Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.
At The Race Club, we pride ourselves in teaching fundamentals and paying attention to details. In order to excel in swimming, arguably the most technique-sensitive sport of all, one needs to be mindful of millimeters, degrees and tenths of seconds. A few millimeters away from the correct head or elbow position, a few less degrees of ankle flexibility or hip rotation, a few tenths of seconds in delay of a pull or a kick can lead to…well, the loss of a race.
Understanding the fundamentals of swimming requires knowledge of the basic scientific laws that govern the technical aspects of our sport. For the most part, these laws for the underwater and surface movements are Newton’s three laws of motion, redefined for a swimmer.
Newton’s Laws Of Motion
The force that Newton defines in his second law of motion, the vector sum of the propulsive forces (those that propel us through the water) and the drag forces (those that slow us down) ultimately determines our body speed or acceleration in the water. While it seems desirable to maximize propulsive forces and minimize drag forces, the reality is that we can’t always have it both ways. That is what makes swimming such an interesting sport from a technical standpoint. The motions of maximum propulsion do not agree with the motions of minimal drag…so we learn to compromise. And we learn that although there are commonalities of good technique, there is not necessarily one single best way of swimming fast for all swimmers and for all distances.
The Bernoulli Effect
There are other laws that affect a swimmers speed, such as the Bernoulli effect, that likely provides some lift (upward force) to a swimmer, or the law of conservation of energy that impacts the way we recover with our arms, head and body above the water.
In considering all of the motions of a swimmer that may improve the likelihood of swimming fast, one must also consider the biomechanical impact of those motions. Will they lead to injury? After all, as human beings, we are really not well engineered for moving fast in the water. So in redefining ourselves as aquatic mammals, we must be careful to consider all aspects of strength, flexibility and motions in our endeavor to swim fast safely.
I hope that you will enjoy some of the discussion we have in our Race Club fundamentals lecture where we share some ideas on how to reduce frontal drag, how to increase propulsive forces and how to best obey that immutable law of inertia. You will find it on the link below.
Yours in swimming,
The Race Club
Because Life is Worth Swimming, our mission is to promote swimming through sport, lifelong enjoyment, and good health benefits. Our objective is for each member of and each participant in The Race Club to improve his or her swimming performances, health, and self-esteem through our educational programs, services and creativity. We strive to help each member of The Race Club overcome challenges and reach his or her individual life goals.
The Race Club provides facilities, coaching, training, technical instruction, video, fitness and health programs for swimmers of all ages and abilities. Race Club swim camps are designed and tailored to satisfy each swimmer’s needs, whether one is trying to reach the Olympic Games or simply improve one’s fitness. Our programs are suitable for beginner swimmers, pleasure swimmers, fitness swimmers, USA swimming or YMCA swimmers, or triathletes; anyone who wants to improve swimming skills. All of our Race Club members share an enjoyment of being in the water and use swimming to stimulate a more active mind and body.