Aqua Notes

March 17-20, 2017 California Swim Camp


The Race Club swim technique camp is unlike anything out there! In this California 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 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 and 4 enhanced sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, March 17th 7am-9am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Friday, March 17th 9am-10am enhanced session
Saturday, March 18th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, March 18th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, March 19th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, March 19th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, March 19th 11am-12noon Velocity Meter testing
Monday, March 20th 7am-9am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Monday, March 20th 9am-10am enhanced session
Monday, March 20th 10am-11am Filming for Video Analysis

Camp sessions are $150 and enhanced sessions are $100. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions on or before February 16th, you get a $300 discount. The price would be $1300, instead of $1600. 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.

*There may be slight changes in the schedule only due to unforeseen circumstances. 

How to Maximize Propulsion with Coupling Motions


While nearly all of the forces that create propulsion come from the hands and feet, there are certain other movements that we can do with our bodies that will increase the amount of propulsion coming from the pull and kick. We call those coupling motions.

I have written extensively in the past about the importance of coupling motions, but for those that missed reading them, let me explain. A coupling motion is a motion of some part of our body that by itself produces no propulsion, yet, when coupled with the propulsive forces, will make them stronger. Since we live in what is called an open system in nature, where the energy from one part of our moving body affects other parts of our body, using coupling motions are a powerful way to swim faster.

The coupling motions of swimming are very important; like putting a fuel additive into your gas tank. Any serious discussion of propulsion in swimming would be remiss without mentioning the coupling motions.

The following are important coupling motions in all four strokes and in the start and the propulsive forces they are coupling with.

  • Freestyle: Rotation of the body (including the head after the breath) and the recovery of the arms (pull and kick)
  • Backstroke: Rotation of the body and recovery of the arms (pull and kick)
  • Breaststroke: Elevation of the upper body (pull) and pressing down of the upper body and head (sometimes the arms, depending on the technique) (kick)
  • Butterfly: Recovery of the arms, snapping down of the head on the front breath (second down kick)
  • Start: Elevation of the head, motion of the arms, elevation of the back leg (feet or feet and arms, depending on the technique)


The keys to making the coupling motions effective are precise timing and more energy. The coupling motion is most effective when the maximum kinetic energy of the motion is timed precisely with the maximum propulsion. For example, if the coupling motion ends before the propulsive force begins, it has no effect at all. A good example is in breaststroke, perhaps the most timing-sensitive stroke of all, where if the body pressing forward reaches the water much before the feet begin to push backward, the benefit of all that work is lost. For that reason, the kicking cycle of breaststroke needs to be lightning fast to work well with the coupling motions of the upper body.

The kinetic energy of coupling motions in swimming can increase in the following ways: rotating faster, lengthening (straightening) the arms, pressing the body forward harder or snapping down the head faster. There is a price to pay, however, and it is called work.

It is much easier to swim without using these high-energy coupling motions. I call that technique survival stroke, which utilizes less energy to get through a workout. If you get accustomed to swimming with survival stroke technique that is the way you will likely swim in the competition. You may invest less energy in the race, but you probably won’t swim as fast and likely won’t win.

At the Race Club we take coupling motions very seriously. Coupling motions are one of the main reasons that swimmers that do not appear to be very strong can swim faster and with more power than bigger, stronger swimmers. We have designed many drills that will help you with the energy and timing of your coupling motions. Come to Islamorada or Coronado and let us show you them!

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool


Part IV: Five Great Training Tips

Practice makes perfect. You cannot develop a fast freestyle or dolphin kick without a lot of hard work. But the rewards are great. Here are five of my best tips for developing a stronger, faster kicking speed.

  1. Increase Plantar Flexibility of the ankle

This simply means that the ankles must be loose and the toes need to be able to point a long way down. Great plantar flexibility is a prerequisite (must have) for fast free and dolphin kicking, but it alone does not guarantee a fast kick.  The good news is that the ligaments in the ankle controlling this motion are fairly small and subject to quick change. Dryland exercises are the best way to improve this motion. We recommend sitting on the tops of the feet with the knees in the air for extended periods to stretch these ligaments. One can also do ankle pushups yoga style to stretch the ankle. I have also found by placing the feet under a low lying couch and straightening the legs while leaning back will put a great stretch on the ankle.

