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Thread: How "fluid" is swimming?

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    How "fluid" is swimming?

    So I'm a middle-aged guy who took up swimming a few years ago--and loves it! Not a great swimmer, but a person who has pretty solid mechanics in three sports. So here's my prologue, then my question.

    Some actions are fluid: running, shooting a layup with normal elevation. By fluid, I mean you transfer the energy forward in a continuous motion without "cocking" or "setting up" the next stride, or the upward motion off the court.

    Other actions we may call "fluid," but they are not: high jumping, a tennis serve, swinging a golf club. In all these, there is a hesitation (very slight) while one gathers so that energy can be properly delivered to the key motion. A tennis serve should be smooth, but if there's not that instant when you are setting yourself up for the explosive movement, then it will never be a powerful serve.

    So which is swimming? Specifically, the reach in freestyle? I know you are not supposed to have a "dead spot" in your stroke, but is the idea a continual forward rolling motion, or does one stay relaxed, yet **** a bit, or set up each reach? Is it a flywheel, or is it a smooth, relaxed succession of spear thrusts with a little torque behind them? Not sure that it matters, but in my case I'm asking as someone who has (or at least tries to have) more of a hip driven stroke.

    I've had a little coaching and have read a lot of stuff, but I can't say I know the answer. Thanks for considering this!

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Chuckled when I saw the site automatically blanked out my four letter word (that starts with c and ends with k) for setting up a motion, which, in this context, is not profane.

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    I would say fluid except for the walls and blocks

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    Very Active Member Swimosaur's Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    I think in the sense you intend, the answer is "fluid". Swimmers strive for uniform propulsion and uniform velocity through the stroke cycle. Of course, this is easier to achieve in some strokes, and harder in others (yes, breaststroke, I'm looking at you). Swimmers try to eliminate any decreases in velocity.

    Here is a recent analysis of the backstroke arm pull by Maglischo, illustrating a number of velocity graphs. He also published velocity graphs for all strokes in his 2003 book, Swimming Fastest. The obvious goal is uniform velocity, which is what I think you mean by "fluidity".

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    I have not heard of fluid defined this way. If there is hesitation,does that break fluidity,or does it require a backward cocking motion to break fluidity.In distance free there is generally a hesitation at the extension before the catch.Similarly there is a hesitation in BR in streamline after the kick in all but sprints, while you ride the glide.
    There is not generally a reverse cocking motion.

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    Active Member ForceDJ's Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    How can a layup be fluid but a high jump is not fluid?

    Dan

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Thanks for the feedback. My use of "fluid" is pretty slippery. Re layup/high jump, a layup at regular elevation is a controlled movement that just uses the natural force that's already there moving forward, with the emphasis on balance and smoothness, whereas a high-jumper is preparing for an explosive move. Put another way, a layup at regular elevation is just the next stride going slightly upward rather than forward.

    When I watch competitive swimmers filmed underwater, there seems to be a slight hesitation before the catch, but I think the reference to "riding the glide" probably explains that better then sort of setting up for the catch, which I had suggested as a possibility.

    If I might ask a follow-up question, is it fair to say then, if the motion is continuous (except maybe for the glide), then is the motion at least accelerated slightly as one begins the catch? I guess at the heart of my question is whether I'm being too lazy when I reach forward. I can swim with a very consistent tempo, kind of like a paddle boat, if I just don't reach out too far, and if I keep a consistent amount of force through my core. This is very fluid, but it's also slower than if I am intentionally more aggressive with the catch so that I really reach out there. Thanks again for the conversation; I've always been sort of a mechanics wonk when it comes to sports, and this is part of the fun of swimming and improving for me.

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Quote Originally Posted by ForceDJ View Post
    How can a layup be fluid but a high jump is not fluid?

    Dan
    I would ask the same question. Whether a movement is "fluid" or not seems to be a subjective determination that you are making.

    Seems like what you really want to know is "How can I improve my freestyle mechanics (technique)"? There are many people here who can help you with that. Usual suggestion is to post a video of your swim. You might try that.

    Glad that you are excited about improving your swim performance. Good luck! Have fun!

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    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Quote Originally Posted by ForceDJ View Post
    How can a layup be fluid but a high jump is not fluid?
    Iíve seen a lot of graceful/fluid high jumpers and a lot of ugly non-fluid jump shots. Just as Iíve seen a lot of swimmers who gracefully/efficiently/ fluidly move through the water as well as a lot of folks thrashing about whilst swimming. So I guess your definition of fluid movement and mine differ.

    As for motion and acceleration from a mechanical perspective, there is continual motional and acceleration of the hand, forearm, elbow, upper arm shoulder; along the X, Y and Z axis. The same can be said for legs (Upper, knee, lower, ankles, heal, toes). And the velocity and acceleration is different for each component part of the arm and leg. It is how these all work together along with the bodyís core that determines how graceful and fluid the swimmer appears.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine and not those of U.S. Masters Swimming.

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    I suppose I'm to blame for bringing the term "fluid" (as I was subjectively defining it) into the discussion. Maybe I should have said "aggressive" vs. "passive." An open layup is a passive movement--again, just taking the force that's already there with your speed and converting it slightly upward. It's a totally relaxed motion with no additional effort introduced through the motion. A high jump is building tension toward an aggressive POP moment. That's what I was trying to get at and thought the general question might benefit others more than something specific to only my mechanics, but in this case I suspect a picture/video would in fact be better than a 1000 words. Thanks again.

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Since swimming is in a fluid,POP type movements are counter productive.You want to be accelerating through the pull.I can think of 2 sort of "cocking" motions in swimming.If you do a "slingshot" type start from the block the rocking back would be cocking(and I guess the start would then be a pop,but you aren't in the water.) In BR at the catch of the kick as you turn your feet out could be considered a cocking movement,but the kick is a constant acceleration,not a pop.
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    That's helpful, thanks, Allen. And I think the start of that section of that Tennyson poem with your signature--if memory serves--is fitting for a swimming forum: "Push off, and sitting well in order, smite the sounding furrows" (i.e., the waves).

    I'll try to smite them fluidly and with no cocking motions.

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Of all the other motions you mentioned, swimming is most similar to running. You grab the water and pull yourself past it, much like you push backward against the ground while running. It's also a little bit like rock climbing. Definitely fluid. That's only a small part of swimming technique, though. You also need a much much stiffer posture than you think you do, and you need to reach much much farther above your head with your arms than you think you do.

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands View Post
    Of all the other motions you mentioned, swimming is most similar to running.
    Thanks, the connection with running is helpful. Brings to mind a track coach who once had mercy on a slow basketball player (me, now a slow swimmer) and worked with me on lengthening my stride. He took me out on the football field and had me reach out for yard line markers to lengthen my stride, which seems very much like lengthening the swim stroke.

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    Re: How "fluid" is swimming?

    I’ve heard two schools of thought when it comes to swimming. One is to grab the water and pull yourself through it. The other is to grab the water and push it behind you. I seem to go back and forth with this mentality while I’m swimming. I guess it depends on the effort…how fast I’m trying to go.

    As a runner also...I’ll also tell you there are two schools of thought about that too. One is to push off with the grounded foot. The other is to think of lifting a foot and extending forward…and grounded foot follows. Again…it’s just a way of thinking about it, and it probably changes depending on how hard one is trying to run.

    Dan

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