Video Analysis May 2018

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    Mat Hudson

    Try This First

    Hi Nico,

    As a second step, I could work through your videos and extract the details like we did last time. But what stood out right away, which will address your core need, is your posture. And, I think you should work on this as a first step, before we do anything else. We might save some time and see some other details fixed on their own by doing it this way.

    I suspect you are not getting your body parallel to the surface as much as it could be because you are not fully extended along your body line as you could be. You should be much more stretched out than you may think.

    When standing on the ground, standing tall and straight, like in military attention, or ‘mountain pose’ in yoga, we have a certain posture. It is easy for us to feel a straight posture, standing with gravity bearing down on our frame because we develop on land, standing with weight under gravity. But in water we turn horizontal, and become weightless. There is nothing solid to push against so that we have a sense of lengthening from the feedback that ground and gravity give us. In that horizontal weightless position nothing is pushing our spine in the same way – so it is easy to lose a sense of posture in this position.

    However, in order to slide through the water easily, parallel to the surface, we must turn the whole body into a long, stretched, firm ‘torpedo frame’. In order to compensate we must be far more stretched out from the ribs to the knee that I think most swimmers appreciate. Since we have nothing solid to push against, the body lengthens by pushing against itself internally – called tensegrity. It is as if we are trying to push/pull our knees away from our shoulders, but all by the pull of the internal tension cables of our connective tissues and muscles. I use the focal point phrase “Tippy Toes” to try to trigger this kind of posture, because when we are on land, standing on Tippy Toes, reaching for something on a ‘high shelf’ we most closely simulate this kind of extreme stretched through the middle of the body.

    Here are some images to compare your body position to others. I have turned them 90 degrees so that you can more easily see how  close you are to ‘Tippy Toes’ and how close the other swimmers are. Imagine these figures standing vertical on ground with these postures and you can see how straight, long and firm they are.

    The first two are of you, cut from the latest videos you sent me. Do you look like you are standing straight and tall? See how your lower back is arched, how you bend at the hips and knees as if drifting toward slight fetal position? Your body is not yet fully extended.

    This next image is of the swimmer in your pool who was swimming in the lane behind you. Look how his legs, especially that lower leg is straight, slightly extended, having his spine curve slightly toward the surface. It’s not perfect (no one is) but you can see the contrast in his abdomen, hips, leg and knee bend.

    Here is a view of my body line with the legs laser straight behind the body – this appears as if I am standing tall, reaching for a high shelf, in that Tippy Toes posture, as if standing on the ground.

    And lastly, here is Coach Terry. His body line is not quite parallel to the surface – I think in this video he is swimming rather gently to demonstrate the stroke in slower motion, but you can definitely see how straight and tall he is keeping his body, as if standing on ground, reaching for a high shelf.

    With these images to guide you, let’s see what happens with your body position in the water when you straighten and lengthen far more than you have been.  You can ask questions here to see that you understand the sensations in the body – because cannot see yourself in this posture, you can only feel it – and then go experiment in the pool! 

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    Mat Hudson

    Your body line will slide close to and parallel to the surface when you have these features:

    1. Long, extended, firm Torpedo Frame
    2. Shifting weight forward through that frame
    3. Channeling water under the frame (on Skate side) on each catch/pull
    4. Sliding the lower half of the body over that flow of water

    You may read the Lesson #1 notes I wrote for this student last week to describe the situation a bit more.

    When you improve #1, it will be easier to do #2. And, then what you have been doing on #3 and #4 may start to produce a much better effect, keeping your lower body near the surface. I think your stroke rate is adequate, and from the last video analysis I think you are shaping the catch and pressing with the arm on track, sending the flow of water under the body, so you may be OK with those skills.

    Just work on being ultra-straight, stretched, quite extended (it may feel like you are arcing backward slightly when horizontal and weightless in water), and see how water begins to flow and lift your body more.

    Nicolas Gerber

    Dear Mat

    Thank you a lot for this analysis. I wondered whether one or several of the following are the reasons:

    A- Just not enough awareness

    B- Not enough core tension / lacking ability to sustain core tension

    C- Hip extensors too shortened, leading to hip flexion/backwards tilt of hips. Hamstrings shortened, leading to flexed knees. Lumbar lordosis due to shortened quadriceps plus as a consequence of the hip flexion. (My muscles are definitely a bit shortened, some stretching would be fine. However, not sure whether the shortening is a reason for my “fetal” swimming position…)

    D- other?

    To examine/rule out possibility C I took a few pics with me on tippy toes, just to see whether it looks better than without gravity in the water. Can you please give me your thoughts about it?

    What is the best way to tackle this?

    Kind regards,



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    Nicolas Gerber

    Further Pics:

    Nicolas Gerber

    I am emailing you the pics, they are too large.

    Mat Hudson

    I got the pics, thanks!

    Standing on land is just a simulation – the closest I have thought of so far to emulate what we are doing in the water. On one hand we are set up to stand tall, upright for hours. On the other hand you could imagine getting tired of trying to hold the middle of your body stretched out like that.

    In the water, however, we are weightless. There is some conditioning that needs to happen for the middle of the body to be able to hold this for longer periods of time – certainly, modern sitting/work culture has greatly reduced our strength for good posture. Fortunately, the act of swimming with this intention will, over time, greatly improve our posture and muscle tone.

    It is very possible you’ve got a tight front train and a weak back train which one does not notice while standing, but after some period of swimming, the hips and legs are pulled toward fetal by those misproportioned sections of the body. Swimming with focus on this will help and land work (like pilates, yoga, etc) would likely help a lot too. But nothing ultimately replaces just getting into the water with strong focus and putting your body into this position and training it.

    The core tension happens, not from contraction, but from stretching out the torso and legs (like a suspension bridge uses the stretching of cables to create tautness). After an hour or so swimming continuously (in open water) my lower back may feel slightly stiff so I do a little dolphin action in the water and that loosens it up and I am fine. But it is a continual tension we maintain. It is not an extreme or unpleasant tension. The lengthening is side to side, Skate to Skate, without a full release on any part of the stroke.

    When you swim you may focus on fully extending, from wrist, over hip flexor, to ankle on each Skate side. Your objective is to reach forward through the Skate side of the body, and keep reaching until the other arm comes forward to take its place in front. The body stretches out in response to the reach through Skate Position, and the other side of the body (the recovery swing side) is stretching out before the Skate side contracts with the catch, there is always a measure of stretched-ness in the middle of the body. One side is always reaching until the other side is ready to switch places and continue the reach.

    So, you don’t need to focus on making the middle of the body stretch, as much as you need to feel the reach forward through the Skate side of the body, from wrist to ankle.

    When standing on the ground and you reach for that high shelf, you may notice your wrist reaching high and your foot pressing against the ground, but you don’t have to pay attention to the tension in the middle of the body because in the act of reaching high, the brain braces that middle section of the body automatically. While swimming, you may notice the stretched-tension of the middle of the body, but you activate it through the reach of the wrist in front and the reach of the toes behind. The wrist and ankle are trying to pull away from each other.

    Does any of that make sense? It’s a little challenging to describe in text.



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