View Full Version : Technical Discussion Thread

Rain Man
September 27th, 2002, 11:38 AM
Whether or not one is a proponent or opponent of TI, I've started this thread for discussion of technique related questions and ideas. Maybe in futility :rolleyes: but who knows.

I may be somewhat starting to shift to a TI-neutral stance. Being involved in the discussions has led me to do more learning and research. But anyway, I'll even abide up front to a no bickering rule.

The first issue I wanted was to discuss the breaststroke pullout since Mattson brought that piece of research to my attention. Qualified opinions please :D


September 27th, 2002, 12:45 PM
Hey RainMan, I was all set to start a new thread, since the last one is so bloated, only to find that you already did that. Well, I've heard that great minds think alike. :D

Sorry not to talk about the breaststroke pullout, but there is something else I have to get off my chest...

3) Technique is the only area that real gains have been made, mostly with ideas like core body use, head alignment, balance, better under standing of using streamlining.

There was also a real gain about how best to propel yourself through the water. I think this point is being missed by a lot of people.

I'm sure there are other books that also cover this, but I suggest Colwin's "Swimming in the 21st Century" if you are interested in the details and the science behind more efficient swimming. I'll try to summarize some of the key points (but I am sure this will be an oversimplification).

The reason is that one pulls the body in the water by pushing the hand backward, while the hand is in the water.
Thus, pulling is by pushing water back.
I see any competitor's hand pushing water when the hand travels from being in front, past the hips, then out of the water.

This was conventional thinking back in the 80s, and which I'm sure some (many?) people still subscribe to. The obvious implication is that you will go faster if you push on the water harder, or increase your stroke rate. While this does work, the important change in thinking is that there is a *much* better way of powering yourself through the water.

There are three problems with the old thinking. (1) Study after study showed that stroke rate was uncorrelated with speed. (This is *not* saying that a single swimmer would have a higher or lower SR than another. This is saying that while elite swimmers are a lot faster than average swimmers, SR is not causing the difference.) (2) Studies (like the summary of Toussaint's thesis on "Mechanics and Energetics of Swimming" that I found on the web, comparing competitive swimmers and triathletes) show that elite swimmers can swim much faster than less skilled swimmers, using the same amount of energy and SR. They are going faster with less of their energy being used to "push water". (3) Photographs have been taken of elite swimmers compared to ordinary swimmers, keeping track of where the hand enters and exits the water. (This is done from the side of the pool, not from the perspective of the moving swimmer.) The ordinary swimmer pulls their hand out of the water behind where it went in. Elite swimmers pull their hand out in the same place (or ahead of) where it went in. So elite swimmers have some way of "anchoring" their hands in the water so they don't slip, rather than just pushing water back.

From comments on the forums, people mention that Olympic swimmers are taller, stronger, have a more streamlined body shape, etc. But they are missing the fact that Olympians are also swimming a different way than the average swimmer. This last point can be changed, and will result in increased speed for the non-elite swimmer.

Colwin mentions propeller theory, which states that it is better to accelerate a large mass of water slowly than it is to accelerate a small amount of water quickly. Water flows under pressure. If you push too hard/fast on the water, more of your energy goes into moving the water in random directions (turbulence). If you can catch a large amount of water, and get most of it moving in the same direction, you will generate more thrust.

Over in the TI discussions, the example of the 50 free keeps coming up. Over that short of a distance, Olympians are giving up some efficiency to get that little extra speed. While they are "pushing water" more than they would in the 100 free, they are still doing it less than the average swimmer does (at any speed or distance). Even in the 50, Olympians are more efficient.