  1. Increase the strength of your kicking muscles

Some of this strengthening will take place in the pool but much needs to be done in the weight room. The quadriceps and hip flexors for the down kick can be strengthened by doing leg extensions from about 45 degrees knee flexion to horizontal. The hamstrings, lower back and gastrocnemius muscles used for the up kick can be strengthened by doing straight leg lifts in the prone position. We recommend 30 to 50 reps for each or to reach exhaustion repeated three times.

  1. Practice lots of kicking

Think about it. If you average a stroke rate of 100 in the 100 freestyle, with a six beat kick, your leg stroke rate is 600 kicks per minute. Considering that you get no recovery time with your legs, that is a lot of demand you are putting on them. It is no wonder that the legs are usually the first part of your body to give out during the race. The legs need to be very fit.

At The Race Club, we recommend that you try to do some hard kicking sets in each practice and that at least once per week, dedicate the entire practice session to kicking. Be creative with kick sets but do lots of kicking.

  1. Kick with alignment board and snorkel

While you may be able to kick faster with a conventional kick board by using the board to buoy your body up, you will never swim a race with your body in that same position. We think that by using the small Finis alignment board with your favorite monosnorkel, keeping the head down and in alignment with your body, you will simulate a more natural swimming position for your kick sets. It will also help you improve your streamline.

  1. Use an elastic band below the knee to develop a tighter kick

Over bending the knee is a common problem in freestyle and dolphin kicking. Under bending the knee is not. An elastic band placed below the knee will help keep the knee from over bending in freestyle kick. It may also slow the kicking speed, but it will make the swimmer become more aware of the need to depend on ankle flexibility to increase kicking speed, rather than on knee bend.

In summary, do not underestimate the power of the kick to help you with your swimming speed. To develop a strong kick requires a sustained program incorporating drills, tough kicking sets and dryland exercises. If you need assistance, let us help you set up the kicking program. Stay the course and you will see great improvement in both kicking and swimming speed.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick 

Read Part II: Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Things a Fast Kicker Does

Two Things a Fast Kicker Does


How to Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

I want to bring your attention to two common, but not widely recognized, problems of the kicking motion that adversely affect kicking speed. Neither is related to propulsion, but both are related to frontal drag.  

  • Slow transition time from down kick to up kick
  • Drawing the legs forward on the up kick too aggressively


In freestyle, after the down kick, a swimmer will often relax the foot before initiating the next up kick. By relaxing the foot, it will hang down toward the bottom and cause as much as a 40% increase in frontal drag. In swimming, within hundredths of a second, a swimmer can change from quick acceleration to dramatic deceleration because of an adverse body position, like the hanging foot. A fast kicker transitions from their down kick to up kick quickly, avoiding the hanging foot. 

Most of the propulsion that occurs from the foot in either the down or up kick occurs very early in the motion. After the initial snap of the foot backward on the down kick, most of the propulsion is over. The motion of the foot from that point is downward and then forward, providing lift, but little or no propulsion. Similarly, the propulsion that occurs during the up kick occurs at the beginning of the motion, as the foot first enters the stream of the vortex.

During the up kick, a fast kicker should bend the knee to around 60 degrees or less to limit frontal drag. If the swimmer draws the foot up and forward too aggressively during this motion, he causes more frontal drag resulting in more deceleration. Therefore, the motion of the foot needs to be very fast at the beginning of the up kick, with short transition time between down and up kick, but not too fast on the up kick once the propulsive phase is over.

Think of your kick in the same way that I operate my boat in the Florida Keys when trying to get it up on a plane. I pop the throttle all the way down, then back off the throttle as the boat comes up. While kicking, pop the throttle at the beginning of the down and up kick, but then back off the throttle after the initial snap down or up. If you keep the throttle down too long, in either direction, you actually decelerate faster.

Sound complicated? Well, it is and that is why we don’t see that many really fast kickers. To do so requires great plantar flexibility, great strength of core and legs, fitness and the knowledge and experience of when and how to move the feet and legs.

