QOTW: What is the Purpose of Band-Only (Ankle Strap) Sets?
QOTW: I am having real struggles with the band only (ankle strap) swimming — even on the 25s. Could you explain the value of swimming with a band and provide recommendations on the best approach?
You are not alone. Do not fret, we can come to a solution on these pesky, but productive, band-only swimming sets. Let’s first dive into the reason for my prescribing these torture devices.
Believe it or not, band-only swimming is one of the more valuable components of swimming development, but only if the swimmer can sustain a relatively neutral body position in performing the drill. This takes a certain proficiency, but equally, a commitment to take the action needed to be successful, aligned with a little commitment to practice. You cannot play the guitar without a little practice first, and every sports skill development requires this same commitment.
Why is it valuable? Successful use of a band will help facilitate:
- Improve posture (a taut body) in the swim. You will be prone to wiggle from side-to-side less, and maintain a powerful position from which to generate force and propulsion. Posture is key in swimming, but it is not intuitive for a less experienced swimmer to maintain. The band forces improvement in it.
- Optimal body position. Many complain that they swim with their hips too low, causing drag and poor acceleration with each pull. Improving with the band only will certainly lead to a better body position overall.
- Increased propulsive ability and connection. In order for the above to be true, the swimmer must be able to ‘hold’ water and accelerate it behind with force, following entry to the water. This is the backbone of driving the swimmer forward, after all, the mission is to move a lot of water backward, quickly, with each stroke.
- It will help ramp stroke rate. It isn’t just about stroke rate, but when combining good connection and propulsion (as mentioned above) with more cycles per minute, the swimmer goes fast.
- This leads to an improved rhythm. Swimming is a rhythm sport, and when all the above are combined successfully, the swimmer can fall into powerful and sustainable rhythm. The only two additional determining factors for the swimmer is resilience (fitness) and open water skill acquisition.
In order to provide you with the best opportunity of success with this tool, we tend to keep intervals very short. We only want you to practice with as much good form as you can maintain. This means more rest and short intervals. If you are struggling, I would suggest the following:
- Swim with a snorkel: It removes the posture and timing busting breathing component of the stroke.
- Focus on accelerating from slow to fast with each arm stroke. Don’t be overly focused on precision, focus more on timing and rhythm.
- Stop being so darn precise. Don’t ‘place’ the hand in. Let it fall / drop / slap into the water. Don’t focus on the hand as must as getting a connection from the body and remove the tension from the shoulders. Be willing to get the timing and rhythm right overthinking too much about precision of the pull and hand action.
In our squad — with practice — every swimmer can do some band only. It takes work and frequency. Commit to it. If you truly are failing, with feet dragging on the ground, and you simply cannot get anywhere close to a sustained effort of swimming, then you can wear a pair of buoyancy shorts, add a very small half buoy, or even do a single full chamber swim of the magical ENEY buoy (https://youtu.be/sByveUXhRBk)
Stay with it and don’t give up. Success is closer than you think.
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