TI Freestyle Fundamentals

A self-paced course for integrating the full set of fundamental skills that you have been introduced to during your workshop or private lesson.

Honoring the Copyright
Copyright © 2016 Mediterra International, LLC and Mathew Hudson. This website contains Mediterra International’s proprietary information for use in our Online Coaching Program. As a paid member of the program you may use these materials for your continuing personal training. You are permitted to copy this information for your personal use only. On all copied materials keep the names Mediterra International and Mathew Hudson designated as the owner and author. Please do not distribute these materials or sell them to anyone else in any form, physical or electronic, or use them for commercial activity. If you would like to use them to teach others, or use them in a commercial activity, please contact Mediterra International to set up an agreement for your specific situation.

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Course Introduction

Introduction to the Freestyle Fundamentals Course

There is so much information delivered during a workshop, and we realize you cannot absorb it all in the hours at our event. Even in a series of private lessons, you can only integrate these skills by spending more quality time practicing on your own. But how do you make that practice effective? And how much practice will it take?

After an introductory training event many swimmers, perhaps most, would like structure and guidance for how to practice and integrate these skills, and see regular progress. Knowing what you need to practice is one thing, while know how to practice is another. It is helpful to have a process provided, with assurance that you are heading on a good path, and given some idea of what to expect along the way.

So, we are providing this Freestyle Fundamentals course as a follow-up service after your first training experience. We intend for it to help you make progress with more confidence, and learn to design effective practices on your own.

We have created a series of 24 assignments that will have you work through the fundamental skills of the freestyle stroke in the sequence they are best developed. You’ll notice how skills learned in the beginning of this sequence must support the skills learned later in the sequence.

These assignments are best organized into 6 sections which will cover the main skill sets. In each skill set are specific skills you will work on.

  1. Balance
  2. Alignment
  3. Stability – Rotation
  4. Recovery
  5. Entry And Extension
  6. Breathing

There is a recommended Test Swim you may do at the end of each section. We give a recommendation on what that test swim may look like, yet you select the distance and conditions that fit you. You will take certain measurements during that swim so that you can compare results as you progress through the course. See the section on Test Swim for instructions on how to do those.

You will need to study, practice and internalize the skills so that they become habits for you. For certain skills it may take one practice to do this, or several. Please be patient with your body and with the training process. It will work with your mindful attention.

And, be dedicated to learn these fundamental skills well. These are truly the foundation upon which all the advanced skills, efficiency and speed – not to mention, pleasure – are dependent on. So they will indeed need to become habitual programs in your neuro-muscular system. Strong movement patterns are formed into resilient habits through frequent, mindful repetition, under a variety of conditions and intensities.

Each person following this course will have a unique personal Improvement goal – in terms of ease, distance and pace – and each person will have their own budget of training time and pace of learning. Each person will have a unique starting position for learning these skills – you may have more or less initial fitness – you may need more or less time on each practice – you may need more or less complexity in each practice. Therefore, you are permitted to repeat practices as much as you feel you need to. This course is presented in such a way that you must choose and adjust the complexity level of the practice in order to match the challenge and pace your brain needs to go.

Practice Objectives

There is a particular way that TI practices are designed and how progress is measured. We would like you to pay attention to this pattern and become familiar with it. Then you will be able to use the same pattern to design your own practices.

Objectives

In each section you are given a specific skill objective to work on. We describe what success for this skills should look like and feel like in both Drill mode and in Whole Stroke. Then in each assignment for that section we give you a specific focal point for that skill, with instructions for What To Aim For and What To Avoid.

These assignments have both a quantity and a quality component. Each assignment you will choose the quantities of distance or duration (like “drill for 3 seconds then take 3 strokes”, or “repeat drill 3 times”). Anything you can measure externally, like time and distance and stroke count is what we call a quantity.

And, in the assignment description we will assign the qualities you will aim to achieve – like, “keep your hips and shoulder brushing the surface for 3 seconds”, or “keep your fingers soft”. There are several qualities described in each assignment, so you have a lot to explore.

Becoming a smooth, economical swimmer – getting more work done for less expense in energy and stress – is totally dependent on the development of these qualities, for they all correspond to how you use energy in the body. You can swim faster or farther with more energy expense and stress in the body, or learn to do it with less. Our TI approach to training specializes in the latter. To this end, your success in the drills and whole stroke is measured by your qualities more than by your quantities accomplished.

The drills and whole strokes are meant to help you achieve these qualities. Developing these qualities are the point of the practices – the higher the qualities the more quantity you will be able to handle – swimming farther, faster and swim more often with eagerness. In practice you may need to decrease the challenge on your brain (complexity) to make it possible for you to succeed, or you may increase the number of repeats in order to give yourself more time to figure it out. Either way, you are aiming to achieve that quality.

Practice Structure

Your practices will generally have this structure:

  • Warm-Up (what we like to call “Tune-Up” in TI), 8 to 12 minutes long
  • Main Set 1 (choose an assignment), 5 to 15 minutes long
  • Main Set 2 (choose an assignment). 5 to 15 minutes long
  • Main Set 3 (if you like), 5 to 15 minutes long
  • Cool-Down, 5 to 8 minutes long

To keep things simple and focused on what is necessary, we will give you a single recommendation for what to do for the Tune-Up and the Cool-Down. You may change this if you like.

Depending on your time and energy available, you may choose 1, 2, or 3 or more Main Sets for your practice.

For each Main Set you may choose one assignment from this course. We recommend that you change your skill focus every 15 minutes, so having 1, 2, or 3 different assignments is good. You can change the selection and change the order of your assignments each practice, if you like.

Activities And Complexity

Once you have chosen your assignment for the set, you need to choose the activities and quantities to use in that set.

We provide you with a menu of activities that you may use to develop your control over the skill. You were introduced to these activities at your live TI training experience.

These activities are listed in the order of their complexity for the neuro-muscular system, starting with most simple activity in which to practice control, to the most challenging activity.

See the section on Activities And Complexity for the menu of these activities.

Decisions You Need To Make

Before each practice, you will need to review the practice assignment and make a few decisions in order to personalize it to fit your needs and time.

See the section on Personalize Your Practice for instructions on how to do that.

Tune Up And Cool Down

There is some benefit to making parts of your practice quite routine. We want to suggest that you do this with your Tune-Up and Cool-Down time in each practice. This would lower the amount of new things you need to track in each new practice, and it would allow you to more easily compare and evaluate your body signals at the start and at the finish of practice, from day to day.

Tune-Up

First, please DO NOT SKIP your warm up time. It is so important to gently bring your performance systems online and coordinated before you increase the intensity of work you require of these systems.

It is recommended that you provide about 8 to 12 minutes of warm up time.

Start moving as gently as you can, letting your body indicate when it is eager to increase intensity. It takes some minutes for the tissues to loosen, the bio-chemistry, the motor, and the cardio-vascular systems to prepare for your main work. The better your tune-up, the more you can accomplish in your main sets.

You may do what we call a Silent Swim for the first 300 to 600 yards or meters. If you are comfortable to do so, we recommend that you swim continuously, but as gently as possible at first so that it is not difficult for the body.

A Silent Swim is where you swim in such a way to make the least amount of noise, splash, waves, or turbulence in the water around you. It gives an assignment to every part of your body to work together toward this single, sensory objective.

Then you may add next 200 with a variety of stroke styles (like breaststroke and backstroke) to work your joints in different movement patterns.

And you may do a short interval set where you change the tempo of your stroke.

For example: 4 rounds of (3x 25) with 10 seconds rest between each 25. Do #1 at gentle stroke tempo, #2 at moderate tempo, and #3 at brisk tempo.

Cool-Down

This is when you will review some focal point that you worked on today. Choose one focal point from today’s assignments and use that during this final swim.

Swim 200 to 300 (continuous or in pieces) in what I call ‘Pure Pleasure’ swimming mode. With a calm effort level, choose a tempo that is very comfortable, tune in to your focal point and swim with the goal of using that focal point to make the swim as pleasurable as you know how to.

~ ~ ~

You are certainly welcome to add other activities to your Tune-Up and Cool-Down time, if those are enjoyable and productive.

If you feel an unpleasant urge to add more to these I would challenge you to search for the justification of those activities – note whether they clearly contribute to the skills and enjoyment you are trying to build. If those activities don’t contribute clearly to your main goals, consider using your precious time in the pool for other activities that will.

Personalizing Your Practice

We have provided structure and a general practice pattern for you. But, there are some decisions you need to make in order to make each practice fit you personally.

Decision #1

Decide which assignments you will work on today. You may work on more than one. There are four assignments in each section. You may select any of those, and even take an assignment from another section, if you like.

You will likely repeat each assignment several times (spread out over several practices). You may plan a practice with certain assignments in it, then repeat that exact same practice a few times. Or you may change the selection of assignments. Or you may change the order that you work on them during the practice.

If you are feeling strong in one of the assignments, or curious about the next ones, move on and explore. If you are not feeling strong in those skills and have the patience to persist, you should stay working on the current assignment over a few more practices.

Decision #2

Select the activities you will use for each assignment. The activities you choose should match the complexity level you feel you need to work at in this skill.

See the section on Activities And Complexity for a description of those levels.

Decision #3

We will suggest some drills to use for a particular assignment. But you are welcome to choose your own, and experiment with other drills. Most drills can be used for working on several different skills.

You may select a drill from those you learned in your workshop, or you may take one from the Perpetual Motion Freestyle (PMF) video series, or from the Ultra-Efficient Freestyle (UEF) video series.

You may view this chart that lists the drills in each video series which shows which skill sets each drill is meant to develop.

Decision #4

For each assignment we recommend a certain focal point to use. You may use that one or use one from our 101 Focal Points page, or one from your live training notes. Focal points are tools-not-rules, so please use one that works best for you to achieve the assigned quality, and use it properly.