A fast kick is the way to a fast swim…so that is why at The Race Club, we focus on developing a lot on kicking speed and propulsion, like in this video. 

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Getting the Motion Right

Read Part II: The Importance of the Up Kick

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool

Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick


Part II: The Importance of the Up Kick

One of my pet peeves is when coaches refer to the up kick on freestyle (or dolphin kick) as the ‘recovery phase’ of the kick. While the biomechanical strength of the down kick is at least double that of the up kick, the up kick also creates propulsion. A stronger up kick not only creates more propulsion, but it also creates a bigger vortex behind the foot, which leads to even more propulsion on the following down kick. To become a fast kicker, there is no recovery phase. By working the kick in both directions, just like a fish does, you can learn to kick faster.

The propulsion generated by the foot is highly influenced by the vortices caused by the swimmer’s body and moving feet. The foot on the up kick, for example, never moves backward relative to a fixed point in the pool. It moves upward and forward. Yet, the up kick can still generate propulsion because the foot is moving through a stream of water flowing forward behind the swimmer (vortex). So long as the stream is moving forward faster than the foot, or the foot is moving backward relative to the water, the foot can create propulsion.

When you turn the swimmer over onto his back, whether doing flutter or dolphin kick, the acceleration, deceleration and velocity curves all change significantly from those seen when kicking on the stomach. When the swimmer is on his back, suddenly the weaker down kick creates as much or more propulsion as the stronger up kick. The reason is that now the down kick pushes against a much stronger stream (vortex) than with the up kick, where the foot drops below the stream. The up kick contributes to the increased strength of the vortex for the following down kick. With less biomechanical strength, the down kick will now produce the same or more propulsion than the more powerful up kick. That is the influence of the vortex.

One of our favorite drills to teach the up kick is doing dolphin kick with fins underwater and on one’s side. We teach the swimmer to not let go of the water with the fin. In other words, we want the swimmer to feel the pressure of the down and up kicks at all times, snapping the fins down on the down kick and drawing the fins up quickly for the up kick. Sounds easy to teach, but in order for swimmers to really get it and practice it, The Race Club has a methodology.

Another great drill for developing the up kick is the vertical kick. If one relaxes on the up kick doing this drill, the head will drop down under water. The only way to keep the head above water at all times is by working both the up and down kicks hard.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool

Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick


How to Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle & Dolphin Kick

Part I: Getting the Motion Right

The amount of propulsion generated by the kick is arguably the most important difference among fast and not-so-fast swimmers. While the motions involved in the propulsion for freestyle, butterfly and backstroke kicks are similar, the breaststroke kick requires an entirely different set of physical attributes. For now, we will focus on freestyle or flutter kick.

As with the pull, the propulsion generated by the kick depends on the amount of surface area of the foot and the speed of that surface pushing backward (relative to the water). Unlike the pull, where the water in front of the hand moving backward is relatively still, the flow dynamics behind the swimmer (vortices) contribute significantly to the amount of propulsion generated by the foot.

There are three articulations involved in the freestyle kick; the hip, the knee and the ankle. To kick fast, they all need to be just right. As with the pulling motion, the ideal kicking motion must reach a compromise between the propulsive forces and the frontal drag forces.

The saying ‘bend but don’t break’ could not apply more appropriately than with the kicking motion. Having plantar flexibility of the ankle is the single most important physical attribute of a fast kicker. With greater plantar flexibility of the ankle, less knee bend is required to get the same amount of surface area of the top of the foot pushing backward. Some knee bend is required in all fast freestyle kicking, but once the bend of the knee passes around 60 degrees, the system breaks down. The drag coefficient increases dramatically and the swimmer decelerates quickly. A strong kicker with plantar flexibility knows exactly how much to bend the knee on each kick, before snapping the foot backward. A poor kicker with little plantar flexibility will often bend the knee well past 60 degrees in order to get more foot surface area to push backward. In so doing, he nearly comes to a screeching halt. The increase in propulsion he may get from over bending the knee will not offset the deceleration caused by the frontal drag from the knee bend. The resulting inefficient, varying speed does not conform to the law of inertia.

