The Stroke Problems & Questions Thread

loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin
edited March 8 in General Discussion

It's struck me as unusual that for a swimmer's forum, there is little discussion of technique, drills, etc. Plenty of sets. Lots of sets. We all have sets.

I've long assumed this lack of technique discussion is because I am the only average swimmer here compared to the rest of you.

But it may be the case that some of you like me have no access to a coach or club or even another swimmer who you can bounce things off and a thread dedicated to such might be helful (unless I've forgotten if we have a previous one of which @evmo will remind us).

ssthomas

http://www.loneswimmer.com The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

Comments

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    I have a crappy stroke. People have tried to correct me for years. I still have nightmares of my high school coaches making me do pushups for not kicking enough and puting tape around my thighs so I'd know the exact point my fingers needed to hit so that I would know I was finishing my stroke properly.

    I think at this point, I just don't care any more. My crappy stroke, and lack of kicking, has gotten me through some long swims, with minimal shoulder pain. I'm sure some stroke improvements would make me faster, but I think at this point, I just don't care. I'm not swimming for speed. I swim because it's fun and I love it. What's the point in stressing on technique when it's gotten me this far already? You can't teach an old dog new tricks, after all. And I think it's easier to adjust training than to adjust your stroke...

    Maybe I'm not the only one who feels this way? I've found that us marathon swimmers tend to be a stubborn, set-in-our ways bunch!

    That being said, I give out lots of tips to the triathletes and lap swimmers I run into, who think I'm some kind of lap swimming goddess. (You just swam for an HOUR?! WOW?!) If anyone asked for advice, I'm happy to share. Though, they'd probably only listen to me until they saw me actually swim! :-)
    flystormsjohnyG
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    edited August 2013
    I have a crappy stroke, but I am also pretty slow (~1.7mph open water, ~ a bit over 2mph in a pool) so I actively want to improve my stroke* since my speed is a limiting factor in some of the swims I want to do (no desire to win anything, just want to be able to finish).

    * I also suspect I am going to have to figure out to up my stroke rate from my normal 55spm to the crazy rates I keep reading about on this forum and other blogs.

    I'd love to hear discussions of techniques, and if I can ever get someone to video me, hear feedback of all the things I am doing wrong (and/or see videos and feedback on other swimmers).

    That said I am working with a swim coach directly (albeit not as frequently as I would like) to try and identify and correct my deficiencies. I'm curious as to efficiency of something like a forum for addressing stroke deficiencies but will consume all data available in my quest to go (slightly) faster.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USMember
    Agree with @dc_in_sf. I would love all the help i can get. I am an over glider and know that my low stroke rate is a major factor in my slow speed. I've watched video of myself swimming and can obviously notice some deficiencies. However after many long swims I feel no pain ( other than the typical "I just wanna stop moving" pain) and minimal fatigue. Maybe my "crappy" stroke actually works well for me.
  • I improved my technique greatly by working with a TI coatch. I was a swimmer when I was a girl and there was much to correct. My technique is still far from being perfect but it is much more smooth, continous and less "jumpy".
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    Swimming technique belongs in the same category as religion and politics WRT starting a major disagreement - that is at least true on other boards I have been on. Doubly so, it seems, if TI is discussed. As much as I like to pose questions that may be considered controversial, I have stayed away from this area for two reasons:
    1) It starts a war.
    2) Newer swimmers who are looking for advice generally get wildly conflicting thoughts and consequently get little real help.

    -LBJ
    pavlicov

    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    @ssthomas - I have to chuckle a bit when you describe your stroke as "crappy." I would think, almost by definition, that you're doing a lot of things very, very well with your technique. People told Janet Evans her stroke needed work, too, because it didn't fit the stereotypical 6-foot-2 male style of swimming.

    Do you have any video? I'm sure many of us could learn from you.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin

    Swimming technique belongs in the same category as religion and politics WRT starting a major disagreement - that is at least true on other boards I have been on.

    IMO, this is because of the nature of the questions typically asked - ones that can't be answered, e.g., "Which is better, Swim Smooth or TI?"

