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August 2, 2019 at 18:11 #24397
Overall, I see you’ve done well learning the fundamental skills for freestyle. You look comfortable and rhythmic in your motions. You should feel good about what you’ve built so far.
Torso (shoulders and hips) rotates as one solid unit
Head is in line with upper spine
Arms are coordinated well with torso rotation
Breathing appears smooth, easy
The challenge here is that there is one big gap in the balance foundation which is making those other nice features less effective than they could be. You got so many things working well, so we just need to set them free to do what they are meant to do.
Highest Priority Improvement Points
I think the immediate obstacle to your improved performance is the angle of your body in the water.
We need to get the body riding more parallel to the surface by building or improving a set of interdependent skills to improve that body position. This is the strategy…
- Improve the frame of the body
- Lower rotation angle
- Improve the flow of water under that frame (especially under the lower body)
You need to increase tension along in the ‘torpedo’ (spine) frame of the body, stretching the body out. This requires leveling the pelvis, straightening the thighs behind, both of which might require some hip mobility work and glute and back strengthening outside the pool. This more (appropriately) tense frame will allow water to flow under and provide more lift to the lower body – or another way of looking at it is that the lower body will feel lighter, and slide more easily near the surface.
You need to lower the final rotation angle of the torso, to keep more surface area presented downward (in the plane where water can support you). You will lower the rotation angle and further improve rotational stability and streamline by a) changing the elbow angle of the lead arm and b) teaching the feet to find their ‘counter-balanced foot position’ between every arm switch (between every 2BK). The repositioning of the elbow angle will require improving your entry position and path, and extension into Skate. The CBF will resist over-rotation, increase stability, improve streamline and leg lift
You need to make some improvements to improve the flow of water directly under the water. You can do this by improve the catch to get a bigger grip (form a bigger zone of pressured water) and then direct that with more precision under the body, especially under the hips and leg.
Specific Improvement Priorities
…in order of priority, with specific points below each.
1- Improve the Torpedo Frame
1a) Extend legs, stretch and tighten abdominal region as if standing on ‘Tippy Toes’
1b) Level the pelvis slightly (as if reducing the curve in the lower back slightly)
1c) Suck up your guts while maintaining diaphragmatic breathing
This stretched and firm feeling is a permanent feeling in freestyle. It never turns off.
2- Fully Extend in Skate
2a) High elbow entry – keep elbow pointed upward
2b) Steep ‘ski jump’ pathway to target
2c) Keep elbow pointed upward (shoulder rotated inward) as you extend to a target just below the lowest point of your body
2d) Keep reaching with that lead arm as you turn/return from breathing
3- Improve Leg Position between Switches
3a) Learn the Counter-balanced Foot Position
3b) Delay the kick to help finish the extension, and just press the foot rather than snap it
4- Improve the Catch
This will work better once the lead arm is more extended in Skate and the elbow is turned upward before setting the catch
4a) First, gather water with the forearm BEFORE pulling back on the arm – get more pressure built up against forearm before pulling on it
4b) Maintain pressure, direct it more shallow, under the shoulder and hipAugust 2, 2019 at 18:18 #24400
Head remains in neutral, in line with the spine
Head is rotating a bit with torso over-rotation
Keep head anchored, looking straight down (see Rotation)
This may not appear if rotation is controlled to lower angle
SPINE ALIGNMENT / CORE
Spine is straight and stable in lateral (saggital) plane
The spine in the lower body is not aligned (in coronal plane):
The lower back is slightly extended (pelvis is tilted forward)
There is a slight flex at each hip joint (thighs are not straight behind torso)
Work on stretching out the lower body – level pelvis, straight thighs, using the ‘Tippy Toes’ focal point
Posture exercises, hip mobility exercises and glute strength work might be needed.
Hips and shoulders are rotating together, as a solid unit
Both sides, torso is over-rotating – a bit more on right Skate, especially on L breathing
See comments on ExtensionAugust 2, 2019 at 18:24 #24402
Hips are rotating with shoulders, as one unit
See comments in Rotation
See comments in Rotation
Legs are staying fairly close together, stable during recovery swing (legs not reacting to instability)
Legs don’t have a distinct position to come to between rotations (between arm switches and kicks)
Learn Counter-Balanced Foot Position (CBF) then adjust the 2 Beat Kick
Kick is fairly compact
Both sides, the kick timing is not consistently coordinated with entry on opposite side
R side foot tends to kick instead of the left side, occasionally
Both sides, the kick comes a bit early, a bit too snappy
Improvement OpportunitiesAugust 2, 2019 at 18:30 #24405
[With these two underwater side videos I could see the recovery arm directly, but I could see clues as to what may be happening above]
Quiet (splashless) exit of the lower arm
With over-rotation, the arm is (likely) being pulled up over the top of the body
Fingers may be pulled away from the surface of the water
Control rotation angle first, then work on exiting the water with elbow shooting out wide, rather than up
A low-rotation angle and wide shoulder on the opposite side will help stabilize the body for a wider elbow exit
On the Video Tutorials page you may view the Maintaining the Elbow Orientation in Freestyle video.
