The Race Club Swimming Technique Talk by Gary Hall Sr.

Gary Hall Sr speaks with The Race Club campers at Florida Swim Camps in Islamorada. He talks about fast swimming technique and the laws that reign over us. The Fundamentals of Fast Swimming are the basis of everything we teach at The Race Club.  Learn cutting edge information for your own swimming training program from the best in the sport of Swimming. See how science relates to how we move in the water. Understanding the principles and the laws that govern each and every one of us, will give you an advantage over your competition. Understanding the principles is the first step in swimming faster. Take some notes! Gary Hall Sr. conducts year round swim camps with The Race Club. Click here for more info on camps, clinics and more…. Thanks for watching.

15 Responses to The Race Club Swimming Technique Talk by Gary Hall Sr.

  1. Tim

    Hello Gary, I enjoyed your technique talk video. Its interesting how you see things with all your experience. I have a few comments that are contradictory to what you may beleive so I would like to “speak my mind” and give you some stuff to think about. No disrespect intended just pooling ideas. I never thought about explosion during the long axis rotation and it makes sense. You spoke about the deep pull and how it is more powerful than the high elbow but that benifit is negated by drag.
    I agree however if you drew a line from your shoulder to your fingertips in physics it would be called “resistance arm” when you shorten the “resistance arm by bending your arm such in the high elbow swimming you are much stronger / powerful. Same reason arm wrestlers shorten the resistance arm as much as possible and rotate to torque the action. In swimming the bent arm, high elbow, shallow swimming with long axis rotation is actually more powerful. The deep pull tends to be a much better shoulder ripper besides.I cant even imagine hand paddles with a deep pull…ouch. There are three laws of inertia, I beleive the second one is the one that applys to fly and breast. You commented that in breast and fly the laws of inertia dont apply…….the second law of inertia very much does. This is the law of action-reaction…for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction…..think of Butterfly for a second…..make sense? :)….Loved it to hear you say that its better to learn action on dryland before applying it in the true.As you know there are mant “false feelings” in the water. The best example I can think of is trying to get a backstroker to widen out a bit. Anyways this dryland learning is called Proprioception…google it ….last of all “shaving down” Friction ?????
    Well, maybe friction has something to do with it..not a whole lot. Ever wonder why the real hairy guys had the same drops when shaved as the ones with baby skin?
    You would think it would be different…..but the hairless dudes and even the woman
    get benifit when shaving because it brings the nerve endings closer to the surface of the skin when the dead skin layer is removed…it delays fatigue….gives bikers the edge, boxers get faster hand speed etc etc…its called “extrioception”…google Coach Don Megerle’s / Tufts University shaving for swimmers thesis. The same theories (not exactly) and many other physics related aspects of swimming were being taught 50 years ago at a place called Pine Knoll Swim School in Springfield Ma. by a Hall of Fame Coach named Charles E Silvia who was world famous at the time for teaching stroke technique. Doc Counsilman and Silvia were among the top stroke mechanic guys back then when we were kids……Gary, you are so lucky to be doing what your doing. I have learned a lot from listening closely to you guys. love your emails and videos. They make me a better Coach out here in Springfield Ma. :) Silvia died in 1986 but his teachings live on…….Cheers !!!

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Thanks Tim. I appreciate your comments. Normally, shortening the lever arm will increase the power and reduce torque at the fulcrum (shoulder). However, we do bend the elbow on the deep pull, but more importantly we change the mechanics of the pull away from using a positive angle of the shoulder and the stronger lat muscle on the deep pull toward using a negative angle of the shoulder and the less powerful scapula muscles with the high elbow pull. That is the reason we are weaker and it is easy to test this in the gym (but you must pull correctly). Because of the added torque with the deeper pull, I believe anterior (biceps) tendonitis is related to this pulling motion.