    I think it's possible to discuss stroke technique productively, but the questions need to be framed in the right way. For example, the "Thoughts on Kicking" thread linked above seemed fairly productive, no?
  • I believe the discussion of stroke technique on a forum has huge limitations. On other forums, I have seen hundreds of videos of Thorpe, Phelps, Popov, etc. posted saying "swim like this." This is entirely useless.
    Every swimmer's stroke (especially as adult swimmers) is unique to them. And, in open water, conditions often dictate the proper "technique" needed to complete the swim. Everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses, and a specific stroke needs to be adapted to them.
    Without posting dozens of videos of your own stroke, I don't believe any discussions on technique is useful on a forum.
    I'm actually happy to see that MSF has not had many threads on "how-to-swim"? Leave that to your coach who has seen you swim in a variety of conditions or levels of fatigue.
    Niek
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited March 8
    RuffWater said:

    I believe the discussion of stroke technique on a forum has huge limitations. On other forums, I have seen hundreds of videos of Thorpe, Phelps, Popov, etc. posted saying "swim like this." This is entirely useless.

    Again, I'll point to the kicking thread.

    I agree, "How to swim" or "Swim like Thorpe" threads are useless. Not sure those are the only ways to have a technique discussion on a forum, though.

    Anyway, if y'all think this is a bad idea, I'm not going to twist any arms. Keep on keepin' on!

    Me, I'm constantly working on my technique, and enjoy hearing others' approaches to it, even if I don't always agree with it. For instance, I'd love to see video of @ssthomas swimming, that would be exciting to me.
    flystorms
  • WalterWalter Southern CaliforniaMember
    I would like know the ideas that others have for improving stroke, mostly pertaining to increasing speed; but reducing wear/tear is of interest to me as well.

    I am regularly crushed by comparative shorties, fatties and weaklings; just as I am by those to whom I am comparatively short, fat and weak. It would be great to improve my technique enough to catch somebody someday. Limitations of this forum for that discussion noted.

    Now, would someone please post a video of Doc Counsilman critiquing Janet Evans' stroke?!
    tortuga

    I'm not very popular around here; but I've heard that I'm huge in Edinburgh!

  • Yesterday I had an underwater video analyse made. Afterwards we watched in slow motion how I slightly wiggle my fingers during the catch. It duped the coach. He never saw anyone do this in all his years of swim instruction. I also could not give him an explanation. This morning when I woke up, I realized it is a bad habit I picked up from swimming in very cold water to fight numbness.

    Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

  • Our masters group often video tapes underwater and the most common stroke fault we see is the hand and forearm crossing well over the centerline of the body. Especially the arm opposite to the side unilateral breathers turn their head.
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    @mongoose, if you ever get a chance, do it. It is amazing what you'll see. For me, in my brain I had a beautiful smooth stroke. I don't know who the hell they filmed, but the guy had the same suit and tattoos as me... ;)
  • CamilleCamille Member

    I know of a couple people on my master's team who have worked with coaches via the internet for different types of training that they needed. They where able to get training advice and tips to help with specific issues or events- but we also learned that if you ask for advice from different coaches/ experts, you will get a various ideas and a host of things to work on. There is certainly something to be said for working with just one coach- lol!

    We do the underwater video and stroke work a lot, sadly it tells me the same things I learned about myself in college- I don't kick enough, I have a wonky left arm, and I breath too often!

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    Now that we've hashed out the benefits and limitations on a stroke question thread, I've got a stroke question: pertaining to high elbow catch - what should one do with their shoulder blade? I was thinking about this last week swimming in a wet suit which made me feel my shoulder blade move and think about it. Do I keep it medial and down? back and down? When doing deadlifts, it's best to "put your shoulder blades in your back pockets". I was wondering if there is a thing in swimming stroke? Maybe I'm just over thinking it.

    loneswimmer
  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    Good body awareness question! Keep shoulder blades back and down without arching low back. Use core strength to keep scaps from sliding up towards your ears. Even at the max extension of your hand prior to and during the catch your shoulder blades stay put- this feels short but is much more powerful (and safe for your shoulders) than "unhooking" the shoulder and over-reaching.

    tortugaSoloflystorms
  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    Thanks @jendut

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember

    jendut said:

    Good body awareness question! Keep shoulder blades back and down without arching low back. Use core strength to keep scaps from sliding up towards your ears. Even at the max extension of your hand prior to and during the catch your shoulder blades stay put- this feels short but is much more powerful (and safe for your shoulders) than "unhooking" the shoulder and over-reaching.

