Posts tagged: Swimming

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.

Improving Butterfly Technique (part 5)

Butterfly in pieces

In this part of my series “Improving Butterfly Tecnique”, I will post some underwater videos of different variations of partial fly swimming that I occasionally experiment with. Since I’m just a beginner, I must stress that I’m not trying to make my posts educational. They are merely my swimming training journal and anyway, I most probably don’t do them completely correctly.

  1. Vertical dolphin kick
  2. I saw actually Phelps doing this during one of his trainings. I think it’s a nice workout for quads.

    Here I’m doing it with Arena Power Fins:

    And here without fins:

    I’m probably overpronouncing it in the videos above and doing too much of a body movement. I will try to do it with smaller amplitude and maybe higher frequency.

  3. Horizontal dolphin kick
    1. Underwater dolphin kick
      As far as I know about underwater dolphin kicking, there is no first and second kick, all the kicks are the same and they are more like first butterfly kick, there is bending in hips on downbeat.
    2. Back dolphin kick
      This is another one that I saw from Phelps. I find it very intense for abs and hamstrings. Here is a video of both underwater dolphin kick and back dolphin kick. My camera settings were wrong, hence bad white balance:
    3. Fly with no arms
      This is yet another option for swimming fly with legs only. I do it in two ways. One is with arms extended in front and the other one is with arms next to my body. There is an above the water footage of the first variant in one of my previous posts. Anyway, here is the video of these two styles.

      In previous “drill”, there is little support for arms, so most probably that’s the reason why I still bend hips even during second kick. Legs kick itself tends to bend the upper body counter clockwise (when watched from left) – chest down, hips up. This might be counteracted by arms pushing downwards, since this movement tends to turn upper body in oposite direction. I think this could be “simulated” with kickboard (hold by hands) as addition to “drill” above.
  4. Fly with no legs
    In this video I (try to) swim butterfly without using my legs. I tend to relax them as much as possible. Usually, first couple of strokes are not that good, but as the time goes, I manage to concentrate more and exclude legs completely. I noticed that my hips stop sinking once I manage to relax my hips:

Improving Butterfly Technique (part 4)

I found a very interesting article on GoSwim.tv about different styles of hand entry in butterfly and decided to make an experiment and find out which way I swim more closely (if any).

Full video of my butterfly (front view and side view) in slow motion:

From the photos below, it looks like I swim more similar to left ones than the right ones. According to the article, 90% of people swim that way. It’s classical outsweeping arm stroke. Since I’m still a beginner, I thought I could still change my style and maybe try the right one, which is referred to as “hook” style in the article. Cavic swims this way and his technique is such a challenge – so soft and smooth and without excessive undulation.

Regarding the photos below, I would prefer if the pictures from GoSwim.tv were taken simultaneously from front and side. I had a problem to find the very exact moment in my video. I noticed that my head goes up much earlier than for the swimmer in the rest of the photos. I don’t know if I’m breathing too early or maybe the video on GoSwim’s sequence was actually non-breathing stroke.

Hook Hook
Hook Hook
Hook Hook

In my video, I can spot some of the problems:

  1. Fingers are probably too much apart.
  2. Hands don’t really enter the water at the proper angle, they are almost extending the arms.
  3. At some points, like in the second photo, hands kind of try to “avoid” the water, judging by their angle.
  4. There is also a moment where I move my hands forward during underwater part of the arm stroke, probably trying to grab as much water as possible to get me above the water. It looks wrong (it can be spotted in the side view video)
  5. Hips drop big time during the first half of the recovery. This is much more visible in my side angle video.
  6. Legs are slightly assymetric.

I put both front view and side view videos in real-time speed below:

Regarding the hips sinking, I thought that the problem was that I relax my hips flexors when I bend my knees (which also looks wrong) during the second kick upbeat. I tried yesterday to correct this but ended up with “long torpedo” position. As soon as my hand go above the water, my hips sink. The video is very noisy because the light was poor, so I didn’t post it here.

Improving Butterfly Technique (part 3)

This post is logical continuation of previous post.

Here is a video taken above the water with fixed camera:


It shows some obvious errors like:

  • asynchronous legs during downbeat
  • hips do not go high enough during hands entry phase

On the other hand, when I swim only with legs, I don’t have problem with raising my hips off the water:

Improving Butterfly Technique (part 2)

This post is logical continuation of my previous post. These are some underwater videos of my butterfly in slow motion:

(recorded on 2009-10-25)

and here are the same videos in normal speed:

List of errors that I spotted in these videos:

  1. My hips go deep during hands exit and recovery phase resulting in some curved body shape.

    Low Hips

    Probably has to do something with my bending knees as part of second upbeat. I was wondering if that’s the reason why I’m having troubles lifting hips above water surface at the end of first downkick. I should probably try to keep my legs straight in knees in this phase.
  2. In catch phase, arms go wide and out, resulting in low elbows.

    Wide Catch

    It could be that I don’t do inward shoulder rotation. Additionally, instinctivelly, I feel the biggest water resistance when arms are straight, because the force moment in the shoulder is directly proportional to the distance between the hand and the shoulder. On the other hand, propulsion depends on the parallel force and not to this force moment.

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