      You are referring to Newton’s three laws of motion. The first is essentially the law of inertia (though I separate it out in the talk) and the third law is the action-reaction law of motion. Although I believe there is some Bernoulli effect (that Doc first described) with both the arm and body of the swimmer, it is Newton’s third law that accounts for most of the lift and propulsion of the swimmer.

      You are also right that by shaving we change the proprioception of the skin and it clearly feels different (almost more numbing effect). However, our ability to pull is largely dependent on the proprioception of our fingers, particularly the ulnar nerve (ring finger and pinkie), not of the hairy parts of our bodies. Therefore, the primary benefit to shaving is reducing friction.

      Gary Sr.

  2. Tim

    just stopped back w the link….Don Megerle was a student of Coach Silvia, and the article is explained very well…….there is a lot to it…..and more knowing how to handle it, especially Sprinters……now theres a topic! “how a sprinter gets the most out of a shave” Tim :)

  3. Al Dodson

    Gary ~
    A very good presentation of the laws of motion. Tim I agree that Coach Silvia was a pioneer in the physics of swimming and I agree with Don Megerlie’s theories about “shaving down”. I swam for “Red” and coached against Don. One thing I don’t agree with is the date of when Coach died. He was present at “new Englands” at S.C. with Bruce Hutchinson one of his former swimmers and another of my mentors, in 1989.

    Great job guys.


  4. Andreja

    Dear Mr Hall,
    appreciate everything you are doing (all the information you share with us on a daily basis). I have few questions. But first the epic intro:)
    You were talking about the law of inertia and you mentioned the difference between Cesar Cielo and Sun Yang. You also mentioned that Sun Yang is probably compensating the time without propulsion using a powerful kick.
    Actually, Sun Yang is mostly using a two beat kick during the middle part of his 1500m freestyle race. The only time he is using a six beat kick is in the last 150m or 100m of the race. During that time he is averaging something like 29,30 seconds 50m splits with something around 24 to 27 strokes per length of the pool.
    It seems to me he is trying to achieve that specific split time with as less energy expenditure as possible. He is obviously not bothered much with ”stop and go inertia problem” (i don’t say it is not important). If he was, he would apply a powerful six beat kick all the way and probably try with a higher stroke frequency, which would at one point transfer him to shoulder driven freestyle, and so on….
    He is trying to be relatively efficient and relatively fast at the same time. It also has to do something with his endurance, balancing the physiological processes during the race, genetics (maybe a lot).
    On the other hand, when he swims 400m freestyle, we all can see a difference. More kicking, higher stroke rate, hybrid freestyle, still trying to achieve distance per stroke.
    Cesar Cielo and other sprinters evidently don’t care a lot about the energy expenditure. For them it represents one of the goals – to unleash as much as possible energy and transform it into mechanical force while swimming. They also strive for high efficiency, distance per stroke – in the range of 34 to 40 strokes per length of the pool (but not all of them).
    Just a thought….
    Do you think that inertia plays a greater role in sprint swimming than it does in long distance swimming, and does the importance of controlling the inertia rise with the increase of swimming speed (shortening the distance in freestyle events)?
    In terms of being a faster swimmer, we have all witnessed that sprint races nowadays (Olympics, World Championships) are literally won in the beginning and at the end of the race. Faster starts and faster and more timed finishes determine placings, since almost all of the finalists swim equally fast.
    Can overriding the inertia problem be one of the gates to faster swimming speeds in sprinting other than faster and more powerful starts and faster and more precise finishes (without taxing the energy system even more)?
    Best regards,

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Thanks Andreja. First, Sun Yang does some unique things. On his 1500 he does not use a two beat kick. He uses 4 hard kicks when he pushes his right hand forward (head is underwater) and when he breathes to his right and his left hand is forward he lets up on the kicks (except at the finish). He attains greater speed with the right hand in front (with the strong kick) than the left and, as good as he is, cannot keep the intense kick up for both hands in front for 1500 meters. In the final 100 he kicks with more force and more constantly and finishes in 54 seconds. He also breathes consecutively to both sides going into and out of each turn and occasionally in the middle of the pool to get additional Oxygen. His is a hip driven-freestyler, even on the final 100 when his stroke rate goes from 60 to over 90.