It appears to be quiet, low-splash
Both sides, entering with low (dropped) elbow, creating shallow entry angle
L side, hand entering with thumb down
Both sides, work on high elbow (steep 45 degree) entry (shoulder must be internally rotated more at entry)
Both sides, see that hands enter with palm facing surface, like sliding into a mailslot
The elbow orientation needs to be set all the way back in the Recovery Swing, so that the elbow maintains its orientation all the way through Recovery > Entry > Extension > Catch
On the Video Tutorials page you may view the Maintaining the Elbow Orientation in Freestyle video.
Both sides, the arm extends to a good target depth – hands know where to go
Both sides, rotating elbow downward (externally rotating shoulder joint), turning armpit inwards
R side, palm turns inward (in response to elbow rotating down)
Both sides, keep armpit open wide, open towards bottom
Extend lead arm as far forward as you comfortably can (straight but without strain or distortion in spine alignment), while keeping your elbow rotated up (shoulder rotated in). This will keep the shoulder wide, the armpit open to the bottom of the pool and help resist further rotation.
You may view some additional helpful focal points for Recovery, Entry and Extension on the 101 Focal Points page.August 2, 2019 at 18:36 #24410
Both sides, catch is starting with the entry of the other hand
Both sides, arm is too straight, scooping too deep
Both sides, pulling arm back before gathering with forearm (before early vertical forearm is established better)
Get a bigger grip on the water before pulling back
ARM SWITCH TIMING
Both sides, appears to be about right for this tempo
None to point out at this time.
Let’s see how the other changes affect this.
None to recommend at this point.
Let’s see how the other changes affect this.
Continuing lead arm extension while turning/returning from breathing
Very quick sip of air
Turning head at the same speed as the torso is turning
The recovery arm passes over your face it is turning back down
Turn toward air a fraction of a second sooner, and a bit more aggressively
Get to air slightly sooner, finish sooner
The head returns ahead of the recovery arm – you should not see your own arm passing overhead.
You may view some additional helpful focal points for Breathing on the 101 Focal Points page.August 4, 2019 at 14:59 #24470
This is amazing. There’s a lot here, and I have to keep reviewing carefully, but it seems everything is resonating. I’m going to have to spend more time clarifying the comments about shoulder and elbow position and rotation.
I knew my legs are way out; I’ll spend time with the Counter balance and discuss that later.
As for the pelvis position, I don’t know if I mentioned that I’ve studied Wu Style Tai Chi for years, so the idea of alignment through the pelvis is not foreign. I said to Terry in an email once that TI is like Tai Chi in the water. Now, saying and doing are two different things, but I think I can spend more awareness thinking of dropping my pelvis into a better position in the water so that I’m “rooted”, to use the Tai Chi term better for more power. I’ve been working on my running form using the Chi Running videos for the past two seasons. I’m a terrible runner, but whatever: the goal is to be a better one. The hardest part for me so far is figuring out the relationship between pace, lean and cadence. I want to run slower in alignment maintaining the the same rapid cadence and still ‘fall forward’ but that is a struggle and I wind up accelerating my heart rate too much.
TimAugust 5, 2019 at 12:02 #24494This reply has been marked as private.August 5, 2019 at 21:07 #24507
I think Tai Chi should complement for sure. I just started learning some this spring and summer myself. Very fascinating and it’s insightful to be a new student at something as complex as swimming!
