Swim Training “Back to Basics Tips” courtesy Rebecca Johansson. Featured image: Olympic Champion Nathan Adrian.
In most areas of the country, high school swimming is in full swing. While some high school swim teams primarily consist of year-round swimmers with a good grasp on all four strokes, most schools are made up of a kaleidoscope of beginner and advanced swimmers. It can be difficult to find common teaching ground for the wide range of abilities. The advanced swimmers need to work on speed, endurance, and technique to improve their times. The beginners need to learn how to complete legal turns. Regardless of ability level, swimmers must play nice with the water to improve. The most important aspect in playing nice with the water is to minimize drag, and the easiest way to accomplish this is to target body position in the water. Below are three tips to help improve body position in high school swimmers of all ability levels.
ONE – Create Body Awareness On Land First
Proprioception, or the sense of where the body is in space, is more difficult in water than on land. In the pool, swimmers’ bodies are in a different element, their heads are moving every few seconds, and they’re doing flips. These all pose additional challenges to proprioception. To enhance the challenge, most high school swimmers are going through growth spurts and constantly have to readjust to new limb lengths. A functional dryland program can improve swimmers’ proprioception, and my favorite tool to do so is suspension training. Suspension training involves straps suspended in the air, and forces athletes to combine balance and strength. Two exercises to pinpoint body position include atomic push ups and side plank with twists. See video examples below.
TWO – Kick, Kick, Kick, But Ditch The Board
To increase the chances of swimmers incorporating a strong kick into their full stroke, kick sets should be completed mimicking correct body position. 8 kick roll is a timeless kicking drill that forces swimmers to use their core to switch body positions and easily exposes kicking weaknesses. Swimmers start on their stomach in a streamline with 8 kicks, then roll to their side (1 arm up, 1 arm down) for 8 kicks, then move to their back, and finally end with 8 kicks on their opposite side. Most beginner to intermediate swimmers kick too much from their knees vs. their hips, and this becomes apparent when they’re on their side.
THREE – Head Position Matters
The easiest way to improve body line in the water is to work on head position. In theory, head position should be easy to perfect- if the head is up too high, hips sink and the drag force increases. The problem is, most high school swimmers want to see where they’re going! Two tips to give swimmers regarding head position include: A) the water line should hit the top of their head. The tip won’t make sense to swimmers until they visually see both a bad and good example. B) When swimmers take a breath in freestyle, they should have one goggle remain under water- this ensures their head stays in alignment with the rest of their body.