Caeleb Dressel‘s 17.63 50 yard freestyle was arguably the most impressive performance of the 2018 NCAA Championships and overall 2017-2018 NCAA swimming season. In a recent upload to his personal YouTube channel called “Stroke Dissect #2,” Dressel picks apart his performance to tell us what he thinks is good and what he could have done better. This is Dressel’s second video analysis of one of his previous record-setting performances.
- “It’s not about how far you get out on the start, guys, it’s about how clean you can get in the water. So if you have to sacrifice a little bit of distance jumping out to get in cleaner, do it. 100% do it.”
- “If you guys notice, my kick tempo is a lot slower than some people. That’s just what’s comfortable for me, you have to find what works for you,”
- “So this 50, it looks like I could have been just a little wider to get more momentum coming around,”
- “I don’t like straight-arm, I’m not a fan of straight-arm. I think it should be straight coming out of the stroke, and you let that momentum swing your arm through.”
- “I think to get more momentum you have to use more energy. Boom, boom, boom! There it is. Clip that, quote me on that one, that’s what I’ve been trying to say, guys.”
As the race begins, Dressel notes that he likes his start, stating that his head does not lift up like in the 100 fly at Worlds in 2019. Instead, he pulls with his arms first and then explodes off the block. However, Dressel notes that the could have entered the water sooner and with slightly higher hips.
“It’s not about how far you get out on the start, guys, it’s about how clean you can get in the water. So if you have to sacrifice a little bit of distance jumping out to get in cleaner, do it. 100% do it. Are you gonna be faster running and doing a cannonball to get in the water, or running (and) diving in streamlined? You’re gonna be faster doing streamline, so whatever gets you in the water cleaner, do that.”
At 4:54, Dressel remarks that his kick tempo is “a lot slower than some people” and that six dolphin kicks off the blocks for free and fly is the perfect number for him.
“If you guys notice, my kick tempo is a lot slower than some people. That’s just what’s comfortable for me, you have to find what works for you, so in the 50–actually any race off the start… free and fly off the blocks for me, it’s gonna be six kicks, which I think is relatively low for some people, but that’s just what my tempo is. That’s what I feel comfortable with in the water, that’s the fastest tempo is a slower one, I feel like I get more power if I slow it down a bit.”
At 5:34, Dressel analyzes his first breakout, which he describes as late. “This breakout was so late. So late. I’m already at the surface and I’m already taking that first arm stroke. Like, it’s just bad. It’s just way, way, way, way too late. So basically my head’s already coming out of the water and then I’m starting that arm stroke, and then it’s coming through. Like, see how much, see how much of the stroke went up? It was too late. That’s all it was. I have nothing else really to say, nothing more ingenious to say than that.”
At 6:24, Dressel delves into the look and size of his freestyle during the race. “For this 50 it, I think I’m too close together. It just looks like the stroke is too jammed. I don’t want to swim my freestyle wide, but this stroke I’m doing in this 50 does not look relaxed.”
At 7:05, Dressel says “…I’m crane-armin’ it too much. I think, freestyle, kinda, I touched on it a bit little last week, I think [the] majority of your rotation is going to come from your belly and your kick. I think to save energy on the arms, you have to gear the rotation more by using your core and your legs.”
At 7:40, Dressel states that “to get momentum in the stroke, I feel like you have to have it off-set outside a little bit.” Here he begins a comparison of sprint, middle-distance, and distance freestyle strategies, stating that sprinters can make better use of a wider stroke that carries more power and momentum, whereas middle-distance and distance freestylers make better use of a narrower stroke that is more energy-efficient though not as momentum-driven.
Continuing his analysis of the width of his stroke (8:00), Dressel says: “So this 50, it looks like I could have been just a little wider to get more momentum coming around, so everything’s not just centered like this, and more relaxed coming around. So, I think it would have been better to just off-set it a little bit to get more power, more momentum, from the stroke, from the arms itself, to keep the stroke driving forward.”