I have been greatly influenced by the natural running form, including the programs Chi Running and Pose Method (I see a great deal of overlap between them). You mention the challenge of running slowly while still utilizing the lean, and I think that is actually one of the hardest things to do! It is such a subtle edge that its harder to detect and maintain that slightest lean for the most gentle run, and easier when the lean/fall is more obvious. I wish we could do some run lessons together! Cadence is more of a product of better body position and strike position and pulling, though we can use a metronome (or tempo trainer) to influence form from the cadence. They all are interdependent, so if you tweak one, it affects the others – like tuning the spokes on a bicycle wheel. A slow run with high cadence means feet that feel almost like they are shuffling and taking mini-steps. But that is another topic!!August 5, 2019 at 21:22 #24509
Higher Elbow Entry
This is challenging to explain in writing. But let me add some details to the video tutorial…
When you are extended in Skate, that Skate side shoulder is reaching forward. As the other arm swings forward on recovery, that recovery side shoulder slides forward to match that lead shoulder, stretched forward toward the ears (we might say). That happens right at the entry moment – two shoulders slide all the way forward, and together they sandwich the upper spine, preventing a tilt sideways. It also makes the upper body feel longer and more narrow for just a moment, and you should distinctly feel the rotation angle of that upper body. The torso has not necessarily rotated farther, but the shoulder joint, now above the rib cage, can slide inward toward the neck.
[If you stand upright with arms down at your side, and measure the circumference of a hoop that just barely fits around your shoulders, then raise your arms straight up and then measure a hoop that barely fits around your shoulders you’ll find the latter is smaller than the former. – you get more narrow as the shoulders slide forward – they shift position – this new movement space above the ribs is what allows the shoulder to help increase the angle of the elbow, without increasing the angle of the torso. But you’ve got to get that arm and elbow past the shoulder to get into that space]
The elbow is high above the ear, forearm angled down 45 degrees, armpit opened toward the side of the pool. The forearm is then angled down steeply and pointed straight ahead, on a track slightly wider than the shoulder. The upper body has to be rotated up (rather than allowed to fall flat prematurely) at this moment to allow that elbow to be high without forcing the elbow behind the plane of the back. The elbow has to be positioned high by both the angle of the torso (a line drawn through your neck and both shoulder joints) and the slight internal rotation of the shoulder – not an extreme internal, but some. That’s the only way to get that elbow high, without strain.
But shoulders come in different mobilities and some restrictions can be improved by improving the movement through the swing, and some can be improved by gentle repetitions that gradually loosen (or relax) tissues as they get more familiar with the choreography. (Sometimes I can have the swimmer release their arm to my hands completely, then I can manually move their arm through the full motion freely, but then the moment they try to activate their muscles, the run into the obstruction again). Some times people have significant tissue adhesions or restrictions so we’ll modify to suit their situation.
When you exit the elbow at the start of the recovery, if you try to immediately get the elbow high, then that can actually set things up so that the elbow drops as it gets closer to entry. Instead, let the elbow start low and wide, gradually climbing to a high elbow position – this requires an elbow-lead (fingers drag behind) orientation of the lower arm as it begins the swing, and at the last moment – about when the elbow comes beside the shoulder – the forearm should then be swinging forward, but not because you make it swing, but because the joint itself compels the forearm to swing forward in order to open up the joint to slide further forward toward the ear. (The shoulder joint is so complex! It’s hard to describe all the ways it can articulate in 3 dimenions!) If this isn’t helping enough, then I may work on another video tutorial to just discuss this one part of the stroke.August 5, 2019 at 21:27 #24510
But before you work on the recovery too much, or in addition to that, you can practice a Skate position with an internally rotated shoulder, armpit facing down, the shoulder feeling a bit wider (while the hand remains straight in front of that shoulder, not angling outward), and the elbow, as a result, pointing a bit more outward if not upward. This can help you feel where you intend to end up after the entry/extension.
You can also exercise the neuromuscular control of the shoulder rotation on land. Place a palm on a table with arm fully extended in front of you. Without lifting or tilting the palm from the surface of the table, rotate your elbow (which means rotating the shoulder) upward then downward, up and down.August 9, 2019 at 08:46 #24608
This has been so helpful: the questions I had about why my hand was facing out, etc.. have all been answered. I wasn’t confident in my own realisation that I should be reaching forward and letting the momentum of the swing and extension propel me; now that I am it’s making a very big difference as evidenced by the fact I can cover the 35 ft of the pool in 7 strokes with no breath as before, but without needing a big breath at the conclusion: it’s much faster and efficient with no more effort.
Some questions: 1.Should the extended catch arm be bent, and if so, how much?
2. On occasion , I become aware that on my R side in particular my arm is moving back from catch under my body, or at least it feels that way; does that mean I have over rotated?
3. I watched a video of myself ( from the security cam) and I noticed my elbows were high; the significant thing is that if you asked me what I thought, I would have said it didn’t feel that way. This is affirming that I just have to think of leading with my elbow on the recovery and the height will find itself. True?
