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What Swimmers REALLY Need To Do To Create Propulsion

If swimmers can’t move water backward, and they can’t do it fast, they’re not going to move forward, and they’re not going to move forward fast.


Simple enough in concept, but the HOW can be a whole lot more difficult.


It’s really easy to get confused.


There’s talk of drag and lift, hand pitches and elbow angles, sculling and pulling, and even vortices.


Some of these concepts can be difficult to understand or see, let alone help your swimmers improve.


And if you’re not helping your swimmers improve, then it’s hard to feel like you’re fulfilling your role as a coach.


It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated.


As much as I tried, focusing on all the details wasn’t working for me, and I wasn’t helping swimmers see as much progress as I knew was possible.


So, I started thinking about what REALLY mattered, and what HAD to happen.


I started re-reading books, looking at research, and watching elite swimmers race.


Rather than looking for the details, I looked for the commonalities.


What was everyone saying and what was everyone doing?


The one commonality between most coaches, most of the researchers, and what was described by the world’s best swimmers was that water needed to move backward for swimmers to move forward.


And that just makes sense.


Simple and practical.


The next question was what do swimmers have to do to move a lot of water backward?


Again, I looked at the commonalities between coaches, elite swimmers, and researchers.


What simple principles were they talking about?


Eventually, I came up with this simple framework.


To move water back, they need to:


1.     Use a big surface area

2.     Use a big range of motion

3.     Accelerate the limb


That’s it.




If swimmers can use whole their hand and their forearm, or their whole foot, to move water backward, they’re going to go faster.


Bigger paddle, more speed.


If they can establish those positions early in the stroke and maintain them throughout, they’re going to go faster.


Longer pull, more speed.


And if they can accelerate the limbs as they do so, they’re going to go faster still.


Faster limbs, more speed.


And above all, it’s practical.


You can see a big surface area.


You can see an effective range of motion.


You can see limbs that are moving faster.


And it makes sense based upon what you already know to be effective.


What’s the value of ‘keeping the elbow up’?


More surface area to pull with.


Why can an ‘early vertical forearm’ be effective?


Bigger range of motion to more water backward.


But it goes beyond the benefit to you.


Even better, swimmers can understand these ideas.


They might not understand the importance of their hand pitch, but they understand the concept of creating a ‘big hook’ with the arm to move water with.


And it doesn’t matter what the stroke is.


The same principles apply.


That makes your coaching a whole lot simpler, and a whole lot more effective.


To help swimmers go fast, rather than focusing on elbow angles, hand pitches, or other minutiae, you can focus on the BIG picture of what swimmers need to do to swim fast.


And just as importantly, you can let swimmers find strategies that work best for them, rather than telling them what to do.


After all, the short distance swimmer is going to need to swim differently than the tall sprinter.


Simple principles, different application.


Most important of all, it becomes MUCH easier to design training tasks that help swimmers figure out how to use these simple principles to move a lot of water.


And that is what is effective coaching is all about.

If you’re looking to make this even easier, I lay out the key skills swimmers need to learn to create more propulsion in each of the strokes in Stroke Fundamentals


I also show you the exact strategies I use to help swimmers learn these skills. 


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


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