At 8:21 Dressel determines that the left arm was what caused his stroke to be narrower than he would have preferred in this race: “I’m a fan of the left arm, not the right arm, I think really the right arm’s just my problem here.”
At 8:25 Dressel tells viewers that his turn was good and then moves on: “Boom. Good turn. Not gonna talk about the turn, the turn was good, no doubt, no doubt about it.”
We are also able to hear the commentator say that Dressel flipped at 25 yards in 8.48 seconds. The next-fastest swimmer in the field at the turn was Cal’s Ryan Hoffer who flipped in 9.07.
At 8:40 Dressel analyzes the second breakout, comparing it to the first and saying that it looks much better, “it just looks so much better than the (first breakout). You guys might disagree with me on which breakout was better, I just really think this one was better. Yeah! So much cleaner, you kidding me! There was a lot less whitewater.”
At 9:12 Dressel analyzes his stroke again: “The strokes are fine. It could be a camera angle, it could be the [720p video] quality, that’s just what it looks like. It looks like the right arm, especially, is just too close into my body. I think to get more momentum within the stroke… I think it’s harder… I think it’s harder the more off-set it (the stroke) is from your body, but I think it carries more momentum, (but) it also uses more energy… but you can get more power from it. That’s what I’m trying to get at.”
As the Dressel in the race video enters the final 10 yards of the race, Dressel the commentator remarks: “I don’t like straight-arm, I’m not a fan of straight-arm. I think it should be straight coming out of the stroke, and you let that momentum swing your arm through. I think there’s really good drills for this: sharkfin, hesitation, and catch-up is one of my favorites, because it teaches swinging it all the way through and then placing it down, so I think that’s really good.”
Continuing his point about momentum in the stroke (10:40), Dressel emphasizes that it is a free resource swimmers should take advantage of while sprinting freestyle: “You’re using a resource that’s pretty much free: momentum. Why would you not want as much momentum in your stroke as you possibly can? That’s why I think off-setting the arms a little bit is better.”
At 11:47 Dressel articulates his thoughts on momentum and a wider stroke versus a narrower stroke:
“I think to get more momentum you have to use more energy. Boom, boom, boom! There it is. Clip that, quote me on that one, that’s what I’ve been trying to say, guys.”
At 12:23, Dressel gives us a look into what he’s currently working on to improve his freestyle, as well as an in-depth explanation of the relationship between arms, core, and kick in freestyle rotation:
“The main thing I’m working on right now within my stroke is the rotation. I think a lot of people traditionally are viewing freestyle as the arms are what’s driving the rotation, and our arms are not set up in a good spot to rotate something, I mean, it’s out in front, you can only get so much from the rotation. Your core and your legs are in a much better situation, I mean, they’re on the same plane as that rotation for that to happen, so I think it comes from within the core and that’s what’s shifting your body and it’s gonna save energy from your arms having to do the rotating, and I think it’s a much cleaner transition, and the moment you can find that relationship between rotating more with the core and just letting the pull come from the arms, that’s it, that’s freaking freestyle, baby. Everyone knows how to do the six-beat kick, I’m not good at kicking with a board but I have a good kick in my stroke. Everyone knows how to kick, everyone knows how to kick fast, everyone knows what to do in freestyle–you kick as hard as you can–in sprint freestyle… but what’s driving the rotation has to be the core, and the moment you find that perfect timing between rotating with the core and pulling with the arm, it will take so much stress out of the arm having to do the rotating.”
Throughout the video, Dressel questions his reasoning as to why a more “off-set” and wider stroke would generate more momentum than the narrower stroke he references middle and long-distance freestylers utilizing. A common drill to achieve the “off-set” freestyle Dressel mentions is to swim freestyle with a pole held between the arms, as seen in this video. Doing this can help a swimmer increase power and connectivity throughout their stroke by transitioning inertia from the hand exiting the water to begin its recovery to the opposite hand that is then catching and initiating the following stroke. As Dressel mentioned earlier, generating this type of energy relies largely on the core (“belly”) and the kick.