      Cesar Cielo, on the other hand, is a shoulder driven freestyler using his arms more as a propeller than an airplane wing (Sun Yang). In the 50, he is turning the arms over at 120-130 strokes per minute. Efficiency is measured in meters/Kcal and as such, sprinters at high speed burn a lot more calories/meter than distance swimmers. It is not that sprinters aren’t efficient. The technique they need to go fast (shoulder driving at high speed) requires a lot more energy input, just as driving a car fast consumes much more gasoline.

      Inertia is important for all distances. Whatever swimmers can do to try to obey it and keep their speed more constant will help them, but it requires a lot of energy from arms and legs and reduced frontal drag in order to do that.

  5. Pingback: The Energy Systems of the Swimmer - The Race Club | The Race Club

  6. Pingback: Why The Fundamental Law of Drag Matters in Swimming

  7. Preksha

    Hi Garry!I just saw your video and I think I learnt something from it.But I did not understand something. The two different pulls you mentioned in the video [the one which is a wrong pull and which creates more drag and the pull which creates less drag and the one which is correct] is actually a good concept.You also mentioned that the wrong pull is stronger but also creates drag and the correct pull is not as strong as the deep hand pull creates less drag. Do you think that both pulls are the same as it contains the same elements except for one is more and one is less?

  8. Gary Hall Sr.

    The two pulling motions are different with respect to both propulsion and frontal drag. The deeper pull has the potential to create more propulsion, but with significantly more frontal drag. The high elbow pull creates less propulsion, but it doesn’t need to, as it also causes less frontal drag. In virtually every event except perhaps the 50 meter sprint, the high elbow pull turns out to be better than the deeper pull. Frontal drag forces are more important (to a large degree) than propulsive power.

  9. Tariq Miller-Green

    But gary, how does changing the depth of the arm in the water reduce drag? I mean drag forces are proportional to surface area. The surface area of the arm wouldn’t change no matter the depth. The same number of molecules of water would be disturbed as the surface are is the same. Its like taking a piece of paper and dropping it at different heights. The fluid the: the air would resist the paper with the same amount of force as it would a thousand feet in the air. If you crush the paper and make it smaller less air molecules resist it. You are not stronger with your arm straight. The principles of moments explains that. Its like holding a 1ft stick at one end and a 5 ft stick at the other. The longer stick is harder to hold. From experience alone lifting weights

  10. Tariq Miller-Green

    Whenever you shorten the distance of the load from the force being applied more weight can be lifted. You can do test this right now as you read this. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Then do the same thing with your hands this time closer to your shoulder, simulating a bent arm pull. That reason is why a bent arm pull is more effecient, same load but different distance from load to force, like a see saw. I hope you can get my point and respond, and to understand it better you could go to a gym and simulate a freestyle pull with a cable machine or just regular cable rubber band stretchy thingys. Thank you for helping me improve my times.

  11. gary hall sr

    Hi Tariq,

    The frontal drag is proportional to the surface area MOVING FORWARD. That is the key point, as only the upper arm is moving forward throughout most of the underwater pull. By keeping the elbow high during the pull, one significantly reduces this upper arm surface area moving forward…and hence the frontal drag forces. Hope this helps.

  12. Sarah Green

    What about swim caps? Assuming you aren’t going to shave your head, what can girls with long hair do to reduce drag? Should you wear a bun? If so, where? Do you want a “shark fin” on top of the water, or a cone in front of the head, or do you want the hair spread all over the head with no bun?

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Good questions. The bun on the back of the head definitely makes it harder to get the head completely submerged at the surge point. I believe the thicker silicone racing caps that remain smoother probably offer a slight advantage over the thinner latex caps. Also, double capping tends to help keep the cap on better. Not sure how much difference the bump from the hair makes…but it likely is not too much.


Add a Comment