Perfecting Swimming Stroke Technique

Swimming, like many sports, is reliant on your body mechanics.

swimstrokeIf your body is not exactly symmetrical, or if you have one side stronger or more dominant that the other – as many of us do – then you’re going to have to work harder on perfecting your stroke technique.

Even though there are swimming aids out there like pull-buoys that help keep your hips elevated in the water, when you’re competing, it’s just you and your body and the years of training you’ve put into the sport that will pull you through.

One thing that will help with balance and staying focused is head position. In the water, your body should assume the same position as if you were standing, only horizontal. Therefore, your head position is relatively neutral and your focus will be looking down. The key here is to be aware of what’s coming up six feet in front of you. This will help keep you swimming in a straight line and stop you from drifting over into your competitor’s lane. The more aligned your body is, the more efficient you will be in the water, as no time will be wasted in correcting body position once you’re moving with great speed through the water.

Another important factor is your hand entry position into the water. Your fingers enter the water first at the halfway point between a full arm extension and the top of your head. Keeping your hand in line with your shoulder, work towards a 170° extension of the elbow at the top of your stroke. At this point, you want to flex your wrist at 30° before you pull back, using the elbow to drive this motion. Watch out for dropped elbows – one of the hardest techniques to master – keep your elbows set high and this will drive your pull back with more power and efficiency. You can use cables/pulleys, straps or resistance bands to perfect this move.

Spend some time focusing on each component of stroke technique before moving onto the next. So, practice some drills, using only your legs to propel you through the water, while you focus on body position, head position and where your eyes are focused. Once you’ve mastered this, practice hand entry position and a 170° extension of the elbow before moving onto set elbows and wrists and pullback. This will help you perfect each stage of stroke technique without carrying any mistakes into the next stage of your stroke technique.

 

Training Secrets of an Olympic Swimmer

training secrets of an olympic swimmerBuilding strength, perfecting body mechanics and technique.

It doesn’t matter how much you train in a day, if you don’t perfect your body mechanics, it won’t make much of a difference to the finish line. For Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, spending more time on stroke mechanics is more important than the 3 to 5 miles twice a day that he puts into his training. The trick is to slow things down and focus on what your body is doing. Keeping straight in the water is essential, especially off the wall. Being streamlined for at least 15 meters off each flip turn, Lochte is able to transition into the stroke with increased momentum and this is key.

“The only way to really work on technique is to swim very slowly and really think about every little thing that you’re doing. How your body is positioned, what your hips are doing, the positioning of your shoulders and hands and feet.”

Body position is also crucial. Lochte recommends using a pull buoy between the legs and concentrate on keeping your stomach above the water during backstroke. Work with the water not against it.

Kicking is Key

Kicking drills are also important to develop strength and body position. The amount of kicking that most elite swimmers do in practice has gone up at least 20 percent in the past few years. Kicking drills will help you build stamina and strength, and improve performance so that you get the most out of your stroke.

That old staple, the kickboard is every swimmer’s best friend. In order to build stamina and prevent exhaustion, a swimmer must have strong legs and the kickboard is the ideal fitness tool. It helps with stability because your arms are still and allows you to focus on your legs.

In addition to his practice in the water, Lochte recognizes the benefits of weight training and the strength it adds to his overall performance. He spends three times a week in the gym and focuses on building core strength.

Core Strength

Every sport benefits from building core strength. This is especially true of an elite swimmer who relies on the agility of their torso to keep them balanced and streamlined in the water. Lochte’s core exercises take up to 45 minutes of his workout, but 20 minutes for a recreational swimmer is enough to add power to your performance. To warm up, Lochte likes to use a medicine ball, then it’s multiple sets of push-ups, followed by 500 abdominal crunches.

Nutrition

No training diet is complete without proper high performance nutrition. For athletes getting enough calories and protein is often a problem. During the peak of his competition, Michael Phelps reportedly consumed 12,000 calories a day. Supplementing a well-balanced diet with protein powders and supplements is the best way to make sure your body gets the proper nutrients it needs. Whey protein and creatine are fast-absorbing and easy to digest and provide concentrated protein formulas that help to increase muscle size and strength, while speeding up recovery.

Sprint 8 Swimming Workout

Earlier this week, we discussed the benefits of high intensity interval training and how it can stimulate human growth hormone (GH), which is necessary for building muscle and losing fat.

