Swim Smooth DVD review: Clean Up Your Stroke (Practicing one thing at a time)

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Nov 24, 2011

Swim Smooth DVD review: Clean Up Your Stroke (Practicing one thing at a time)

Swimator Blog November 24, 2011 Final rating: 5/5

The Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set is not your usual learn to swim program on DVDs. It is more of a series of short hints and tips addressing a few important aspects of an efficient freestyle stroke. The DVD is split up into a few logical sections: Breathing, Head Position, Leg Kick, Body Roll, Recovery, Hand Entry, Catch and Pull, Visualization. Paul Newsome, an accredited level II triathlon coach who coaches triathletes in Western Australia, will breakdown each of the parts of the Freestyle stroke into a few drills, so you can concentrate on one part at a time and don't get all tangled up with trying to swim the full stroke whilst also trying to fix a problem.
Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set

Breathing - Get the oxygen in

Breathing is the essence of any sport's activity and swimming is not any different. Actually, a good breathing technique in swimming is even more crucial than anywhere else since we are a bit tied to a certain rhythm and cannot take a breath whenever we want. The first part of the Clean Up Your Stroke DVD explains the importance of bubbles and the usefulness of bilateral breathing as well as shows you some drills to make your breathing a bliss. If you want to know what bubble bubble breath stands for or what a very useful isometric exercise is, just get Swim Smooth's DVD set and you will find out :).

Head Position - Say no to neck pains

Your head position is one of the key factors which determines how efficiently your body moves through the water, so it is very pertinent to get this right. Paul describes the pros and cons of the two schools of thought regarding your head position in the water. The old school, water at your hair line vs. the new school with eyes at the bottom of the pool and water going over your head. Which one is better for you? I am a fan of the new school of thought, so if you are starting out your learn to swim endeavor, this is the way to go. Once you become more advanced and go into open water or triathlons, then it is time to play around with your head position, depending on the water conditions and your body floating ability.

Leg Kick - Turn on the motors

Strong legs is one of the key spices which make your swimming delicious. Without a good kick, you can forget it. Even though you should not kick very fast at all times when you swim, your entire learning to swim career revolves around drills which require a good kick for a good balance of your body. In the Leg Kick section, Paul discusses the proper way to streamline (or torpedo as they call it down under) and the drills that can help you with keeping your body in an arrow like body shape for as long as possible. He also shows you the right way to kick with a very simple yet effective drill as well as explains when you should utilize fins in your workouts to maximize their purpose for kick improvement.

Paul Newsome working with his swimmers

Body Roll - Rollin', rollin', rollin'

The importance of body roll was discussed on Swimator Blog many times and it is a key concept in swimming. Without a proper body roll, you will struggle to breath, you might suffer from shoulder injuries and you will also never reach your full potential in your swimming. Paul shows you an unarguable fact which proves that rolling your body is better than swimming flat. Then he explains and performs a few effective drills which will help you get the right balance and body roll in the water. For example, the 616 or 323 freestyle drill which helps you with improving your body roll and subsequently with bilateral breathing.

Recovery - Relax and enjoy

Recovery is the motion your arm/hand performs out of the water. This is what most of us see when we watch a swimmer in the pool or in the Olympics. However, instead of just an aesthetic part of the stroke, the way a swimmer performs arm recovery determines how effective the swimmer's stroke can be under the water. In the Recovery section of the DVD, you will be introduced to Alexander Popov drill which made the Russian swimming tsar the elegantly graceful swimmer he was. Paul will also show you the difference between high elbow and straight arm recovery and how they affect your stroke.

Hand Entry - Don't over think it

How you enter your hand into the water usually determines how well you can grab onto water and push yourself through the water at the later part of the stroke. Fingers first, flat hand, crossing over or thumb first? Those are just a few concepts Paul addresses in the Swim Smooth's DVD section called Hand Entry. Furthermore, if you suffer from shoulder impingement, perhaps Paul's Spearfish drill for hand entry practice could just be the thing to get you rid of the pain.

