A well timed stroke is one that looks effortless, without any stop-starts, glitches or hiccups in the movement. It looks as if the swimmer is “gliding” through the water. This is as a result of all the aspects of the stroke being connected seamlessly into a cohesive whole.
Johnny Weissmuller, the legendary swimmer and actor, who was the first male swimmer to swim under a minute (58.06 – 1922) is said to have gone whole seasons training just legs and then in the following season just arms, wanting to make sure that the timing on both aspects were perfect before combining the stroke.
How do we create a smooth stroke? Well just like Johnny, we like to pull things apart, but not for such extended periods of time. We pull the strokes apart by creating themes and skills that constitute parts of the stroke that need to be understood from a technical aspect, because swimming is a very technical sport. We then focus on drills that isolate a specific movement or desired movement in the theme and skill. There may be more than one drill.
The drills should always be done slowly and with the utmost attention to detail. Application of the drills provides the co-ordination and connection required to swim smoothly.
What are some of our tips for a smooth stoke that is well timed and rhythmical?
Keep your arms moving. There is no point in the stroke where the arms and hands stop moving. Do not pause and glide when you swim. This is a massive mistake as water is 784 times denser than air and by pausing in your stroke you instantly decelerate before having to reaccelerate on the next stroke. An incredibly inefficient and ineffective way to swim.
There are two common ways of timing the arms to keep them moving. One is timing the catch with the recovery arm to pass each other, under and over the water, at the same time. The second way is to time the catch with the exit of the hand at the back of the stroke. The catch starts at the moment the hand exits at the back.
Breathing is incredibly important to the timing of the stroke. We breathe as the lead hand enters the water and turn the face back to the water as the recovery arm comes in line with the face. A common mistake is to drop the lead hand while still breathing. This creates a very difficult moment and kills any timing and rhythm in the stroke.
Body roll. Rotating our bodies while swimming in integral to rhythm and timing. It provides the beat for our stroke. As the push hand starts pushing backwards the corresponding hip should start to rotate to the water surface. This not only provides forward momentum but also great timing in the stroke. It allows the hand to exit cleanly out the back of the stroke. This swing motion is like the beat of a tune and keeps us ticking along nicely in our swimming.
It’s time to tune up our strokes and get to the beat.