    I am clueless. I have never, ever thought about my shoulder blades while I swam. Or had a coach (as a kid in the '70s or more recently) mention them. I really don't think I over-reach (that term, I'm familiar with), but "unhook" my shoulders? Hmm. I just don't know.

    Great thread!

    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • SamSam Member

    dc_in_sf said: * I also suspect I am going to have to figure out to up my stroke rate from my normal 55spm to the crazy rates I keep reading about on this forum and other blogs.

    Out of interest (being a novice at best) is SPM important? If Swimmer A does 25m in 30 seconds and takes 20 strokes AND Swimmer B does 25m in 30 seconds but takes 15 strokes then who is benefitting the most? Swimmer B will have a lower SPM but has increased stroke efficiency which I thought would be better for long distance swims. I know some GPS watches offer a SWOLF score (which is strokes per length + time per length) however this could be gimmicky for all I know. Interested to hear thoughts and sorry if im repeating old ground!

  • suziedodssuziedods Charter Member

    Great thread. I too laughed at @ssthomas comment.. and as an "professional observer', it was a joy to watch.
    As I am teaching I ask A LOT about "how does it FEEL?" Every BODY is different.. and as @evmo said.. people laughed at Janet Evan's stroke but look where it got her. It can be "hard" but FEEL good.. and vice versa but it also has to be sustainable.

    evmossthomasIronMike

    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach www.suziedodsswimcoaching.com

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited March 13

    @Sam asked: Out of interest (being a novice at best) is SPM important? If Swimmer A does 25m in 30 seconds and takes 20 strokes AND Swimmer B does 25m in 30 seconds but takes 15 strokes then who is benefitting the most? Swimmer B will have a lower SPM but has increased stroke efficiency which I thought would be better for long distance swims.

    SWOLF is useful for tracking efficiency within a given swimmer, but not between different swimmers.

    If you improve from 30sec + 25strokes to 30sec + 15strokes at the same effort, then you have probably improved your efficiency.

    Swimmer A who takes 15 strokes in 30 sec, is not necessarily more efficient than Swimmer B who takes 25 strokes in 30 sec, because there may be differences in body characteristics (height, arm length, hand size) which cause Swimmer A to have a naturally longer stroke.

    flystormsssthomasIronMikeSam
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member

    Sam said:

    dc_in_sf said: * I also suspect I am going to have to figure out to up my stroke rate from my normal 55spm to the crazy rates I keep reading about on this forum and other blogs.

    Out of interest (being a novice at best) is SPM important? If Swimmer A does 25m in 30 seconds and takes 20 strokes AND Swimmer B does 25m in 30 seconds but takes 15 strokes then who is benefitting the most? Swimmer B will have a lower SPM but has increased stroke efficiency which I thought would be better for long distance swims. I know some GPS watches offer a SWOLF score (which is strokes per length + time per length) however this could be gimmicky for all I know. Interested to hear thoughts and sorry if im repeating old ground!

    Taking fewer strokes per distance is not always the most efficient thing (see @evmo 's blog entry from a few years back)

    There are a lot of successful open water swimmers who use what the Swim Smooth folk call the "Swinger" style which is characterized by a high stroke rate.

    Which is not to say that increasing stroke rate is the answer for everything, but the particular context of the quote above is my suspicion that as someone on the low end of the stroke rate range, I need to increase my overall fitness to be able to sustain a slightly higher stroke rate vs work on stroke efficiency (which don't get me wrong still needs more work).

    evmossthomasIronMikeSam

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Another factor to consider with stroke rate is that us skinny people use a high stroke rate to keep warm. I also wiggle my fingers when they start to get cold. Sometime, I just blast along at a high rate to get warm and then I stretch it out to cruise. It's easier for me to go to a higher turnover than it is for me to gain 20 lbs... The other thing that affects my stroke rate is the water conditions. If it's kind of choppy, I think I go to a shorter quicker stroke. It's kind of like using low gear vs. a high gear smooth sailing stroke in calmer conditions.