Paul Newsome explaining the importance of a high catch

Catch and Pull - Go forward

"To S pull shape or not to S pull shape, that is the question :)". If you ever wondered, how your hand/arm should move through the water during freestyle, wonder no more. Don't be stuck in the 80's, forget about S pull shape. Pull straight through and maximize your swimming force. In the Catch and Pull part of the DVD, Paul Newsome explains why the S pull shape is an old school thought and why it is inefficient. He then goes on to explain what sculling is and how mixing cold and warm water in your bath tub could actually be an important motion in learning the under water pullthrough in swimming (btw, this is one of the best analogies to explain a concept in swimming I have heard in a long time). Finally, Paul talks about the time and place for using paddles and pullbuoys, which goes hand in hand with what I am preaching on the Swimator Blog, trying to get all the triathletes to start swimming smarter and not just following what they see in other inexperienced triathletes.

Visualization - Smooth swimming is priceless

Some of us like to learn by reading, some by listening, some by watching. We all are different, however, no matter what your learning style, if you combine two or three of these learning styles together, you will be more likely to succeed. In swimming or any sports, seeing someone perform the particular motion and trying to mimic this motion is priceless. In the last Visualization section of the DVD, Bill Kirby, a 2000 Sydney Olympic gold medalist from an Australian relay team will swim for you for a few minutes, so you can visualize his lean and smooth stroke next time you are in the pool. Give it a shot, it could just do wonders for you.

swim smooth's DVD BOXSET - everything you need to improve your swimming out of sight!
Clean up your Freestyle stroke

Bonus, who does not like bonus?

There are a few extras included as a bonus in the DVD. You can learn how to improve your stroke rate with the revolutionary Metronome device, how to write your own swimming workouts, what is the equipment that should definitely be part of your swim gear bag and more. An important Open Water Skills section is also included. It is loaded with tips on wetsuit purchases and specific open water swimming drills. Even though swimming is done in the water, to be a good and healthy swimmer, you need to have some core strength and good flexibility. In the last extra section, Paul will guide you through some important stretches to improve flexibility and some dryland exercises to help you gain the right swimming muscles strength. The third and last DVD included in the package contains a full 8 week program for you, so you have some initial guidance in and out of the pool to get you started on your way to perfect freestyle stroke.

Finally, if you really want to see Paul Newsome in his sexy blue swim suit :), you should definitely get his DVD set. If this does not entice you, how about a great English and Australian accent guiding you through your swimming stroke correction drills :). If you are still unsure, perhaps you'd like to read about the techniques in his new book Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers and Triathletes .


Summary: Pros and Cons

So, there you have it. The Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set is a very nice resource for swimmers who are looking to improve their freestyle stroke or just overall swimming fitness. All the different sections have nice guidance from Paul as well as a few example swimmers in the water with a commentary and text to explain what you should be focusing on and what you should avoid. Each section also has some examples of how not to do it, which in my opinion is priceless comparison for the visual learners out there. In a way, listening to Paul is like having a coach on the pool deck tell you exactly what you should be doing.

I'd say that the Clean Up Your Stroke DVD is targeted towards swimmers who have already acquired some basic skills and are now looking to make their swimming more efficient and streamlined. The breakdown of the DVD into meaningful parts of the freestyle stroke brings a quite logical view of what an improving swimmer should focus on. I would not recommend this DVD to true novice swimmers who are just getting accustomed to the feeling of their bodies in the water as the concepts, yet not advanced, are a bit tough to apply to your swimming if you struggle with some basic body and head positions. I'd mainly recommend this DVD to all the folks who can already swim up and down the pool a little and are feeling frustrated that they are not really improving anymore or just don't know where to go next with their improvements.


Remember, focus on one thing at a time and if you start feeling like all is going to hell, then stop, refocus and try again. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.

Final rating: 5/5

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