I have been challenging my swimmers for quite some time now (pre covid/lockdown) with a simple yet challenging swim drill. To be honest it is not really a drill just slowed down FC. However it is not as simple as it sounds if done well. Why would you do it? well most drills either restrict bad habits or encourage good. They challenge you to work harder on an isolated aspect of the stroke. Once refined it will flow back into and enhance your fullstroke. This is why I believe 10m or so of a great drill performed as you leave a wall will then flow nicely into and help morph a better FC tech as you finish the rest of the length full stroke.
Think of slow motion FC as more of a skill to be used as an overall technique challenge. By slowing the arms you need to work your kick harder so I recommend fins to help do it well. Your rotation will be challenged as will timing your breathing. A bit like overspeed work where skills are challenged during artificially sped up swimming. Think stretch cords pulling you back across the pool at faster than normal speed. This is the opposite where you will need to control the stroke/rhythm and technique while challenged to do things in slow motion. But once you return to normal speed leg kick, balance, rotation and breathing will feel easier.
Here is British Champ Joe Litchfield under the watchful eye of Loughborugh High Performance Coach David Hemmings performing slow motion FC. I was pleased to see someone else at this high level making use of the drill/skill. Drills are not just for beginners to learn the basics. Swimmers at all levels swim drills to restore a tired stroke post heavy workloads, to see if a new concept works better or even to iron out flaws and yes we all have them at all levels.
What it isn’t
Don’t let it become ‘catch up’ that is very different. Catch up is a drill to help work your arm pull and something we use to slow down frantic swimmers during early progressions. Keep in mind it is basically alternating single arm FC so you would not want to race like this. Perhaps try it with a snorkel initially to get a feel for it and be able to focus on the arms.
Work the legs, keep the hands at 180deg to each other for as long as possible. Note the progressions with each length back to his FC. The beauty of doing this correctly is that you will keep rotating from side to side and not pause in the flat position that catch up encourages.
FINS and PADDLESThe more you practice & improve your swim tech the better it will hold when you are not focused on it ie in race mode!
Fins and Paddles is one of my favourite combinations of swim equipment. Great for that lovely combination we call technical endurance. Ideal as we slowly build up our fitness alongside our technique at the moment post lockdown. The paddles should be be big enough to allow a solid hold on the water but don’t forget to pull with the forearm as well. The fins should help you feel the sensation of driving the body forward over the ‘anchored hand.’ I was pleased to learn that Katie Ledecky is a big fan of this combination. Watch here – RIO 2016 Gold medallist. She is one of the most economical swimmers around travelling similar distances regardless of speed which suggests her propulsion and lack of drag is quite special!
There are lots of fitness benefits to be gained from the larger muscle groups of the legs being worked by the fins. The surface area of the fins will stop the kick from becoming too big which is a big problem I see daily.. Swimming with a pullbuoy between the ankles or utilising the flat float kick will help you reduce the size of the movement at the hips and help you ‘hide’ the kick behind the body. The paddles helping the hands to drive the fingertips over and point down so the palm can face the wall you are swimming away from. Hiding the kick is critical!
At any point in a long swim mainset combine these two items for a great technical swim. Add a snorkel and you can be sure to get even more from the movements. Keeping the head still by taking away the need to turn to breathe and you can focus on the hands pulling under you, popping the elbow out wide (See the image of Ledecky top.) Have a look at the SFT swim down for a detailed look at this kit combo. We often combine all 3 items to boost a tired FC stroke post mainset and then slowly remove item by item to finish with your best FC technique ahead of leaving the pool.
If you feel you need further help with your swim technique then we do have 121 lessons available –
Enjoy your week of swimming
Sunday we were back at one of my favourite pools – LondonFields Lido. After a long warmup we went straight to the single arm drill as it is so effective & so good for all aspects of the full stroke. It is a ‘fast’ drill so will not allow swimmers to cool off in our openair lido but we allow it to flow into and out of full stroke to keep swimmers challenged and moving. Currently the sessions need to keep HeartRate levels low to keep respiration levels low in the lane. As mixed squad training is slowly reintroduced so technique after a long layoff works on all levels.
