Posts tagged: slow pace

Improving Butterfly Technique (part 7)

High hips

Some months ago, I was so desperate since I couldn’t push my hips above the water (after first kick). In fact, it (hips up) was happening occasionally, but most of the time they would come up very close to the surface, but wouldn’t break it. Then, completely by chance, I did a video of myself where I swim fly with much higher pace than usually. Usually, my stroke cycle is longer than 2 seconds, sometimes even 3 seconds when I swim really slowly. I knew it was much slower than race pace which is slightly above 1 second per stroke cycle. So, I made a video and I was very surprised. My hips were so unexpectedly moving nicely (for my standards) above the water :).

So, I had to come up with some conclusions. My first guess was that there was a relationship between the time distance between the second and the first kick and hips height. During the recovery, swimmer’s center of mass reaches its highest point. In this phase of the stroke, especially if it’s a no breathing one, arms, head and shoulders are above the water surface, so buoyancy is weaker than the gravity force, which means that at some moment, center of mass will start falling down. Usually it happens during recovery, that’s why recovery cannot be slowed down significantly. This falling down will not happen in a moment, it is a gradual process. And it will even continue, by inertia, below the equilibrium point. So, if we wait for too long, center of mass could dive deep and we wouldn’t be able to raise our hips above the water surface. But if we kick while we didn’t sink completely yet, we could still have a chance to put our hips above.
This also can explain why it’s much easier to keep the hips high when swimming only with legs. Or one arm drill. When swimming one arm drill, only one arm is out of water, half of head, one shoulder, plus extended arm can create some upforce as well by moving it downwards together with the upper body, or even relative to the upper body if we need more help. It’s harder with the arm next to the body, since it can’t create upforce in that position, unless moved in the opposite direction than during the real stroke.

But this theory doesn’t stand since I learnt how to swim butterfly and lift my hips above the water even when swimming very slow pace. In this “drill” I try to emphasize hips breaking the surface by stopping the moment when they are above the surface. I can even feel it on my lower back when I break the surface.

Talking about slow pace butterfly, I gradually came up with a version of butterfly with slightly modified timing that could literally be swum effortlessly for very long time. This version of butterfly allows even for the recovery to be prolonged. It allows for the swimmer to highly concentrate on every single part of the stroke. And, what is very important, it’s very easy.

This is the same exercise underwater:

The point is to take the arms slowly out of the water after the head is already back into the water. So, there is no moment when both head and arms are above the water which keep our buoyancy in “good” range. Recovery could be very slow too. Second kick is very close to the first one. Basically, both of them happen while the arms are fully extended in gliding position. There is a variation when gliding is quite short and second kick happens almost at the right time, which is slightly harder. Head goes out of water while arms are doing underwater stroke, thus giving necessary lift for the head.

I experimented also with another version of this exercise, with two first kicks. First first kick happens when head enters the water, the second first kick happens when arms enter the water. There is only one second kick. It’s harder since first first kick brings the upper body down (since there are no extended arms to prevent it), so recovery somehow starts with shoulders little bit deeper in the water than usually. Although it could be good exercise for shoulders flexibility :)

In conclusion, it could be that all of above have something to do with how high hips go. Firstly, if we don’t go too high above the water when breathing, we will sink less afterwards. So, soft head and arms entry is very helpful in that aspect. Secondly, if the pace is high, body doesn’t have time to sink as much as during the low pace butterfly. Thirdly, most probably, lower back flexibility helps it a bit. And what I think helped me a lot was my shallow water drills since they taught me how to swim softly. Shallow water exercises taught me how not to kick too deep (with legs), how to “jump back” into the water softly and how to swim butterfly (almost) effortlessly.

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