Decision #5

You may then decide how to personalize the complexity of the assigned practice set. You chose the activities that match the complexity level you need, and during practice you may see that you need to adjust it further.

See the section on Activities And Complexity for a description of how to adjust the complexity.

Activites And Complexity

Complexity Made More Simple

Not much can be done to reduce the overall complexity of swimming smoothly. But Total Immersion has provided us with an effective way to break down that complexity into smaller pieces we can master, one by one, then gradually blend together into a marvelous stroke.

IMAGE microskills whole stroke B 800x500

The complexity of the full freestyle stroke is broken down into skill sets. In each set there are skills, and each skill can be further broken down into micro-skills. In Total Immersion we use focal points which are specific commands we give to our body parts, to train them for their role in that full stroke.

PRACTICE ACTIVITIES

You will need to choose activities for each assignment that fit the level of complexity your brain needs – activities that fits your skill, your fitness, and your pace of learning.

This is a menu of activities that you may use to develop your control over each skill. These are in the order of their complexity for the neuro-muscular system, starting with most simple activity in which to practice control, moving to the most challenging activity.

  1. Standing Rehearsal
  2. Drill (with no strokes)
  3. Drill plus 3 or 4 strokes (no breathing)
  4. Drill plus 6 or 8 strokes (no breathing)
  5. 6 to 10 whole strokes (with breathing)
  6. One single length
  7. Multiple lengths with rest between
  8. Multiple lengths with no rest between

We recommend that you choose three of these to use in a practice set, and use them in the order of complexity.

You may use a lower complexity activity as a form of active rest between rounds with more difficult activities.

Choose Your Complexity Level

Level 1 – Choose activities from 1 to 4

  • Standing Rehearsal
  • Drill (with no strokes)
  • Drill plus 3 or 4 strokes (no breathing)
  • Drill plus 6 or 8 strokes (no breathing)

Generally, at Level 1 we encourage you to do short segments within the amount of time you can hold your breath comfortably. Wait to add breathing after you have started to work on the breathing skills.

Level 2 – Choose activities from 3 to 6

  • Drill plus 3 or 4 strokes (no breathing)
  • Drill plus 6 or 8 strokes (no breathing)
  • 6 to 10 whole strokes (with breathing)
  • One single length

This level assumes you can swim across the pool without great stress, and have some control over your stroke. It assumes you can breathe while swimming without great struggle. If not, consider working with Level 1 activities for a while.

Level 3 – Choose activities from 4 to 8

  • Drill plus 6 or 8 strokes (no breathing)
  • 6 to 10 whole strokes (with breathing)
  • One single length
  • Multiple lengths with rest between
  • Multiple lengths with no rest between

You may feel you can start at Level 3 for some of the skills, and that is OK. But at any time you run into a skill that is difficult to get control over, we recommend that you switch to a lower level for a while to get your first sense of control. Once you can consistently get control over it at a lower level, you may switch back up to a higher one.

Fine-Tune The Complexity

To make the practice sets fit your skill level and time just right, you may adjust the activities in these ways:

  • add or remove one practice set
  • adjust the number of repeats in a set
  • adjust the distance or duration of each repeat
  • adjust the amount of rest you take between repeats or sets
  • add a Tempo Trainer that is set to a comfortable (easy) tempo – not too fast, not too slow
Test Swim

For measuring progress objectively and for supporting motivation we recommend that you conduct a test swim at the end of each section.

You may select the distance and condition that fits you. When you choose a test swim to start with, use that same test swim throughout the course so that results can be more easily compared. If your test swim starts to feel too easy and you want to increase the challenge (a wonderful sign of progress!) you may:

  1. Move up to a more difficult test in that same level (= less rest).
  2. Move up to the next level (= longer distance).

We have some recommendations (distances can be meters or yards):

Level 1 – 200 total (choose one of the sets below)

  • 200 (no rest)
  • 2x 100 (20 seconds rest)
  • 4x 50 (20 seconds rest)
  • 8x 25 (20 seconds rest)

Level 2  – 400 total (choose one of the sets below)

  • 400 (no rest)
  • 2x 200 (15 seconds rest)
  • 4x 100 (15 seconds rest)

Level 3 – 800 total (choose one of the sets below)

  • 800 (no rest)
  • 2x 400 (15 seconds rest)
  • 4x 200 (15 seconds rest)
Essential Measurements

Try to measure these quantities during the test swim, or have a friend on deck help you. Remember, the qualities are the first place to look for improvements. Improvement in qualities will eventually produce improvement in the quantities. So, remain observant to the qualities and be loyal to their development over quantities in this foundation training phase.

Quantities to measure:

  • Total time
  • Time per split (for each 50 or 100, if possible)
  • Stroke count on each length (or every 2nd, or 4th length)
  • Changes in amount of rest (taking more or less than assigned)

Qualities to measure:

  • How precise was my control over a certain body part? (how close did it come to my best)
  • How consistent was my control over a certain body part? (how often did I achieve my best)
  • Overall, how much easier to move did it feel?
  • How much smoother did it feel?
  • How much less stress was there?
  • How much less effort was there? (in terms of heart rate, breathing intensity)
  • How much stronger did it feel?
Recording Results

We HIGHLY recommend that you keep a training journal and record data from your practices and test swims.

If you are receiving attention from a coach, he/she will certainly want to view these results.

Pre-Requisites

This course is meant to follow your introduction to Total Immersion’s fundamental skills taught in Level 1 workshops, in a series of private lessons with a certified TI Coach, and in the Perpetual Motion Freestyle video series and in the newest Ultra-Efficient Freestyle video series. Your familiarity with the drills, with the terminology and with the focal points that are taught in these TI resources is essential in order for the terminology and assignments in this course to be of benefit to you.

You may be of any adult age. You may be of any starting skill level – from learning-to-swim, to advanced competitor who is learning these principles for the first time. We guide you in how to adjust the assignments to fit your starting point.

Even if you are an experienced swimmer who really wants to rebuild under TI principles, it will still be of most benefit to you if you can set aside a month or two where you slow down the physical intensity of your practices so that you may turn up your concentration on fine details in order to give your brain a better setting in which to wire new motor circuits. Then you may gradually turn up the intensity of your training in order to strengthen those new circuits. If you try to swim at former intensity on new-born motor circuits, they simply cannot hold up. It takes time – starting gently and gradually increasing intensity – to build them up into dominance over your hold patterns.

Necessary Gear

Every program has their favorite gadgets and gear. What do you need to follow this particular program?

Necessary Gear:

Besides your swim suit and goggles, that’s it.

What’s the difference between the video series? Good question. In my opinion (Coach Mat’s) the Ultra-Efficient Freestyle video is the most refined, shortest path to learning the main fundamental skills – it has fewer drills and focal points and gets you into the general shape and movement patterns quickly. But, I personally prefer the organization, the added detail, and the systematic way that the Perpetual Motion Freestyle sequence builds the skills. It gives you more drills, more focal points and builds the shape and patterns to more depth. But, you will be well-served by either one, and the Freestyle Fundamental course works with either one as your reference point.

Highly Recommended Gear:
Helpful Gear (optional):
Definitely NOT NEEDED in these practices:
  • kick board
  • pull-buoy
  • hand paddles
Swim Watches?

What about your expensive swim watch. Should you use it?

This course is about establishing quality inside the body which then eventually translates into improvements in quantities on the outside. But there is a lag time between internal changes and external products. This training requires a season of concentration on internal qualities through your nervous system. The watch will not be able to measure these things for you. Some swimmers can be distracted from the internal sensitivity by wanting to measure everything externally and this is explicitly what you do not want to do right now. All our training is meant to improve your subjective, internal feedback and control system. We use external devices in order to calibrate your internal device = your own nervous system – because that is what you will ultimately be piloting your vessel by while you are swimming.

However, during your test swim, the watch may be helpful to measure the time, the splits, your laps, and your stroke count and stroke tempo. Those are very helpful forms of data when it comes time to analyze your test swim.

How To View Progress

Stage Of Development

There are three general stages to the development of your performance that you may expect to go through. As your technical skill increases, your strength, and eventually your speed will increase.

Stage Of Improved Performance 800x500

Easier

When you make the first fundamental improvements in your body control and shape, you should experience a great increase in ease. You may not swim faster, but it will be so much easier to swim the distances you were doing. When you remove the unnecessary struggle against gravity and water, you gain enormous savings in energy and you lower stress in the brain and body.

Farther

With your body at more peace with the natural forces, you are in better position to concentrate on improving the shape of your body. That improved shape means you slide through the water farther on each stroke. With more distance per stroke, and more energy freed up, the natural response is to swim farther because it feels so good to do so. Your practices can involve more total distance and you’ll sense more confidence to enjoy longer swims and races.

Faster

Then you will learn ways to improve the precision and coordination of your propulsive movements – because the lack of precision and coordination cause a lot of power to leak away from your speed abilities. You’ll first discover how to swim faster with the power you already have available.

With such economy in place throughout your body and in your stroke control, now you can work on adding more power to the stroke with a higher sensitivity to those details which will conserve that power rather than waste it. You’ll get more speed improvement for the amount of effort you put in, than if you were still so wasteful with your power.

Circular Approach

I want to encourage you to take a Circular Approach to this course, and to your training in general.

You may have a big improvement goal in mind, but consider that big journeys are accomplished with a series of small steps. There are layers of skill to develop on the way to your ultimate abilities.

The training process we use works on each level. At each new level we go back through it. You just increase the quantity and quality objectives on each new level.

1405 Mastery Plateaus

By taking a circular approach you will experience occasional jump-up in ability followed by plateaus of deep practice (a.k.a. deliberate practice) where the improvement in your foundation skills cannot be readily seen, although you are concentrating on them intensely. The work in the plateau phase will set you up for the next jump up in ability. Your body will know when it is time.

