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YWCA Swimming Training Settled on Swim Stroke Proper Technique

By Dave Cameron, Head Swim Coach, YWCA of Minneapolis
July 5, 2012
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Yesterday, the New York Times featured an article titled “Delineating the Perfect Swim Stroke,” examining the controvery over the most efficient technique for the freestyle and the backstroke.

The article brings up many good things that we’ve worked on with thousands of swimmers through the Total Immersion Swimming® program. Most of them come as counterintuitive, but when a swimmer embraces the changes and allows them to become part of the stroke, speed and efficiency are unavoidable.

With new lessons, I almost always have to adjust the striking arm in freestyle right away. All too often, swimmers come in assuming that a reach over the water means stroke length, but true stroke length is actually the distance you travel in a stroke, not how far you reach. We teach a deeper, earlier entry to promote the right access and mobility for muscle use.

What I found most surprising is the “S” stroke discussion. There are few modern coaches still pushing for this stroke if they’ve paid attention to swimming in the last 20 years. Even Doc Counsilman himself was troubled by the way others interpreted his research. Many of the swimmers first observed doing this sculling motion did it far less than it was later taught, and their coaches didn’t take into account the fact that rotation explains most of the natural curve in the stroke.

How does this relate to your swimming at the YWCA? Try something new next time you go for a swim. Stand in the water and put your arm down at a target 12 inches under the surface. Now, take the arm back out. Was the way you withdrew it a slice in reverse or did you keep it completely straight?

Slicing in early and wide allows us to efficiently rotate into a deep and balanced position. The NYT article offers evidence that it’s also more efficient as a push and catch mechanism too. If you’ve got questions about this, check in with one of the Total Immersion Swimming instructors at any of the YWCAs next time you’re in for a swim!