A Closer Look At Zane Grothe’s Freestyle

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

Last month at the Winter Nationals, Zane Grothe broke two American records in the 500 and 1650 freestyle: 4:07.2 and 14:18.2. Not a bad weekend! As I watched the video of his swims several times, there were three things about his freestyle technique that he does exceptionally well and that really stand out to me.

  1. Zane buries the head under water after the breath.

I understand Zane majored in Aeronautical Engineering, which by definition makes him smart. At some point in his classes they must have taught him that submarines go much faster under water than on the surface. Zane has figured out that eliminating surface drag in his freestyle at the surge point is a good thing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has a low drag coefficient body shape to go along with getting underwater.

  1. Zane throws the hands hard to the water at the end of the freestyle recovery.

He does this not only with the right arm, coming off of the breath stroke to his right, but also with the non-breath sided left arm. Accelerating his hand hard to the water adds important kinetic energy to the strong pulling arm and kick behind, increasing his propulsion; what we at The Race Club call coupling energy. The fast hand to the water recovery also forces the body to rotate quickly at this pivotal point in the pulling motion, another important coupling motion.

  1. Zane sustains a strong 6 beat kick

The kicking speed is the baseline speed of a swimmer and Zane has a pretty high baseline speed. Those that can sustain the steady propulsive six beat kick are swimming in a river down stream. Those that cannot, are swimming in a lake. I’d rather be in the river going downstream.

It is not that Zane is the only swimmer using these three important techniques. It is just that he did them better than the other swimmers on that particular weekend. In fact, he regularly executes them all really well and as a result, swims exceptionally fast.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

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JussiBjoerling
5 years ago

Interesting to watch how during his 200 in Austin, he switched on the last length from a hybrid freestyle to a purely shoulder driven with a higher frequency while the rest of the swimmers in the race more or less kept the same technique.

gary hall sr
Reply to  JussiBjoerling
5 years ago

Yes…Nathan Adrian started this technique of changing techniques in 2008 in the 100 free and now you see most elite athletes finishing their freestyle races (100 and up) with a high octane (straight arm) fast stroke rate into the wall. It works.

Doug Laramore
5 years ago

Coupling the arm to the body and rotating while holding onto the water with the forearm and hand creates a powerful “torque” force that pulls the swimmer forward. Tesla uses torque force to be the fastest car off the starting line. It is the same principle of a wood screw rotating into a dense wood while the threads hold onto the wood and the threads of the screw pull the screw forward into the wood. It is more of a pulling forward than pushing forward.

gary hall sr
Reply to  Doug Laramore
5 years ago

The energy in the body rotation, when timed with the propulsion of the pulling arm, will augment the force of the pulling arm. This coupling energy can also work just after the peak propulsion force has occurred, yet while it is still in effect, such as with the long jump.

Nah
5 years ago

We’ll see if it works when he’s next to Horton this summer, a guy who takes 10+ less strokes a lap than him

fatsmcgee
Reply to  Nah
5 years ago

Different strokes for different folks. Laure Manaudou was the best of the best at 400 with a high turnover. Less common for men, but Ryan Cochrane and David Davies were quite good as well. My gut feeling is that it’s possible to win gold / go 14:29 in the 1500 with high turnover, could be wrong though.

gary hall sr
Reply to  fatsmcgee
5 years ago

I agree. Sun Yang and Gregorio Paltrinieri each won the 1500 meter Olympic final with very different techniques. The former a hip driven 60 stroke rate and the latter a 96 SR hybrid. Different strokes for different folks. Zane is around 86 SR.

Steve Nolan
5 years ago

I understand Zane majored in Aeronautical Engineering, which by definition makes him smart.”

I cannot disagree with this more strongly.

Sincerely,

-A biomedical engineering major, and a moron.

Marty
Reply to  Steve Nolan
5 years ago

I don’t think the author was offering an exhaustive list of majors with smart students.

sven
Reply to  Steve Nolan
5 years ago

It’s ok buddy. At least you aren’t civil engineering. The more I talk to civil engineering students, the less safe I feel when I see a bridge or tall building.

12beatkick
Reply to  Steve Nolan
5 years ago

Don’t worry pal I’m a med student and I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed either to say the least

djalbertson
5 years ago

Great technical discussion. Thanks!