This drill might keep frustration levels high though but if you understand why we do it, the how might be easier! Ideally with any drill if you know what is happening to your stroke during the drill it might help you to focus longer.
I explain in great depth why we perform them hoping to convince the sceptical. Making the drill harder/easier is a key coaching skill so that all swimmers find something of value hence the 5 levels of progression here. Some of the new swimmers tried the old fashioned way (Traditional single arm in the videos here) and we talked about its limitations. This old drill has been progressed to allow the advanced version to more closely mimic full stroke and how we wish the body to rotate. A progressive mainset was created as follows.
Using equipment to make the drill easier/harder and helping the swimmer feel where and why things were happening was the focus. At nearly 2km this mainset is of use for light fitness but with a technical theme. I often refer to this style of swimming as Techncial Endurance. Lots of opportunities to practice the key movements, learn the fundamentals, build on them and at all times feel the drill shaping and flowing into the full stroke.
We started with a mixed 1000m warmup but you could do less if pushed for time before continuing with.
18 x 100m AS FOLLOWS, REST 10, MAKING USE OF ALL EQUIPMENT
1) 3×100 as 25m advanced single arm left/right into 50m full stroke with fins&paddles. Use the paddles to help accentuate the hold you have on the water and work the drill most effectively. Breathe away from the pulling arm once the arm finishes its revolution. Trying a little old fashioned Single Arm would be of use at this time to convince newcomers to ‘go with’ the new version.
2) Repeat no paddles. Think about your hand shape to help offset the lack of paddle. Make sure you are pulling with the hand and forearm.
3) Repeat with fists clenched on the drill. Only the drill, you want the full stroke swum well with the hands feeling like you have added invisible paddles. This progression will ask more of the forearm, kick and rotation to offset the lack of hand shape.
We looked at a way of ensuring you do rotate while performing the single arm drill by adding a shark fin movement. This is why we do not often do the single arm drill with a snorkel. You can remain flat, get your air and not fully reap the full rewards.
4) Repeat with a sharkfin between single arms to feedback on rotation to tell you if you have any body rotation. Shown here – Single Arm with a twist! remember you do not need to swim this as tight as the sharkfin suggests, it depends if you have a traditional high elbow led recovery or straighter arm looping recovery.
We offered two versions of this drill depending on style of recovery- check out the straighter arm lift of the clock drill also shown in the previous videos for guidance. So you either lead with your elbow pointing up at the highest point or fingertips as a straight arm lifts.
Both FC styles have merits, the top swimmers will be able to switch between the two – watch Michael Phelps/Nathan Adrian finish their FC races and they often shift to straight to keep momentum/speed high. This might be of use in an openwater start where you need a fast start but later things calm down into more of a relaxed mid race cruise
Coach Abbie talks about this at a recent ASCA conference if you really really are interested! At speed the straighter arm is faster but needs more strength so maybe suitable for a faster openwater start but at slower speeds (long distance openwater, mid race cruise) high elbow uses more muscles so can be more relaxed with a lower energy cost. At faster speeds the high elbow cumulatively uses more energy as the recovery is slower. This is up for debate among coaches but it is not a bad review of the principles!
5) Repeat with the Singapore variation as a further challenge to mind and body!
6) 3×100 FC build to fast ‘easy speed’ rest 15 no swim aids
200 easy feeling all the elements of the drills coming through and shaping a great new FC stroke. Having worked so hard to swim with just the one arm, returning to both should feel incredibly strong –
2km technical mainset
So we have been back at our OW facility, Stubbers in Essex for a week now. Very exciting to be back at some kind of work and out doors. If this does not work for you location wise then you can join us for free stretch cords sessions each week. Just email email@example.com each week for the invite. You can find all the old sessions uploaded here – https://www.youtube.com/user/swimfortri
The response to our COVID safety policy has been overwhelmingly positive keeping swimmers safe through registration and into the water. Sorry no changing rooms are available but most are coping. If you have sessions booked with us (fitness, or courses etc) please get in touch if you would like to swap them to OW with us at Stubbers. We swim
Tues and Thurs 7-9am – Saturday 7-10am – Hope you can join us.
