequence, the head stays in a position of greater frontal drag for a longer time during the stroke cycle.

On the racing dive, when the fingers first touch the water and the body’s speed is around 14 mph, nearly 3 times faster than the men’s 50 meter freestyle world record speed, nearly all swimmers have their chins tucked down to their chests. Frontal drag increases exponentially with speed so getting the head into that position with the streamline seems to reduce the drag as much as possible at that crucial moment. When the head comes down after the breath for the breaststroke or the butterfly, the physics don’t change, even though the body speed is less than with the dive. Getting the chin close to the chest is still the best position to reduce frontal drag.

Headbangers

Some of the fastest breaststrokers and butterflyers don’t just lay their heads down into the water softly after the breath, they snap them down quickly and aggressively into the streamlined position (Peaty, King, Cordes). By doing so, they get the head into this desirable position sooner and keep it there longer than by going the slow, gentle route. Further, the higher kinetic energy of the head moving down, when timed with the propulsion from the kick, will add to this force, resulting in more power from the kick. These combined movements result in the body moving further down the pool along the axis of motion with each stroke.

After the breath in fly or breast, don’t just lay your head down gently, snap it down to a better streamlined position and use this important coupling motion to help get you to the wall first.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.streamlined swimming


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