11/1/06 - 12/1/06

Be a Safer Swimmer - 360swim SaferSwimmer

Nov 26, 2006

Butterfrog Extreme (The Old School Butterfly Stroke)

If you have ever wondered how you can combine butterfly and breaststroke, here is your answer :). This is an old school stroke that used to be popular a long time ago. I would not recommend anyone using this in a competition, however, it has its benefits for learning how to do a proper butterfly stroke or breaststroke kick and most of all can be a great break from the every day monotonous practice.

Butterfly (also called Dolphin) and breaststroke are so called short-axis strokes. They both work from a pivot point in the hips and create an undulating motion forward. The major distinction between the two strokes is the arm recovery. Butterfly recovers above the water as you can see from the video below and breaststroke recovers right at the surface (usually in higher speeds, breaking the surface of the water).

The true butterfly uses an undulating dolphin kick and breaststroke a whip or frog kick as shown below. Rhythm and timing are two of the most challenging aspects of short-axis strokes. A good undulating motion is critical for being efficient with these two strokes. Since these two swimming strokes are quite similar and have a lot in common, it is not as hard to combine them together, however, the result speed of the stroke is very slow, hence butterfrog should not be used in competitions.

Watch carefully how the legs complement the arms in this video.

How about trying it the opposite way? Breaststroke arms and butterfly legs. This is actually a very common breaststroke drill which teaches you a nice body undulation and let's you strengthen your arms, especially if performed with paddles.
Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Nov 11, 2006

Coaches like swimming toys (Swimming gear which improves technique)

Swimming is an amazing sport which has lots of benefits, however, if you have to swim twice everyday (as the top athletes do) it could get quite boring at times and you would need a lot of other distractions to keep motivated.

Apart from getting creative with your swimming workouts and introducing different drills, swimmers can use miscellaneous swimming equipment to spice up their routines and motivate themselves to better swimming performance while also improving swimming technique (I like to call them "coaching toys").

This article will give you a small sample of some of the stuff that is out there, but believe me, the possibilities are endless. Most of the swimming toys have a specific purpose and it usually is to improve your technique for a particular stroke.
Swimmer's Snorkel

Here is the list of equipment that I like to use to keep my swimmers and myself swimming with perfect technique:

- As discussed in previous posts about breathing and freestyle mistakes, the Swimmer's snorkel is a helpful, fun way to teach you the skill of the correct head position and body rotation.

This type of snorkel is nowadays a must have in the equipment repository of every swimmer.

Attach the front snorkel to your forehead, put your face in and just relax while swimming.

The front snorkel is also very good for sculling and head position exercises as you don't have to break your rhythm by lifting your head.

If you are going to buy only one piece of equipment, the front snorkel is probably the best buck for result and enjoyment.

(personal tip: I love the Finis Swimmer's Snorkel, however, beware that some swimmers will not be able to use it from the start as they do not know how to blow water out of the snorkel, so be patient and learn to relax with it. Here is an article to help you with your Swimmer's snorkel breathing technique. Also, some folks have troubles with flip turns while using the snorkel, but this is not too complicated to learn if the right streamline on the push off is present. Just wedge the top of the front snorkel into your streamlined locked arms and voila, it will not wiggle while you are streamlining away. )

Cardio Cap attachment

- To help strengthen your diaphragm below your lungs you can experiment with the Cardio cap.
This little piece of equipment goes on top of the snorkel mentioned above. It is thought to help with lung conditioning by 40%.

The Cardio Cap restricts the intake of oxygen that passes through the snorkel, thus making your diaphragm work harder and more efficient.

If you use the cap couple times per week for one set during your practice, you should feel the results in a few weeks.

(personal tip: If you already have the center mount snorkel, the Cardio cap is a good/cheap way to break out of the monotony of everyday practice and help your lungs at the same time.)

- There exists another slick attachment for the front snorkel. Meet the Dry Top device.

This futuristic looking attachment is actually a wonderful invention for many. There are swimmers who have a psychological fear of inhaling water and this fear stops them from fully enjoying the swimmer's snorkel benfits. With the Dry Top, these individuals can relax and keep their snorkel water free at all times.

(personal tip: If you already have the center mount snorkel, but you keep choking on water, the Dry top is a good/cheap way to keep your snorkel swims smooth and concentration on your technique instead of the water in your lungs.)

Hydro Hip belt
- A very good way to get you rolling during your swims is to use the Hydro Hip.You can easily combine the snorkel and this belt together.

The Hydro Hip belt has two resistant flaps on each side of your body, thus making rotating much tougher than normal.

As a result, your core body muscles are getting stronger and then when you take off the Hydro Hip belt, your body rotates with ease as there is no resistance.

(personal tip: the side fins on the Hydro Hip belt are usually not attached very well, so they tend to slide around. You will need some sort of a padding between the belt and the fin attachment to make the connection tighter).

Tech Toc belt
- Another hip rotation mechanism I will introduce is the Tech Toc belt. 

It works on the following principle. Each time you rotate your hips while swimming a little ball hidden in the top of the tech toc belt hits a side of the mechanism and generates a noise.

If the rotation is not good enough, no sound will happen, thus letting you know that you are not rotating enough.

(personal tip: This Tech Toc belt is nice to try but it is not the best, because it has a lot of drag and the ball gets sometimes stuck, so before you go all crazy buying 10 of these for your team, I'd suggest trying it before buying or try the Hydro Hip above.)

Mono Fin

A few more toys which are helpful in improving your swimming technique are below:

- We all know that swimmers love to feel the speed and the fast movement of the water across their bodies. One way to get yourself accustomed to swimming fast is to use the Mono Fin.

The monofin is usually used for underwater racing or free diving exercises, but for our purposes, it can be a great learning toy for dolphin kick underwater.

It will strengthen your abdominal area and it is fun :).

Furthermore, swimming with the mono fin will let you feel any unnecessary resistance that your body has underwater, so you can then fix it.

(personal tip: be careful though, some mono fins are quite rough on the ankles and can create nasty blisters/bruising, so make sure you know what you are buying before you pull out your wallet. Also, the edges are sometimes quite sharp, so be careful not to slice someone up with it:). If you want to try a different type of fin, why not check out the shinfin™ leg fin)

- One very old piece of equipment is the Pull buoy.

This simple pull buoy toy is inserted in between your legs and it keeps your feet from kicking and elevated so you can concentrate only on the arm movement.

However, be careful to not stop rotating your hips when you swim as this is a common mistake when swimming with a pull boy.

(personal note: this is a must for any swimmer as it helps float the legs up a little, so especially the men with bigger thighs will apperciate it. If you want to make it a bit harder, you can put a strap around your ankles to really have your feet only dragging behind you.)

There you have it. Just a small taste of what equipment is out there. If you are not sure what a particular piece of swimming equipment does, read about it before making a purchase or just simply post a comment below. There is a lot of swimming gear which is not that useful when it comes to improving your technique.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start