Butterfly is a tough stroke to swim. It demands excellent fitness, strong legs, upper body and core, along with exceptional shoulder and ankle flexibility in order to perform well. Olympian and former butterfly world record holder Roland Schoeman makes it look easier with his graceful, yet powerful strokes across the pool. One of Roland’s secrets to swimming a faster butterfly is to enter his hands directly in front of his shoulders, rather than over or under reaching with the arm swing. He then initiates the pull quickly but maintains the elbows in a rather high position as he forcefully pushes his hands backward through the water . The high elbow position enables him to create propulsion from his hands without causing an excessive amount of frontal drag from the upper arms. Similar to the freestyle pull, but with both arms moving underwater at the same time, the high elbow pull in butterfly is a compromise from the maximum power possible, but is a technique that is required to reach the fastest speeds.
In swimming, we often need to learn to do what is right, rather than what feels right. That can be a challenge when we don’t feel the frontal drag forces working to slow us down. At The Race Club, we teach the right technique for each swimmer for all strokes With every stroke of butterfly taken, the precise timing of the two down kicks coupled with the recovery of the arms and the high elbow underwater pull is absolutely crucial for speed. Keeping the arm pull in the high elbow position enables the swimmer to get the hands through the stroke cycle faster, while reducing frontal drag. Watch Roland in this Race Club Swimisode and see how he has mastered this challenging butterfly stroke.
Dolphin kick backstroke is one of the best ways to learn how to develop a fast stroke rate. Many swimmers struggle in getting their arms through the stroke cycle fast enough in backstroke. It is difficult to know how to maintain that high stroke rate throughout a race if it is not practiced so we like to use the dolphin kick backstroke drill to learn how to maintain a high stroke rate. Synchronizing each kick with a single arm pull, Junya shows us how this technique enables a swimmer to pull faster and increase the overall speed of the backstroke. In this Race Club #swimisodes, you will see how Junya still manages to rotate his body quickly from side to side while pulling at this higher stroke rate, gaining power and speed.
There are only two stroke rates for backstroke, fast and faster. Dolphin kick backstroke drill is a wonderful technique to develop a faster stroke rate. Swimmers who cannot find a way to turn their arms over quickly might discover a faster way to swim with dolphin kick backstroke. Introduce fins using this technique while synchronizing the arms and suddenly the swimmer is backstroking on the freeway, motoring down the pool. At the Race Club, we have found this technique to be very effective in improving backstroke among swimmers who come to us of all ages and abilities.
Getting the backstroke kick right can be very challenging. In this installment of #swimisodes, World Champion Junya Koga first shows you what a typical backstroke kick technique with too much knee bend looks like, causing an increase in the frontal drag slowing you down. Then, using an elastic band above the knee, Junya demonstrates a more correct and faster technique of backstroke kick using less knee bend and a lot of power derived from the hip flexors and relaxed, loose ankles. To kick properly and to avoid the temptation of over bending the knee to get more power out of each kick, Junya and Olympic champion Roland Schoemann demonstrate two important dryland exercises that help increase the flexibility of the ankle. Achieving such flexibility with loose and relaxed ankles is one key qualities needed to develop a faster backstroke and freestyle kick with a tighter, narrower kick.
We use the Finis Ankle Strap in a variety of ways at our Race Club camps to improve kicking technique. When you first try using the elastic band you may get frustrated by the slower speed of your kick. Be patient and continue to work on ankle flexibility with this narrower technique of kicking. Eventually you will see your kicking speed and, more importantly, your backstroke speed begin to increase. Using the flick kick and freestyle kick dryland exercises, you can see great improvement in your ankle flexibility occurring within weeks. The technique of kicking with less knee bend takes time and practice to perfect.
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Having great speed in breaststroke kick is one of the techniques that led Olympian Rebecca Soni to gold medals in the Beijing and London Olympics. In this #swimisodes learn Rebecca’s favorite breaststroke kick drill which helped build her strong legs to maintain a faster stroke rate than her competitors. Developing such speed in the legs in order to get through the breaststroke kick cycle so quickly, requires a lot of work on swim drills such as this speed kick drill and the wall kick. We often see swimmers who breaststroke kick with the knees too wide, lengthening the time for the kick cycle. The kicking speed of many breaststrokers is often too slow and cannot be improved without specifically working on bringing the legs forward and pushing the insteps backward as quickly as possible. These speed drill techniques are often done for short bursts of time of 10 seconds up to 30 seconds, as they are difficult to sustain for longer periods.