    SolossthomasSam
  • SamSam Member

    dc_in_sf said: Which is not to say that increasing stroke rate is the answer for everything, but the particular context of the quote above is my suspicion that as someone on the low end of the stroke rate range, I need to increase my overall fitness to be able to sustain a slightly higher stroke rate vs work on stroke efficiency (which don't get me wrong still needs more work).

    Ah i read various blogs but they all say something different…v confusing to someone starting out. I think now is a good time to get an actual swim technique lesson booked in and get some analysis going. The linked blog is interesting reading and makes some very logical points about when efficiency actually hinders speed.

    And if you think your 55spm is slow then my watch from my last swim tells me I did my 4k in 1hr 10 minutes but with a 26spm!!! So ive got a lot of training ahead of me!

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    Sam said: Ah i read various blogs but they all say something different…v confusing to someone starting out. I think now is a good time to get an actual swim technique lesson booked in and get some analysis going. The linked blog is interesting reading and makes some very logical points about when efficiency actually hinders speed.

    If there is a Swim Smooth-certified coach near you, try him/her.

    Sam
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited March 14

    @Sam said: I think now is a good time to get an actual swim technique lesson booked in and get some analysis going.

    Good idea, but make sure it includes underwater filming if possible - most of the important stuff happens there.

    The linked blog is interesting reading and makes some very logical points about when efficiency actually hinders speed.

    You may still be conflating efficiency and stroke length. They aren't the same thing. Efficiency is always a good thing -- but overly long stroke length can be inefficient.

    And if you think your 55spm is slow then my watch from my last swim tells me I did my 4k in 1hr 10 minutes but with a 26spm!!! So ive got a lot of training ahead of me!

    Double the number from your watch - it is counting cycles (two strokes).

    Sam
  • SamSam Member

    @IronMike I've located one about 25 minutes away by train which is an acceptable distance to travel in the UK :)

    @evmo thanks for the clarification: I was starting to worry that I had an Everest to climb with my SPM...but turns out I only need to add a further 35 or so spm's until its at a competitive standard....easy :))

    IronMike
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    So lucky! I am looking forward to returning to the states one day where I will sign up for the 3-day course. I could use some "correction" ;)

  • SamSam Member

    So my stroke improvement continues. I had a swim coach lesson last weekend (unfortunately no underwater camera but a certified swim coach nonetheless). Things identified were:

    1. Little to no kicking; and
    2. My arm coming out of the water too high (after the pull completes).

    I was informed that, no matter the distance, 70% of freestyle power comes from the legs. Do people concur with this because ive seen Ytube videos that say otherwise?

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin

    70% of freestyle power comes from the legs

    That's horseshit. Kick is maybe 15% for an elite sprint or middle distance swimmer (50m to 400m) who has trained their kick for power. The most important thing about kick for distance is that it doesn't add drag & slow you down. Propulsion-neutral & drag-neutral is fine for long distance, as it uses least energy.

    FrancoSamwendyv34curlytimsroottortuga

    http://www.loneswimmer.com The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

  • SamSam Member
    edited March 24

    loneswimmer said:

    70% of freestyle power comes from the legs

    That's horseshit. Kick is maybe 15% for an elite sprint or middle distance swimmer (50m to 400m) who has trained their kick for power. The most important thing about kick for distance is that it doesn't add drag & slow you down. Propulsion-neutral & drag-neutral is fine for long distance, as it uses least energy.

    I did think the claim was odd...but then again he was the swim coach and im struggling to increase my speed (over distance) currently. Ah I paid £16 for that lesson!

  • CamilleCamille Member

    Freestyle is not 70% kick, and kick impact and power will change with the distance. Perhaps the your coach came from sprinting background? A good kick is important and will add speed and is an important part of developing a good stroke and more power. I wouldn't get hung up on "numbers" or percentages. Every coach has their own take on all these things.

    With time and practice you should be able to work out what works for you.