To use another analogy the work on the plateau is when you are sinking roots in winter to support the next outward growth phase, when branches extend in the next spring season.

1405 roots and branches 1000x JPG

So, you have these jump-ups in ability that will come after a season of dedicated plateau work. And, you have certain kinds of jumps to look forward to – first you learn to go easier, then you learn to go farther, then you learn to go faster.

How To Finish This Course

This course is meant to guide your integration of these fundamental skills. You may take as long as you like, and go over the practices as much as you need to.

Will you achieve total mastery? Even masters of the skills realize these fundamental can be developed to deeper and deeper levels. But, even a new swimmer should experience a sense of ease and habit forming around these skills, so that they become your preferred way of being and moving in the water. You should experience your body sliding through the water better, and feeling like the same work requires less effort than it used to – perhaps quite dramatically so.

The stronger these fundamental skills become the easier it will be to develop advanced skills – like the 2-Beat Kick, the Catch,  synchronization of the entire body, and to control stroke length and stroke tempo.

Your quality objective in this course is to feel more balanced, more aligned, more streamlined, and to feel that less movement is required to move forward.

When you start to feel those sensations regularly, and feel capable of putting yourself into that state in each practice, then you may be ready to work on those advanced stroke skills. At that point you may seek out some private lessons, look for an advanced workshop or begin with TI’s Freestyle Mastery video course and coach yourself for a while.

Section 1 – Balance The Body

Balance Objectives

What does success look like in Balance skills?

Balance means having your body parallel to the surface of the water, resting on the ‘neutral line’. This neutral line is just below the surface where the force of gravity pushing down and the force of water pressure pushing up meet and support your body entirely. Everyone will have a neutral line that is a bit higher or lower than others because of each person’s unique body composition. Even if you think you are a ‘sinker’ you still have a neutral line in the water somewhere, and you still need to learn how to ‘sink evenly’ keeping your body parallel to the surface.

Neutralize The Forces

In normal whole stroke swimming your stroke cycle will last 2 or 3 seconds at most. So, the balance skill you need to develop needs only to last 3 or 4 seconds. Going on in a balance drill for more than 4 seconds could be helpful to examining details, but not necessary for building actual swimming skill. So, you will develop faster by working with very short repeats – within the time you can hold your breath. You need to aim to get into position immediately, in that first second and hold it for just 3 or 4 seconds, paying very close attention to your focal point in those first seconds. How you start the drill (the push-off) is important so you don’t waste time under water or splashing down and then sinking for a while.

Drill Success = when you can hold your body line parallel to the surface in a gliding Superman and Skate Position for up to 4 seconds.

Balance happens when the body line is long, straight and braced in the core around the hips – this builds an internal frame which allows you to shift weight and forces through the body. Then the weight of the head, shoulders and arms are allowed to rest fully in the water which shifts mass forward (because you’ve got the core muscles connecting the hips and legs to the torso as a whole unit). And then a pressure zone of water is allowed to flow under the aligned hips and legs to give them natural lift for that first 3 seconds. It all works together to create a body the slides up at the surface and parallel to it. Leave out one of those parts and it won’t work so well.

To see photos of what this should look like in drill position, view Superman Glide on the Freestyle Drill Resources page.

Whole Stroke Success = when you can hold your body line parallel to the surface for 6 to 8 whole strokes, within the time you can hold your breath.

 

Starting Test Swim

In order to get a baseline measurement of your starting abilities, do a test swim before you begin this section of practices.

Then, after 3 (or more) practices you may repeat the same test swim, and compare your results.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to do this.

Assignment 1.1

Skill Project: Head Position

This focal point is called ‘Weightless Head’.

The weightless head allows this heavy and influential part of your body to rest between the natural forces of gravity pushing down and water pushing up, so that you don’t have to fight them.

Where the head goes, the rest of the body follows – so placing the head in this neutral position sets the line behind which the rest of your spine lines up, and where it will direct its force.

And, the weightless head is just that: weightless. Your neck muscles should be mostly relax and activate only enough to keep the head aimed straight forward.

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)

What To Aim For

Have the head fully supported by the pressure of water pushing upward. You should feel some water pressure pushing against your face, as if laying face-down on a massage table.

The neck muscles should be mostly loose. If I walked up beside you and pressed on your head, like dribbling a basketball, your head should easily yield to my pressing.

Your eyes should be aimed straight down.

The ears should be under water.

The crown of your head – where a ‘shishkabob’ would extend from your spine and come out of your skull – this should be pointed straight ahead down the lane of the pool. I think of it as the ‘tip of my torpedo’ and I aim it at my target.

There should be a consistent bow-wave breaking over the back of your head (swim cap, if you wear one). I think of the torpedo plowing its way through the water with a bow wave – there is no deviation in that head, no zig-zag, no up/down bobbing. Just steady movement forward.

What To Avoid

Don’t push the head deeper.

Don’t lift the head above the neutral line.

Don’t tilt the head upward.

Don’t try to look forward (that’s what the lane lines and T at the end of it are for). If you do look, do it quickly and the put the head back down immediately.

Don’t let the head be pulled to the left and to the right with each arm stroke.

Assignment 1.2

Skill Project: Set The Frame

I may suggest calling this focal point ‘Tippy Toes’. Read more about it below…

You are going to build a ‘frame’ out of your entire torso, just as a wooden sea kayak has a light, sturdy frame inside, which holds everything in a perfect shape. This frame gives the water something to support, which lifts your entire body and allows it to slide through the water easier. This frame also allows you to transfer force through the body, from where it is generated to where it is applied to part water molecules in front of you.

The frame is also the foundation for the action of arms, legs and breathing. The better the frame the easier it will be to perform the propulsive actions and breathing action.

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)

What To Aim For

This frame is built by 1) putting the head-spine-hips-legs in alignment, then 2) activating the deep internal muscles of the ‘core’ (the abdomen from ribs, to hips, and down the thighs. Imagine being in plank position and how all those muscles work from shoulders to knees – that is very similar to how they will work together in swimming position.

Those deep muscles are activated by lengthening the body, by stretching it out. The body will automatically respond by tightening the core in order to stabilize your torso. Stretch to activate those muscles, rather than pull inward (as when doing a sit-up).

Head is weightless and straight.

Spine is tall and aligned, like standing at military attention.

Lengthen the body from ribs to knees, like you are standing on Tippy Toes and reaching for something on a very high shelf above you.

Make sure your pelvis is ‘level’ – where the small curve of your back is flatter (less curved), and your belly button is pulled up, toward your sternum. (Generally, stand as if on tippy-toes’ and this will put your pelvis in level position).

Make sure your thighs are straight behind you, lined up with the spine, just like when you are standing at military attention.

What To Avoid

Don’t exaggerate the tall and straight feeling – don’t arch (extend) your back backwards like a banana.

Don’t reach with the head which may cause it to tilt up or down.

Don’t angle your thighs downward in anticipation of starting to kick to push your hips up to the surface – remain loyal to the straight body line and let the back end sink (at this stage in your training) if it will.

Assignment 1.3

Skill Project: Fully-Supported

We may call this focal point “hips brushing the surface’.

Once the frame is built, you bring the entire body line onto the neutral line under water – the line where the force of gravity pushing down meets the pressure of water pushing up. Your entire body line should rest on that line, parallel to the surface. When some part of your body pushes up above that line or pushes down below that line you will then need to work against those natural forces.

 Neutralize The Forces

You will use the flow of water under the frame of the long, straight body to bring it up near the surface and onto that neutral line. The better your frame, the easier it will be for the body to be fully-supported on that neutral line.

Recommended Drills

  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)
  • Slot To Skate (UEF)

What To Aim For

Water flows under your body on each stroke. Notice it flowing under your hips and legs to support them. Your lower body -if the frame is built – will ride up on top of this pressure zone of water.

Look for these markers – the back of your head (swim cap) brushes the surface.

The back of your shoulder touches the air.

Your hip (on each rotation) brushes the air.

Your legs feel very close to the surface (but not touching the air).

What To Avoid

Don’t bend at the hips in order to push them up to the surface.

Don’t bend the knees to form a kick which will push your hips up to the surface.

Don’t do excessively slow strokes because this will allow too much deceleration between each stroke.

Don’t worry about doing gliding drills (like Superman or Skate) for more than 4 or 5 seconds, because the flow of water dissipates and you receive too little support after that. Those who have heavy legs will get little benefit out of these drills past that point.

Assignment 1.4

Skill Project: Counter-Balance

I call this focal point ‘Counter-Balanced Feet’.

The first step for the legs was putting them in alignment with the rest of the body, to remove the extra drag they often create (even while kicking). Now, you give them a role to play which helps your balance. When shifting into Skate Position (in drill or in whole stroke) the feet slide immediately into a position which is counter-balanced to your torso rotation.

IMAGE counterbalance feet 800x500

Recommended Drills

  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Skate (PMF)
  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Spear Switch (PMF)
  • Use 2BK rehearsals (view tutorial videos on the Freestyle Drill Resource page)

What To Aim For

Stretch out your Skate side, from wrist to ankle. You will feel a stretch over your hip flexor muscles – like an elastic band tied between those two extremities and pulled tight.

The Skate side heel reaches up near the surface, but does not touch it. Rotate the heel outward to the side to make room for the stretch, not upward to break the surface.

The other leg is pointing the toes and the body pivots around this leg (as you rotate into Skate Position).

The knees stay very close together, nearly touching.

The feet feel ‘stacked’ one in front of the other (relative to each other – see rear view). They are more vertical, and less horizontal.

What To Avoid

Don’t bend the knees, just rotate the ankles.

Don’t spread the legs wider. Stack the feet (see rear view).

At this stage, don’t ‘kick’ with each switch, just shift the legs to counter-balance the body rotation. This foot position also happens to be the starting position for the 2-Beat Kick, but first you should master the first role for the feet.