In this Race Club Swimisodes you will also notice how Rebecca’s knees draw closer together during the quick bursts of speed drill, then spread further apart during the few recovery kicks that are relaxed. It is critical in using a fast breaststroke kick technique that the knees by held fairly closely together, at the hips or inside the hips. Otherwise, it is simply impossible to get through the breaststroke kicking cycle fast enough. In order to keep the knees close together and kick with power, the swimmer must also have great hip flexibility for external rotation. Just a few more degrees of flexibility in the hip can result in a much more powerful kick. Come to The Race Club camp and learn several dryland exercises that can help you develop the hip flexibility necessary for fast breaststroke technique. Thanks for watching!
Body Rotation is one of the key ingredients to a fast freestyle swim technique. At The Race Club, we believe a swimmer should rotate the shoulders maximally during most races. One of the most important drills we have found in teaching swimmers how to rotate their body for freestyle swim technique is the body rotation swim drill. In this swim drill we use fins and a snorkel to allow the swimmer to focus on the act of rotating. The swimmer rotates their body aggressively so that the shoulder is vertical after 6 kicks. Turn the body slightly or slowly and you won’t feel much increase in power, turn the body quickly and aggressively and the increase in speed will be dramatic. You can also try this drill with 12 kicks or for a real challenge try every 3.
We use many dryland exercises at the Race Club to improve our body rotation in the pool . Bicycle Sit Ups are a great exercise we regularly incorporate into our dryland as well as Roundhouse Boxing. By using the core for these exercises one can feel a stronger connection in the pool and lead to a faster freestyle swim technique. Learn the secret to improving your rotation by learning this drill and these dryland exercises in this #swimisodes
There isn’t an elite swimmer out there that doesn’t excel in what we call The Fifth Stroke or dolphin kick. Many are talented kickers, but all fast swimmers work their kick a lot. Dolphin kick not only requires tremendous leg strength, it demands the whole body to move to create maximum propulsion.In order to become a faster swimmer, the dolphin kick deserves a lot of training attention. In short course, for good kickers, the underwater dolphin kick is more a part of the backstroke race than is the backstroke swim itself. So one needs to train using this technique often to improve the backstroke races. Of course, with this technique a swimmer can improve in all four strokes, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. That is why the dolphin kick is called the Fifth Stroke.
In this third #swimisodes on The Fifth Stroke, we examine how to kick dolphin kick on your back and why it helps develop on faster swim kick. Olympic gold medalist Roland Schoeman has an extremely powerful and fast dolphin kick. He trains considerably using this technique, both with fins and without fins. Although he works the up kicks very hard, providing about 80% of the total propulsion, Roland is careful to quickly pull the feet downward firmly after each up kick. Doing so, he avoids excessive frontal drag from the feet not pointing backward and he creates a bigger vortex, augmenting the propulsive force of the following up kick. Basically, the turbulent water going back and propelling a swimmer forward from their powerful up kick can be used on the less powerful down kick, if it is a quick and technique efficient kick. It may be easier for you to use the dolphin kick backstroke technique with a nose clip to avoid water going up the sinuses. Practicing dolphin kick underwater on your back is a great swim technique to improve your backstroke, as well as all four of the other strokes.
#swimisodes World champion backstroker, Junya Koga demonstrates a backstroke swim drill also known as ‘6 kick switch’, that will help you appreciate the importance of this extreme rotation from one side to the other. Developing a faster backstroke swim begins with learning to use fast, strong body rotation.The energy from this quick body turn couples with the force from the underwater pull, resulting in more distance per stroke. The rotation of the body to the side in backstroke also places the shoulder in a stronger mechanical position to generate a greater force during the pull.
