Good Balance vs Bad Balance

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When you first learn a new skill it’s easy to think of it as all or nothing. Can or can’t.

I get this feeling because I’m not totally aware when I’m starting to grasp a concept but haven’t quite gotten there yet. I only seem to have those really impactful moments when I’m struggling to understand a concept, and when I’ve gotten the hang of it.

This makes learning things that don’t come natural to me, like running, seem much harder than they actually are. And if I get stuck mentally in the “can’t” part of things, it can hinder my progress.

But what’s important to keep in mind is that there is an in-between. A grey area. It’s not all black and white.

Which is great in terms of making progress. But not so great in terms of proper technique and injury prevention in swimming. “Kind of” getting something can often turn into thinking you’ve learned a new skill the right way. Instead, the wrong way now feels like it is right.

In that same vein, I wanted to go over the differences between “good balance” and “bad balance”. And try to clear up a few questions people have been having lately.

When we talk about “good balance”, we mean using the rotation of your hips, the upper fulcrum of your arm (from your elbow to your armpit), and your kick to keep you balanced in the water.

Whereas “bad balance” refers to using your entire arm, allowing your core to protract, and splaying your legs wide to keep your balance in the water.

Now let’s take those pieces and try to move them out of the grey area of bad balance and into the area of good balance.

To properly balance with your arm, you want to put the weight into the upper fulcrum of your arm. To do this you want to shrug your shoulder up in order to start your catch. This upper fulcrum will support your body, keep you balanced, and allow you to create your paddle with your hand and forearm more easily than when you use your entire arm to balance.

Keeping your spine in line – from the base of your head down to your pelvis – during rotation and breathing allows you to maintain proper streamline position. The problem this poses is that staying in this proper position is giving you a smaller surface area to balance on. This makes it hard. But necessary for efficient swimming. Try not to use your mid/lower back to help your arms exit the water. Doing so is one of the causes of letting your spine protract outside of just searching for easier balance.

Allowing your legs to splay apart during your kick provides a broader area in which to balance. This comes more easily than staying small and compact. However, kicking this way causes a lot of drag and expends much more energy than is needed. Let the weight of your up kick be the part that assists your rotation, not pressing down against the water to generate leverage.

These might seem like big changes to make. But these are the small differences that separate these movements from bad to good.

Take it one step at a time. Focus on one aspect at a time to work on, not everything all at once. Changing even just one of these things will improve your economy of movement and lead to a more efficient stroke.

Lissa Henderson,  Tri Swim Coach