Strength, fitness and technique

Swimming is a technical sport. Our champions have all of the above but they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have optimum technique.
Technique is critically important!
That’s why this years fastest men’s 100 is held by 19 year old Aussie James Magnussen at 48.29. Thorpies best time was 48.56 and his new coach, the legendary Gennadi Touretski [read Alex Popov, Klimmy etc.] says “[Magnussen’s] physique is only 80% of full adult maturity.” [read strength, but you’re not going to be a world record holder!]. This article is from The Australian newspaper’s expert swim journalist Nicole Jeffery, respected throughout the swimming world.
So what has strength and fitness to do with the average adult swimmer?
1. you don’t need either strength or fitness to ENJOY swimming, but you need good technique, otherwise you will be frustrated and likely to give up.
2. For example many, I’d say most, triathletes have swimming as their ‘weakest leg’. They are good runners and bikies which are activities natural to the human body, but swimming isn’t! It’s like putting snow skiing at the start of a triathlon! So they are fit and strong, but lack swim technique. This means that they waste energy in the swim and have less reserve for the rest.
3. Why? Because strength and fitness are less important than technique. Good swimmers can be fat and lazy. They’re relaxed, only using the necessary muscles which are the lats, the pecs and the triceps. Do gym work to strengthen these muscles for swimming.

While swimming exercises the whole body, it’s only the above muscles that get a solid workout. That’s why I say “if you don’t run or bike, your legs won’t get a workout so stick on some flippers and do kicking. A kickboard stresses my neck and shoulders so I do it on my back, arms forward so I don’t bump into people and walls.
If you get stressed in the upper back and deltoids, you are doing one or both things wrong.
1. you are looking forward underwater which not only stresses your neck, but many back muscles down to your feet! You’re a tug boat rether than a Thorpedo.
2. in an attempt to rotate more [a must!] you are jacking the upper elbow behind your shoulder line. Instead, rotate your body first and then your arm will come out of the water loosely. Try lying down on a carpet on your side with the lower arm extended forward, and the upper arm resting on your thigh. This is your breathing position if your face is sideways or your exhaling position if your nose is on the carpet. Now throw the upper arm forward without getting off your side. When your fingers touch the carpet that is your entry and from there you start rotating to the other side. Keep your upper arm loose with your hand lower than your elbow.

It doesn’t take any energy does it? In the water thats your arm ‘recovery’ above the surface.

Let’s get things into perspective!

Two of the world’s most dominant female swimmers in the last decade are Libby [Lenton] Tricket and USA’s Natalie Coughlin. Both are about 172cm tall and both have size 7 feet! Libby is a bit shorter but has powerful shoulders while Natalie is not the strongest member of her team. Don’t forget that Thorpie goes 8% slower with pullbuoy despite having the greatest kick in the world. So what’s it all about?

Two technical things, apart from their fitness and talent separate us from elite champions.

1. Streamlining. They rotate on a straight axis from the crown of their head to their toes. This comes with lots of focus when working out. Arms move ‘forward and backward’ rather than up/down/around.

2. Their ‘hold’ on the water. This is the rubber on the road. I have instructed seriously big and powerful South Sydney Rabitohs, and their pull rips a hole in the water like wheelspin in a powerful car. Champions hands hold a piece of water and don’t go backwards much relative to the side of the pool, a bit like oar blades in rowing.

So the bottom line is technique. How many powerful golf champions are there?

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2 Responses

  1. I found this extremely useful, thanks for sharing.

  2. John Konrads, you are an absolute champion. Any advice you give I will definitely take it on board. A champion of our sport!

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