I’ve been setting a mix of technique and aerobic paced sets on Saturday mornings for most of the winter and from February onwards I want to start changing the sessions to start adding some higher intensity work.  Before we do pick up the intensity I want to write a little about the technique work we have been doing and how to take advantage of it.

There are many things we could all do to improve our strokes but the most common thing I see that will make the biggest benefit to most of us is the efficiency of your underwater stroke.  In my experience, the efficiency of the underwater stroke comes from having a good feel for the water, which is usually governed by starting the underwater stroke with a strong catch.  The most important thing for a strong underwater catch is to press with your hand over a high elbow, so your hand is leading the pull.  You will have seen this in the videos I posted last year, but if you need a reminder here is another Youtube video to remind you of what I have been talking about:

I don’t think there is any one way to get the right feel and develop the right catch, which is why I have set a range of different drills to help you think about it.  Much of it comes from feel, trial-and-error and learning what feels strong for you.  When you get it right it should feel strong and typically you will see it in fewer strokes per length and greater speed.  My biggest piece of advice is to slow your underwater stroke down.  Most people I see who slip water in their underwater stroke are rushing it and ripping their arm through without the time for a proper catch.  If you watch the fastest swimmers on a Saturday morning most of them have the slowest strokes underwater – because they have a good hold of the water and can get plenty of speed by just squeezing a bit harder on each pull.

Hopefully, some of you have developed a better feel for the water – and fitness – over the last few months and the challenge over the coming months is to translate that improved feel, technique and fitness into better swimming times.  As we start to introduce more faster swims from February onwards the challenge is to keep your hold of the water as you swim faster.  The temptation will be do rip your arms through the water faster.  Don’t! You will usually slip water if you do.  Instead, try and think about keeping a strong, slow catch and get your speed by just squeezing harder on each underwater pull.  The “golf stroke” sets we do where you add your stroke count and time for each swim together are good to help focus on this – where you need to go faster each time but still keeping your stroke long.

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