QOTW: Can You Elaborate on the Technical Tip of Allowing Shoulder to Slide Forward as Hand Enters?
Question: I listened to the podcast from last week on adult-onset swimming. It was transformative for me, in the way that I view swimming in triathlon. I am interested in a couple of areas you highlighted, particularly around the technical tip of allowing the shoulder to slide forward as the hand enters. Can you expand on this point a little for me?
I wondered if that point might stir a question or two, so let me expand a little for you. Let’s first start with highlighting a few common issues that we see with the adult-onset swimmers:
Trying too hard to maintain a high elbow recovery: Many coaches and athletes fall into the trap of thinking that they must maintain a shoulder shrug with supple recovery as the hand exits the water at the back of the stroke. They spend hours dragging fingertips across the water, with rigid shoulders, causing the body to snake around from side to side. Headline news: it doesn’t matter how the arm recovers. Follow your natural biomechanics’ spirit, even with a nice supple straight arm, simply throwing it from the back of exit to the front of the entry. Your hand just needs to land between the line of midline and shoulder - far out in front of you and away from being close to your head. Not look at point #2.
Too deliberate of hand placement on entry: You might have been told to slide your hand into a letterbox on entry, or spear the water. You may have even been told to put the hand in the water near your head then drive the fingers forward to the end of the pool, all with the mission of minimizing splash and water displacement. All nonsense. Let the hard and arm fall in, splash in, smack in. It matters not. Don’t be deliberate. ‘Deliberate’ will just slow the stroke rate down and cause tension. Try not to think about the recovery phase. Just throw it over and get it landing somewhere near that zone mentioned above.
- Reaching to the other end of the pool with your fingers. You might have been told that it is important to get long and thin, with rotation, to reduce drag. Fair enough, but the action most take to enable this is to reach with the hand to the end of the pool. The result is that you stretch forward and, as the hand extends, your fingers begin to point toward the surface. Your fingers and palm create a brake as the hand slides forward, slowing progress and disabling the chance to get the pulling arm into a place that you can hold water and then propel that water backward.
Instead of this action, your fingers and hand want to be driving forward but down, and the best way to achieve this is thinking about rolling the arm over a barrel as the shoulder of that arm slides forward. This is how you achieve that rotation, from the shoulder sliding forward, combined with connection.
Realize that this action of the shoulder sliding forward as the arm and hand rotates over a barrel aiming to gain purchase on the water is what many confuse as a glide. There is no glide in swimming. You are gaining traction (holding water and creating connection between that hold and the power potential of the hips). From here, you continue with a fluid motion to accelerate the water back. You then, seamlessly, and in rhythm, continue with the opposing arm. You then do it again. And again. And again. Onward you go into a rhythm, with the resilience developed in training to enable you to retain focus and power on every stroke.
Remember what I said in the show? You must be FAF (if you don’t know what FAF means then go and have a listen!). Hopefully the above begins to crystallize why.
We are planning some video fun of some of this from the Kona Camp — partial jealous creation and partial education. We will share it upon return.
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