In order to reach the optimal knee bend for maximal kicking speed in freestyle and dolphin, the foot must come out of the water during the up kick. Swimmers with poor plantar flexibility tend to bring the foot too far out of the water. With great freestyle kickers at maximum effort, one sees a virtual boil of water formed behind the swimmer from the continuous hard motion of the foot in both directions. For more on the dynamics of the kick and vortices the foot can create read this Aqua Note.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part II: Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool

February 17-20, 2017 Swim Technique Camp in Islamorada, FL

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The Race Club swim technique 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. 

We will have 2 groups during this camp; Swimmers and Triathletes. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns 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 and 4 enhanced sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, February 17th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Friday, February 17th 10am-11am enhanced session
Saturday, February 18th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, February 18th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, February 19th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, February 19th 10am-11am enhanced session
Monday, February 20th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Monday, February 20th 10am-11am enhanced session

Camp sessions are $150 and enhanced sessions are $100. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions on or before January 16th, you get a $300 discount. The price would be $1300, instead of $1600. The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.

Devin Murphy Expert Race Club Coach in Islamorada, FL

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The Race Club, a provider of advanced swimming technique training, camps, analysis and on-line coaching for athletes of all ages and ability, has excelled greatly with Expert Coach, Devin Murphy.  Devin, who began with The Race Club June 1st, came from Pipeline Swimming in Tampa, Florida where he coached several Junior National and Junior Olympic qualifiers as well as High School State Champions and the Bosnian National Record Holder in the 50 and 100 Freestyle.  Prior to his times as a club coach, Devin was the Head Coach of Malone University and the Assistant Coach for Saint Leo University where he helped coach several NCAA All – Americans.  Devin enjoys expanding his knowledge through working with the coaches and clients of The Race Club. He will be leading the Thanksgiving Islamorada camp along with Tripp Montgomery and Richard Hall.  Devin Murphy will coach the Holiday camp, December 17th – January 2nd in Islamorada, along with Richard Hall. 
The Race Club was responsible for training 53 Olympic swimmers that won 23 Olympic medals over 4 successive Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008.  Since then, they have shared their knowledge and expertise by teaching swimming technique and training to swimmers and triathletes of all ages and abilities from around the world attending their camps or private instruction.  The Race Club offers the most advanced technology available for improving swimming skills.
“From the word go, Devin has embodied The Race Club scientific principles of swimming technique and the values of what we teach in swimming and life.” says Gary Hall Sr., co-founder and Director of The Race Club.  “Our Race Club family of clients has embraced him as their own.  They are the ones that validate to us how great of a technique coach Devin is.”
Devin Murphy will be filmed as Race Club coach in our upcoming film production in January. Stay tuned for new videos to be released later in 2017 starring coach Devin Murphy.
Devin Murphy is based in The Race Club’s Islamorada, Florida location, although he travels to conduct clinics.  Race Club coaches also teach our methodologies to clients through private instruction and individual online consultation via Skype or FaceTime.  The Race Club utilizes Founders Park Pool and Jacobs Aquatics Center to conduct private sessions and our Florida Swim Camps.
For more information or to register to attend private sessions or camps in Islamorada or Coronado, contact us: P: 310-936-1888


Swim Training for the 50 Freestyle


High Octane Freestyle Part III: Training 

The 50-meter sprint primarily involves two of the three energy systems we have available to use. Stored energy and anaerobic energy production are the two principal ways in which we delivery ATP to our muscles for this short, all-out burst of speed. However, at the very end of the 50-meter race, when most are either won or lost, the aerobic energy system begins to kick in. Therefore, aerobic swim training also plays a role in the 50-meter races.

All three energy systems have the capacity to change or adapt to the environment when they are stressed in that environment over time. That simply means to improve the anaerobic systems, one must train with a method that stresses those systems. The same goes for the aerobic system.

The stored energy supply (ATP and creatine phosphate) with maximal exertion will last about 8-10 seconds. I am not certain how much more available storage of this source of energy can be developed by stressing that system (alactic training), or by ingesting creatine, which is controversial, but it can change. Alactic swim training is done by repeated burst maximal efforts of 8-10 seconds so as not to require anaerobic production of ATP, followed by enough recovery time to restore the stored energy supply. That time is typically around 30 seconds or so.

