Monday, September 10, 2007

videos: swimming technique (part 2)

so i've found some more swimming technique videos for freestyle stroke--some posted by reader's suggestions (thanks Solon and mirko!), and some found doing random searches on Youtube.

these videos are no particular order, although i do organize these between those that are more focused on showing technique (like in part 1) versus those that present drills meant to improve technique.

the technique ones are:
the first ( is a japanese website containing 3-d animation of technique for various swim strokes. you can select any of the strokes listed in the right-hand column. the second has videos of various Olympic swimmers, and you can select to see videos of any one of them. the third has little commentary (instead it has a slightly annoying soundtrack), but it's useful for additional video footage.

the drill videos are:
some of these have commentary, some simply have soundtrack. but they give you a good basic introduction of the core swim drills frequently used by competitive swimmers to improve their technique.

i should note these drills aren't something to just gloss over in your training. you ignore them at your own peril. it is widely preached (but sometimes little observed) that proper technique is crucial to good swimming, because water is a much denser medium than air, meaning that relative to air it magnifies any flaws in technique and exposes any weaknesses in form.

newbies often recite a number of lines to avoid drills to improve technique:
  • technique is something only for competitive athletes, and that it won't make much of a difference for a non-competitive beginner who "just wants to finish"
  • technique drills don't help improve fitness, which is the main issue for newbies trying to finish a race
  • technique drills are boring, and they look goofy.
this is delusional. worse, it's dangerous.

triathlon isn't a joke. no sport is. you just don't show up on a saturday morning and say you're going to do an Ironman, or an Olympic-distance race, or a sprint. even ignoring the idea of competition, just finishing a race is often hard enough. particularly for newbies. particularly for those with little athletic background.

technique is important. technique is significant. technique is everything.

here's why:
  • proper technique means more efficiency, which means more forward motion with less effort, which means greater output of progress with less input of energy. this means less prospect of exhaustion, less chance of quitting, less likelihood of collapse, and less probability of turning into a manifestation of walking death. incidentally, for swimming, this also means less chance of drowning...kind of a big deal, yeah? especially if you're someone who "just wants to finish"?
  • technique is a fundamental component to fitness. technique minimizes risk of injury, meaning it enables you to train more--with more intensity and more duration. this means it allows you to pursue greater fitness goals.
  • technique may be boring, and they are most definitely goofy. in fact, they make you look like an outright dork. however, in training circles, there is a frequently cited mantra: you sometimes have to learn how to move slow in order to eventually move fast. this means that in order to generate the physical performance you want, you have to begin your training with basic fundamentals...and those fundamentals are taught by such things as drills.
technique drills are meant to ingrain proper form into you neuro-muscular pathways, so that you build muscle memory that allows you to hold movement patterns that are the most efficient and least injury-prone. this muscle memory enables performance with less conscious effort, meaning less mental energy is spent on body mechanics and more is spent on pursuing race goals (competing, or simply finishing).

in all truth, anyone with any experience in sport (not just swimming, and not just triathlon) devotes a percentage of their time on technique. in fact, more advanced athletes actually tend to devote more time on their technique. you'll frequently find them holding workouts with technique drills as the main component. sometimes, you'll even see them incorporating technique drills into every workout, as part of the warm-up, cooldown, or break in a mainset. this often holds regardless of the season--while technique drills are largely viewed as prominent in the off-season, you'll also see them as common elements in the height of in-season.

suffice it to say that technique drills are useful, and if advanced athletes use them, it is worthwhile for newbies to do so as well.

granted, these videos don't replace personal, qualified coaching--and people should always consult good coaching if at all possible. but at least these videos offer some means of helping you visualize technique and technique drills for freestyle. use them well.

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