Caeleb Dressel Stroke Dissect: 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay, 2016 Rio Olympics

In a recent upload to his YouTube channel, Caeleb Dressel gives viewers an analysis of his 100 LCM freestyle lead-off leg from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Dressel placed 2nd in the 100 freestyle behind Nathan Adrian, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 100 freestyle, and a mere 0.03 ahead of Ryan Held, both of whom accompanied Dressel on the relay in the finals in Rio, alongside the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps.

Dressel’s other stroke dissects include:

Top Quotes:

  • “If you’re not doing a practice log, shame on you. You should always be doing a practice log if you are swimming. ‘Scuse me, let me get some coffee.”
  • “Thanks, Rowdy, appreciate you, dawg.”
  • “You see me peaking, you see me looking? Did you see me looking? What a child! What am I doing?”
  • “[A noise that sounds like a balloon fluttering around the room as it loses its air in a long, flatulent Looney Toon-esque whomp-whomp.] Alright, not great.”
  • “Right off the bat, it looked super choppy going out, nothing was ever set up in front comfortably before I started grabbing. It looked like I was just ripping into the water and just yanking right away.”
  • “Let me turn this down a little bit, so I can annoy you guys with my voice instead of Rowdy’s.”
  • “Going back to five-year-old basics here, look how bad my streamline is (6:05).”
  • “If you can’t resort back to your basics… then you can’t expect the big things to happen.”
  • “I look like a child, I look like a child right now, oh my, gosh. Look, my head’s out of line, my hips are already sinking….”
  • “If we had a mouth in the back of our head, swimming would be amazing, everyone would be so good.”
  • “Famous Gregg Troy quote: Everyone’s good until they breathe.”
  • “Does your head float? Does a human head–Speedo’s about to fire me, I’m talking about just floating heads here–does just a human head float?”
  • I think it’s totally fine to lay on one side of the stroke as long as your breath is not the reason you’re laying on that one side of the stroke. So I think there is a glide in freestyle and I think it’s fine to lay on one side, boom, as long as you’re rotating evenly back to the other side,”
  • “…I like to find the bad things I did, [because] the things you did good, they’re already ingrained, the bad things, those are the things you need to correct.”

Caeleb Dressel Stroke Dissect: 4 x 100 Free LCM Final 2016 Olympics

Full Breakdown

As a coach to age group swimmers myself, I wholeheartedly agree that Dressel’s streamline off the start was garbage. Check it out at 6:02 in the video. Fortunately, Dressel has tightened up his streamlines since 2016, and now he holds multiple World and American Records, so learn from the best, Age Group swimmers!

Dressel calls his breakout “pretty decent” but notices that he is looking forward when he takes the first stroke, something he advises viewers not to do. Dressel notes that he breaks out “on the dolphin kick” because he thinks it’s faster than letting one’s self level-out before taking their first stroke.

At 7:47 Dressel notices that his head is lifted almost completely out of the water as he takes a breath, describing his body position as “out of line” with the head lifting up causing the hips to sink. He says that he was probably just “too excited” and that jumpiness resulted in him looking “like a child.”

At 8:15 Dressel describes his left arm as “great” but he states that his right arm is “sloppy” and “never anchored” and “just floating around.”

So [the] left arm’s great, the left arm’s catching great, but look how sloppy my right arm is here, guys. It gets in and it’s never anchored. It’s just floating around out there doing whatever the heck it wants… that’s bad. You see my hips dropping right here, causing my chest to open up, and I’m just not engaged… there’s like two separate things going on with my hips and then my catch.”

At 9:05 Dressel tells viewers that he breathes every two strokes in his 100 freestyle because he needs the oxygen. “No matter what your breathing pattern is, as long as you’re rotating evenly to both sides then it’s fine. The breath in the stroke of freestyle does not add or take away anything to your stroke besides giving you oxygen, that is the sole purpose of a breath. I don’t think it offers anything for body position, I don’t think it offers anything for rotation when you bring your head back in from the breath, I don’t think it offers anything when you take the breath, that’s why everyone’s trying to find the best way to breathe as quick as they can.”

Dressel goes on to say that he (and everybody else) would have better freestyles if the need to turn one’s head to the side to breathe were eliminated, contrasting the cumbersome method by which humans breathe while swimming to that of dolphins which utilize a blowhole on the top of their heads, allowing them to breathe while keeping their eyes and mouths in the water. At 10:07 we get this interesting quote:

“If we had a mouth in the back of our head, swimming would be amazing, everyone would be so good.”

As a coach, I wonder how much time Dressel spends in practice swimming with a snorkel in order to achieve and maintain his desired body position.

At 10:12 Dressel relays some wisdom from his coach, Gregg Troy, telling viewers that, according to Troy, “everyone’s good until they breathe.”

Considering the buoyancy of the human body, Dressel contemplates the impact the head has on swimming technique:

“Does your head float? Does a human head–Speedo’s about to fire me, I’m talking about just floating heads here–does just a human head float?”