Section 1 Test Swim

At the end of this section, you may conduct a test swim. Compare results to your starting test swim to see where you have made progress and what weak spots are revealed.

Remember, that you are looking foremost for improvements in the qualities inside your body – look for how it is getting easier to control your body in the ways you intend, and for how much less effort it may take to hold position or move through some stroke patterns.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to do those.

Section 2 – Alignment Of Body Parts

Alignment Objectives

What does success look like in Alignment skills?

You need to have the body parts aligned so that you move forward in the water, instead of moving water around.

First, and foremost, the head and spine need to stay aligned, just like when standing on land. They remain aligned during the entire stroke cycle. Pretend that there is a shishkabob stick running through your spine and extending in both directions. During the stroke cycle your body rotates on this shishkabob.  Your legs should remain close to this shishkabob. Your shoulders and arms have tracks to stay on which are parallel to the shishkabob, never pushing or pulling against it.

Drill Success = Your head remains fixed on the shishkabob through all rotation motion. Your legs remain straight and hidden behind the torso. Your lead arm finds its track and stays there.

To see photos of what this alignment should look like in drill positions, view Superman Glide and Skate on the Freestyle Drill Resources page.

Whole Stroke Success = when you can come immediately to your best Skate Position on each stroke.

Assignment 2.1

Skill Project: Head Alignment

This focal point is called ‘Laser Lead Head’ in the PMF video – or we might call it “Shishkabob Head’ in Mediterra lingo.

The head is heavy and when you take it off the neutral line and you will have to start working against gravity or water pressure unecessarily.

The head leads the way forward in the water. When the head veers off course it takes the whole body with it, or causes a lot of conflict inside.

The head is the start of the spine – when it is aligned it allows the rest of the spine to get into its most stable position. When the head is tilted (looking forward) even a little, it compromises the stability of the spine and reduces its ability to transfer force.

And, the head turning on the shishkabob to breath will get to the air easiest, quickest, use the least amount of effort, and disrupt the stroke the least.

So, keeping the head in best position is one of the most important things you can do to reduce water resistance and wasted effort.

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

You feel like the torso is driving the head forward.The tip of your head is like a torpedo driving steady towards its target.

In Skate Position there should be a gap between your cheek and your shoulder. The head is on one track and the shoulder+arm are on a parallel track.

Your head feels steady and fixed, eyes aimed down, while rotating around it – imagine a glass of juice sitting on the back of your head while swimming, don’t spill it!

Learn to use your peripheral vision (as much as your goggles permit) to make you feel more secure about not looking forward. Only glance forward occasionally if you are approaching some object in the pool.

Tune in to the feeling of water flowing over this leading point of the head and imagine you have a sensor there which is looking ahead for you.

What To Avoid

Don’t let each arm stroke (especially during entry and extension) pull the head to the side.

Don’t let the head bob up or down on each arm stroke. No ‘gallop’.

Don’t let the rotation of the torso swing the head with it (unless breathing).

Assignment 2.2

Skill Project: Arm Alignment

This focal point is called ‘Wide Tracks’.

Each arm is connected at the shoulder and pivots around that point. The shoulders are offset from the spine. To transfer force in the direction of travel the arms need to stay in line with the shoulders. It seem intuitive to drive the arms inward toward the center line to make the body more streamline shape, but this ends up creating more problems than benefits. It is actually superior in streamline, efficiency and force-transfer to keep the arms on their tracks when entering and extending forward.

Recommended Drills

  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The arm should be fully extended.

The arms should be reach straight forward, in front of the shoulders.

The elbow rotated to point upward and outward (rather than downward).

The axilla (armpit) should be opened up – reach a bit further with the shoulders.

The hands should be lined up with the wrist. Reach with the wrist. Aim the arm with the big knuckle of your ring finger.

The arm should be shaped, but still flexible – like a young tree branch.

What To Avoid

Don’t allow the elbow to bend downward.

Don’t pull your scapula bones (shoulder blades) inward toward the spine. Let them slide outward and forward.

Don’t tense up your neck because you are trying to reach too far.

Don’t reach with your thumb.

Assignment 2.3

Skill Project: Hand Alignment

This focal point is called ‘Hand At Target’.

The wide tracks focal point set the lateral position of the arms. Now you need to consider the optimal angle of the arms and depth of the hand.

Upon entry the hand is going to be driven down to a certain spot called the target. This target is just lower than the lowest point of your body – and, according to your wide track, it is directly in front of the shoulder.

There are several reasons for this particular location, but for now realize that this is the point you need to bring the hand to immediately on entry to protect your balance, to preserve streamline, and to avoid wasting time and effort sending the hand along any other pathway.This target is where you will set the catch at the right moment.

Recommended Drills

  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Hop And Slot (UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The shoulder is above the elbow. The elbow is above the wrist, the wrist is above the fingers.

The hand should be aligned with the wrist, the palm facing downward, ready to slide into the catch.

The fingers should be soft.

You should feel a flow of water evenly on both sides of the arm.

You should feel some water pressure pushing against the leading (upper) edge of the arm – it will be used to slide your arm into catch position effortlessly in a moment.

Keep the hand shaped but relaxed so that you can more easily feel the flow of water on the surface nerve cells.

What To Avoid

Don’t hold the fingers tense.

Don’t squeeze the fingers together – let the spread a little in a natural way.

Don’t reach with the thumb – reach with the big knuckle of the ring finger.

Don’t scoop upward while extending. Go straight on the angled path to the target.

Assignment 2.4

Skill Project: Leg Alignment

This focal point is called ‘Hidden Legs’.

The legs will be given a propulsion role later, but for now they need to be taught to stay out of trouble behind the torso. The legs are heavy for most people, and the land-mammal brain is wired to push us around with them. But in the water, they are the least effective means of propulsion. Even with the best kicking technique they propel just a little at an enormous cost in energy.  All that movement outside of the slipstream of the body creates drag.

So, first you will learn to reduce their liability by hiding them behind the body. Later, in advanced lessons, you will learn how to compose an effective kick within that small hidden space.

Upon rotation, there may be a very strong urge to spread the legs to help stabilize the torso – you need to override this and make the legs hold position while the torso learns to stabilize itself with core muscles. And, there may be a very strong urge to bend the knees and kick downward to push the hips up – you need to override this and train the stroke to support legs with the flow of water under your long, straight body frame.

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman Glide (PMF, UEF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The legs should remain parallel to the shishkabob.

The knees may be very close together, or even touching sometime.

The knees are allowed to only flex a little, but not bend. Flex like a fish, not like a robot.

Keep the toes pointed as much as is comfortable.

The thighs should remain in line with the torso – as if you were standing at military attention.

Upon rotation – the legs stay parallel, but they twist and overlap a bit into counter-balanced position (see Assignment 1.4)

What To Avoid

Don’t arch (extend) the back to reach the feet up toward the surface.

Don’t scissor the legs wide to make a kick.

Don’t bend the thighs downward and break the frame at your hips.

Don’t bend the knees to kick downward.

Don’t point the toes so severely that you develop a foot cramp.

 

Section 2 Test Swims

You may have done a test swim at the end of the previous section. So, you may do another test swim at the end of this section.

Look for improvements in the quality of your shape and how well you slide through the water on each stroke.

For this test swim use the same design that you used last time, or make it slightly more difficult. This way you can compare and more easily see in what ways you have improved.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to remind yourself how to do it.

Section 3 – Stability And Rotation

Stability Objectives

What does success look like in Stability and Rotation skills?

You’ve been learning how to place your body in its most streamline base position in Skate Position. You’ve noticed that this is a rotated, asymmetrical position. In whole stroke you only need to hold this position for maybe at most 1.5 seconds (at the slowest tempo stroke), then transition to the same position on the other side. But in this position and during the switch you need to be totally stable, able to hold that rotated position with confident balance.

At the completion of each stroke cycle you come immediately into your best Skate Position, and you are able to hold it as you swing the recovery. A great test of this stability is that you can hold your Skate Position while taking strokes at an extremely slow tempo. If you find that you feel rushed to get the arm forward before you ‘fall flat’, or if you notice your lead arm pulling too early, or your legs spreading wide or just wiggling around while you swing the recovery arm, you are probably not very stable yet. This stability will come from learning to build that rotated position from deep core muscles (rather than holding it with arms and legs wiggling about) and to empower the rotation from the weight-shift of the torso. And then it will take some time to condition these muscles for their new choreography and work load.

Drill Success = Holding Skate Position in drill mode for 4 or 5 seconds, with narrow legs (with the most minimal vertical flutter kick) is a good test of static stability. Then be able to do it with a slow-motion recovery swing (no switch) without legs spreading, without feeling a rush to finish the recovery swing before falling flat.

To see photos of what this stability and rotation should look like in drill positions, view Skate, Spear Switch and Swing Switch on the Freestyle Drill Resources page.

Whole Stroke Success = Being able to take 6 to 8 whole strokes with slow motion recovery swings, while legs are narrow and aligned, and your lead arm remains on target and totally patient during that recovery swing.

Assignment 3.1

Skill Project: Straight Spine

We like to call this focal point the “shishkabob” in Mediterra lingo. In Coach Terry’s video it is referred to as the ‘Laser Lead Spine’.

The spine is the axis on which the entire stroke moves. The spine keeps every body part aligned and the forces channeled forward, in the direction you want to travel. The propulsive movements of the body are meant to work in parallel to the spine, and around it – but never pushing or pulling it out of alignment (i.e. deforming it like a wet noodle).

So, you need to practice torso rotation, arm movements, leg movements, and turning to breath around this firmly-controlled axis.

IMAGE shishkabob spine 800x500

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo with rotation (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The head remains fixed in its weightless position as the torso rotates.

The hips and shoulders rotate together, as a firm (but flexible) unit.

