Stroke Technique

evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
edited August 2013 in General Discussion
An observation for your consideration:

This forum launched almost a year and a half ago. During that time, members have contributed over 7,900 posts in 561 topic threads. As forum co-admin, I've read all of them.

As far as I can remember, there has been exactly one thread devoted to stroke technique issues - this informative one started by 2012 MIMS champion Abby Nunn on kicking:

Does anyone else find that surprising? We've had tons of threads on training volume, nutrition, feeding, and most recently, hallucinations. But hardly any on stroke technique. Why is that? Stroke technique is the single highest-leverage area of improvement for 99% of swimmers, including marathon swimmers.

Do forum members feel that their technique is already well dialed-in? Or are you satisfied with the technique feedback & advice you're getting from other sources -- e.g., coaches, other forums?

Thoughts? Anyone?

There are a number of folks on this forum who know a lot about stroke technique & its application to marathon swimming. It seems a shame not to utilize their knowledge...


  • ssthomasssthomas Charter 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! :-)
  • 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. - 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.


    “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.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited August 2013
    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.
  • 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?!

    I'm not very popular around here; but 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... ;)
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