At 11:22, Dressel circles back to the rotation of freestyle and provides a detailed explanation about the importance of having an even rotation as well as what the glide phase of freestyle looks like, according to him:

“…you have to rotate evenly to both sides. I don’t care if you’re laying on one side of the stroke longer, like for my 200 stroke, the side I breathe to I lay on that side longer–that’s not because my head is out of the water just gulping air, you know, I’ll take my breath and then bring the head back, but I’m still laying on that side of the stroke. I think it offers a better… it’s like a rest spot, it’s a glide, I think freestyle does have a glide, not really [the] 100 or 50 but this is kinda going back to what I got into about the momentum stuff, the momentum-driven strokes from one of the earlier episodes, but I think it’s, I believe, I think it’s okay that you can lay on one side of the stroke for the longer events, again, the 50, you’re not breathing in the 50 anyways so why are you going to be laying on the side? But mainly 200 and up, I can really only speak about the 200, I think it’s totally fine to lay on one side of the stroke as long as your breath is not the reason you’re laying on that one side of the stroke. So I think there is a glide in freestyle and I think it’s fine to lay on one side, boom, as long as you’re rotating evenly back to the other side because if you’re not rotating evenly back to the other side it’s going to be so much more effort to get the arm that you’re not rotating fully to the other side, it’s going to be so much harder to get that arm out of the water and be able to get that momentum going again because you’re going to have to be pulling it through a lot more water if you’re not rotating evenly to the other side.”

At 12:53 Dressel resumes the analysis of his race and says it is this part of the race (about 35 meters) where he starts to rotate more only to the side he is breathing on, that being his left side.

At 14:02, during the underwater phase of the second 50 immediately following the flipturn, Dressel says that he has really good hip position but he questions himself for looking over at the other swimmers in the race. “Look at me looking. Who am I looking at, what am I doing?”

Dressel describes his second breakout as “really bad” because of the delay he noticed between his final dolphin kick and his first flutter kicks, though when he slows the video down to analyze it more closely he eases up on himself a little.

Dressel states that the right arm looks better at the beginning of the second 50, though as he continues to watch the race he says that his stroke became sloppy once again, saying at 14:48 “I’m not holding my anchor point as much.”

As the 19-year-old Dressel in the race video charges down the final 15 meters of the race the older, more mature Dressel behind the microphone notices that his younger self is now moving his head too much and slipping water in his final strokes.

Dressel concludes by recapping the importance of having a quick breath, an even rotation, and a good head position. Though he says this was “not his best race” Dressel also says that he tries to learn from every race and identify his mistakes.

“…I like to find the bad things I did, [because] the things you did good, they’re already ingrained, the bad things, those are the things you need to correct.”

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Samesame
4 months ago

Cool. Love his analysis. Btw Dressel said he was 19, not 18 . Birthday in August 1996. So nearly 20.

Troyy
Reply to  Samesame
4 months ago

He turned 20 during the Olympics even.

Hank Monroe
4 months ago

Refreshing to see the level of detail in the analysis and that he’s his harshest critic. Dude is going to be tough to beat whenever competition resumes.

B1G Daddy
4 months ago

Let me say this first: Caeleb Dressel is my favorite swimmer in the world and has been for 3+ years. That said: I find these videos to be challenging to watch sometimes. In an effort to come off as modest, it has come off multiple times where it feels like he’s trying to convince you that swimming a :48.0 LC 100 or a :50.0 100 Breast was somehow a disaster. I don’t know who is relating to that. Further, talent should never tell you how unprepared they are before a segment. Imagine a football analyst in the postgame saying “I haven’t watched any of this but let’s see what I see when I do.” The result is the moment at… Read more »

Gesundheit
Reply to  B1G Daddy
4 months ago

While yes, he does sometimes get lost, I think its because he’s trying to do two things at once. He’s trying to still teach things to other swimmers, while also picking apart his own race. He also has been very modest throughout the years, so I don’t think he’s trying to be modest, it’s just something that happens unconsciously. I would like Gregg Troy on these stroke dissects, to see what he has to say. Nice points though.

THEO
Reply to  B1G Daddy
4 months ago

Upvoted. Unlike Caeleb himself, the average swimmer does indeed have a lot more to learn from what Caeleb does well than from his mistakes. This is true, and I agree that sometimes I find his modesty so extreme that it is almost aggressive haha. That said, I am just so thankful that he is taking the time to do this. I wish more swimmers did it. So first and foremost I want to express appreciation for that. All criticism is secondary!

B1G Daddy
Reply to  THEO
4 months ago

Completely agree regarding the appreciation that he’s doing it.

Ryan
Reply to  B1G Daddy
4 months ago

This is great criticism! It’s clear that video is still something that caeleb is new to and I think these videos are more for himself rather than his viewers. If he’s trying to appeal to his viewers though, definitely spending more time on what he does great would help!

JDM
Reply to  B1G Daddy
4 months ago

He’s the fastest swimmer in the world right now. I feel kind of lucky he takes the time to try his hand at this. Let’s not put pressure on him to also be the best sports broadcaster right now.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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