Lesson Series Summer 2019

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    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – July 21

    It was great to be back with you in the pool after a couple months!

    As you swam to warm up I made observations and what I felt I wanted to work on next is to help you tap more deeply into the power of the torso for your propulsion.

    You will fully extend into skate, extending (not twisting) that side until you feel it lengthen down to your pelvis.

    Then, when setting the catch, you will start contracting that side, pulling from pelvis as well. The goal is to have the torso muscles pull the shoulder back, while the shoulder muscles hold the catch shape. And that catch shape is creating more resistance to be pulled against.

    You reach far in front and then pull all the way to the back, trying to squeeze as much distance out of the stroke, as if trying to drive your Skate side 2 inches farther than normal. This will help you engage more of the torso muscles in the pull. Feel the shoulder slid all the way forward in final extension, and then feel the shoulder contract all the way down toward the hip, and finish with the arm snug and streamline beside the body for just a moment to enjoy the slide of the body. The motion may be somewhat exaggerated from ‘normal’ swimming, but I want you to really build a familiarity with this full pull, using the entire side of your torso. You should feel the back muscles, the chest and the abdominal muscles making this stroke happen. The shoulder and upper arm muscles are working too, but their main role is to hold that big grip on the water (a shape which creates more resistance to pull against).

    We will need to work on legs and core stability soon, but right now we’re focused on tapping into more power in the torso and cleaning up a few more streamline details in the front of the body – namely, keeping that lead arm extending straight ahead, on target, while turning to breathe.

    Focal Points

    • Fully extend lead arm (reach 1 or 2 inches farther)
    • Gather with forearm, then pull with hip (two distinct actions)
    • Pull with the hip (feel muscles on side of torso helping pull)
    • Shoulder should slide all the way forward in extension, all the way down at finish of catch/pull
    • High elbow catch (with forearm angled down 45 degrees)
    • Catch hand stays on track, straight toward the hip, hip rolls out of the way
    • Finish with arm snug beside body (for just a moment, and glide)
    • Keep lead arm on track during breathing action (feel clavicle spread at that moment)


    • 1-Arm (with donut in lead hand) drill, no breathing, short repeats.
    • 1-Arm swimming the whole length of the pool, with breathing.
    • Swim 1-arm 3 strokes on L side, then switch to 1-arm on the R side for 3 stroke. Then do 2-strokes L side, 2-strokes R side. Then do 1-stroke L side, 1 stroke R side.
    • Skating with alternating arms – but you are focused on pulling with the side of the torso, and pulling all the way through from farthest extension to hand on your thigh. Glide for a moment in skate
    • Then whole stroke, with this full extension and full pull through.


    A Practice Set Example

    Choose 4 focal points and for each focal point…

    • 6x 1/2 length 1-arm drill with donut, for each arm
    • 2x 25 1-arm swimming, 1 length, each arm
    • 2x 25 1-arm for 3-stroke (each arm), 2 strokes (each arm), 1 stroke (each arm)
    • 2x 25 Skating with alternating arms
    • 2x 25 whole stroke

    Then pick your favorite focal point or two and swim 200.

    ~ Coach Mat


    Douglas Norseth

    It was a great lesson and lots of stuff came out, Mat! Thank you very much… and I’m so glad you are back in Portland.



    Mat Hudson

    It’s great to be back! I hope we win the favor of the MJ staff and can build a nice home there. Good to be with you again too.

    ~ Coach Mat


    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – Sept 11

    Hi Doug,

    We had another productive session, I think!

    You made great progress on fully extending into Skate, reaching forward ‘2 more inches’ and letting that wave of momentum pass through that side of the body with more sensitivity to the pace that wave is flowing through your body.

    To enhance the effect on the Skate side, we want to improve what’s happening on the catch side.

    What I wanted to help you with was

    1. to form more resistance behind the catch arm,
    2. pull against that resistance with more of the torso muscles
    3. pull at a rate that is proportional to the extension – smooth transfer of force


    More Resistance

    Gather then pull – pivot at elbow first, bringing hand and wrist more into the plane with the elbow (creating a more vertical forearm paddle).

    Gather with the center of pressure being at the wrist, in the lower forearm, as much as with the hand, or more so. (Use fist swimming to accentuate this).

    Beware of starting the catch by bending the wrist. Imagine having a (slightly flexible) wrist brace on and when you gather, it is with the hand and forearm aligned (as if holding a large pilates ball against your torso), with the slightest flex in that wrist. The center of focus for building pressure is against the wrist (watchband location), not against the hand (although the hand will feel a lot of pressure too, without even trying to make pressure there).

    Build pressure up against the wrist first, and let the pulling happen with the slightest delay. When initially practicing, the gather might be practiced with exaggerated separation between the steps of a) gather, then b) pull, like a robot. But as it gets more familiar, then reduce the pause between the two steps, smooth out the transition so that the gather has started, and the pulling begins, just a moment later. You feel pressure building against the wrist and start gradually increasing the pull against it.


    Using Torso Muscles

    We did some muscle activation rehearsals, standing up, with the therapy band and then with my hands under your wrist and elbow. You could set up some contraption like that at home to practice activating those muscles to start the catch.

    We aimed to recruit the obliques, down to the pelvis, and the lats behind – the idea here is that, after the gathering starts,

    • the first action in pulling is starting to pull the shoulder back using the big torso muscles,
    • the second step is pulling the elbow back, using the smaller shoulder muscles.

    What you (and most people) are doing is using shoulder muscles to pull the elbow back and barely using the torso muscles to pull the shoulder back. There is some relationship to how one would do a pull up on a bar, or a lat pull on equipment. The lats have to engage first to stabilize and pull on the shoulder, then the muscles the pull back on the arms feather in just a moment after.

    Very detailed, orderly muscle activation!


    Smooth Transfer Of Force

    And, as you build up great resistance behind the catch, like pulling against mud, you have more force available to transfer over into your skate. That force is going to flow like a wave and the wave travels at a wavy-like speed, not like a lightening bolt. So the pull rate, the rotation rate, and the extension rate need to be coordinated to create a smooth and full sense of forcefulness in the stroke, one that produces an exhilarating sense of acceleration on each stroke.

    Your pull rate was a bit quick and seemed a bit light compared to what your extension side was doing. This disproportionate pull rate (disproportionate to the much smoother extension rate) was what caught my attention in your warm up swim and urged me to introduce these projects for you today.


    ~ Coach Mat


    Mat Hudson

    Oh, and you might like viewing and pondering the ideas I share in this tutorial video

    How To Form The Catch and Increase Power

    ~ Coach Mat

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