We have been busy developing our online training plan website into a phone app. This should be available soon with the addition of a 12ooo word ebook on breathing and swim technique. Once the pools reopen please be sure to make use of the free ‘return to fitness‘ training plan to get you back on track re your swim fitness and technique
The podcasts have been going well and keeping us busy and entertained as we have spoken to old and new friends, colleagues from the world of swimming and Triathlon. We have covered diet, psychiatry, psychology, coaching, tales from a 34yr + tri vet and more recently a chat with Ben, our favourite Green team member from Club La Santa who is branching out into more specialised coaching. The Anchor link will then enable you to find a preferred Spotify/Apple link etc
A new session in a bottle is on its way! who does not love a pink water bottle. This has some pretty big mainsets on it focusing on the 3.8km distance. Ideal to help your return to fitness once the pools reopen. Drop me a line to register your interest, we hope it is year by the end of the month since the Tacx plant has reopened.
Returning to the Water.
We have been back at our lake for 3 sessions now, having finally reopened with lots of new smiling faces enjoying OW for the first time. Many or our regulars are back having not swum since FEB/March and the feedback we have been getting has has been positive, most while tired and unfit suggest it was not as bad as they were imagining.
You will feel clumsy/mechanical/ out of sorts but it won’t be as bad as you imagined. We often experience this with our swimmers at xmas and the two week break. One year I was convinced peoples minds were trying to trick them back onto the sofa ie talking them out of it. We filmed quite a few and most agreed their tech was not as bad as they thought.
Nice and slow and build up. Take this opportunity to work on your technique, try to point the toes back not down, keep the kick small and hidden behind the body, keep the head still unless breathing or lifting to sight, Keep the palms pushing water back towards the feet by keeping the fingertips pointing down towards the bottom when pulling rather than the palm which will bounce you upwards.
Make sure you are comfortable in your wetsuit if you are wearing one. We have had temps in the low 20s so quite pleasant with or without. Check the May entry for details on making your wetsuit more comfortable.
Maybe don’t stress about time/distance or speed. Just enjoy the first few after so long cooped up. Enjoy something that you probably have been completely deprived of. Walking running skipping, indoor cycling and other strength/conditioning activities have various cross overs. Swimming is the really unique one and it will have been missed.
I hope the peace and tranquility of being out in nature make up for the lack of clarity, the warmer temps of a pool and lack of a black line but for those missing the reassurance of the pool I urge you to go again, try again it does get easier the more familiar you become with swimming in OW.
Next up we spoke to Coach Steve Trew about his early Tri career and his involvement at the Sydney Games. You can also hear from Simon Griffiths, the founder of Outdoor Swimmer magazine. More guests to follow. Please let me know the kinds of people you would like to hear interviewed? pro triathletes? more coaches? designers, inventors.
We have since spoken to Dr Claire re coping with Lockdown as her background in Sports Psychiatry gives her some great insights. With Physio Dan Smith re swim tech/injury prevention etc Also for those who have swum with him (Mile End, Putney and London Bridge over the years) Scott Coey who started with us in 2003 and worked his way up to Kona qualification.
SOME OFFERS FROM OUR FRIENDS FROM THE WORLD OF TRIATHLON
So for this weeks #swimtipsfromthestairwell I wanted to focus on something a little more positive after weeks of lockdown. I wanted to talk about something positive, something we can do in preparation of going outdoors and swimming at some point. I am sure many of you will not have checked your wetsuits since last year unless you got a sneaky training camp or race done back in January. Let us check our wetsuits ahead of that first swim. In the stairwell lecture I talk about simple repairs, avoiding the dreaded neck scraping and why you might upgrade and spend a little more money on your next suit if you are going to be swimming further.
Over the years we have worked hard at understanding wetsuits fully and making them more comfortable. Here we go beyond the usual fitting guide and look more indepth and how to make them more comfortable and fit better.
A more indepth look at swimming faster in them, making them work harder for you to improve your swim
I have written extensively on the subject of wetsuits and here bring all those thoughts together. You should not miss the section on ‘taking advantage of the properties of your wetsuit and should your FC technique change in a wetsuit.’
A humorous look at what happens if you forget your wetsuit lubricant!
