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5 Tools For Helping Swimmers Hold More Water

If swimmers can’t create propulsion effectively, they’re not going to move forward.


And unfortunately, most swimmers can’t create propulsion effectively.


These skills are hard to improve, especially when relying on feedback and instruction to make it happen.


It can be really frustrating to always be reminding swimmers of how to use their arms and leg, and only to see no change.


Or worse, watch swimmers return to their previous skillset after a couple of minutes.


For a long time, I just tried to tell swimmers how to mimic the positions used by elite athletes, or displayed in the diagrams experts would proclaim as optimal in their presentations or books.


I wanted swimmers to achieve an early vertical forearm or keep their elbow up.


I wanted their hands to be pitched at certain angles or their fingers positioned in certain ways.


I was micromanaging, and it didn’t really work.


I figured I just wasn’t communicating clearly enough, but eventually I realized the real issue was the approach I was taking.


As I talked about previously, creating a lot of propulsion isn’t about achieving specific positions.


It’s about achieving specific outcomes.


Swimmers need to move a lot of water backward.


The best way to do that is to:


1.     Create a big surface area

2.     Move that surface area backward over a large range of motion

3.     Accelerate the limb


And rather than telling swimmers how to move water backward, I started to provide them with challenges that encouraged them to find more effective ways to move water backward.


Here’s what I did, and here’s what I continue to do.


They’re strategies that can be used by any coach in any situation.


Change The Hands


By swimming with tennis balls or closing the fists, the hand is a lot less effective.


When the hand is a lot less effective, swimmers are forced to use the forearm to move water backward.


And once the hands are opened back up, swimmers can really FEEL how they’re interacting with the water.


You can also use paddles to encourage swimmers to use the arms more effectively.


Holding paddles upside down will encourage swimmers to use the forearm.


Pinching paddles will encourage swimmers to stabilize the wrist.


Using one paddle at a time will build symmetry between the arms.


Use Stroke Counts


Many swimmers are simply not unaware of their efficiency in the water. 


Stroke counts give swimmers consistent feedback about how WELL they are moving through the water. 


Requiring swimmers to take fewer strokes typically encourages swimmers to move more water with each stroke


At a minimum, it will force them to explore different ways of doing so.


Most importantly, we’re making things objective.


Swimmers must confront reality. 


Where technical change can often be ambiguous, stroke counts are not. 


The number is what it is, and there is no fooling oneself.


Swimmers have to figure out how to move more water with each stroke, especially when combined with the other strategies.


Apply Resistance


Have swimmers swim against resistance of some type.


It doesn’t matter what kind it is. 


If swimmers want to move forward against the resistance, they’re going to have to create more propulsion backward.


If swimmers aren’t doing so effectively, they’ll move forward slowly, or not at all! 


The added resistance also helps swimmers better feel losses of propulsion, unnecessary side-to-side motions, or when they’re using too short of a range of motion.


Using resistance makes flaws more obvious to swimmers, and this is particularly true when performance is measured. 


Use Variation


The more the same task is repeated over and over, the less there is to learn from it. 


However, when variations of the same task are used, swimmers will keep on learning.


Change paddles, change resistance, change stroke counts. 


The more situations swimmers can learn to apply force, the better their overall skillset will be.


When they can get better at moving water in any situation, they’ll get better at moving water in every situation.


They’re going to figure out how to create a lot of propulsion.


Time (Almost) Everything


Swimming is all about going fast.


To help swimmers understand what works, you have to provide them with performance feedback.


With all the strategies above, time just about everything.


That let’s swimmers figure out what allows them to move water and what doesn’t.


Get times with hand positions, time with stroke counts, get times with resistance, get times when you use different combinations of all three.


It helps them understand how to create performance.


Take Action


These strategies completely changed how I approached the skill of creating propulsion, and they completely changed how quickly and how effectively swimmers learned skills.


Of course, these same basic concepts can be applied to creating more propulsion with the legs as well.


By taking this approach, you don’t have the right answers as to how each and every swimmer needs to create propulsion.


You just have to be able to ask the right questions.


If you’re looking to make this even easier, and you want to know the most effective strategies for helping swimmers create more propulsion in all the strokes, I lay it out in Stroke Fundamentals


Just as importantly, I provide you with the details about the propulsion skills that swimmers need to master.


If you want to improve your swimmers’ skills, consider grabbing a copy here.





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