11/1/05 - 12/1/05

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Nov 26, 2005

How to improve your kicking? (Freestyle Kick Drills)

In this post, I will discuss a few tips and tricks on how to improve your kick or how to make kicking more fun.

Let's start with the basics.
a.) Kicking without keybboard (kickboard :) thanks @4th Dwarf) is a must for majority of the kicking exercises. Advantages include: working on stabilizing body (your core), improving balance, easier on the shoulders and much more. If you have to use a kickboard, cut it in half, so it is small and makes you work. Finally, if kicking with kickboards - do flipturns with both of the arms staying on the kickboard. This will help you with your stomach and keeps you focused.

b.) Keep in mind that kicking on your back is much better for you due to the fact that you exercise the other side (back side) of the leg which equalizes the leg muscles (since most of your swimming is on your front).

c.) When using fins, it is best to use zoomers. If you do not have money for zoomers, simply cut off the tips of your fins to make a pair. :)

Here are some helpful drills:

1. Wall kicking. Start kicking holding the wall. Kick 15 sec easy, 15 sec sprint and then push off right away and swim 6-beat kick free to the other side where you will grab the wall and continue kicking. So if you decide to do 20x25 of this, you will never stop kicking, until you get done with all the 25s. Feel free to change the interval sprint/easy kicks as you wish.

2. Whistle kicking. This exercise requires a kickboard. Select a good distance, for example 500 meters and then have your coach blow the whistle every so often to let you know that you should start sprinting, when he/she blows again, you may slow down, but continue with kicking. Or you can select a time interval like 30 minutes and see how far you can get during this time.

3. Shoe kicks. Get yourself a pair of old tennis shoes. Do 6x50 with a kickboard and tennis shoes on. Pick a slower interval, because this is not easy, but this kicking exercise strengthens your legs and breaks up the kicking monotony very well.

4. Stretch cord kicks. Get a short stretch cord, attach it to the block and have a set of explosive kicks off the wall. E.g. 5x (30 sec sprint+30 sec rest).

5. Breaststroke on your back. Arms are in the streamline position, you are laying on your back and perform powerful breast kicks. The most important part is to keep flat on the water with your head back and your knees underwater at all times. Heels of your feet should almost touch your buttocks.

6. Vertical kicking. There are many variations of this excercise.
  a.) Sprint - Do short intervals of fly kicks as fast as you can and count how many you have done. Try to increase the number of kicks each time.
  b.) Longer distance - You can kick with your arm in the streamline, on your head, at your side or by you body. Make sure to keep nice and straight posture + your head out of the water.
  c.) Fun weights - To make this more challenging, you can hold a bucket with water above your head. To make it even more fun, you can split your swimmers into groups of 2 or 3 and give them waterproof medicine balls to throw to each other.
  d.) Push offs - Lastly, if you feel creative, you may have the swimmers push of the bottom as high as possible in streamline while kicking fly and not let the body fall deep back underwater.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have more kicking sets you'd like to share with us. Happy kicking.

Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Nov 13, 2005

Learn to Control your Breathing (Drills to improve your lung capacity in swimming)

It is not a secret that a swimmer has one of the best lung capacities from all athletes or at least should have. :) . Here are a few ways how you can improve your breath holding ability during every day practice.

1. Lungbuster - exhale all your air and when no air is in your lungs, push off the wall and either sprint fly or free for a 25 or sprint fly kick underwater while in streamline with maximal speed of undulation.

2. Good ol' underwater swims - 40x25m underwater on 40 etc.

3. Hypoxic swimming - do a set of your chosen distances (3x400 or more) and vary your breathing by 50s or 100s as follows. 1x50 breath every 3, 1x50 every 5, 1x50 every 7, 1x50 every 9 and repeat all over again.

4. Fast fly kicks on your back - do a set of sprint fly kicks in the streamline, head alined with eyes looking up (not behind you), fast undulations coming from the bottom of your ribcage. Why on your back? Answer: To even out your kicking muscles due to the fact that majority kicks are on your front and also, because it is harder to keep the air in. If you can't keep the air in and it is escaping through the nose, use a nose plug (don't be afraid - top athletes do it). That is the last thing you need, air bubbles coming out of your nose.

5. Underwater turns - pick a favorite distance (not below 300) and have a set where you swim from inside the flags-to the wall-to the flags underwater, so only the section in the middle of the pool between the flags is above the water, the rest below.

6. Front snorkel - one of a great ways to work harder in the water is to limit your oxygen intake. Front snorkel is a wonderful tool which will do just that and it will help you with your head and body position. The frontside snorkel is also used for training your proper head position. Even David Marsh, a head coach at the Auburn University in Alabama, is fond of this simple tool and describes its use in his DVD set The Auburn Way .

7. Not taking breaths into the turns and off the turns. This practice is perfect for training to help you get out of it as much as you can. Take one stroke into the turn and one stroke out of the turn without breathing.

8. Breathless relays - Sprint fly or free as a relay, however, without breathing. If you are not skilled in non-breathing swimming, start with 25's, if you are more advanced I'd do 50's to make it more challenging. There is a catch though. If a person takes a breath during their part of the swim, the relay is penalized by one more swim or by time or any other penalty you can think of to make it interesting.

As Richard Quick, former Stanford's Women's Swimming Coach, mentions in his Championship Winning Swimming Videos, underwater swimming is a 5th stroke and up to 60% of your races can be swam underwater. So here you have it.

One last note, remember that when racing, it is not good to go into an oxygen debt, that is why you'd want to incorporate some of these excercises into your training. And also keep in mind that while in competition, if you have a perfect stroke and body/head position, you can take as many breaths as you want without impacting your speed (there is nothing wrong with that). You will swim faster with more oxygen.

For helping your breathing, you can use Power Breathe (just 2 times 30 breathes a day and you'll see a difference within a week).

Feel free to leave a comment if you know of any other interesting ways to help your lungs get fit.
Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start