A nice read I wanted to share and very apropos for my case as I look to refine my swim from the bottom up.
Dancin’ with Yourself
by Coach Emmett Hines
See Jane swim
There’s Jane Swimmer in the fast lane over there. The one gliding from stroke to stroke with no apparent effort, turning out lap after lap, each faster than you can sprint a 25. And, as if to mock you, she’s barely kicking at all!
What little kick she has, however, is quite purposeful. You see one kick beat per stroke or, more importantly, one kick beat for each rotation of her body core. If you watch her legs and torso closely you can see that each snappy rotation of her core is actually initiated by one of those kicks. Jane’s is a classic two-beat kick. Each kick drives a rotation; each rotation powers a stroke. Envious? Read on.
Look like Jane
Try the following:
1. Stand up straight and tall with your heels close together, but not touching, and your toes turned out slightly.
2. Pull your navel toward your spine, try to knit your lower ribs together and see how long you can make the back of your neck. You have now assembled a good portion of the “tight-line” posture needed for effective swimming.
3. Holding that tight line, lean a bit forward from your ankles without bending at your waist (as if leaning into the wind). Note that as your weight shifts to the balls of your feet your tight line is immediately extended all the way to your feet – you are, as swim/Pilates guru Michelle Haver says, “from head to heel like steel”.
This postural tension allows your body to move through the water like a sleek kayak instead of an underinflated rubber raft.
Rotate like Jane
For this next part, sock feet on a smooth floor would be a good thing:
1. Again assemble your tight-line posture and, holding this tension, rise up on your toes. You’ll notice that your tight line is again extended all the way to your feet.
2. Now rotate your torso, as a single unit, first toward your right, then toward your left, making sure that your hips and shoulders rotate the same amount and at the same time. If your shoulders rotate before or after your hips, or if they rotate further than your hips, then you are twisting your core, not rotating it.
3. When your core rotates, note what muscles you are using to make this happen and note what it feels like. Also note that your legs stay pretty close together in the process. And your knees do not bend. Not at all. Not even a little bit.
Kick like Jane
In a proper two-beat kick for distance swimming we want each kick beat to drive a rotation of the body. This is classical action/reaction physics. Your legs are levers that connect to your feet and move them through kicking motions. But it is important to understand that you have a choice of how long a lever you use for each kick. Imagine you are floating horizontal on your stomach and kicking:
If you keep your legs straight from hip to toe, then you are using long levers, each stretching from foot to hip. Each time a foot travels down it drives the hip at the other end of the leg-lever up. Each time a foot travels up, it drives the hip at the other end of the leg-lever down. Your legs, moving in opposite directions, scissor past each other to drive one hip up while driving the other hip down and, presto, your hips rotate. The next kick reverses the action of the leg-levers and, presto-reverso, your hips rotate in the opposite direction. Keep kicking like this rhythmically and keep your tight line engaged – so that your shoulders rotate precisely when your hips rotate, precisely as far as your hips rotate – and, presto-rock’n’rollo, you have rhythmic core rotation.
But what if you bend your knees as you kick – specifically, what if the upbeat of each kick (taking your foot behind the plane of the body) is accomplished by bending your knee? Your leg-levers now only connect your feet to your knees, thus they can no longer drive your hips to rotate. Kicking from the knees results in lots of froth, but little or no rotation.
So the idea in a two-beat kick is to keep your legs stiff as planks, as you swim – recall the sensations you had when you did the leaning and rotating exercises above. As you gain skill, you may be able to let your knees bend very slightly on the downbeats, yielding a bit to water pressure. But we want each leg straight throughout each of its upbeats. When you “kick from the hips” like this and keep your tight line engaged you will be “from head to heel like steel” and should be able to feel the large core muscles driving crisp body rotations (instead of your spindly arms trying to yank your shoulders around from side to side in motions you can only hope look like Jane’s rotations).
Keep up with Jane
Aside from the rotation aspect, there is another reason to keep your legs straight and avoid knee-kicking. As you swim, your upper body and hips slide through an imaginary tube. A straight-leg kick action from the hips is easy to keep inside that tube and inside the mass of water your body has already started moving. Bending the knees on the upbeat, even a little bit, gets your feet well outside that tube and, consequently, well into the oncoming rush of water where the drag is much greater – kinda like puttin’ on the brakes with every kick.
Be like Jane
The posture you assembled, the motions you are going through and the muscles you are using all form a very close approximation of what Jane Swimmer is doing over there in the fast lane. Do those land exercises a bunch at home. Then at the pool, spend a few quality moments in sock feet on the deck before hitting the water to put these new sensations, posture and motions to work in your lane. v
AWP , thanks a lot for posting that article .Great info. This must be a fairly new article because unless I'm mistaken I don't think I've seen it on the H2Ouston swims website before. One thought about this , It does say in that read that you should keep your legs stiff as planks. Terry recommends to keep the legs straight to act as long levers also but to keep them 'toned' at the same time meaning maybe not 'that stiff ' ??? Would like to hear some thoughts on this.
