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Thread: Swim myth #3....busted.

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    Swim myth #3....busted.

    Myth #3: The reason one should rotate the body along the long axis in freestyle is to reduce drag.

    Please don't tell me this is not a myth. I hear this from beginner coaches all the way to some of America's top swimming coaches. Rotating the body is very important....so is reducing drag. I just don't think we do it for that reason. If we did, kicking on our side would be faster, whether underwater or on the surface, than kicking on our stomach...and there is not much difference in speed either way. Besides that, we really spend very little time on our sides in freestyle. Most of it is in transition from one side to the other and closer to horizontal than vertical. Finishing a freestyle race in a pool on our side is also important...because we can extend our reach further..not reduce drag.
    So if body rotation is not about drag reduction, why do we do it? Two reasons. The first is to gain more power. By rotating, we put our arm into a mechanically better position of strength, engaging much bigger muscles in our back and core to help with the pulling. The second reason has to do with the counter-rotation. When we enter our right hand in the water, for example, our body is rotating to the left. At the very moment we begin our catch, the body has stopped rotating left and initiates the counter-rotation back to the right. We call this point the connection (between arm and core/hips). This counter rotation creates a stabilizing force that gives us something to pull against. Remember, it is you and the water molecules out there...no walls, starting blocks or pitching mounds to push off or pull against. So we create our own stabilizing force out of the rotational motion of our own body. The faster and longer the counter-rotational turn, the greater the stabilizing force and the better distance per stroke (dps) we can achieve. This is one advantage the hip/leg driven swimmers have over the high stroke rate swimmers...holding in front longer gives them more time to rotate/counter-rotate the hips. But before you all go rushing back to that technique, if you don't have the legs driving you, even that extra dps cannot overcome the inertia problem. You are still swimming 'stop-and-go' freestyle..not as efficient as the high stroke rate.
    Most swimmers I teach swim very flat...like a surfboard that grew arms and legs. That would be ok if we had the buoyancy and drag coefficient of a surfboard, but we don't. We are bricks and to move a brick through the water, we need the added power that the body rotation gives us. BTW, this is why wetsuits enable one to get away with swimming flatter.
    Can you use good body rotation with a high stroke rate? Yes...but it takes work. The body rotation doesn't just happen. You make it happen...but because there is less time, it becomes more oriented from the shoulder and less from the hip which takes longer to turn (although hip motion is still important). Thus the name shoulder-driven freestyle.

    Gary Sr.

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    Very Active Member chaos's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    i think this is a case of semantics.

    the position one's body is in when rotated and extended is certainly streamlined, perhaps not as much as an "off the wall" streamline, but the latter position is static and the former dynamic.
    Last edited by chaos; July 1st, 2010 at 08:04 AM.

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    Very Active Member Conniekat8's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    This got me thinking of something that's a bit of a digression....
    I've heard some people say taht butterfly (also, the style with the front quadrant focus) is actually the fastest stroke around.

    I wonder if anyone has tried doing butterfly with a flipturn, vs. a freestyle flipturn race... on a 100Y or 100m or maybe 200 distance, and how the times compared.
    -Connie
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Gary - I love your threads. I've read them all on other boards. The more I learn about swimming the more I relate to all of your advice.

    I must say that for me what sticks out about #3 is how strong kickers get the advantage of being able to rotate more/reach more and get the longer dps. My coach is having me try to increase my dps but I haven't yet developed the kick to properly be able to do this. It is coming along though.

    Anyways... love the posts. Thanks!

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Conniekat8 View Post
    This got me thinking of something that's a bit of a digression....
    I've heard some people say taht butterfly (also, the style with the front quadrant focus) is actually the fastest stroke around.