The Spring and it’s glorious weather could not have more cruel as we sit indoors missing our lakes and rivers but fingers crossed it will not be long. Get your wetsuit out, check it, repair it or contemplate an upgrade if you are swimming further this year.
I hope you are all managing the lockdown as well as can be. I have been adding STftSW (swim tips from the stairwell) to Facebook and Youtube but neglected the blog. Doh….You can catch up with all our stretch cord sessions here
Technical endurance MONDAY
Strength and Prehab WEDNESDAY
FRIDAY- the hard one – Fitness
pls email firstname.lastname@example.org for the zoom invite to next weeks, sessions take place at 6pm
After all the stretch cordz focus and arm work how about a little time on your legs? Some theory and dryland to get on top of a few of the issues before you get back in the water. The nice thing about a FC legkick is how small and quite straight forwards the movement is. To get the hang of this while out of the water is an opportunity and it really can be mastered on dryland.
•Most over do the size of movement at the hip, it should be tiny. The bigger the movement here the more energy travels down the legs and splays the kick.
•Legs straighter as you lift them back up the surface, it is a glute movement, minimal hamstring. Don’t bend the knees.
•Feel the big toes lightly brushing against each other to generate more surface area as the feet work together while kicking.
•Mobilise the ankles so you can improve your streamline and point them. Preferably while relaxed to avoid cramping.
•Work on a stronger core region so you can limit and reduce a big out of control kick. Usually the emphasis for Long Distance FC is not bigger stronger movements but restrained smaller movements.
There are two key issues we see during lessons – sinking and splaying. These previous videos should illustrate. Why they sink and drag down is an early issue in a swimmers development as they try to take run or cycle movements of the legs into the water. As for the dreaded splay this usually is a counter balance or a reaction to something happening elsewhere in the stroke. No harm in addressing the legs now and improve them while the other issues can be looked at when back in the water.
These can help activate previously unused muscles groups and so deactivate those that were previously creating incorrect movements (the hamstrings.) If we build up some repetitions of a few basic movements we should pick up the correct movements and take them into the water when we next swim. Unfortunately the kick is often forced out of position due to the lack of helpful body movement or incorrect arm movements. The classic is what the straight arm push down can do to the legs when assisting your breathing. If you can isolate the FC legs with the following at least it gives us a chance to learn what the correct movements are.
Use the following to help – can you see the similarity between the Pilates Swimmer and the Glute Kick drill? Not difficult. We literally stole this drill from the world of Pilates.
Alternate the legs in a small up and down movement. The floor will stop the kick sweeping too big on the downsweep, the range of the Glutes will limit the upsweep.
We were looking for a compact all round exercise that covered many of the swimming muscles. The narrow press up is quite tough, maybe build up towards this from a knee down position. Once in the straight arm plank position you could sweep a single arm up wards to rotate the hips and bring some FC rotation into the mix
Enjoy your dryland, but fingers crossed we are back in the pool soon
All good wishes
Dan and the team
IS SWIMMING SAFE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
In view of all the uncertainty in the world at this time, I wanted to touch base and outline our current plans at Swim for Tri. We believe that the service we provide contributes greatly to the physical and mental wellbeing of our swimming community, so we will continue our work for as long as is safely possible. As mentioned on social media yesterday, at the moment the pools are all open so lessons will continue as long as we can, providing pools and coaches are healthy and can continue.
This is the message from England Swimming
The water is a great place to be but please use the usual strict health and hygiene rituals being endorsed widely.
“Public health opinion is that it is generally safe to go swimming at this time. Water and the chlorine within swimming pools will help to kill the virus. However, visitors to swimming pools are reminded to shower before using the pool, to shower on leaving the pool and to follow the necessary hygiene precautions when visiting public places to help reduce the risk of infection.”
We always have – and continue to – uphold the highest training standards and we hope the pools uphold the highest personal hygiene standards. More so than ever. Here are their announcements re what they are doing regards their pools.
We utilise 4 pool providers
London Bridge is part of the NHS so you would hope they are on top of things!
If you are unwell ahead of a 121 lesson we will be as accommodating as possible regarding credits and moving appts. Please speak to Keeley and Sam in bookings. If you miss a fitness session you can make this up at another site but please get in touch to confirm.