January 2016 Training Update

Improving your stroke technique

Ceinwen Roberts


We are well into January now and we hope your new year’s resolution to train hard and consistently is continuing!

We’re discussing three stroke technique tips - breathing, body rolling and high elbow catch - to help improve your stroke, reduce injury and increase efficiency while swimming across long distances.

  1. Breathing – this is the most important part of your stroke. Make sure when you roll your head to the side to take your breath, you are making the most of that short amount of time and breathing in from the moment your mouth hits the air. Take a strong deep breath and fill up your lungs. When you roll your face back into the water start exhaling immediately….blow and blow and blow and get all the air out so when you turn to breathe again, all you’re doing is taking in that deep breath, and not still exhaling. You should never hold your breath at any stage of your stroke, always with breathing in or blowing out.

    You need to be able to breathe to both sides to swim in the ocean. Make sure you can swim bilaterally, but also practice breathing to one side only – occasionally do one lap breathing to the left, and another lap breathing to the right. Then you will be prepared to swim through waves, which could be coming from either direction.

  2. Body rolling - rotating your body from one side to the other from your hips through to your shoulders helps create a bigger, clearer area for you to take your breath.  Imagine you are a tango dancer, with a long straight body, your shoulders pulled back, chest out, long spine, head still and focused forward. This gives your lungs a better opportunity to fill up and creates less ‘splash’ around your mouth.

    It also increases the distance you can reach with each stroke, and encourages you to finish off your stroke at the back, pushing your hand past your hip rather than pulling it out early near your stomach.

  3. High elbow catch - when your hand enters the water at the front of your stroke and your body rolls to the opposite side, many people pull through under the water with a straight arm, and/or pull through underneath their body, rather than out by the side of the body. Imagine there is a big wine barrel in front of you, which you want to reach your arm over and push back by your side towards your feet without sinking the barrel underwater. By dropping your fingertips downwards and keeping your elbow and upper-arm high at the water’s surface, you reach over the wine barrel and push it past the side of your body, not underneath your body or down deep in the water.  It’s a quick ‘snap’ of the arm in half at your elbow.

Another way of thinking about this action is to imagine you’re swimming in very shallow water at the beach, or over a reef, and you are grabbing onto the sand/reef and pulling yourself forward. If your arm is pulling underneath your stomach it will send you off in the wrong direction, which you will need to compensate with the other arm on the next stroke, essentially swimming in a zig-zag fashion rather than straight! This high elbow catch will also reduce shoulder injury as it is reducing the load being pushed solely from the shoulder, and distributing it between the shoulder and elbow. And by not pulling underneath your body, you reduce the impingement through your shoulder.

We hope these few tips help improve your stroke and efficiency. If you feel your stroke needs improvement, enquire at your local pool about private coaching, or join a squad.

Jan 22 2016 - 10:45am