"Patient Lead Hand"
My swimming over the last few months has come on a lot with the help of TI, you guys and some patience !!!
There are times (1 length !!) where i have the feeling for an energy efficient stroke since i have incorporated a 2 beat kick, which has greatly reduced the amount of drag in my stroke. However, my problem is that i can not seem to hold my lead arm during recovery. When i turn my head to breath, automatically my lead arms starts to pull back and not anchor.
I know this is happening but i cant seem to put it right. I guess it may have something to do with my head alignment and the amount of roll i do to take in air ???
Your problem is that you are breathing much too late at the wrong point in the stroke. I'll wager that during your breathing, you are probably pulling your head up (clawing) for breath! - What you describe is NOT a balanced position.
There are two things that you need to correct this:
1.) Good balance
2.) Breath on the EXTENSION to air - NOT IN THE PULL PHASE!
(1) First check your overall balance in the water:
Important: I really suggest you do the following using a snorkel or over a short distance (Say 20m) during which you can hold your breath. Forget breathing until you can move effortlessly through the water - WITH NO KICKING!
Press down on your buoy, let go of your head and keep it inline with your spine. Use long rhythmic strokes keeping your arms extended (stroke should be almost a catch up in the front quadrant) with your core muscles driving you forward. Your hips should be riding the surface. When you have good balance you should be able to swim effortlessly using the rhythm of your core without kicking - Your legs will be close to, but beneath the surface. On each stroke try to reach with your lead hand toward the end of the pool - without introducing tension in your arm.
Now for the next bit:
2) You turn your head to air and breath as your lead hand extends:
Remember the extended stroke from above? now try to follow your extended arm to your breath. If you are properly balance you will feel like the water is supporting you. During the breath, you must NOT raise your head, simply turn it to the side as your lead hand extends to the catch. Your catch hand is not yet in the pull phase. After your breath then the pull starts!
This video should help. Just watch what Hackett does (there are some good examples of what happens when you have poor balance)! Notice how balanced Hackett is
Good advice from Baroche. Sometimes an alternative perspective will help you understand what it you're needing to fix.
The center-line snorkel by Finis is a good product to use for developing a balanced stroke. You're probably breathing on your right side which means your left arm has a shorter stroke. (You're unbalanced) The catch-up drill is a great drill to help you achieve a longer stroke on the weak side. Do these drills often until you develop the neuro-muscular coordination to accomplish a proper stroke without thinking about it.
Another great product that I could suggest is using the Tempo Trainer (Finis). Set the tempo to beep every 1.00 seconds. (Adjust as necessary if this is too long or too short) This will teach you to lengthen the short stroke and it will be identical to the other arm.
Together with the snorkel, and completing the drills, you should develop a Long & Strong stroke.
In the absence of buying all the toys, I would suggest doing the catch-up drills. When you come up for a breath of air, keep your head aligned with the rest of your body. Most people have a tendency to look backwards and toward the sky when they breath. Imagine yourself looking as low and as far forward as possible and this should help you maintain that tight body core you need. Your head forms a nice little wave (swell) when it moves through the water. Turn your body only enough to place your breathing lips in the pocket of this swell. Be patient, it takes a long time to break old habit patterns.
I have a similar problem: my right arm makes excellent lead position, can stay extended for a long time, but my left arm would drop quickly. HOWEVER, even though I breath to the right, this problem doesn't seem to be caused by breathing (unless someone could figure out that it actually is caused by it). Here is why I say it's not caused by breathing:
1) Even when I do not breath, the problem is still there.
2) When I breath to the LEFT, the problem is still there: it's still the LEFT arm that drops when extending, and the right arm still makes good lead arm.
Basically, during a length, I gets more propulsions when rolling on my right side. My right side seems to be a much better swimmer than my left side!
Perhaps no one can tell me what's wrong with me, but if someone can even make a guess, please let me know!
The advice given about good balance in the above post is what you need to think about. When your balance is good your arms don't have to be busy clawing down for support .You should feel as if you can keep your arm floating out in front as long as you want with no tension ,fingers loose and hand below elbow.
Off we go!:
Just like a pitcher in baseball, the swimmer must rely on the use of core muscles to power the swim stroke. Execution of a fastball relies on the rotation of core muscles and the passivity of the arm muscles. Similarly in swimming during recovery, every muscle beyond your shoulder needs to be passive! It is this "floppy" passivity of the recovery arm that enables a powerful propulsive stroke on the right side. The ultimate barometer for success in achieving this "Passivity" is the sensation of weightlessness in the lead arm - Terry's "Weightless" arm!
Weightless Arm (What is it?)
After recovery in the glide phase of the TI stroke, with your arm extended streamline out in front of your body, the sensory perception is that your arm does NOT exist beyond your shoulder - This perception heightens the sensation of the catch hand which in turn will feel disconnected from your body - you can't feel your arm of course!
