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  #1  
Old 02-09-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Default Backstroke progress

Things have been very quiet over here in the backstroke lane. Sometimes I wonder if anybody else swims this lovely stroke, but of course I know they do. Perhaps they have solved all the problems and just race or loaf along as the fancy takes them.

Until "I saw the light" and became a TI type I hardly swam backstroke, in fact I was more or less of the opinion that I couldn't really do it. Naturally I could float on my back and swim a couple of strokes of a really poor back crawl and sometimes a couple of strokes of the old two arm style with breast stroke kick that I had seen done in my youth, but since I couldn't flutter kick worth a damn and had rather inflexible shoulders, or so I thought, I felt that there was no point in trying to swim backstroke in its back crawl form.

When I discovered that it was in fact possible to swim front crawl and even move very slowly using a flutter kick I began to reconsider my evaluation of the difficulty of swimming backstroke and in due course actually entered a race in a masters meet - a 25m race, which they sometimes have as a sort of novelty. They are actually very popular but they will never become widespread because otherwise the meets would go on much too long and nobody would ever get a chance to swim a 200 or 400.


Encouraged by the fact that I managed to finish, albeit in a very slow time that would be semi-respectable for a 50m, I next entered a 50m and then a 100m. At one of the meets I went to a very good backstroker who swims with the old two-arm style encouraged me to try it and to my surprise I found I was considerably faster with the old-fashioned stroke than with the new, and thought I might specialize in it completely. But somehow I liked the feeling of the back crawl and kept on doing it in practice and gradually began to come a bit closer to my two-arm times.

Then, about a year ago, I decided that I would endeavor to swim all my backstroke events with back crawl and see how I progressed. At first my times were extremely slow but gradually they began to improve and now I don't think there is a huge difference, although I may be wrong. A serious time trial might be in order.

At the meets I attend I always pay close attention to the backstrokers as they are warming up and take great pleasure in watching the swimmers with good strokes cruising up and down, with first one shoulder and half upper body emerging from the water and then the other. I then try to reproduce this rhythmic graceful stroke in the home pool.

Recently I bought a pair of finger paddles, which are supposed to develop feel for the water and so far have used them almost exclusively for backstroke. I have found them beneficial and in the short time I have had them my stroke count for a 25m length without the paddles has come down from about 30 strokes to below 20, but of course each length is much slower and a large portion of the time is spent gliding and kicking. The acid test will be when I try to add a bit of speed. Will the magical reduction in stroke length vanish into thin air?

I will report back
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Old 02-09-2011
daveblt daveblt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richardsk View Post

Recently I bought a pair of finger paddles, which are supposed to develop feel for the water and so far have used them almost exclusively for backstroke. I have found them beneficial and in the short time I have had them my stroke count for a 25m length without the paddles has come down from about 30 strokes to below 20, but of course each length is much slower and a large portion of the time is spent gliding and kicking. The acid test will be when I try to add a bit of speed. Will the magical reduction in stroke length vanish into thin air?

I will report back





The finger paddles are developing a feel for the water when you have them on but how about when take them off ? Have you tried to get a feel for the water by swimming with a closed fist first or using fistgloves first and then taking them off ?


Dave
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Old 02-09-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Hi Dave

The feeling with paddles and without is very similar. My approach is to swim a few lengths with paddles and then do the same thing without. I was surprised at the result, I have to say, but it definitely works.

When I used fist gloves I didn't like them at all. With fists I found that the feeling was not very different but the result was (slower with more strokes per length with the fists). I did not notice any great enhancement of feel with the gloves but perhaps I gave up too soon.

I will try the fists again, and who knows I may even try the gloves. I still have a pair somewhere.

These paddles are quite small and do not extend much beyond the area of the hand. They are not intended to build strength or to provide speed, I gather, but to develop a correct stroke. I have not tried them with breaststroke yet and have made only a brief attempt with freestyle. It is pretty inconvenient to keep taking them off to adjust goggles and so on, but perhaps it's worth it.