Developing the other anaerobic energy system, the production of ATP anaerobically (anaerobic glycolysis), which predominates the energy supply between 10 seconds up to around a minute of maximal effort, comes from what is called lactate training. This type of training includes repeated maximal effort sets of longer than 10 seconds up to one minute or so with enough recovery time so as not to overwork the aerobic system. That rest period is typically 1 to 3 minutes or more, depending on the duration of the maximal effort. This part of the anaerobic system is not improved by increasing the production rate of ATP, which is the same in trained or untrained muscles, but rather by improving the ability to buffer lactate. The release of a free hydrogen ion as a byproduct of anaerobic glycolysis results in the lowering of the pH of the body. Lactate training improves the ability of the muscle cell to remove the free hydrogen ion. The human body has a very low tolerance for changes in pH (acidification or alkalization) and if the body becomes too acidic, muscle contraction begins to diminish significantly. Athletes know this feeling all too well as the proverbial piano on the back.

The quickest and easiest way for the human to increase the pH and restore it to more neutrality is by increasing the respiratory rate, blowing off more carbon dioxide, or so-called oxygen debt. That is why swimmers do not feel the need to breathe much at the beginning of the race, but as the race progresses and the pH lowers, the swimmer cannot get enough oxygen (or blow off enough CO2).

Since the aerobic energy system (aerobic respiration or oxidative phosphorylation) comes into play at the end of the 50 meters, sprinters must also develop this system to some degree. Too much of the training required to develop this system is detrimental to the sprinter, since it often results in a degradation of good sprint technique and can shift the composition of the muscles toward an increase in slow twitch fibers used in the endurance events. Typically, sprinters will devote the earliest part of the season to developing a stronger aerobic system and the middle and end of the season toward building the anaerobic systems.

While all three of these energy systems can be improved, depending on the type of training we do, the fact is that the muscle mass and composition have a lot to do with the success or lack of success of a sprinter. The predominance of fast twitch fibers results in the ability to generate much more power than with slow twitch fibers. These types of fibers do not recover as quickly as the slow twitch variety, so sprinters cannot sustain a high speed for very long. All swimmers also have a certain number of muscle fibers that sit on the fence. They can be converted to faster twitch, resulting in more power, or slower twitch, resulting in a faster recovery rate, depending on which way the swimmer trains. Anaerobic training shifts them toward the fast side, while aerobic training shifts them toward the slow side.

Swimming is unique in that it presents a paradoxical relationship between muscle mass and speed. Because of the extraordinarily sensitive relationship between a swimmer’s morphology (build) and frontal drag, bigger does not always mean faster. In fact, in races beyond 50 meters, bigger, even if it also means stronger, often results in slower performances. Strength training in swimming remains one of the most challenging and controversial subjects because of this unique paradox.

Finally, because of the significant contribution of the kick to a swimmer’s speed, there are exceptional sprinters that do not necessarily have the expected fast twitch muscle composition, yet manage to go very fast. My son, Gary Jr, was a good example of a swimmer that did not have a great vertical leap, but still managed to win a couple of Olympic gold medals in the 50 meter freestyle. His kicking speed was incredibly fast.

In conclusion, if it is your goal to become a better sprinter, no matter what anatomical or physiological cards you were dealt, first, learn to use a sprinter’s high-octane technique. Second, train to develop the anaerobic systems, but do not completely neglect the aerobic system. You need all three. Third, build swim-specific strength outside of the pool, but don’t get too bulky. Fourth, work on developing a faster kick, where you likely have the most to gain.

If you need help in any of these areas, come visit us at The Race Club. We’d love to help you train smarter and swim faster.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read High Octane Freestyle Part I of III

Read High Octane Freestyle Part II of III

50 Freestyle Swim Technique


High Octane Freestyle Part II of III

Virtually all of elite sprinters for the 50 Freestyle use shoulder-driven freestyle technique. Shoulder-driven freestyle, as opposed to hip-driven or hybrid freestyle, requires that the swimmer gets the hand into the propulsion phase as soon as possible after entering the water. In other words, there is no delay of the hand out in front before it begins pushing backward. The result is a higher RPM or stroke rate.