So for new TI people, the point is NOT that a slower stroke rate (by itself) will make you faster. You only slow down your stoke to learn how to exert force on a larger mass of water. Stroke length gives you a measure of how well you are doing. You then try to minimize your efficiency loss as you move to faster stroke frequency. (If someone else is teaching this style of swimming on a popular level, other than TI/TI-proponents, they should point it out to me, so I can stop giving free TI advertising. :D )

Phil Arcuni
September 27th, 2002, 10:43 PM
I read an article on breastroke pull out a year or two ago when I started swimming again. I think it was the one mentioned on this thread and it was very interesting. Here is my summary, as I remember it. Please correct me if I am stating it wrong:

Coming off the wall, one should not slow down so much during the pullout that your speed is less than your swimming speed. Ideally, your pullout should be such that you maintain a high speed (at least as great as your swimming speed) the entire time. Many swimmers slow down too much, both before and after the arm pull, and after the kick, but particularly, for this article, before the pull.

This slow down occured for most of a set of very good breastrokers. When trained to start the pull sooner after the push off their turn times decreased. Most interestingly, most of the swimmers felt that they were pulling 'too early', before they felt that they had slowed sufficiently.

So my questions are, how is a swimmier to know, without fancy scientific instruments, when to start the pull? How soon after the pull should the kick occur, and how long should the subsequent glide be? Is it obvious that a long pull out is a good thing, and how do swimmers tell? (I do a long underwater off of backstroke turns, but it seems to me, with vigorous small dolphin kicks, to be much more strenuous than a long breastroke pullout.) Finally, I suspect that most coaches teach a pullout that starts too late, and how will they be educated differently?

September 28th, 2002, 12:00 AM
Phil, a great topic to which I am well qualified on. I teach perhaps 4 -5 different underwater styles, because everyone in breaststroke is different. But there are common areas that always apply. First, the further you get out, through the air on the start, the better you will be. Also being underwater is faster than being on top of the surface.

This is simple (not so simple) physics, Air has little resistance, (form resistance ) body square area is basically squared with increase in speed. Wave friction (at the surface is cubed) while underwater resistance is squared. Using this, Breaststrokers usually go very high and very far out to maximize the distance with the smallest resistance (air), and then maximizes the distance with the next smallest resistance, the underwater portion.
Swimming not underwater-
Now the greatest resistance is at the waters surface, which is why very slim swimmers can sometimes beat very muscled breaststrokers. So as a coach I want to maximize the part of the stoke that is after the kick and allows the head to be underwater. I also want the breaststroker to minimize their frontal area both diring the underwater strokes and during each stroke. This can be done by the two hunch method, the first to narrow the body profile after the arm scull (no PULL in breast) and this allows the body to get underwater quickly to maximize the time with the arms streamlined and the head is underwater.

Getting back to the underwater strokes, swimmers and coaches must always work on their streamlines. The modern streamline is worth one to three yards for free!! And this works for all strokes, so everyone should work on it every practice. My article at http://www.breaststroke.info called "Stretching my way to a National Championship" applies to very sinle swimmer.

Next the coach and swimmer must review what works for each breaststroker. For instance I can push off the wall and go 11 yards faster than anyone I know. But my underwater stroke is not as good as others I know. I ofter get flyers to beat breaststrokers on their underwaters because they can generate great speed on the underwater pull portion.

We used to coach to stay at one depth before coming up, and much has been written on how deep to stay. Briefly is there is any water disturbance you are causing extra resistance. Usually one foot to 18 inches. But great swimmers such as Dr. Kurt Grote started going down much deeper, then coming up using the bodies buyoancy at a much steaper angle. Against the Russians in the Goodwill games he came up one body length off each turn!!! So the goal is to go farther underwater in the same or less time, because there is less resistance.

The next thing for the coach and swimmer to work on is the timing of when to begin the pulldown. I have the U of Buffalo article on my web site. There is interesting information gained there, but I truly feel that the biggest difference between great breaststrokers is not the swimming, but the starts and turns and underwater time and length gained.

I can truly say there has never been a 100 meters or 200 meters breaststroke race at any Olympics where the winner went all out the entire way. It is just too exhausting a stroke. The winners seem to be able to conserve energy and do this by having great starts and turns. One day Ed Moses is going to destroy the world records, he has more pure speed, but his real advantage is almost 0.5 to 1.0 seconds faster underwater to 15 meters, and again almost 0.5 or greater turn time between 5 meters into the turn and 5 meters going out.

