Using Drills For Troubleshooting

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    Mat Hudson

    In your ongoing practice of swimming you eventually come to know what your best slippery form feels like and what your best efficient stroke feels like – these sensations are subjective – and you come to know what your objective metrics should show  – such as a certain pace or heart rate or stroke count.

    You swimming practice is meant to work through these three tasks, in this order of priority:

    1. Remove or reduce the natural forces working against you
    2. Recruit the available natural forces that can assist you in moving forward
    3. Apply your own power – just the amount needed, and in the precise location and timing

    Probably 90% or more of the struggles faced by common swimmers are solved by working on just the first two points above. However, it is easily observed that most swim programs seem to devote 90% of the time working on only #3, and they get far less improvement than they could because they haven’t sufficiently solved the first two points.

    Use The Checklist

    So you prevent such a waste of your time by learning to use this checklist, and a combination of your subjective senses and your objective measuring tools to uncover the problems you face.

    The fact that you can feel that something is wrong is a very good sign, and it is the first step to improvement. The next step is to get an idea of what you should look for, and in what order – you need a map to diagnose your root problems. The next step is to set up a few activities that will test various parts of the stroke and help expose the weak spots. The TI Freestyle Drill Sequence is meant to do that.

    Your Diagnostic Grid

    The above three points examine the problem from a physics viewpoint. Then we overlay that physics viewpoint with physiological/neurological view point to build this Diagnostic Grid:

    First look for and solve Balance problems. Scan for front/back balance, then scan for rotational (side) balance.

    Torpedo, Superman and Skate drills focus primarily on balance features. These help you sense where you may still be working unnecessarily against those natural forces of gravity pushing down and water pressure pushing up.

    Then look for and solve Streamline problems, including head and spine, arms, then legs.

    Skate, Recovery, Spear Switch and Swing Switch drills focus primarily on streamline features. These help you sense where you may still be working unnecessarily against water density in front of you and behind you.

    Only then do you look for and solve Propulsion problems.

    Switch drills, rotation, catch, kick and synchronization drills focus primarily on propulsion features.  These help you sense where you may still be ‘leaking power’, where you are not getting as much as you can out of the power you already generate.

    Always start by testing for Balance problems. For instance, if you turn off the legs and let them stream behind the body do your hips start to sink immediately? If you slow down your stroke to exaggerated slow tempo do you find you can’t hold a patient front arm? Or do you fall flat or have to turn onto your side to hold that pause?

    If you don’t find a Balance problem, then move on to Streamline. For instance, if you put a pause in your stroke right before you set the catch, do you lose velocity immediately (as if you are gliding in mud)? Does your extending arm cross toward your center line? Do your legs scissor while kicking? Do they spread sideways instead of vertical? Does the foot create a “thump” sound on each kick? Does it catch air and spread bubbles underwater?

    Hone Your Subjective Senses

    The use of the objective tools is fairly easy to teach, because it involves things that are easy to observe and measure from the outside.

    The use of subjective tools, however, is both a science and an art and develops from lots of practice with regular testing (comparing to objective measurements) and exposure to others who use subjective tools skillfully in order to learn their tricks. These subjective measuring skills are not optional. They are critical for excellent swimming. They are critical for enabling anyone to reach the ‘swimmer’s high’ of seemingly effortless swimming, or for you elite performance.

    These subjective skills can be developed by anyone when the right path is laid out – your path is .

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