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Old 05-24-2009
Baroche Baroche is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 9


Sorry, in my next post I will talk about insights you are keen to hear. Symmetry will be central to my insights so here is my understanding on the topic:

Asymmetric strokes both “conscious” and “unconscious” are the result of tendencies directly related to the physical incompetency of the muscles and joints on our weaker, less developed side. These tendencies are also manifest in our breathing patterns, where swimmers favour breathing to a particular more comfortable side.

Conscious asymmetry in swimming is a deliberately optimised technique where the swimmer, after assessing relative strengths and weaknesses, adopts different mechanics on their right and left side. This asymmetry has never deterred gifted athletes in their path to Olympic greatness. The Olympic standard, in timed events, requires that to claim gold, the winning athlete need only produce the fastest time in the gold medal race. Competitive swimmers constantly modify their technique, but often efficiency is partially sacrificed for expediency. As my algebra teacher would preach “Given alternative methods exist to the same answer, the right method is the one that first comes to mind” – elegance and efficiency be damned!

Here is a video of Mark Foster. “Who”? I hear you ask! One of the most successful British swimmers of all time, Mark has swam the long course 50m as fast as 21.96 – with an asymmetric stroke, thank you very much (see asymmetry from above camera angle at 0.26s in the video). Notice where his left hand ends up crossed over past a central line drawn through his spine.

Alexander Popov stands out as a swimmer unshackled from the constraints of asymmetry. In a post Popov era, given his success, it is truly difficult to imagine why asymmetric swimmers even still exist. Don’t they watch the tape? Nevertheless, in today’s ultra competitive arena the asymmetric swimmer, if not now completely bared from greatness has become an endangered species.

Unconscious asymmetry on the other hand is deliberate only to the extent it has been ingrained. Practice makes permanent. There is no conscious assessment of strengths and weaknesses, no refinement. A technique is chosen by the mind and body acting in concert to select the path of less resistance. Rather sinister, it can be largely unpredictable, subject to the whim and range of motion dictated by the muscles and joints during a particular swim session! The body simply does what it is most comfortable performing. The result is that the mechanics of the right and left side may or may not be mirrored. To be clear, if one side is more propulsive that the other, your stroke is asymmetrical. Even though your right and left arms trace exactly the same path, if one arm is somewhat more constrained, more tense, more rehearsed then you possess an asymmetric stroke.
Only when you can mirror the your stronger side in both mechanics and propulsion do you approach true symmetry.

Here is a video of a future Olympian showing symmetry in both propulsion and mechanics :-)

I am right handed and my left side is less propulsive than my right. In my next post, I will address some of my insights into how I am addressing the impatient left hand which I also found to be a problem.
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