You feel the hips actually initiate the shoulder rotation (sometimes referred to as the ‘hip-drive’).

Let the shoulder blade slide up/down, parallel to the spine, during the stroke cycle. Keep arm entry and extension on track.

Lead arm should stay fixed on its track as other arm is coming forward (on recovery) – this will keep spine stable too.

The legs rotate in the opposite direction as you rotate the torso (see Section 1 – Counter-Balance Feet) in order to keep the hips straight (rather than sway side to side on each stroke).

What To Avoid

Don’t turn the head with the torso rotation (unless turning to breathe).

Don’t tilt the head up as your rotate, or the hips will possibly swing out of alignment too. Especially during breathing a head-tilt is destructive to the spine alignment.

Don’t hold the legs stiffly together, or the legs will likely swing side-to-side with each rotation. Twist the legs around the axis in counter-balance position.

Assignment 3.2

Skill Project: Rotation Angle

This focal point is called ‘low angle’.

Previously, it was thought that a high angle (nearly vertical) was more streamline. Perhaps it was, but that position caused more problems than it solved. A low angle is sufficient for generating the rotational force needed, and allows for faster tempos. Rotation should be 30 to 45 degrees, and no higher, or it will promote other problems in the stroke.

But, you do not feel ’45 degree’ – you need to use other markers to feel the best rotation angle and remain loyal to it.

IMAGE rotation angle 800x500

The tendency for humans is to move the arms to propel, and then more the rest of the body to serve their motion. But you need to do the opposite – set the spine, set a low range of rotation angle and then learn to move your arms and legs within that alignment and rotational parameter. Remain loyal to rotation angle, and adjust arms (in recovery and entry-extension phase) in respect to the rotation angle. That is why you are developing the spine and rotation skills before you develop the arm motions.

Recommended Drills

  • Torpedo with rotation (UEF)
  • Laser Lead Flutter (PMF)
  • Superman To Skate (PMF, UEF)
  • Laser Lead Rotation To Skate (PMF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The head remains fixed (unless turning to breathe).

You feel air on the back of the shoulder blade.

You feel the back of your hips (the cheek) brushing the surface of the water.

Your belly-button turns ‘just-off center (if down was 6 o-clock on a watch, you would rotate no more than 5 and 7 o-clock).

Aim for minimal (but not flat) rotation and generate force in that smaller arc of rotation. (Later on the 2-Beat Kick will help with this).

Keep your lead arm on its track, even a hand-width wider than the shoulder – this will help resist over-rotation.

Reach the extending arm 1 inch (2 centimeters) further – reach ahead at target depth to lengthen the body on that Skate side.

When the arm finished the underwater stroke, as the elbow comes to the hip send it ‘wide-to-the-side’ of the body to clear the water.

What To Avoid

Don’t turn so far that you feel air on the side of your shoulder.

Don’t turn so far that you feel the side of your hip brush the surface.

Don’t turn so far that your chest faces sideways.

Don’t let your entry-extending lead arm leave its wide track – don’t let it cross toward the center line.

Don’t let the extending hand go deeper than the ideal target – slide it forward as if sliding on ice – not deeper, not inward. This will help resist over-rotation.

When the arm finished the underwater stroke, as the elbow comes to the hip do not pull the elbow up high or back over the spine to clear the water – send it ‘wide-to-the-side’ to clear the water. An elbow pulled high or back will encourage over-rotation.

 

Assignment 3.3

Skill Project: Stable Lead Arm

The primary focal point for this skill is ‘Patient Lead Arm’.

This lead arm position and motion has many important features, but the one to focus on right now is its role in keeping your body stable, long and aligned – this allows momentum to keep channeling forward through the body until the other arm is in position to take its place and a new propulsive cycle starts. Because of a patient lead arm you will be able to experience a surge of acceleration in each stroke.

IMAGE patient lead arm 800x500

You are training your two arms to work independently of each other, to work asymmetrically, but in a carefully cooperative pattern. Instead of two arms moving continuously opposite of each other (in the old ‘windmill’ style stroke), view this as one arm transfering force-forward until the other arm comes to take its place.

You may train this lead arm in passive position drills (like Skate) and then in active motion drills like Recovery, Spear and Swing. You may focus on the lead arm, then you may focus on the recovery arm – the brain will gradually learn to control each in a separate but cooperative pattern.

Recommended Drills

  • Recovery Rehearsal (UEF)
  • Recovery with Elbow Swing (UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The lead arm should feel anchored, and patiently holding position.

The elbow of the lead arm should be pointed up and outward (putting the hand in position to slide down and inward to start the catch).

You should feel long and firm, like a skate blade on the Skate side of your body. The should be even a muscular stretching sensation over your hip and down your leg on Skate side.

You should feel like you are actually continuing to get longer on the Skate side of your body even while the recovery arm is swinging forward.

The recovery swing should feel relaxed, as if there is no rush to bring it forward (because of a feeling of instability).

The feeling of extending should continue on your Skate side until the moment of the entry of the other hand. That is the trigger for the switch.

 

What To Avoid

Don’t let the lead hand waver from its track and target during the recovery swing. Resist the urge to start pushing down. Keep reaching forward.

Don’t reach with the fingers – keep them soft – reach with the wrist instead.

Don’t start your catch (on the Skate side) until the fingers of the recovery arm is pierce the water on entry.

Don’t partially complete your extension on the Skate side – extend fully, and open the armpit.

 

 

Assignment 3.4

Skill Project: Counter-Balance Arms

This focal point is called ‘On Wide Track’, referring to the position of the lead arm projecting straight ahead of the shoulder, with hand on the target below the lowest point of the body line.

The arms have weight –  the weight of the lead arm is down below the neutral line, on one side of the axis, and below the center of mass. This position provides counter-balance to the other arm which is swinging above the surface and on the other side of the axis.

IMAGE counterbalance arms 800x500

The key to this is to keep that lower lead arm on its track while swinging the recovery arm wide. If it comes inward toward the center line it will reduce the leverage and increase the instability of your torso in rotated position. Once the torso feels unstable the brain will force arms and legs to divert action away from forward propulsion and to stabilizing action.

This is all related to the ideal rotation angle. The arms should be positioned in this way to protect that ideal rotation angle, rather than change the rotation to serve arm position. The torso is the main power-generating motor – protect it’s alignment, angle and rotation at all costs.

Recommended Drills

  • Recovery Rehearsal (UEF)
  • Recovery with Elbow Swing (UEF)
  • Spear Skate and Switch (PMF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The lead arm should feel anchored, and patiently holding position. For additional stability you might even position it slightly wider than the shoulder, about one hand-width

You should feel long and fixed, like a skate blade on the Skate side of your body.

Feel how the arms are spread away from the spine, each on their track parallel to the spine.

The recovery swing should feel relaxed, as if there is no rush to bring it forward (because of a feeling of instability).

The recovery swing should be wide, out to the side, away from the body.

What To Avoid

Don’t let the lead hand waver from its target during the recovery swing.

Don’t start your catch (on the Skate side) until the recovery arm is entering the water.

Don’t partially complete your extension on the Skate side – extend fully, and open the armpit.

Don’t pull the arms inward toward the center-line (shishkabob spine).

Don’t let the recovery swing go high above the surface or high above the body.

 

Section 3 Test Swim

You have been working on holding your torso more stable at rotated position and as you rotate. Look for a reduction in the amount of extra work your arms and legs need to do because the muscles in your torso are learning to do the work of stabilization.

For this test swim use the same design that you used last time, or make it slightly more difficult. This way you can compare and more easily see in what ways you have improved.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to remind yourself how to do it.

Section 4 – Recovery

Recovery Objectives

What does success look like in Recovery skills?

The recovery needs to have a certain shape, follow a certain path, and have a certain feel to it. All this adds up to a motion that allows you to your transfer rotational force forward, into the water where it will move through the extending lead arm to cut a path for the rest of your body to follow.

VA-Swimmer-Diagram-FRONT.svg_

Shape: The elbow should swing out wide from the body, not upward. The hand should stay near the surface, fingernails brushing the water. The hand is dragging BEHIND the elbow, as the elbow swings forward. All of these together should create the equilateral triangle shape of the arm over the water to the side of your body (see image above).

Path: The shoulder bones (scapula and clavicle) are sliding forward. The elbow is swinging all the way forward, to a position stretched forward above your ear. The forearm will drag behind until the last moment.

Feel: The forearm, hand and fingers should remain totally relaxed like a ‘ragdoll’ as Coach Terry describes. The weight of the relaxed forearm and hand are like a plastic sack of heavy fruit that you are swinging forward and will release at the right moment to fall forward into the water in front of your shoulder.

Remember, this is to be a fluid, organic motion, not mechanical or robotic. It is called a ‘swing’ because just as a person on a swing, you cannot restrain a swing without stopping the swing – you can only launch it and guide it on the path. At first, you may move very slow and robotic-like as you are first learning to put the arm into the right shape and path, but eventually you must let it speed up to a more natural swing where you can feel the moving weight of the arm gain momentum. The feeling you seek comes from relaxation and motion. You want to use that momentum and then combine it with the rotation upon entry to create that smooth and powerful drive-forward.

Drill Success = In Recovery or SwingSkate/SwingSwitch drills you should be able to swing each arm with your best shape, on the best path, and with that ‘ragdoll’ feeling all the way.

Note: in drill mode you should allow most, if not all of your forearm to remain underwater. Recall in Section 3 how you have been instructed to protect ideal rotation angle and set arm position relative to that. In drill mode you will lay deeper in the water and at proper rotation angle your full arm will not be able to clear the water without you turning your body farther or stretching your arm out of ideal angle relative to the torso. To avoid this, just allow the hand and forearm to remain underwater and the elbow and upper arm will be just above the surface. The resistance of water pulling against your forearm will act as the perfect reminder to keep those muscles relaxed and let the hand drag behind the elbow most of the way to the ear.