    I wonder if anyone has tried doing butterfly with a flipturn, vs. a freestyle flipturn race... on a 100Y or 100m or maybe 200 distance, and how the times compared.
    To further the digression...There was a relay meet in college we used to attend that the stroke relays allowed flipturns at every wall (300 butterfly relay, 300 br relay, 400IM relay etc). I don't particularily remember it being much faster, but it was also a very early meet in the season, so it's hard to compare given the yardage we were doing at the time.

    Back to topic though, it's hard to say this myth is totally busted if we should still be doing what it says to do, just for other reasons. More of an asterisk to the original or clarification?

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    Very Active Member SolarEnergy's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    Please don't tell me this is not a myth.
    Certainly is.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    So if body rotation is not about drag reduction, why do we do it? Two reasons. The first is to gain more power. By rotating, we put our arm into a mechanically better position of strength, engaging much bigger muscles in our back and core to help with the pulling.
    Sorry to be on your tail, I do respect your experience and position in the world of swimming.

    But that's a great opportunity to better illustrate my thoughts related to your first myth busting post.

    Yes indeed body rotation adds some pulling power. The analogy I often use, it's like cranking a reluctant gas fueled lawn mower. You'd do it twisting your torso to add more power to the motion. **Upward** body rotation adds some power, thus allowing higher peaks velocity to take place. But given that you don't extend the hand entry/catch phase, your hand will already be near the end of FQ when that occurs.

    Or well, a more general and inclusive statement would be: You want your hand to be where it's safe for you to apply massive load of torque when the body rotates upward. For me, given my fragile shoulders, I need to time my arm cycle in a way that I am already near the end of Front-Quadrant when that occurs (upper body rotation). That explains why I feel that I get my peak pulling propulsion only then, not before. Not while the body rotates downward in other words.

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    Very Active Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    Myth #3: The reason one should rotate the body along the long axis in freestyle is to reduce drag.

    Please don't tell me this is not a myth.
    I've certainly talked to far fewer coaches than Gary, but mostly I hear this statement as an aside or beneficial side-effect to rotation, rather than the primary reason to rotate. From the post it sounds like Gary might be positing that there is no reduction in drag from rotating, though. I don't know if it is true or not but I don't much care, either, since it isn't the main reason to rotate.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    ...why do we do it? Two reasons.

    The first is to gain more power. By rotating, we put our arm into a mechanically better position of strength, engaging much bigger muscles in our back and core to help with the pulling.

    The second reason has to do with the counter-rotation. When we enter our right hand in the water, for example, our body is rotating to the left. At the very moment we begin our catch, the body has stopped rotating left and initiates the counter-rotation back to the right. We call this point the connection (between arm and core/hips). This counter rotation creates a stabilizing force that gives us something to pull against. Remember, it is you and the water molecules out there...no walls, starting blocks or pitching mounds to push off or pull against. So we create our own stabilizing force out of the rotational motion of our own body. The faster and longer the counter-rotational turn, the greater the stabilizing force and the better distance per stroke (dps) we can achieve.
    The first reason is a no-brainer, but I don't hear the 2nd reason given very often (or, if I do, not in this fashion). Clearly as the body rotates one way and then the other, there is a change in angular momentum; it sounds a little like Gary is saying that during this time, some of this rotation (angular momentum) essentially gets translated into forward motion (linear momentum). Physics-types, help me out: does that sound right/reasonable? I guess I don't see why not...it happens every time I use a screwdriver...

    As far as the rotation giving "something to pull against"...it is hard here, sitting at a desk rather than in the water, to recreate exactly what happens, but I wonder if the rotation is initiated/changed by the pull as much as the core/legs. Maybe it might just as well "something to kick against?" It is all connected at that point, as Gary says...just thinking out loud...

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    Very Active Member SolarEnergy's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson View Post
    I've certainly talked to far fewer coaches than Gary, but mostly I hear this statement as an aside or beneficial side-effect to rotation, rather than the primary reason to rotate. From the post it sounds like Gary might be positing that there is no reduction in drag from rotating, though. I don't know if it is true or not but I don't much care, either, since it isn't the main reason to rotate.



