Not the same old stroke
Chances are if you took swimming lessons as a child you learned techniques that can actually slow you down in the water. That’s right: thanks to technological advances that now allow experts to view athletes underwater – not to mention elite athletes themselves, who are continually showing us new world-class techniques – we’re rethinking the most efficient ways to move through the water. In other words, it’s time to scrap what you learned. “Swimming is perhaps evolving faster than other sports because we’re now able to look at parameters that have never been studied before,” says three-time Olympian, and three-time medallist, Gary Hall, Sr, technical director and head coach of The Race Club swimming camp in the US, who studies swim technique. “For the first time, I feel like we’re now able to look under the hood and examine the small parts that make up the engine. It’s exciting because we’re learning as we go, and our research is creating a new breed of technique coaches.”
Always bending arms in air
One distinguishing feature of the front crawl (aka freestyle) stroke is bending your arm during the ‘recovery’ phase (when your arm is out of the water). Not so anymore, says Jenny McCuiston, two-time Olympic Swimming Trial qualifier and founder of Goldfish Swim School. “Everyone used to think this was the most efficient way to swim, but then a few swimmers came out with a straight-arm recovery and they were actually swimming faster,” she says. While distance swimmers may still benefit from the bent-arm technique, sprinters are increasingly trying the straight-arm recovery, she adds.
“Most swimmers are taught to look forward underwater, and now you want to look down and your head should be submerged after the breath in order to move faster in the water,” says Hall.