1604 elbow in scapular plane b 800x500

To see photos of what this recovery shape and path should look like in drill positions, view Swing Switch on the Freestyle Drill Resources page.

Whole Stroke Success = Being able to take 6 to 8 whole strokes with slow motion recovery swings, with your best recovery shape and path, and those feelings of relaxed arm and momentum. Your lead arm must remain patient.

Assignment 4.1

Skill Project: Wide Recovery

This focal point is called “swing elbow wide’.

Some problems in the shape and path of the recovery start right from the way the arm exits the water. And, the undeveloped instinct for humans is to try to get the hand out and forward as quickly as possible – the elbow comes up, then pauses while the hand swings forward, then the arm (with hand in front) pushes the hand up to the entry point. This approach destroys the momentum of the recovery.

Instead, focus on moving the elbow forward continuously, and train the hand to drag behind until the last moment. The moment the elbow touches the air (at the end of the catch/hold phase) it should swing outward from the side of the body, not upward and behind the back. Like in a pinball machine there is a bumper on the hip and the moment the elbow touches the hip, the bumper shoots the elbow directly out from the side of the body, launching it wide and upward. This will put your shoulder on a path that is much safer and stronger for the shoulder joint.(Note: in the image below, notice the position of the green arm and its angle relative to the torso).

1604 elbow in scapular plane b 800x500

This wide elbow may even be wider than you think it should be. And, send your hand even wider to create that equilateral triangle shape.

Another helpful image: pretend there is a very light, very wide surfboard strapped to your back. When you finish the underwater phase of the stroke and the elbow touches the surface of the water, the surfboard is blocking the elbow from continuing back, behind the plane of your back. Therefore, the only path forward for the elbow is to go out wide from the side of the body. You may also stand with your back to a wall and rehearse your swing with the wall blocking the elbow from going behind your back.

Recommended Drills

  • Rehearsal of Recovery Swing (UEF)
  • Recovery Elbow Swing (UEF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The elbow should move out from the side of the body, not behind the back.

The elbow is making an arc (pivoting from the shoulder). The arc is rising higher as it approach the head.

The elbow should move continuously from exit to ear.

What To Avoid

Don’t allow the elbow to go past the plane of your back.

Don’t pause the motion of the elbow.

Don’t swing the hand in front of the elbow (until the last moment of the swing). Let it drag behind.

Assignment 4.2

Skill Project: Surface Contact

This will involve two focal points called ‘brush the fingernails’ and ‘paint a line’.

The main reason for keeping the hand near the surface is to reduce unnecessary effort. The higher you lift your hand the harder you have to work against gravity – the higher the hand goes, the harder gravity will push down on some other part of your body to balance the equation.

So, you want to keep the arm just high enough to swing it forward on the shortest path, and to use the least amount of energy to do it. In a single stroke, the difference in effort of a hand at the surface and a hand  a few inches above is very small. But over the course of a swim, with thousands of strokes, that extra wasted effort adds up to a lot. Ultimate economy in swimming comes from small savings in hundreds of points like this.

And, combine that hand-at-the-surface with a relaxed forearm and hand, when it is bumped by a wave or another swimmer, the limp, flexible arm simply absorbs the force without transferring it into your body – the recovery arm continues forward without a hesitation.

Recommended Drills

  • Rehearsal with Recovery (UEF)
  • Recovery with Paint A Line (UEF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The hand is relaxed so that your fingers feel like bristles on a brush, or strands on a mop head.

The hand is dragging behind the elbow – as if the elbow were the end of the handle, and the hand and fingers were the brush or mop head.

The fingernails may brush the surface in the slightest manner, leaving a little line.

You may imagine painting a line on the surface of the water, straight the point where the hand exited the water to the point it will enter (at Mailslot). (Note: this straight line may seem contradictory to the arcing swing of the arm, but these two are shaping two different sides of this section of the body. Just try it – it will correct a certain problem, if you have one).

The palm should always remain pointed rear-ward.

What To Avoid

Don’t tense the fingers. Let them be soft.

Don’t worry about keeping the hand above any errant waves. Just let the hand gently splash through.

Don’t lift the elbow higher to make the hand get higher – just send the hand wider to get it higher.

Don’t let the palm rotate away from facing rear-ward on this recovery swing. Keep that rear orientation.

Assignment 4.3

Skill Project: Elbow Lead

This skill can be worked on with a focal point from either viewpoint – ‘elbow lead’ (the hand), or ‘drag the hand’ (behind the elbow).

To create the momentum that can then be directed downward into the water, the arm needs to build up that momentum during the swing. Consider how you would swing a plastic bag of oranges, then as it reached a certain point in the swing forward, you would release the bag and the momentum of the weighty oranges would fly forward then down. Consider how the load is behind the point of carry, then it swings in front at the last moment before release. That is what you do with your arm too. If you were to push the oranges in front then release them, they would simple fall straight down, because there is no momentum from a swing motion.

So, we may add another focal point ‘swing the bag’ to help create the feeling you should get from the swinging arm.

Also, consider what direction you are swinging your arm and what direction you want it to go when you release that force into the water – straight forward.

In these focal points you have the shape, the path, and then the feeling you are trying to create in the recovery swing.

Recommended Drills

  • Recovery Rehearsal (UEF)
  • Recovery with Elbow Swing (UEF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The forearm and hand should feel totally relaxed.

Your object is to get the elbow to move continuously, as far forward as comfortable, up to the ear – the design of the shoulder joint will direct the hand into the forward position at the last moment (as it passes the shoulder). Focus on the elbow trajectory.

The hand should drag behind the shoulder until the last moment (as it passes your shoulder). This hand-behind-elbow will turn your shoulder joint in a way likely different than what you have felt before – move slowly at first to get acquainted with this new joint orientation. The soft tissues will eventually get comfortable with it.

There is a minimum speed of motion required to get the sensation of momentum. Start practicing slowly to get the shape, but eventually you’ll need to speed up the recovery swing in order to feel this momentum in the swing of the forearm.

The general feeling is that the arm+shoulder unit is sliding forward parallel to the spine. Just let gravity take it back down into the water at the entry point.

What To Avoid

Don’t pause the elbow until it reaches the ear.

Don’t tense up the forearm and hand, because this will cause tension in the shoulder joint.

Don’t worry if the hand gets bumped by a wave or another swimmer. Let it softly absorb the bump.

(After initially practicing the motion) don’t move like a robot. Let the arm swing freely.

Don’t try to force the elbow to lead past any point where soreness or pain emerge – your joint mobility may be less-than-adequate at first, but doing these exercises gently and regularly will increase your joint mobility over time. Done correctly, these exercises are therapeutic for under-developed shoulders.

Assignment 4.4

Skill Project: Relaxed Forearm

This can be developed with the focal point ‘relaxed hand’, or as Coach Terry calls it, “ragdoll arm’.

Although you want both relaxed forearm, hand and fingers, I point to the hand specifically, because to relax the hand, you must relax the muscles in the forearm. The fingers come along too. Tense the hand and it is hard to keep from tensing the forearm and fingers too.

IMAGE relaxed hand 800x500

There are several reasons for keeping the lower part of the arm relaxed

  • it uses less energy
  • it allows more momentum to build up in the recovery swing
  • it allows the arm to softly absorb any bumps or splashes without disrupting the stroke or body
  • it allows this part of the body to rest between work moments, which reduces the rate of waste build up in your overall performance system. Remember, little things all over add up to big things.

Recommended Drills

  • Recovery Rehearsal (UEF)
  • Recovery with Elbow Swing (UEF)
  • Swing Skate and Switch (PMF)

What To Aim For

The forearm and hand should feel totally relaxed.

However, because it is hanging down should should stay somewhat aligned with the wrist, but still flexible – like a young tree branch.

The moment the elbow begins the recovery, the forearm and hand should release all tension (while still underwater). Just ‘let go’ of the water and let those parts be carried forward.

What To Avoid

Don’t bend the wrist back to clear the water. Let the fingers drag in the water, if needed, or send the hand a bit wider.

Don’t worry if the hand gets bumped by a wave or another swimmer. Let it softly absorb the bump.

Section 4 Test Swim

The recovery swing is what will help you transfer more force-forward. Look for improvements in the quality of your control, to create that sensation of swinging momentum on each stroke.

For this test swim use the same design that you used last time, or make it slightly more difficult. This way you can compare and more easily see in what ways you have improved.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to remind yourself how to do it.

Section 5 – Entry And Extension

Entry And Extension Objectives

What does success look like in Entry And Extension skills?

When you extend fully into Skate position that is the finale of the stroke, the moment when you finish sending force-forward through your body to cut the path through water ahead. We cannot overemphasize your need to come to your absolute best Skate Position at the end of every single stroke because this is what the whole stroke cycle is aiming for.

Entry and Extension are the final section of movement that brings you into that Skate Position. There is the timing of the entry, the shape of the entry and the path of the entry and extension, then you slide into your best Skate Position, and immediately go through the cycle again on the other side. And, it should feel a certain way – quite thrilling actually.

IMAGE entry moment 800x500

Timing: You practiced this in the Recovery skills, to hold the patient lead arm until the fingers of the recovery hand pierce that water. That is the moment you should start the catch on the other side, and begin sliding into Skate on this side.

Shape: There is a distinct shape to the entry moment. The entry arm is shaped like a tent over the head. The forearm is angled downward into the water at about 45 degrees. The hand and wrist are aligned, the fingers are soft. The forearm is aimed directly forward, in front of the shoulder.

Path: The entry starts at this steep angle and then drives down toward the target depth, then slides forward at that depth. The path may look and feel like an Olympic ski jump – starting steep, then leveling out.

