by Chris Hague
Superman would have been a great swimmer and not because he was faster than a speeding bullet, had a six pack abs, and wears a really nice speed suit (most likely made by De Soto). All of that aside, he would have been a great swimmer because he takes a wide approach to his “stroke.” If you look at him when he flies, his arms never cross over his center of axis and forms a straight line between his wrist, elbow, and shoulder. But how does this apply to swimming?
I have a budding triathlete on my triathlon team who had a huge problem with crossing her hand over her center axis—the kryptonite of swimmers everywhere. Consequently, when she took a stroke her feet would swing back and forth as if she had a fin. Moreover, she would swim in a zig-zag line down the lane crashing into lane lines and other swimmers. Perplexed as to why she could not swim straight, she asked me to look at her stroke. I immediately recognized the problem and told her that she should widen her stroke.
“Really? But wont that make me not streamlined and hydrodynamic?” she replied.
“Try placing your hand where you think would be to wide, and see what happens,” I answered.
She then swam a hundred without crashing once; her body straightened out and she no longer wiggled back and forth. “Wow that felt so awkward!” she said when she finished. “But I am so much faster.”
It seems like our idealization of being streamlined in the water has driven swimmers to avoid being “too wide” altogether and has actually created more problems than having too wide of a stroke.
Being streamlined in the water is great when pushing off the wall, but when it comes to swimming, forget about it! You do not need and in fact should not aim to go streamline during the pull phase. If you try to get this narrow, then you run the risk of crossing over. If you think you are going too wide chances are you are placing your hand where it should be.
If you find yourself crossing over, abandon your fear of going too wide, and try this Superman drill:
1. Place your arms out in front of you as if you were flying like Superman. Your wrist, elbows, and shoulders should be in a straight line. It is alright if your writs are slightly wider than your shoulders BUT they should NOT be narrow.
2. Now kick (without fins). This drill will also help with body position. If you feel like your legs are dragging, then try pushing your hips down and your legs up.
3. Breathe as if you were swimming normally and to the sides. Do not lift your head straight out of the water or look forward. Instead focus on keeping one goggle in the water.
4. After doing 25-50 meters like this add in one stroke for every 3 kicks.
5. After another 25-50 meters, add it 3 stokes for every 6 kicks.
6. Finish with a final 25-50 normal swim focusing on “going wide”.
With this drill, you may not be able to save Lois Lane, but you can save your stroke.