In the sprinters’ world, RPM matters. When a swimmer goes from hip-driven to shoulder-driven, he basically changes the technique of using his hand (and arm) from an airplane wing and paddle to using it as a propeller. With propellers, higher RPM generally means more speed. Stroke rates of elite sprinters in the 50 meter event range from around 120 strokes per minute (cycle time of 1 second) to around 150 strokes per minute (cycle time of .8 seconds). RPM is not the only thing that matters, however.

The propulsion of a swimmer comes from both the hands and the feet. While all elite sprinters have very fast kicks, the total contribution of a sprinter’s overall speed from the kick and the pull remains controversial. Elite sprinters can pull 50 freestyle faster than they can kick it on the surface (by a few seconds), but from that one cannot necessarily conclude that the pull contributes more to the overall speed than the kick. While there is clearly more propulsion coming from the arm pull, there is also more frontal drag from this motion than with the kicking motion. Also, the measured pulling speed has the benefit of the coupling motions, while the kicking speed (with a board) does not.

Regardless, since the contributions of pull and kick to body speed are likely to be pretty close to equal in the sprints, the point is that the kick had better be fast. A few years ago, I trained a Race Club member that was trying to reach a goal time of 23.0 for the 50-meter freestyle. His best time had been 24.5. In six months, he improved his kick time from 50 seconds for 50 meters (1 m/sec) to 38 seconds (1.32 m/sec). His sprint time improved to 23.2 seconds…all due to a faster kick.

At The Race Club we have a saying that when it comes to the pulling motion, ‘frontal drag trumps power’. However, that is not so in the 50 freestyle sprint. The deeper elbow pulling motion puts the arm in a biomechanically stronger position for propulsion, compared to the high elbow pull. It also causes more frontal drag from the forward motion of the upper arm. In any event longer than 50 meters, the additional frontal drag caused by the deeper elbow will wear the swimmer down. In the sprint for a short duration, it is more manageable. The pulling motion of the elite sprinters ranges from nearly a straight arm down (Anthony Ervin) to an elbow that is about half way from the surface to the straight down pull (Manaudou, Adrian). Either is a compromise in position from the lower drag, high elbow pulling motion of the elite distance swimmers.

The fourth common feature of all elite sprinters is the effective use of coupling motions; body rotation and arm recovery. Perhaps the least understood and appreciated of all four qualities, these coupling motions are an important way to augment propulsion and swim faster. Both motions are circular. The amount of kinetic energy that is generated from each of these motions is determined by the mass (of upper body or arm), the square of the radius (width of the body and length of the arm) and the square of the angular velocity of each (the rotating body or recovering arm speed). The more kinetic energy in those motions that is coupled with the kick or pull, the greater the propulsion that is created.

Since there is more mass in the upper body than the arm, this motion is likely the more important of the two motions. We cannot change our upper body mass nor our body’s radius, but we can change the rotational speed of our body. By doing so, we can have a huge impact on our propulsion due to the exponential relationship of angular velocity.

With the arm recovery motion, we can change the radius of the arm by bending or straightening the elbow. We can also change the angular velocity by recovering the arm at a higher speed. Both have an exponential relationship with the amount of kinetic energy produced in that motion. In other words, if I double the radius of my arm by going from completely bent to straight, I quadruple the kinetic energy in the motion. If I double the angular velocity of the recovering arm, I quadruple the kinetic energy in that motion. If I do both, I increase the kinetic energy from a slow, bent-arm recovery to a fast, straight-arm recovery by 16 times!

Through the power of coupling motions, we see nearly all of the elite sprinters increase speed by rotating the shoulders quickly from one side to the other and by recovering their arms quickly with them either straight or nearly straight. Those two motions require a lot of work, but significantly increase the propulsion of both the pull and kick.

Sprinting fast requires that you have certain anatomical and physiological tools, as well as good technique. In the next and final article, we will describe ways in which your training can help you develop better tools for sprinting.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read High Octane Freestyle Part I of III

Read High Octane Freestyle Part III of III