Sprint 8 Swimming WorkoutThis Sprint 8 Workout can be applied to any fitness regime besides running, like rowing, skipping, cycling and swimming.

As the popularity of this workout grows, various intervals are coming to light as people experiment with it and find a method that works for them. Here’s one example that Bill Lauer, a retired professor, uses to prepare for his Senior Games competition:

1. Swim Sprint 8 Workout

  • Moderate intensity: 75-yard freestyle for 90 seconds
  • Moderately high intensity: 50-yard freestyle for 60 seconds
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle sprint for 30 seconds

This is one set and should be repeated 8 times. The moderate intensity, 90-second swim acts as your active recovery in between each set.

2. Swim Sprint 8 Workout in a 25-yard Pool

This set is done in a 25 yard pool with swim fins on.

  • Moderate intensity: 25-yard underwater kick for 120 seconds
  • High intensity: 25-yard swim sprint for 30 seconds
  • Low intensity: 50-yard easy swim for 120 seconds

This is one set and should be repeated 8 times. The low intensity easy swim at the end is your active recovery.

3. Swim Sprint 8 Workout

This interval slowly builds the intensity from one circuit to the next, so pace yourself through the first set of 3 sprints as you will be ramping it up with each set. The low intensity, 120-second freestyle lap is your active recovery.

Beginner

  • Low intensity: 75-yard freestyle for 120 seconds
  • Moderate intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 40 seconds
  • Moderately high intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 40 seconds
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 40 seconds

Repeat 3 times.

Intermediate

  • Low intensity: 125-yard freestyle for 150 seconds
  • Moderate intensity: 25-yard breast stroke for 40 seconds
  • Moderately high intensity: 25-yard back stroke for 40 seconds
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 40 seconds

Repeat 3 times.

Advanced

  • Low intensity: 200-yard freestyle for 210 seconds
  • Moderate intensity: 50-yard freestyle or breast stroke for 40 seconds
  • Moderately high intensity: 50-yard freestyle or back stroke for 40 seconds
  • High intensity: 50-yard freestyle or butterfly for 40 seconds

Repeat 3 times.

4. Anaerobic Swim Sprint 8 Workout

Beginner

  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 7 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 6 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 5 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 4 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 3 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 2 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 1 time
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times

In between each sprint, swim an easy lap for 90 to 120 seconds for active recovery.

Intermediate

  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 3 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 3 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 2 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 2 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 1 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 1 time
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 1 time
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times

In between each sprint, swim an easy lap for 90 to 120 seconds for active recovery.

Advanced

  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 0 time
  • High intensity: 25-yard freestyle for 60 seconds, breathing 0 time
  • High intensity: 25-yard butterfly for 60 seconds, breathing 0 times

In between each sprint, swim an easy lap for 90 to 120 seconds for active recovery.

Source:

Campbell, Phil: Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness. (http://www.readysetgofitness.com/)

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Swimmers’ Winter Warm-Up

It’s one thing to get yourself moving and out to the gym in the middle of winter, but it’s even harder if your workout involves diving into a cold pool.

Swimmers Winter Warm-UpIf you’re a regular swimmer, you’ve probably devised ways to deal with that bone-shivering moment when you first enter the pool. The warm, humid environment helps to warm you up, but there’s always a jarring effect once you get into the water, no matter the temperature, and there’s those first few minutes when your muscles protest and stiffen up on you. So, here are some warm-up moves you can do before diving into the pool.

If your swimming pool is anything like mine, there’s the locker room and there’s the pool area, which doesn’t leave a lot of options for warming-up before you get into the water. There are a lot of moves you can do in the locker room area to warm-up. For instance, you can use the bench to perform a few push-ups to get the blood circulating in the upper torso.  Here are a few other exercises you can do to prep your body before it hits the water:

Side-to-Side Lunges with Windmill Arms – 30 seconds.

V-Stance with Torso Twist – standing in a wide stance, hold your arms out at shoulder height and swing gently from side to side to loosen up the vertebrae and get some movement happening throughout the core – 30 seconds.

Deep Squats – with your arms out in front of you at chest height – 30 seconds.

Leg Kicks with Alternating Arms – kick your legs up in front of you, bring your opposite arm up to meet the toe – 30 seconds.

