Ian Thorpe makes it look all so easy but then he does have feet like flippers and arms down to his knees. For those of us less talented under water here are some tips to smooth out your stroke problems and ensure your triathlon gets off to a good start…
Problem: Exhaustion by the end of a few laps
Solution: Breath holding or poor breathing technique can cause fatigue. Make sure you exhale slowly while your face is in the water, so that during the body roll you can inhale.
Drill: Bobs. Hang on to the edge of the pool and practice exhaling slowly beneath the water, and inhaling only at the surface. Repeat ten times. Breath control takes practice, but soon it will become second nature.
Problem: Legs low and head high in the water
Solution: A streamlined body is key for efficiency in the pool. Your head shoulder, hips and feet should all be at the surface of the water to minimize drag. Your head should be looking down and slightly forward, and the body roll should be used to breathe – not lifting of the head. Studies have found that a mere two inch lift of the head can cause a 12 inch dropping of the feet, and in turn a fourfold increase in drag – think streamline!
Drill: Catch-Up. Kick with arms outstretched in front of you. Taking a stroke only when you need to breathe. Think long and strong!
Problem: Too much emphasis on the kick
Solution: Believe it of not, most of the power in swimming comes from the arms. The kick should act as a stabilizer for counterbalancing the arms and body roll. Kick from the hip with minimal bending at the knee, ensuring that toes are kicking water and not the air.
Drill: Stroke Count. Count how many arm strokes it takes to do one lap. Do another lap and try and reduce that number.
Problem: Not enough shoulder roll
Solution: It is more efficient for us to swim on our sides, as it both creates less resistance and allows the arm to extend further, maximizing the length of the pull phase of the stroke. Correct body roll also allows the powerful back muscles to be engaged during the ‘push’ phase of the stroke. The body should roll smoothly but quickly from alternate sides in time to allow the body to be propelled forward by the push/pull phases of the opposite arm.
Drill: Finger Drag. During the recovery phase of each arm stroke, lift the elbow high out of the water, so that you can drag your fingers along the surface of the water. The higher the elbow, the more you will be able to engage your lats during the stroke.
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