Using this backstroke swim drill at The Race Club, we also teach the swimmers to relax their hands and wrist on the recovery. This little known relaxation practice plays a big role in enabling the arm muscles to recover better for another strong underwater pull. In backstroke and in freestyle, many swimmers keep their hands and wrists stiff during the recovery and never give their arms a chance to recover enough for the next underwater pull. Doing so will quickly lead a swimmer to exhaustion.
For both of these reasons, you should practice the fast backstroke swim drill to develop a more powerful and sustainable backstroke swim.
Michael Phelps has been finishing his IM and Freestyle races with Dolphin Kick freestyle, a swim technique we have been practicing at the Race Club for years. All sprint freestylers use a high stroke rate. Learning how to turn over the arms quickly is not always that easy. It takes strength, endurance and practice. At The Race Club, we have used the dolphin kick freestyle swim technique to teach swimmers how to sprint faster. With this swim technique, the swimmer uses the freestyle pull timed precisely so the hand enters the water with the down kick of the dolphin kick. When synchronized with a strong dolphin kick, this technique enables the swimmer to move very fast. When timed well, the dolphin kick forces the swimmer to use a faster pulling stroke rate.
When Michael Phelps uses this swim technique his stroke rate goes from around 75 to over 100, this could be the reason for his victory over Ryan Lochte. The dolphin kick freestyle was also used by Olympic Champion Michael Klim from Australia, in the final meters of his lead off 100 M freestyle on the relay at the Olympic games in Sydney in 2000. At that time, he spurted ahead of American Anthony Ervin and set a new world record.
For either sprinting or finishing IM or freestyle races, practicing the dolphin kick freestyle drill may boost your speed especially towards the end of the race when lactic acid and fatigue kick in and, like Phelps, it may help you win some races. Don’t try the dolphin kick freestyle technique in a race without practicing it first, but with a good dolphin kick, this technique can increase your stroke rate and speed. A faster stroke rate will usually result in a faster swim and will conform more with the law of inertia.
With the introduction of the back footplate on the swim starting blocks in 2008, the dynamics of the technique of starting changed. Swimmers and coaches quickly learned that during swimming starts considerably more force could be applied by the creation of a more favorable surface angle for the back foot with the plate, similar to the start of a track sprint race.
At The Race Club, we tested the speed of our Olympic swimmers to 15 meters with and without the back footplate and found that by using the back plate with a sling-shot starting technique, the swimmers’ times decreased by .1-.3 seconds.
In this Race Club Swimisode, you will see Olympian Rebecca Soni and World-class freestyler Zach Hayden demonstrate how to use the sling-shot start with the back foot plate. The head and body position, the degree of pull back and the tension on the upper arms are critical to getting the best possible start.
Getting off to a great start is an important way to begin a race. No one wants to play catch up after the breakout. Enjoy this Swimisode and learn how to explode off of the starting blocks and get going in The Race Club way.
Read Aqua Note on How to Effectively Do a Slingshot Start by Gary Sr.
Watch Part I of Swimisodes Swimming Starts Series – How to Position Your Feet
Read Aqua Note on How to Maximize Swimming Starts with the Back Footplate
At The Race Club, we practice an important backstroke swimming drill that helps swimmers increase their speed and energy of the backstroke body rotation, all of which lead to a faster backstroke. A quick rotation of the body from side to side during the underwater pull is one of the key techniques that a swimmer can use to develop a faster backstroke. The faster the rotation of the swimmer’s body, the more kinetic energy can be coupled to the pull and kick to make them more effective.
In order to learn an efficient backstroke we believe it is important to practice a variety of backstroke swimming drills. Good backstroke body rotation is not only beneficial for the coupling energy that it provides, but this technique also enables the swimmer to bend the elbow more in the pulling motion underwater. Similar to the high elbow in freestyle, the bent elbow in backstroke reduces frontal drag, but it also increases the propulsion when compared to a straighter-armed pull. Bending the elbow to 120 degrees or more without rotating the body will result in the hand breaking the surface of the water and losing power.
Watching world champion Junya Koga performing the body rotation backstroke swimming drill, you will see how powerful the body rotation can be when coupled with the kick or the pull. Practice this drill often. Develop a strong core to enable you to rotate quickly and you will begin to see great improvement in your backstroke speed.