Thursday, May 1, 2014

Under Water Kick

As a "Sprint Coach" one of my duties is to teach how to maximize speed over shorter distances, but also to teach how to avoid slowing down more than everyone else. One of the easiest ways to drop time in a shorter event (especially in a short course race) is to make sure that you can dolphin kick and streamline well. Of course, many swimmers will tell you that they're reasonably good at it... from my experience, many many Canadian Age Groupers have a lot of room for improvement but do not capitalize on the opportunities to improve. Here is what I have been doing to make it better (and I can confidently say that a group of self proclaimed "non kickers" has improved insurmountably in this area, but still has lots of room for improvement).

Below is a video showing some of my swimmers doing fly kick on their sides. This is a drill intended to balance the fly kick (not too hard on the down beat or the up beat).

For a few seasons now,  I have been trying to implement some ideas brought to me by Ontario Mentor Coach, Dean Boles, years ago. Vertical FLY kick  can help swimmers develop a more effective dolphin kick by trying to tighten the motion and avoid unnecessary motions. The swimmers will kick for 5 seconds with their hands above water, then 5 seconds with their hands in a streamline position, then do 10 seconds of each, then do 15 seconds of each until a minute is up They key is to avoid unnecessary movements (hand flutter, arm swaying, knee bending, having their feet way outside of their body line, etc). The second step to this is to show them what they look like, because many times, they have no idea that they are making these unnecessary movements (or need to see how obvious their cheating is).

Below is a video of the underwater view of this drill. The thing to watch is how much the kick rate should increase when their hands go into a streamline position. By entering a streamline position, they centralize their weight and sinking is much more likely... therefore if they don't kick faster, they need to readjust their body position (wrong) or kick smaller and faster (correct).

What we should be imagining is that they are kicking on a different angle. Imagine that the swimmers' hands are pointed towards the other end of the pool instead of the ceiling. The goal would be to move in that direction. Helping these swimmers understand that they need to kick hard to the ceiling is crucial for this to work properly... and even then, this needs to be practiced. Doing this once will not achieve much.

Lets take a look at the same drill from above water.

Again, we're looking to eliminate unnecessary movement but also proper streamline position and posture (straight up and down). Doing this properly takes a lot of practice, endurance and core strength (it doesn't hurt to be a good kicker to start with). The key is to give as much feedback as possible. This is an uncomfortable drill for swimmers and an awkward position; they likely have no idea whether they are doing it well or not. Showing them what they look like is pretty important.

Thank you, OHPSI and Swim Ontario, for equipping me with some video gear, but this can be done with a vey small budget. I got a "Go Pro" camera super cheap on-line and OHPSI provided me with an iPad. Ubbersense is FREE for iPad users (link above). Set your own up and get busy.