Feel: There is no pause from the recovery to entry to extension. It is one fluid motion. The arm is shapely, but the forearm and hand remain relaxed even during extension. The work comes from the torso and shoulder.

Remember, this is to be a fluid, organic motion, not mechanical or robotic. You are combining the momentum of the arm with the force of your rotation, and releasing those into the water and extending forward. You must let it flow and just guide this motion to your target, coming into your best Skate Position at the end.

Drill Success = In drills that involve entry and extension you should be able to slide into your best Skate Position immediately, and hold it with stability for 3 to 4 seconds. Do it on both sides. It is the quality of the pathway and finish that determine success in this skill set.

The following assignments will give you 4 main skills to work on. You may work on many more by looking at those listed in the Entry And Extension section of our 101 Focal Points page.

Whole Stroke Success = Being able to take 6 to 8 whole strokes where you hit your best Skate Position immediately on both sides. For extra credit you may practice this at slow-motion, normal, and brisk tempo strokes. Slow-motion will test your stability, and brisk motion will test your timing and precision.

Assignment 5.1

Skill Project: Entry Shape

This focal point is called “Mailslot’.

There is a distinct shape to the entry arm.

FP Example tent over head

The Mailslot image refers to the slender mail slot opening which could be found on many old front doors. Imagine how the slot shape requires your fingers, then hand, then forearm, elbow and upper arm to all slide through that same opening. In the water, your fingers will cut that slot in the surface of the water and then you slide your entire arm through that small opening. If done well there will be virtually no splash.

Recommended Drills

  • Entry Rehearsals in a video tutorial found on our Freestyle Drill Resources page.
  • Hop And Slot (UEF)
  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Skate Plus Strokes (UEF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Single-Arm Practice in Chapter 9 (PMF)

What To Aim For

The entry arm is shaped like a tent over the head.

The elbow should be high over the ear.

Stretch the elbow as far forward (in front of shoulder) and high (above the ear) as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch on your back of the shoulder and mid-back as you do this.You would not want to hold in this position and that is the point – you’ve wound up the elastic tissues in your body and you release them in a fluid motion into the entry.

The forearm is angled downward into the water at about 45 degrees. The forearm is aimed directly forward, in front of the shoulder.

The hand and wrist are aligned, the fingers are soft, as if you were going to slide your hand into the sleeve of a leather jacket.

The hand follows the fingers through the Mailslot. The wrist follows the hand. The elbow follows the wrist. The shoulder follows the elbow.

What To Avoid

Don’t allow the hand to swing in front of the elbow until the last moment of setting up the entry.

Don’t bend the wrist at entry – keep in in line with the forearm

Don’t tense the fingers.

Don’t drop the elbow at this moment – keep it as high as you comfortably can.

Assignment 5.2

Skill Project: Entry Path

I call this focal point ‘ski-jump’.

The hand and forearm enter the water at about 45 degrees. They drive at that angle down to the depth of your target – which should be just lower than the lowest point of your bodyline. Then the hand slides forward to the target, like sliding the hand on a glass table top, and this side of your body keeps extending all the way into your best Skate Position.

IMAGE hand at target 800x500

This all depends on how you start – having your arm in ideal entry position.

This focal point combines the target for your lead hand in Skate Position, and the pathway to get to it.

There are several reasons for taking this path and for choosing this target – without taking the space to break down the physics explanation, the pathway reduces drag on the front of the head/body, it reduces disruption to your balance (hips dropping), and delivers your hand directly to the spot of the next action – the catch – without wasting time or effort doing something non-productive.

Recommended Drills

  • Entry Rehearsals in a video tutorial found on our Freestyle Drill Resources page.
  • Hop And Slot (UEF)
  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Skate Plus Strokes (UEF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Single-Arm Practice in Chapter 9 (PMF)

What To Aim For

Start the entry with a steep angle arm. It may feel close to your head (versus farther in front of the body) than you think.

You should feel your torso rotation pushing your arm forward – it is like a corkscrew action.

You should feel water pressure pressing on the upper surface of your arm and evenly along the sides of the arm… if you are sliding the arm straight forward.

You should feel you arm straighten out completely toward the end of the extension. Keep extending forward.

You should reach with the wrist, or with the big knuckle of your ring finger. Imagine you have a super-hero’s energy beam flowing out of your wrist.

Your hand and fingers should remain soft and resting, until the set of the catch.

What To Avoid

Don’t tense the fingers. Let them be soft as you slide to the target.

Don’t press downward as you come to the target – the only arm motion should be extending forward, until the catch moment.

Don’t scoop the hand upward as you come to the target. Keep the fingers soft, draping downward, ready to slide into catch.

 

Assignment 5.3

Skill Project: Lengthen 1

The focal point for this is ‘open the axilla’, and ‘stretch from the hip’.

‘Axilla’ is the more technical name for the armpit.

Often the swimmer will straighten the lead arm, but not really extend the body as far as it is meant to go. Recall that the type of core muscle engagement that you need comes from stretching the body into a long vessel. After straightening the arm, the next piece of this lengthening process is to open the axilla and extend the body a little further.

You are going to lengthen the Skate side of your body farther, so that it feels long and taunt on that side.

Imagine standing at the counter in your kitchen. Lift your arm to reach something on the shelf above you. Now reach a little higher by raising your shoulder. That is how you will lengthen this side of the body without twisting (or over-rotating).

Recommended Drills

  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Skate Plus Strokes (UEF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Single-Arm Practice in Chapter 9 (PMF)

What To Aim For

The bones on both sides of the shoulder (the clavicle in front and scapula in back) should slide freely forward, as far as comfortable.

Your reach with the shoulder, without increasing rotation angle.

The elbow should remain pointed outward and slightly upward – so that the arm is ready to fold inward and downward at the catch moment.

The palm remains facing down, sliding forward as if on the surface of thin ice

Feel as if you are resting this side of the torso on a pillow of water. The larger the opening in the axilla the more you can rest on that pillow.

Rely upon this extended position COMPLETELY as you turn to breathe. Practice turning to breath while extending forward – never push down (or start the catch) until head is turned back from breathing.

What To Avoid

Don’t twist torso to increase reach.

Don’t pull your head toward you arm – this will pull your spine out of alignment. Leave each on their track.

Don’t press down with the hand as you extend farther – slide it farther forward without breaking the ice!

Assignment 5.4

Skill Project: Lengthen 2

I call this focal point ‘Stretch From The Hip’.

You are going to lengthen the Skate side of your body even further, so that it feels long and taunt on that side, from wrist to hip to ankle. The more long and firm this finish position is, the more force you can transfer through it.

Imagine again that you are standing at the counter in your kitchen. Lift your arm to reach something on the shelf above you. Now reach a little higher by raising your shoulder. Now reach a little higher by turning your hip slightly, feeling the space between ribs and pelvis get a bit longer. Then notice how you feel the stretch down into your thigh. You will feel a stretch from wrist to pelvis and into the thigh on that side of the body. That is the feeling you should feel when fully extended in Skate Position.

If you were get into this position, and then we froze that side of your body in this position, you would have a long, streamline frame on which to slide your way through the water. Imagine the other arm finishing the underwater stroke and sending force into this blade-like Skate side of your body and how that would more easily transfer that force forward through your body.

The stretch at the hip actually resists over-rotation in the torso. Now the body is stretching forward on that line, the tissues of the torso will not want to elongate in the lateral direction by rotating further. So this manner of extending the Skate side of the body goes together very well with the low rotation aim.

Every stroke should finish with this long, taunt Skate frame, a deliver the remainder of your force forward.

Recommended Drills

  • Slot To Skate (UEF)
  • Skate Plus Strokes (UEF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Single-Arm Practice in Chapter 9 (PMF)

What To Aim For

You should feel a stretch of tissues between your ribs and your pelvis on the Skate side.

You should feel the abdomen pulling in, getting narrower in the waist.

You should feel a stretch over the front of the hip and down the thigh.

There should be a distinct moment at the finish of the stroke where you feel this Skate side of the body feeling long, straight and stable, like a Skate blade sliding on the ice.

What To Avoid

Don’t try to twist the shoulders to reach further.

Don’t try to twist the hips further to reach further.

Don’t turn the palm inward as you reach. Keep it facing downward.

Don’t pull the arm toward the center line as you reach. Keep it locked on its track, directly in front of the shoulder.

Section 5 Test Swim

When the Entry And Extension are improved this is where many start to see their stroke get longer (their stroke count go down). The pieces start coming together. You may even notice more glide (acceleration) in each stroke finish, as you enter Skate Position.

For this test swim use the same design that you used last time, or make it slightly more difficult. This way you can compare and more easily see in what ways you have improved.

Refer to the topic above on Test Swims for instructions on how to remind yourself how to do it.

Section 6 – Breathing

Breathing Objectives

What does success look like in Breathing skills?

Respiration is necessary, of course. And every swimmer is going to find some way to get enough air, pretty or not. The fact is, the more a swimmer struggles to get to air the more respiration he requires because of that struggle. It is important to not merely get to air, but to do it in an economical way which reduces stress and heart rate. A brain that is convinced it has enough air is going to be relaxed and able to focus on other things.

So, you want to have a breathing pattern that fits smoothly into the stroke cycle and works on top of your foundation rather than disrupt it at each breath. To do that your head has to remain in its best position, then turn at the right timing and turn back, and to make sufficient air exchange.

Head Position Points 800x500

Head Position: The head must remain on the shishkabob, in line with the rest of the spine.

Timing: The timing of the breath comes as early as possible in the stroke on that side of the body, with a quick sip of air, and a quick return to face-down position before the next stroke starts.

Air Exchange: This involves a steady exhale underwater from the nose, a quick and partial inhale of air, and a breathing pattern that comes frequently enough in a series of strokes.