  • This thread is so interesting, in part because many here have articulated some things I've always felt about my stroke. Because I haven't had a coach to tell me anything in 22 years, I had no idea there was such a thing as Swim Smooth vs Total Immersion, but these are the two halves of my swimming brain, and one or the other might be dominant at any given moment. In the pool, I tend to start a swim TI and "regress" to the Swim Smooth, although the latter is where I generally find the rhythm that carries me through. And even though I know this, I still yearn to reduce my strokes per length, and assiduously track this number with periodic evaluations. In open water, incidentally, all bets are off -- the terrain dictates the stroke, the rougher the water the faster the cadence. However, the thing I really want to say is this: I'm scared to submit to coaching. I know it could help. A lot, I'm sure, especially because of the group workouts that could come with it. I know the coach is going to tell me to kick more (I'm currently working on upgrading back to a two-beat kick from my previous "dead flagella" technique). I know the coach is going to give me drills to do, that are going to be super difficult because my kick is so weak. I want discrete, high-impact tips to easily tweak the stroke I have at age 40, and I fear the rebuild. I'm not a kid anymore, and if swimming stops being fun, I'll probably do something else instead. I am actually reminded of a story I read way back about tennis rivals Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Agassi had the reputation as a wild, obstinate rebel, while Sampras was depicted in media as reserved, polite, hardworking, even studious. In real life, Sampras was allergic to most coaching, preferring to leave his game to itself, while Agassi -- the wild child -- would take and implement advice from virtually any old body. (I think there must be a link here to Sampras's legendary consistency over the length of his elite career/his inability to adapt his game to clay, and Agassi's tendency to go from unbeatable to unranked and back again in 18 months/his ability to win over a longer period of time, on all surfaces.) This is all a way of saying that I need a coach to get me across the Channel in <5 years, and that coach needs to be OK with me being a wet, low-rent Sampras, not an Agassi. Anybody know such a person in the Philadelphia, PA, USA area?

    evmo
  • rlmrlm Member

    I taught swimming to children & adults for at least 10 years (Yes, I had the WSI.). I still think (& thought then) the kick helps establish body position, but in Freestyle the arms/hands pull provide most of the forward motion. You can move along pretty fast with the flutter kick, but the legs take a LOT for energy. Just as an experiment try sprinting 100 yards with a kick board only (no arm pull) and then try a 100 yards with a pull buoy (no kick) and see how you feel and check your time. I still remember seeing a great 1650 swimmer (Roy Saari) who had an unusual/unique whip in his flutter kick that seemed to add speed (without great cost), but I think emphasizing the correct arm pull & recovery would do much more to enable sustainable & efficient swimming. Freestyle sprinters, however, have great flutter kicks AND pulls and use both to propel them. Watch the videos/observe some of the successful open water MSF Certified swimmers (Scott Zornig's recent swim around Coronado Island, for example) and you will see people who minimize the kick and rely almost completely on the arm pull. All the best. RLM

    Niekevmo
  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    I don't really kick (mostly because my lower back/hips are jacked and my lower body is somewhat disconnected from my upper body - working on that with PT then I'll worry about kicking. My body position is fine so I'm not stressing.). For drills, I either don't kick at all and just focus on letting the back half of my body float, or if it's a new drill and I think I might drown, instead of kicking I add a pull buoy. I suppose you could add fins for drills too.

  • VicomtecVicomtec New Member

    A few mind-fiddles I use: Think of kicking from your shoulders and stroking from your hips. Think of a big cable already attached to your head pulling you along - your stroke just makes this smoother and faster. Think of pace sessions as the ultimate technique sessions and technique sessions as the ultimate pace sessions.

    wendyv34
  • CamilleCamille Member

    Hey Seanmc76,

    First off I want to say hi to a fellow "dead flagella" kicker :-) I always learn so many new terms on this board- ha!

    I wanted to say do not hesitate finding a coach, and you may need to try a few to find one who you "click" with. I have all kinds of flaws I need to work on, but I also realize that so much of my stroke is now so imbedded I can work on things to try to fix, but I will never have a "perfect stroke". My coaches are great resources and give me tips and drills to help and their feedback is so important. Yet they also know when coaching adults how to balance what to work on and what to leave alone (for now).

    I hope you find someone to help you and keep you motivated!

Sign In or Register to comment.