The Swim Smart program at the NL Aquatic Center in Vorhees, NJ, offers its clients stroke analysis sessions using their SwimEx 600 T. Recently, Vince F., a triathlete, endurance events competitor, and one-to-one coach enlisted the services of NLAC’S SwimEx to see where he could improve his triathlon swim training.
Vince F. is a typical self-taught, open water, long distance swimmer used to swim in surf and choppy environments. Before starting the triathlon swim training, SJAC coach and SwimEx evaluator Tyler Santangelo, explained safety procedures and issues he expected to see in Vince’s stroke technique based on Vince’s race and training experience. Vince also offered he had shoulder surgery in 2017 due to rotator cuff problems.
SwimEx evaluation: full body roll during stroke
Upon evaluation in the SwimEx tank, the first issue presented by Coach Santangelo was a lack of full body roll during stroke. Underwater video allowed Santangelo to demonstrate angle inefficiencies from shoulders through torso to hips.
“The body roll is a fundamental of freestyle swimming,” explained Santangelo, showing video to Vince while he remained in the swim tank. “Open water swimmers tend to lack a full roll due to habits developed in choppy surf, but it can really slow you down. A lack of roll does not give the arms a chance for a high recovery, and more importantly, this puts additional stress on your rotator cuffs lining you up for further injury.” Coach Santangelo instructed Vince on how utilize a pull buoy for drills to develop proper feel of body roll with better alignment.
SwimEx evaluation: proper head position
The second issue was offered by Vince prior to entering the SwimEx tank, “I feel like whenever I lift my head to sight a buoy in the distance, I come to a dead stop. It’s a lot of effort to get that speed up again.” Underwater video evaluation in the SwimEx tank revealed Vince was not looking down in the water, but rather looking more ahead just below the water line. Affecting proper head position, this increased drag, but also resulted in Vince’s hips dropping periodically.
“I can imagine how when you sight in the distance, your hips drop even more, and this is what is bringing your speed way down,” observed Coach Santangelo. The swim trial was repeated again with Vince given a specific spot on the SwimEx floor to focus on. The purpose was to concentrate on a specific neck angle when not sighting that would result in keeping his back aligned and hips elevated.
SwimEx evaluation: kicking from the knees
The third issue presented during SwimEx video revealed Vince kicking from his knees and not from his hip.
“This is really common in triathletes,” explained Coach Santangelo. “Running and cycling require power developed from the knee, so it is only natural that the same habit of movement gets pulled into swimming, but it contributes to sinking hips and creates additional drag.”
In addition, it was pointed out that kicking from the knee results in a lack of pointing of the toes (plantar flexion) further increasing drag and actually pushing water forwards as one kicks – essentially fighting everything else one is doing to push water behind them. Coach Santangelo provided Vince with a series of dry land exercises and stretches to increase hip strength and plantar flexion.
SwimEx success: 22% speed increase
After completion of the SwimEx evaluation, discussion of primary issues in technique, and coaching to improve stroke technique, Vince was asked to complete one more trial before getting out of the tank focusing on the improvements suggested by Coach Santangelo. The results were a 22% increase in speed without feeling additional exertion
“I was stunned at the difference,” remarked Vince. “I measure my swims in miles and with the evaluation by SwimEx and the drills provided, I know I can improve my times, and more importantly what I share with others. I highly recommend this to anyone from the beginner swimmer to the expert.” Of note, SJAC head coach Pete Holcroft will be joining Tyler Santangelo as part of the NLAC SwimEx Evaluation Team.
For more information about the Swim Smart program at the NL Aquatic Center, visit Swim Smart – NL Aquatics Pro Shop.
~ Authored by Kristine Chochrek