I now need a magic gadget to improve my kick but perhaps just swimming lots of backstroke will do the job to some extent.
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Old 02-13-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Hello

A sot of progress report:

Today I swam a lot of backstroke - about 600m, most of it slow easy stuff aiming for rotation from side to side, lifting recovering shoulder out of the water, waiting for the catch until the hand is moderately deep and lifting the hand out at the hip with a slight pause before starting the pull/push with the other hand/arm. The first 400 was all with bare hands - no paddles, no fists. Strokes per length were in the 18 to 25 range, low for me.

Then I tried a 100m with fists. Much slower - about ten seconds per 25m length but number of strokes about the same, in 22 to 24 range.

Finished off with another 100m with bare hands. Quite a bit faster and obviously felt better too.

Will try this again, perhaps with some lengths with paddles and some one-arm backstroke.

I suppose it must be good for my kick, too.
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Old 02-17-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Glad you've seen fit to mark and share your progress Richard, and in the interest of keeping you company I'll do the same here.
I've been posting any sets I've done with regard to the 'other' strokes on the "Favorite Practices" conference but may spread them over their respective conferences for any interest.
My most recent backstroke practice brought to light some interesting aspects of the stroke for me and possibly a bit of insight into how I can create future sets for improvement.
I intended to begin a predominantly freestyle practice with a backstroke warm up but after the initial repeats felt 'right' and an urge to continue with backstroke.
"Some aspects":
I intended to warm up while cycling through the 'three mother sauces' of swimming as a beginning; balance, streamlining and propulsion (BSP). In doing so I found that I was maybe rotating too much in an effort to position myself for what I felt would be an optimal one for a good catch. However, by subsequently following with a streamline focus found that I needed only to rotate "just enough", just enough to get the opposite shoulder above the surface, just enough to submerge the entry arm leaving it rather 'shallow' instead. What I felt more crucial was the rotation of my hips which is what really powered me and enabled me to stay with a long stroke. Too much shoulder rotation and not enough hip and I would flounder, more hip meant a smoother ride which led to everything else feeling better ie. Recovery, kick, timing.
Another aspect was head position, and finding that in fact a steady and well aligned head made a difference in overall comfort. I'm sure many fight that urge to look back while some may find comfort in looking 'directly' above. Those didn't work for me and it took a concerted effort to find my comfort there. By concentrating on a sort of tunnel of vision just in front of my face, which kind of blurred my vision but allowed me to see my recovering hands pass by on either side of that tunnel. I would even close my eyes for "blinks" of time and when I would open them found my self looking somewhere between straight above and directly back. This felt right and took a heck of a lot of concentration to feel consistent and truly comfortable.
Now, the most exciting small portion of the session was when I decided to use the Tempo Trainer (TT). My plan, since my TT is stuck on 1.0, was to put myself out of my comfort zone, use the 1.0 setting after several repeats for a couple of lengths and then repeat the previous repeats of swim golf and see what happened. Before I did this I thought I would manage every other beep for each hand hit but found this too confusing and so decided to go for it @ 1.0.
I didn't think I'd be able to do it but did manage by concentrating on my hips and kicking and by completely releasing my arms on recovery, whipping them back, trying to enter as quietly as was possible. The better I got at it the more strokes I managed to take away, however by the fourth length I did sense I was just a wink behind in tempo.
Why do this? Well I've never been able to break out of my usual stroke rate and felt that being 'guided' by a much higher rate would help me figure it out. And although not a complete success, I did manage on the subsequent repeats without the TT to not only break my stagnant time per 25yds (:24vs:27) consistently, but also do with much fewer strokes; down to 12spl! I now need to translate that into my 50s. This part of the practice left a smile on my face for the rest of the session and feeling good leaving the pool because I knew I 'cracked' the surface into my backstroke swimming.
The down side is that I've been away from the pool for almost a week and hope that I can rekindle this practice with even more insight. I've fallen behind in my posts of practices and will try to post this practice under the "Favorite Practices" conference, but did make up for it with this 'small book' I've presented : )

Best,
Alan
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Old 02-17-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Ames,
Great timing and thanks for sharing your video. I'm beginning to think I have 'karma' with the Forum as two questions were answered almost simultaneously as I thought them, 1.) "I wonder if Terry revisited his high volume 50s practice (looking for some insight) and 2.) "I wonder when someone will post video of their other strokes?"
Great!
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