    The first reason is a no-brainer, but I don't hear the 2nd reason given very often (or, if I do, not in this fashion). Clearly as the body rotates one way and then the other, there is a change in angular momentum; it sounds a little like Gary is saying that during this time, some of this rotation (angular momentum) essentially gets translated into forward motion (linear momentum). Physics-types, help me out: does that sound right/reasonable? I guess I don't see why not...it happens every time I use a screwdriver...

    As far as the rotation giving "something to pull against"...it is hard here, sitting at a desk rather than in the water, to recreate exactly what happens, but I wonder if the rotation is initiated/changed by the pull as much as the core/legs. Maybe it might just as well "something to kick against?" It is all connected at that point, as Gary says...just thinking out loud...
    For me, the second reason is also a no-brainer. And btw, I don't think I have ever read such a nice explanation as that provided by Gary. Stabilizing force, something to pull against. I believe in this very hard in fact. That's because I clearly feel it. Maglischo doesn't though. And quite clearly.

    Do you remembers in your early days having played doing this in the water?
    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W07A4BvZCY0"]YouTube- Demonstrating Body Rotation[/nomedia] (please turn off the volume, sorry about that)

    On this clip, I aimed at the cleanest possible rotation, I didn't have time to practice before etc... I can assure you that I can accelerate body rotation without the arms without the legs up to speed that probably excess 2 rotation per second (120 per minute), and I am sure you can do it too. I used to do this stuff a lot when I was young.

    Body rotation remains the same no matter the kicking pattern. Body rotation remains the same even during pull band sets. For me, it's the center of the stroke, just like dolphin undulation is at the core of the fly stroke.

    What is making all this theoretically possible is that we don't rotate along a perfectly straight frontal axis. This axis is somehow disrupted by lateral torsion. I couldn't be spinning without the arms without the legs at 120 spins per minute without breaking this perfectly straight axis. That's why it works in my opinion.
    Last edited by SolarEnergy; July 1st, 2010 at 01:13 PM.

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    Very Active Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    For me, the second reason is also a no-brainer. And btw, I don't think I have ever read such a nice explanation as that provided by Gary. Stabilizing force, something to pull against. I believe in this very hard in fact. That's because I clearly feel it. Maglischo doesn't though. And quite clearly.
    It would be nice to have some quantitative comparison of the two reasons Gary gives, to get some objective measure of their relative importance. I don't know if it is possible.

    Something to pull against, fine. A "stabilizing force" like a gyroscope (conservation of angular momentum)...I am less sure of. I don't know if we rotate fast enough for that to be a big effect.

    And honestly I don't care if it is a factor or not, just like about the whole drag reduction thing...there are enough reasons to rotate anyway.

    Though if more/faster rotation would help backstrokers to swim in a straight line in an outdoor pool...that would be nice...

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Conniekat8 View Post
    This got me thinking of something that's a bit of a digression....
    I've heard some people say taht butterfly (also, the style with the front quadrant focus) is actually the fastest stroke around.
    This argument is pretty easy to debunk by looking at the world records in the LC 50 free versus the 50 fly. No turns, so that's not a factor. The only difference is the two hand touch requirement in fly, which will certainly give a slight disadvantage, but only by a small fraction of a second. The current world records for men are 20.94 in free and 22.43 in fly. For women the records are 23.73 and 25.07.

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    This argument is pretty easy to debunk by looking at the world records in the LC 50 free versus the 50 fly. No turns, so that's not a factor. The only difference is the two hand touch requirement in fly, which will certainly give a slight disadvantage, but only by a small fraction of a second. The current world records for men are 20.94 in free and 22.43 in fly. For women the records are 23.73 and 25.07.
    It's possible that the peak speed in the stroke cycle is higher in fly...

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by LindsayNB View Post
    It's possible that the peak speed in the stroke cycle is higher in fly...
    I believe it indeed is.

