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.

    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.

    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.


    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
    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – October 27

    As you swam today I could see the improvements in the choreography in the front of the body. Good work! What caught my attention was the opportunity to improve the streamline along the legs, by improving the way the torso of the body is taking over the work of balancing and stabilizing your body position in Skate, during the recovery swing.

    The instability was particularly apparent on the Left Skate – when the underwater catch arm finishes the pull and starts to swing forward, at some point the right leg, rather than stay in and below the other foot, it swings out to the right side.

    So, what we did was put you into Skate Position and practice holding Counter-balanced Foot Position (CBF), while just sliding along in Skate. This was to test how stable your body was without the recovery swing in motion. I assisted by lightly supporting the legs at the knees and monitored how much you could refrain from using the legs while holding the Skate side scapula underwater. We saw that the L Skate was a bit less stable, but you had to work at becoming more consistent on both sides. After many repeats you were.

    Focal Points

    • Keep feet stacked in CBF
    • on L Skate, hold R leg in (adduction) and below
    • Resist any urge to flutter feet
    • Resist any urge to spread legs
    • Shift weight onto Skate side (hip and shoulder together)
    • Hold scapula just under the surface
    • Lock the lead shoulder angle
    • Hold Skate side hip down as recovery swings past shoulder


    • Superman to Skate, with legs supported
    • Superman to Skate, no support
    • Swing Skate in slow motion, with legs supported
    • Swing Skate in slow motion, no support
    • Skate, Swing and then just One Switch, no support, no breathing
    • Skate with a few strokes, yet focus on just one Skate side of the body (no breathing)
    • Strokes plus breathing on one side, focus on CBF legs while breathing

    You were very stable and straight, no leg flaring while just sliding into Skate, with no swing. As we went along you did better and better at holding the body in the rotated position, with the scapula and hip on Skate side held underwater.

    Once you added the slow motion swing, you could hold rotated position fairly well, but on L Skate, that right leg wanted to flare out to the right. There was the same but less tendency on the R Skate.

    This suggests that you need to use the slow-motion Swing Skate drill to help you tap into and strengthen the control of the torso muscles used to hold your body in that ideal Skate Position.

    First, tune up in just Superman to Skate, where it is easier for you to minimize dependency on the legs – you do well keeping them straight and stacked in CBF in that drill.

    Then, add some swings, pausing at moments along the way to observe and improve control for holding position using the torso, keeping the legs in CBF.

    When that torso-controlled stability is more consistent in Swing Skate, in short repeats with no breathing, then you can move to Skate – Swing and Switch – Skate and practice coming from best Skate with CBF and immediately sliding into best Skate with CBF on the other side.

    When it is more consistent in Skate Switch Skate, then add a breath in there and monitor the legs again. I noticed that the lead arm, while breathing, especially L lead arm while breathing to the R, tends to slide inward toward the center line of the body, which seems to trigger the R leg to swing outward to the right as well.

    Let’s solve the stability issue on the non-breathing strokes and then aim to solve it on the breathing stroke.



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