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