    Fly probably creates greater peak in velocity but it also creates greater drag on hand entry. All in all, it comes slightly short compare to free on a short distance, and probably can't compare to it on longer distances (e.g. 800/1500 etc).

    Mysterious the Fly.

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    I believe it indeed is.

    Fly probably creates greater peak in velocity but it also creates greater drag on hand entry. All in all, it comes slightly short compare to free on a short distance, and probably can't compare to it on longer distances (e.g. 800/1500 etc).

    Mysterious the Fly.
    Correct. Fly generates the fastest speed (momentarily) of all strokes (well over 3 m/sec in world class swimmers)....but also shares with breaststroke the dubious honor of having 70 to 80% or higher reduction of speed during the same stroke cycle, by virtue of having both arms creating frontal drag at the same time. In breaststroke, you can thank those great big thighs coming forward that nearly brings each breaststroker to a halt with each stroke cycle. Fly and breaststroke are both inefficient, 'stop-and-go' strokes, with a total disregard for the importance of inertia.

    Gary

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson View Post
    It would be nice to have some quantitative comparison of the two reasons Gary gives, to get some objective measure of their relative importance. I don't know if it is possible.

    Something to pull against, fine. A "stabilizing force" like a gyroscope (conservation of angular momentum)...I am less sure of. I don't know if we rotate fast enough for that to be a big effect.

    And honestly I don't care if it is a factor or not, just like about the whole drag reduction thing...there are enough reasons to rotate anyway.

    Though if more/faster rotation would help backstrokers to swim in a straight line in an outdoor pool...that would be nice...
    I give credit to Dr. Jan Prins at the U of Hawaii for enlightening me about the use of core rotation (and kick as well) to create a stabilizing force for the pull. He uses an example of a baseball pitcher who can throw a fastball at 90 mph when on a pitching mound and with a strong leg pushing against the rubber. Put the same pitcher in the deep end of the swimming pool and even with all of the body rotation and strength he can muster, his ball speed drops to 45 mph. Why? No stabilizing force (pitching mound) to push off of (ok..gravity helped some, too).
    The point is that we create our own pitching mound (stabilizing force) through the motion (or counter motion) of our own body, enabling us to generate more power with each arm pull. We call this the connection.

    Gary

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    Correct. Fly generates the fastest speed (momentarily) of all strokes (well over 3 m/sec in world class swimmers)....but also shares with breaststroke the dubious honor of having 70 to 80% or higher reduction of speed during the same stroke cycle, by virtue of having both arms creating frontal drag at the same time. In breaststroke, you can thank those great big thighs coming forward that nearly brings each breaststroker to a halt with each stroke cycle. Fly and breaststroke are both inefficient, 'stop-and-go' strokes, with a total disregard for the importance of inertia.

    Gary
    I know the statement is hyperbole,but you can't have "total disregard for the importance of inertia" in BR.Given the high drag points in BR it is if anything more important to minimize all extraneous drag.To that end the"great big thighs"should not come forward until after the recovery at the catch and then only as much as necessary to maximize leg thrust(not 90 degrees like in the old flat BR).Until then the feet should recover by bending the knees only.
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    Correct. Fly generates the fastest speed (momentarily) of all strokes (well over 3 m/sec in world class swimmers)....but also shares with breaststroke the dubious honor of having 70 to 80% or higher reduction of speed during the same stroke cycle, by virtue of having both arms creating frontal drag at the same time. In breaststroke, you can thank those great big thighs coming forward that nearly brings each breaststroker to a halt with each stroke cycle. Fly and breaststroke are both inefficient, 'stop-and-go' strokes, with a total disregard for the importance of inertia.

    Gary
    Ah, so that could be why my one armed fly drill, with alternating arms is faster then my actual fly. No "stop" part in the cycle to, well, stop me, and I don't poop out as quickly.
    -Connie
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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Conniekat8 View Post
    This got me thinking of something that's a bit of a digression....
    I've heard some people say taht butterfly (also, the style with the front quadrant focus) is actually the fastest stroke around.