I would say, if the kick comes from the hip and the knee REACTS TO THE WATER, I don't think there will be an increase in drag (from lower leg bend) and lever is full leg as the knee snaps. That seems to give the best of both worlds (low drag and slight propulsion). The key, in my mind, is that the knee bends because the knee moves forward slightly before the foot does during the forward beat (this is what I mean by reacts to the water).
I think it would be really difficult for most swimmers to keep their legs stiff and their movement fluid. I see many beginners that are too mechanical.
I think most swimmers would put too much energy into stiffening their legs if "stiff" was the goal. "Tone", to me, says held with as little energy as possible. It is more economical.
So, with all due respect to Emmett Hines, I have to side with Terry on this one. I do, however, think this is an argument of of words only. I would think that Emmett intends his swimmers to use as little energy as possible to keep the legs stiff.
I think Terry and Emmet are on the same page and it's a "argument of words" as well. Just as Terry uses "tone" to highlight energy savings Emmet probably uses "stiff" to avoid knee bend, possible drag and thus energy waste.
I like tone myself and use this term often, however, I'm thinking for those who are just (starting to) working with 2bk, keeping a stiff leg may help to really feel that ((bracing)) of the 'kicking' leg. Once you've got the rhythm so to speak perhaps you can 'soften' up the leg and add a bit of snap as well; my thinking, 6 or 1/2 doz.
thanks for the nice article on the 2 bt kick.
the idea of "scissoring" an upbeat of one leg at the same time the other leg scissors past it in a downbeat is something i haven't paid a lot of attention to until i saw the article you posted.
i took a look today at the 2bt kick or laure manaudou, then shinji. it appears to me from the underwater videos that these two swimmers are different in this regard.
laure appears to "scissor", while shinji appears to merely relax the leg which is not downbeating.
i am wondering if others feel my observation is accurate, and would like to know thoughts from others, or experince in this regard. i'm going to experiment with rhythmic "scissoring" at my next swim.
Hi don h,
I would say that you are on, with Terry's kick somewhere inbetween.
I've been experimenting with this myself as I look to correct my kick ( and hopefully everything else : )) and found, after many repeat lengths, that the "scissoring" actually begins to 'happen' with a focus and intent on a truly (more) vertical and compact downbeat. With concentration on a "toned" or "stiff" bracing leg, I've felt that after the bracing leg has 'kicked' the other leg has risen seemingly with rotation and spearing. The key was to 'let go' of the non-kicking leg, focus on bracing the just kicked leg into spearing forward ( ie. one leg was slightly higher than the other) then through to the next spear. Making any sense?
After many lengths I began to develop a 'true' 2 beat rhythm. I felt the kick come definitely more from hip drive (felt like I did moderate crunches) and had the granite rearend to prove it afterwards ( well maybe limestone). So taking that into account I feel I was on to something.
I'll try and get it to where I can 'release' tension and feel a more supple whip happening.
i've been to the pool twice since reading the emmett hines article yesterday. i wanted to try out the "scissoring" method for the 2 bt kick. i interpret the article to be saying the "upbeating" leg scissors past the "downbeating" leg, as the downbeating leg kicks down. emmett says, "presto-rock'n'rollo." so do i.
in looking at video of laure manaudou and of shinji on the web, it appears to me that laure does the scissoring type of action, and that shinji appears to more or less relax the leg which is not downbeating. rather than scissoring the leg not downbeating during the downbeat of the other leg, shinji appears to upbeat each leg immediately prior to, and as part of the action of, each "snap" of a downbeat. in the last year and a half or so i have been more or less emulating shinji, or my interpretation or shinji and others who appear to "snap" the downbeating leg.
it took me several lengths of the pool to learn a scissoring action, and not be terribly awkward with it. however, after two sessions i am starting to get the motion much better. without elaborating too much, i am sure that i am getting a lot more from my kick, and am swimming faster with less effort.
i surmise the following:
1. my new, and larger and more unhurried upbeat, is itself a source of forward propulsion, which combines with and may effectively "double" the propulsion created by the leg which is downbeating.
2. because the upbeat is occurring much earlier, and without hurry, in the leg which is preparing to downbeat, the leg is in a stronger, and more consistent, position to perform the downbeat.
3. my rotation is sharper and more energetic, because, as emmett appears to say, not only does the downbeating leg drive the opposite hip down, but the leg which is scissoring and upbeating also drives it down.
am i right?
How to Breathe in Abdominal Work
A question that comes up a lot for people who are learning to pull their abdominals in is, "If I have everything so pulled in, how do I breathe?" The answer is that we usually use a very small amount of our breathing capacity and tend to focus on the front body. In Pilates, we allow the breath to fully expand into the sides and down the back of the body. Doing so provides a lot of breathing room, and helps open and lengthen the back of the body as well.
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