Here are the problems:
(1) For most right-handed swimmers, there is an innate resistance to truly letting the muscles in the left arm become passive.
(2) Over the years we have neglected to develop the core back muscle groups on the left side of our bodies. This makes them weaker and less intuitive when called upon to mirror the efficiency of our right sides.
So...importantly! Have you experienced the "weightless" arm with your right hand? I suspect you might have, because as you say, the right hand seems to say "out there" much longer. This is a key indicator with a relaxed hand it seems as if the lead hand could stay out in front an ETERNITY!
Even if your left arm recovery mirrors the mechanics of your right side (not to be taken for granted), it MUST do so in the same relaxed and intuitive manner as does your right side. The source of the problem you are experiencing is "holding on" not truly letting the left hand become passive. You must allow your powerful core back muscles to uninhibitedly propel a passive left arm forward into the water transitioning into to a relaxed lead left hand glide - again, our barometer here is the "weightless" arm. Then....., just as effortlessly on your right side, turn your head now to the right and follow your lead left arm to through its extension and BREATHE! CATCH! THEN PULL!
This is what I am working on at the moment. I tried the brute force of engaging the muscles in my left arm - it will NOT deliver an effortless stroke (I got hurt in the process)! IF you want an effortless left side recovery that will propel you as powerfully and efficiently as your right side, you MUST take a step back and address the two issues I raised above before proceeding! If you are in agreement with above then we can discuss how to proceed - I have gained some insights into this!
Many thanks Baroche,
Very detailed reply my question ! Today I was in the pool and it seemed as though i was too "deep" in the pool to turn my head efficiently to breath, hence the reaction to "grasp" the air.
I tried what you suggested "stroking without breathing" and it felt good. My lead hand were "patient" on both my right side and left side. Head and spign alignment felt ok, together with my new 2 beat kick.
Then i took this focus point (lead hand) to the stroke to breath and immediatley my lead hand (left) came down into the pull without staying out in front. Sub-consiously i know i have to leave it out in front, but I just cant seem to do it !!!!!!
When I Zenskate, i tend to sink slightly which doesnt help either. When i drill i have to breath in sweet spot because it feels as if i am too low in the water to try "rhythmic" breathing.
I know balance is the key, exactly what your reply suggests. I would be interested in your views on how to correct this !!!!
TI is frustrating but adictive !!!!!!
Patient Lead Hand
I had exactly the same problem you had and although I haven't overcome all of my problems, I pretty much have beaten this one. I agree that balance is the main culprit although just saying that doesn't do anything to cure the problem. Here are the things that I did that helped me out:
1) I "speared" deeper to help my buoyancy. The benefit here cannot be overstated. Watch the Seahiker video on an effective catch and you will see what I mean. Also there is an Israeli video on youtube on SPL in which you will see an Israeli women spear at what appears to be a 30 degree angle while illustrating how to achieve superior stroke length. By spearing deeper, you may correct what I suspect is a tendancy to sink in the back which is causing you move your left hand in order to maintain that level feeling. I know all about this as it was my single greatest problem. Once you feel as though you are keeping level even when you breathe, the need to prematurely move the left lead hand will decrease. Also make sure you are not raising your head to breathe as this will cause that sinking feeling thus making you move the hand.
2) As others have suggested, make sure you are rotating your core to breathe and not your head. My kneck muscles used get sore because I was rotating my head to breathe more than my body. When I rotate my body properly, breathing is not nearly as disruptive and keeping my left lead hand patient is a lot easier.
3) Finally, think about the fact that you are getting nothing out of your left hand because of this. If you can keep your left patient at least until your right hand enters the water as you rotate to that side, then resulting pull/glide will be that much greater. Watch the Israeli women that I mentioned above. Once I started focusing on gliding after rotation, the ablity to hold the left hand in place increased greatly.
Hope this helps.
your hint matches exactly the problem i am suffering from and did not realize it till now!
Baroche, thank you so much for the thorough and insightful analysis--it makes a lot of sense and I think correctly addresses the root of my problem: being right-handedness--I'm glad to know others right-handed swimmers have the same problem. Yes you are so right that my extended right hand feels like it can stay there in eternity! Obviously if my left hand could move the same way then my swim will jump to a new height :D I think the two points you make absolutely hit the root of the problem. I did think somehow the core has to do with it, but your reply and emphasis confirmed it. I'm heading to the pool and will make some try... I am most eager to read the insight you've gained into this issue, my eyes wide open waiting for your follow-up...
Thanks a bunch for taking the time to write such a detailed and most helpful reply. We all know how hard it is to put such thoughts/descriptions in words.
Also I am very glad that you agree the problem is not due to one-side breathing: recognizing this is very important for learning how to correct it.
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