Now what is the proper timing, 1 second, two seconds or three?
Again the coach and swimmer will have to determine what works best for them. I happen to have a great pushoff and streamline, so at the count of three I have not slowed down and am approaching the 11-12 yard mark. Those with a less power full pushoff should still strive for 3 seconds in the 200 breaststroke, 2.5 seconds for the 100 and 2 to 2.5 seconds for the 50.
Bottom line streamlining is more important than leg strength, before I changed to the Modern Streamline I used to go 9-10 yards before slowing down.

A couple of years ago I helped coach a women in Glasgow Scotland. The first meet she swam 180 meters out of the 200, with poor distance and streamline. She watched me swim less than 100 meters out of the 200, so I got her attention. One week later she did her best time and did almost 11 yards off each turn and 13-14 meters off the start. She only had so much energy, it is much easier to put in into 120 meters rather than 180.

So I do try to get the maximum distance without slowing down out of each of my swimmers. I have had a couple of ten year old girls do sub 35 for a 50 breast, but they were so slender they could go through the eye of a needle. Both had perfect streamlines, but I had to guard from them trying to stay underwater too long and slowing down. Both could do 12 yards from a push, but slowed down too much. But when an older masters swimmer would get in they would love to show off. I also have a Masters All American breaststroker who has a poor pushoff of perhaps 8 yards, so I get him into his pulldown at about 2.5 seconds.

Next post I will discuss the numerous ways to perform the pulldown.

NOTE: I never use the word pull in breaststroke, there are sculls and a pulldown, NO pulls.

Coach Wayne McCauley

Rain Man
October 1st, 2002, 02:30 PM

I would agree that for one with fair to average stroke mechanics, there is a benefit to staying in the pullout phase for a longer period of time. That would be about the fastest that those swimmers will be going.

Someone with excellent stroke mechanics and a fast speed during the swimming portion would want to have as much speed as possible heading into the swimming portion of the race. Therefore, I would think they may sacrifice some distance off the walls for maintenance of speed.

My on-line time is limited, so I haven't gotten to fully read the rest of your post and digest it thoroughly.

My next technical debate would boil down to a very similar issue... underwater dolphin during butterfly and freestyle (! GASP - during FREESTYLE???) I know we see swimmers at the highest level who use it (thinking of Peter Marshall) and those who don't (Ervin). Opinons please.


October 2nd, 2002, 12:00 AM
In the best breaststrokers over the last 20 years the trend has been to go further and stay underwater longer. This is partially due to the modern streamline that allows a swimmer to go further in the same amount of time. But I would say amoung elite breaststrokers in the 200, they are staying as long as 7 to 7.5 seconds and going one to three meters further. Kurte Grote and Ed Moses always gain on the underwaters. Another trend is to go deaper. I used to teach staying at one depth, but many now go one-two foot deeper and angle up after the pulldown. I am certainly not on their level, but have no problem going 12-13 yards off each and every turn. In the 200 yard race I swim less than 95 yards, the rest is the start and underwaters. One thing I learned when I did extensive heart rate monitor testing is it is easy to drop your heart rate during a 6-7 second underwater, by 40-50 beats! Coaches have always said to relax during the underwaters, while still maintaining streamlining. So in a 200 breast I get 48+ seconds of low intensity rest, allowing me to put more in the rest of the race.

I have the Article from Budd Termin on the breast pullout that was basically one second. Not one world class swimmer uses this, not even in the 50 meter race that generates lots of money from World Cup racing. I feel world class breaststrokers now have superior streamlining and far greater leg strength compared to college 55 second swimmers. In fact I feel the start and turn times are what distinguishes the winners from the also rans.

Again freestylers, backstrokers and flyers are also going deeper. Natalie Coughlin goes really deep on her backstroke and gains one body length every turn!

The Russians were the first to use two-three small dolphins off the starts and turns to gain 12-18 inches over others who were flutter kicking up. They won the free events in 1992 and 1996 by doing this. By 2000 USA finally caught on.

Wayne McCauley