Alternating Lunge with Warrior Arms – a combo of lunges and Warrior Pose. Keep moving with this one and watch your legs for hyperextension – 30 seconds.

Incline Push-Ups – using the bench in the locker room – 30 seconds.

Stair Running – when you get out to the pool area, use the spectator area to do a few laps of stair running before you hit the pool – 30 seconds.

If you don’t have access to any stairs, try Back Pedaling – crouch down and walk backwards as if you were on a bicycle and back pedaling – 30 seconds.

Of course, once you get into the water, you will want to do a few laps to finish your warm-up and to target those sport-specific muscles before your practice.

Another great way to warm up before your swimming practice is through nutrition. About an hour before practice, drink a whey protein isolate shake. Not only will this give you the fuel you need to get through your workout, but protein increases thermogenesis in the body, which warms the body up from the inside out.

Supplementing with Arginine helps increase blood circulation and is a great supplement to use in the winter months when our bodies are running a bit sluggishly. Published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, a recent study shows that supplementing with Arginine can increase your endurance and workout times by 20% which translates into a 1-2% improvement in race times.

The Arginine group showed a significant increase in the NO2 plasma levels and a marked reduction in systolic blood pressure. During moderate exercise, oxygen uptake was reduced by 7% and during intense exercise, V02 amplitude was reduced, extending the time to exhaustion.

  • Improves severe-intensity exercise endurance by 20%
  • Significantly reduces systolic blood pressure
  • Reduces the oxygen cost of exercise

Other benefits of supplementing with Arginine are:

  • Improves blood circulation (by stimulating the production of nitric oxide, an endogenous neurotransmitter that helps to prevent vasoconstriction and initiates vasodilation by relaxing the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels).
  • Lowers blood pressure in some hypertension patients.
  • Increases the release of the human growth hormone (HGH) from the pituitary gland.
  • Helps counteract inflammation.
  • Alleviates obesity and facilitates weight loss (by stimulating the release of HGH).
  • Improves muscle performance.

For more information on the benefits of supplementing with Arginine, please read:

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Building Stamina for Swimmers

If you’re a novice swimmer, one of your biggest challenges is stamina. Not having the strength to finish more than a couple of laps at a time before taking a break will negatively affect your weight loss goals.

Building Stamina for SwimmersBeginner swimmers lack technique and often waste a lot of energy with their movements, tiring easily. A well-seasoned swimmer will actually use less energy than a beginner because of their perfected technique. But if you’re tiring too easily, then your technique is going to suffer and you’re just going to get frustrated. Spend a couple of days in the gym to build up your stamina and upper body strength to ensure you’re going to get a rewarding workout in the water.

Stamina Building Workout

  • Pull-Ups to failure
  • Squats/Lateral Raise Combo with lightweight dumbbells (12 reps)
  • Squats/Overhead Shoulder Press Combo with lightweight dumbbells (12 reps)
  • Preying Mantis Push-Ups to failure – starting position is with your forearms flat on the floor
  • Reverse Flyes with lightweight dumbbells to failure
  • Cable Woodchoppers to failure each side
  • Overhead Triceps Cable Extensions to failure
  • Bench Dips to failure
  • Biceps Cable Curls to failure

Perform 3 – 4 sets of this circuit, moving straight into the next exercise with little to no rest (less than 30 seconds in between). At the end of the circuit, rest for 120 seconds and repeat. You will want to perform this circuit a minimum of twice a week for the next six weeks to build up strength and stamina.

To improve your stamina, you must also focus on your breathing. Work on a three-stroke breath with your front crawl. This means that you will be alternating sides when breathing. This is known as bilateral breathing. What this does is forces you to get more out of your breath and ensures you’re more relaxed in the water so you’re not wasting energy. Compared to a two-stroke breath where you tend to gasp for air too quickly, bilateral breathing makes you more aware of your breath and you’ll relax into your stroke with more ease.

You will also want to focus on lengthening your strokes, making each one count from entry to exit. Reach as far forward as you can, using the full length of your stroke and bringing your arm back as far as you can.

For each lap, switch up your stroke so that you avoid using your legs too much. Swimming is mostly all upper body strength with the legs and torso acting as stabilizers. By switching up your stroke each time you push off the back wall and change directions, you’re giving your legs time to rest and ultimately, you’ll have more energy to finish your targeted number of lengths.