Mastering Swim Mechanics
Such a great photo here of Kempy in action, who for a little guy (5’7”) just pulls so much water and consistently is front pack out of the water. Whilst it is only a snapshot it is indicative of so many key things that we see from strong swimmers.
Some Key Things
Head position – head is neutral. Now what that means is that it is relaxed and is just sitting naturally as an extension of his spine. Most people hyperextend their necks in an effort to look forward and have their heads too high. Over the course of a typical swim set of 60 – 90 minutes including most likely some moderate to high intensity, this is going to put great stress on your trapezius. If you often get out of the water with a sore neck, try relaxing the head and adjust your vision down a little more. You can see here that his head is neutral even though he is looking about 2 metres ahead.
The Leading or Extended Arm – Shoulder is high and very close to cheek. Can you see that there is actually NO GAP between his shoulder and his ear. This internal rotation of the shoulder in the glide phase allows him to set his scapula or shoulder blade in place. Following on from that set shoulder position and you can see that he is in a nice glide position with elbow slightly lower than shoulder and hand is slightly lower than elbow with a small amount of wrist flexion. This small wrist flexion PURELY ALLOWS HIS TO SET FOR THE CATCH which will happen a nanosecond later.
Pulling Arm – This is pretty much PERFECT! You can see that elbow is nice and high and is in a set powerful position, and he is using the entire forearm as a paddle with the hand moving straight back. Two important things to notice with this shot is:
1. You can see that this pull phase is happening whilst he can still see it. The arm has not gone past his vision as yet so he is setting this up very early which is important.
2. Have a look at his lat muscle on that side. See what the correct arm position does? Have a look at how switched on it is. You can tell that he is recruiting that massive muscle rather than focusing on pulling with his small hands, or exhausting smaller muscles in the forearm.
Front quadrant swimming – FQ swimming is when both hands for the briefest second are both in front with one pulling and the other setting up for the pull. It has been shown to be the most powerful way of swimming because THERE ARE NO DEAD SPOTS OR PAUSES WITHIN THE STROKE! This is what it looks like – for the briefest of seconds he can see both hands.
Hips and legs – finally and briefly the legs are straight behind him with little to no knee flexion and see how the feet are turned inwards. The turning of the feet inwards will close his hips which is key for maintaining the smallest of kicks for BALANCE and RHYTHM only! The legs will stay inside the line of his shoulders particularly during rotation which eliminates unnecessary drag.
He is a small guy that has had to work hard on developing propulsive force in his swimming. He is powerful but not strong – it is ALL TECHNIQUE with him and we have worked hard for the gains he has made. Outside of technique focus he SWIMS VERY HARD for about 70% of total volume he does, as per the demands of the specificity of the sport. I make that point because I know sometimes with swimming it feels like a slog, but trust me SMALL GAINS = MASSIVE IMPROVEMENTS and many small technical improvements can actually be made in your normal swim sets if you focus on some of these key set points.