    I wonder if anyone has tried doing butterfly with a flipturn, vs. a freestyle flipturn race... on a 100Y or 100m or maybe 200 distance, and how the times compared.
    WR in the 50M free is about 1.2 seconds faster than 50M fly for both men and women.

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Stark View Post
    I know the statement is hyperbole,but you can't have "total disregard for the importance of inertia" in BR.Given the high drag points in BR it is if anything more important to minimize all extraneous drag.To that end the"great big thighs"should not come forward until after the recovery at the catch and then only as much as necessary to maximize leg thrust(not 90 degrees like in the old flat BR).Until then the feet should recover by bending the knees only.
    This has everything to do with drag, but unfortunately, with the mechanics of fly and breaststroke, one cannot prevent the extreme changes in velocity. Even Kitojima comes to almost a complete stop with each kick when his thighs move forward, regardless of how short of time they are there. Therefore, fly and breast do not obey the laws of inertia. The are simply not efficient strokes.

    Gary Sr.

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryHallSr View Post
    This has everything to do with drag, but unfortunately, with the mechanics of fly and breaststroke, one cannot prevent the extreme changes in velocity. Even Kitojima comes to almost a complete stop with each kick when his thighs move forward, regardless of how short of time they are there. Therefore, fly and breast do not obey the laws of inertia. The are simply not efficient strokes.

    Gary Sr.
    Unfortunately, the fly and breast strokes obey the laws of inertia even we wish it were not so! They are just less efficient than freestyle.

    I keep thinking that in freestyle there should be less drag in a side position than in a front position when you're on the surface of the water. Sufficiently far from a boundary, orientation of your body relative to gravity should not have any influence. If you're on the surface, you'll interact with the boundary and create a wake. The energy in the surface waves making up the wake has to come from somewhere, so it must come from your efforts at locomotion being wasted. I'd maintain that you'll interact less with the surface on your side. I'd agree completely that it is not the biggest reason to rotate.

    Having your body oriented on its side should reduce drag, at least it feels that way for me. But you can't swim completely on your side, you've got to pull, and the way to put the most propulsion to the water is to rotate your body from one side to the other as you're pulling your hand by your hip, as you described so well. In this case, bio-mechanics trump fluid mechanics.

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    Re: Swim myth #3....busted.

    Quote Originally Posted by fritznh View Post
    I keep thinking that in freestyle there should be less drag in a side position than in a front position when you're on the surface of the water.
    Hmmmm not sure.... But I'd like to let you explain me how?

    Why would the human body floats better (thus requiring more volume of body to be out in the air) on his side than flat belly?

    Counsilman found it long ago that passive drag was greater when swimmers were towed on their side than when in prone position. That was very long ago, but the test didn't involve swimming technique. Just a human body being towed.

    And it kind of makes sense too. Can't explain my thoughts, way too challenging for my limited English. Bah lets try... Considering the body as a vessel. Fairly flat one (more wide than thick). Considering that being in prone position is horizontal. But if you don't catch immediately, that just won't happen. Hard to imagine why this vessel would float better in a vertical position compared to horizontal. Although you may be right and Councilman wrong, hence why I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

    One thing though that this study did not account for. If some of the energy used in pulling is used to lift yourself during the process of rotating from left to right, then it's possible that this would end up exposing less body volume in the water. But on the other hand, drag probably gets created during this process as well so let's assume it cancels off. Otherwise it could go one way or the other. In other words, there's a possibility that the net effect of body rotation be to create more drag than saving some.

    I totally agree with your position on inertia being involved in BS and Fly. In fact, I wrote a full reply but then read yours, so I held on.
    Last edited by SolarEnergy; July 4th, 2010 at 12:45 AM.

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