4. I make a point of starting the first glide thinking “head down, tuck pelvis, reach forward” as a mental cue. More than that is too much. ( Not a question, really).
5. Now that the rotation is a better angle, I realize again I have time to breath early: over rotating takes that away. The odd thing is that I again watched a YouTube of Terry swimming in tandem and both swimmers do turn the head back to down early. Was the early return something you have adapted?
6. Also in that video, Terry was breathing x 2, his partner x 3. It’s the old question: if one-sided breathing is easier and more enjoyable, does one have to use bilateral especially if the pace is slow?
TGAugust 10, 2019 at 15:35 #24643
To make sure – you are referring to the lead arm is entering and then extending BEFORE you set the catch. Yes?
That extending arm should be straight with no bend in the elbow. Reach with the shoulder (but do not strain), reach with the elbow, and then let the muscles get softer as it gets to finger tips.
That lead arm needs to be fully into the action of extending for this is the ultimate purpose of the whole stroke! This is the finish of the stroke, delivering force into forward motion, through that streamline Skate side of the body. If the swimmer’s arm is already anticipating the catch and not fully completing the extension, then the main action of the whole stroke gets short-changed.
When you extend you are receiving and transmitting a wave of force down your arm and projecting it forward. So it needs to be straight. If one has a double-jointed elbow then we need to restrain the extension slightly, and sometimes we can affect that by aiming the hand with the ring-finger nuckle (because it seems many double-jointed swimmers end up with the hand pointing with the thumb, wrist tilted outward). And sometimes I see people who don’t fully extend that arm – I can manually straighten it, or they can reach up to the sky with a straight arm, but something about when they lay down horizontal in the water, they won’t fully extend that side of the body and not fully extend that arm. I have theories about why…August 10, 2019 at 15:42 #24644
Over Rotation and Catch Path
#2 – I am not sure I clearly understand which moment of the stroke you’re referring to.
If you are over-rotated, yes, the pathway of the catch hand will likely go under the centerline of the body rather than stay on wide track with the shoulder and hip. The higher you rotate, the closer the the spine is to being stacked over the shoulder. One would then have to pull the elbow behind the plane of the back in order to get the hand to stay aside the spine line rather than under it (or worse, on the other side of the spine line).August 10, 2019 at 15:49 #24645
Elbow Position on Recovery
It can help or it can be confusing or misleading when trying to detect the position and path of the elbow relative to the surface of the water. I have to see which reference point works best for this swimmer to keep track of his own elbow: a) relative to his torso, or b) relative to the surface of the water.
In general, I think it is better to craft the motion of the elbow with reference to your own torso.
You want the slide of the shoulder to initiate the pull of the elbow.
You want the elbow to lead initially.
You want the elbow to ‘go wide’, away from the side of the torso.
You want the elbow to gradually climb, from low, at waist level to high above the head at entry moment.
The first priority is that you keep the arm shaped and moving on a path relative to the rest of the body. The second consideration is then, with a small range of variability, keeping it above the surface. Hence, the drills we do for the recovery swing have the arm mostly underwater, where one can move slowly, pushed deep by gravity and therefore make sure the arm is positioned relative to the torso and ignore its position relative to the surface.August 10, 2019 at 15:57 #24646
Early Breathing Timing
In the latest Ultra Efficient Freestyle I believe Terry taught the breathing motion to make it as simple as possible for those newly learning to swim – to simply coordinate the turn of the head with the turn of the torso (after the arm switch timing has been firmly established). That can really help the rhythmically challenged.
But once the tempo speeds up to functional swimming tempos and people get into moderate and higher levels of effort they find themselves running out of time to get enough air and wondering why. I have gotten enough people coming to me over the years who’ve learned to turn (slowly) with torso and complain of this, then realized this late return was the chief problem. When they practice turn/return ASAP, the problems seem to go away. There seems to be a strong tendency for all humans (including me) to turn toward air a bit too slowly or stay there too long – but the later we turn or the longer we stay, the more problematic inhalation becomes. So we need to discipline ourselves to get there a bit sooner than the torso does and get inhalation done quickly in order to minimize or even avoid the disruptions that late breathing induces. And, when feeling fatigue, we can get even lazier about breathing, so we’ve got to maintain that sooner timing.
If you breathe early, you have options – stay a bit longer if you need – but if you turn late, you have no options, or find you have not enough time.
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