The big challenge of learning this smooth, rhythmic breathing is to deny our land-mammal instincts which demands that push (and keep) the head way out of the water to breathe. Instead, the head must remain almost totally submerged, with just the side of the face and mouth touching the air, just enough to pull in a quick sip of air and return underwater. This does not come naturally, but it is by far the most economical way to breathe. Any tilt of the head upward to bring the forehead and eyes higher is a waste of time, effort, it increases drag in front of the body and causes gravity to push down on the hips. In contrast a head that stays on the shishkabob, turns with the torso rotation, and turns back to face-down quickly will cause minimal disruption to your length and streamline shape and allow your stroke and velocity to continue without hesitation.

Breathing easy is an all-or-nothing trust in this ideal position and timing. But once you got it, you are breathing so much easier than you every imagined you could.

Drill Success = In drills that involve entry and extension you should be able to slide into your best Skate Position immediately, and hold it with stability for 3 to 4 seconds. Do it on both sides. It is the quality of the pathway and finish that determine success in this skill set.

Keep this in mind – be patient with the drills. If you do it well in the drills you will be able to do it well in whole stroke soon after. The drills simplify that action. But while you are still figuring out how to do it in the drills, you will find even greater difficulty in whole stroke.

Be patient. Do short drill segments and short whole stroke segments.

The following assignments will give you 4 main skills to work on. You may work on many more by looking at those listed in the Entry And Extension section of our 101 Focal Points page.

Whole Stroke Success = Being able to take 3 smooth, rhythmic breathes with 2 or 3 strokes between. You get extra credit for breathing every three strokes and additional extra credit if you work hard on your weak side to make it feel more like your strong side.

Assignment 6.1

Skill Project: Interrupted Breathing

For this skill we will reuse the the focal point ‘Shishkabob’.

You will practice a breathing position that requires you to stay on your Shishkabob to turn to it. Interrupted Breathing is useful to you during drill work and it trains your body to rotate on the shishkabob and keep the head in alignment while you do. This is essential for Rhythmic Breathing skill.

IMAGE interrupted breathing 800x500

You start in Skate Position, check that your head is weightless on the neutral line, then slowly rotate your torso-and-head as a unit away from your lead arm. Gently blow bubbles from your nose and continue blowing bubbles until your nose and mouth emerge from the water, face-up (as seen in the image above).

The key to this is to keep your head completely submerged until the last moment. DO NOT LIFT YOUR HEAD UP out of the water to reach the air. Wait for water to lift your torso-and-head unit to the surface.

You may use your legs to help rotate the body.

When finished breathing, rotate back in the direction you came from. Come back into your best Skate Position before resuming any strokes. The other hand should be remain in the pocket until then.

Recommended Drills

  • Simple Roll To Air (UEF)
  • Breathing In Skate (UEF)
  • Interrupted Breathing (PMF)

What To Aim For

Maintain complete loyalty to head position. Keep it on the shishkabob while turning, and while in Interrupted Breathing Position.

Turn into a slightly rotated position on your back. One breast will be touching the air. This is the backstroke Skate Position.

After turning face-up, realize it may take a half-second more for the torso-and-head unit to rise to the surface.

Keep the smallest face above the surface. Most of the head should be underwater.

Keep chin up and forehead down. The water should touch the top of your goggles.

The lead arm should reach out and down deep as far as comfortable. The arm counter-balances your rotated position.

Breath deeply in this position to recovery.

What To Avoid

Don’t tilt the head before, during or after you turn to face-up position.

Don’t turn the head faster than the torso rotation. Turn them as a unit.

Don’t let the lead arm come up to the surface all the way. It needs to stay deep to anchor your body in rotated position.

Don’t forget to keep bubbling out of the nose, or water will go up it!

Don’t forget to start bubbling from the nose as you start to turn back to Skate Position.

Assignment 6.2

Skill Project: Head Position

This sequence of focal points is called ‘Nod’, ‘Whale Eye’, and ‘Popeye’ in the UEF videos series. I tend to call them ‘Nod’, ‘Split The Face’, and ‘Hooked Fish’ for easier translation into other languages.

Three Step Breathing 800x500

This three-step sequence will set the priority of keeping your head on the Shishkabob while turning to the side.The first time through this sequence you will not take any breaths. Just practice head position while bubbling gently from the nose, and take a short rest to breathe, then resume.

Recommended Drills

  • Nod, Whale Eye, Popeye (UEF)
  • Continuous Breathing in Chapter 5 (PMF)

What To Aim For

Begin the turn of the torso-and-head as a unit. At the end of the torso rotation, the head continues to turn a bit more, like being stretched on a rubber band.

‘Nod’ start you with an easy position to feel alignment in, with the head completely submerged.

Look straight sideways at the wall of the pool, then turn the head face-down immediately.

Next, in ‘Split The Face’, you allow the torso-and-head unit to slide up at the surface, where one goggle above, one goggle below. Be sure to split the mouth as well. (One could have the head tilted while still splitting the goggled.)

Next, in ‘Hooked Fish’, raise the chin and open the side of the mouth to touch the air, as if you would breathe – just to see that you can get the mouth there before actually trying to take a breath in this position.

Next time through, after getting to Hooked Fish, try taking a quick sip, if you feel you can touch the air OK.

The turn should be brief and turn back to face-down immediately.

Keep your lead arm steady, on the target the entire time you are turning to the side, and until the head returns face-down.

What To Avoid

Do not pause looking sideways.Turn to the side, then turn back like a rubber band.

Do not turn the torso sideways to turn the head farther – stop rotation at ideal angle then let head continue a bit further, as if on a rubber band.

Do not press down on the water with the lead arm.

Do not start the catch with that lead arm (if making switches) until the head has returned to face-down position.

Don’t scoop the hand upward as you come to the target. Keep the fingers soft, draping downward, ready to slide into catch.

Do not raise the forehead to get the head higher. Lift the chin.

 

Assignment 6.3

Skill Project: Breath Timing

This focal point is called, ‘Breathe Early As Possible’.

So many factors in the situation are urging you to time the breath later in the window of the stroke cycle. But the ideal moment is at the very beginning of that window. You will have the most velocity, your body will ride the highest at the moment, and it will be least disruptive to the rest of your body to get it done sooner than later.

Recommended Drills

  • Nod, Whale Eye, Popeye (UEF)
  • Continuous Breathing in Chapter 5 (PMF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Whole Stroke in slow-motion and normal tempo

What To Aim For

Right at the moment you set the catch, you will begin turning the torso-and-head unit.

You should feel the torso rotation empowering the turn toward the breath.

You may also feel like there is a lever, as your catch hand presses the lever it causes your torso-and-head unit to turn.

When the torso reaches its normal low rotation angle, you just turn your neck a little farther to touch the air.

You should feel the air on your cheek and the side of your mouth.

You should see the underside of the water’s surface with one goggle, and the above surface side with the other goggle.

You stretch your lips sideways to sip with the side of your mouth. It is normal to have some water in the side of your mouth while breathing.

Your turn to air should feel like the head is on a rubber band. It reaches the breathing point with just a moment to sip some air, then the rubber band pulls it back down to face-down position.

What To Avoid

Don’t pause in breathing position for a giant, extended breath (unless you also put a pause in your stroke).

You should not see your recovery arm with your own eyes. This means you’ve turned too late or waited too long in breathing position.

Don’t tilt your head up to get the head higher (in case of waves). Just turn the chin, and perhaps the torso, a bit further.

Assignment 6.4

Skill Project: Partial Exchange

I call this focal point ‘Quick Sip’ of air.

Once you have your body in good position for breathing, and you have more confidence that you will get to air as needed, you will feel more calm and in fact, you will use less energy while breathing, which means you need less air exchange. Combine that with a breathing pattern that allows you more than enough breathing moments over the length of the pool you now can make it even easier on your cardio-vascular system and brain to take smaller, partial air exchanges. Deep massive, infrequent breaths will put more stress on the body and mind. Smaller, frequent breaths will be more relaxing and will allow you to feel more comfortable skipping a breath occasionally when a wave prevents it.

The amount of exhale underwater needs to match the amount of inhale, obviously. So, at lower intensity swimming, your bubbles from the nose can be gentle and the inhale can be a small sip of air, like sipping hot tea. At higher intensity, the exhale underwater may be from both the nose and mouth – but try to avoid pushing most of the air out. The corresponding inhale will be a bit deeper to match the exhale volume, but still very brief.

Recommended Drills

  • Continuous Breathing in Chapter 5 (PMF)
  • Swing Switch (PMF)
  • Whole Stroke in slow-motion and normal tempo

What To Aim For

Control the intensity and rate of the exhale in order to control the volume of the inhale.

Bubble from the nose at low and moderate intensity. Bubble from the mouth at higher instensity swimming.

You should send a final burst of air out of the nose and mouth at the last moment before touching the air, to clear those airways, just like dolphins do to clear their blowhole before breaching the surface.

Take only the quick sip at the surface and turn the head back down immediately.

Like sipping a cup of very hot tea, if the air is there take a quick sip. If not (blocked by a wave), skip it and turn the head back down and wait for the next stroke. If you’ve taken only a partial exhale your body won’t feel too desperate to skip this breath and wait for the next clear window.

What To Avoid

Don’t exhale above the surface. Finish it underwater.

Don’t expect to keep all water out of your mouth. It is normal to have some water in the lower corner of the mouth when you inhale. Spit it out when you turn back down.

 

Final Test Swim

For this test swim use the same design that you used last time, or make it slightly more difficult.

When you have completed this test swim, go back to the recorded results of your first test swim and see the differences in the data.

  • Did you swim a longer continuous distance?
  • Did you swim longer total distance?
  • Did you use less total rest?
  • Did you use fewer (longer) strokes per length?
  • Did it feel like it took less effort?
  • Did your breathing feel easier?
  • Did you enjoy those moments of swimming more?

We would be pleased to hear what results you experience from start to finish. Please send Coach Mat a report.