Practicing drills by using a front-end snorkel can help enhance body balance and hip/hand timing.
The timing of the breath and the twisting of the body while taking a breath is both distracting and destructive when learning proper body balance and hip/hand timing. By using the front-end snorkel during the following series of drills, the swimmer is free to focus on specific rehearsal points.
We use the front-end snorkel every day in every workout. During our warm-up, we include a sculling series that sets up body position and initial hold on the water. It also rehearses the hip/hand connection to the water.
Both elbows are high and fixed, fingertips pointed toward the bottom of the pool. This scull isolates the forearms as the shoulders and elbows are fixed. The swimmer digs for deep water while attempting to lengthen his or her body from the elbows to the toes. The resultant body position is high hips (butt breaking the surface of the water) and low upper body (head and shoulders slightly submerged below the surface of the water).
This scull is used to increase "feel." The same drill can be used as a sprint set or with a pull buoy to strengthen forearms. Paddles can be used to increase resistance, and kick sets can be designed to use this scull for both leg and forearm development.
Like the double arm drill, the shoulder and elbow remain fixed while the hand sculls at the athlete's catch point (i.e., the point where the hold on the water becomes propulsive). A swimmer can work on increasing his or her actual stroke length by concentrating on lengthening the body from the elbows.
We work on body position by creating a line from the hip to the head that angles slightly downward. This is accomplished as the swimmer lengthens his or her stroke by digging forward and downward with the scull while maintaining high elbow and shoulder position.
When the body position and the scull are mastered, the athlete can begin to work on attaching the hip rotation to the catch segment of the scull. As the hand rounds the comer at the start of the scull, it begins to move back toward the body, the fingertips point downward and the opposite hip moves downward. This motion of the fingertips and the hip tightens the power band between the two points.
I challenge the more advanced athletes to begin to understand how an upward kick on the opposite leg (from the catch hand) helps to anchor the lower body as the hip begins to play an increased role in the power of the catch.
This is a very versatile drill that attempts to engage the power generated in the core from the rocking of the hips to the catch or finish. The athlete can learn to isolate the timing of the catch (or finish of the stroke) with the associated motion of the hips.
When working on the catch or front end of the stroke, the athlete digs toward the catch point. Each dig is accomplished with high elbows and shoulders rotated upward as practiced in the one-arm sculling drills. The hip rocking is timed so that the opposite hip and hand connection gives the paddler free power from the body's core.
The swimmer holds the water from the catch to the lower chest area, then releases the water by an upward motion of the hand toward the chest. The swimmer then returns the hand underwater to the catch point.
The drill should be done slowly and deliberately at first, with each catch at full extension depth and length. The hips should be completely opened up to the opposite side of the paddle arm until the catch is made. As the fingertips move toward the bottom of the pool upon full extension, the hips rock to the opposite side, and core power is engaged.
Once the motion and timing is learned, the drill can be sped up to rehearse fast hip speed. Cal-Berkeley's head coach, Nort Thornton, believes that sprinters can only efficiently cycle their arms as fast as their hips can move.
To drill the finish timing of the stroke, the release of the water at the end of the stroke is coordinated with the final twist of the hips. The hand flares outward or backward, releasing the water and breaking the surface at the hip. (Recent discussions at the Gold Medal Clinic in Australia support the merits of releasing the water and flaring outward prior to pushing back and straightening the elbow. I maintain that for the sprinter, both finishes should be learned and used at various points in the race.)
When the hand breaks the surface, it is immediately drawn back into the water by following the hips downward. The back of the hand retreats first and continues forward underwater until about the mid-body section.
At this point, the swimmer engages the water, and quickly ties the hand movement to the hips and core. The timing of the final hip motion will determine where and how much power is injected into the finish of the stroke.
Finally, this drill can be used to play with full stroke timing. The core body connection to the water via the hand can be rehearsed from the catch to the release.
About the Author
Mike Bottom is the head coach of the Sprint 2000 Team in Phoenix, Ariz., and cohead coach of the University of California-Berkeley men's swimming team. Look for the Sprint Team 2000 video, "Swimming Fast and Having Fun," to see some of the fastest swimmers in the world demonstrating some of the aforementioned drills. The addition of a front-end snorkel to these drills produces phenomenal results.
Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Jul-Sep 2001
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FindArticles - Snorkel training Swimming Technique, Jul-Sep 2001, by Bottom, Mike