There is a saying that goes 'If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you always got’.
Most swim coaches can stand on the pool deck and develop a fairly good idea of what swimmers are doing...or not doing. For example: they can see if the kick is too wide or the elbows are dropped, if the swimmer is not finishing the stroke, whether their arms cross over, have a hand or elbow led recovery or if there are bi-lateral imbalances or a lack of hip rotation.
But, similar to an iceberg, a swimmer viewed only from the surface of the water can be—and many times is—very deceptive. Sometimes a stroke that appears to be quite smooth above the water can be very inefficient below the water. That is because most of the body sits under the water.
Refraction between water and air bends light and causes objects and depths to appear shallower than they actually are. If a swimmer's legs appear 20 cm below the surface of the water, you won't be far off by doubling your estimate.
It is also very difficult to analyse a stroke with accuracy at normal speed. Most swimmers will swim at a stroke rate of between 0.8 and 1.1 seconds per stroke. There are a large number of elements that make up an efficient stroke and they all happen in less than 1.5 seconds. This is where frame by frame advance in a video review can be very revealing. It's nearly impossible for the human eye to catch and analyse motion accurately in split-second intervals.
So, how do you expose the good, the bad and the ugly of a swim stroke?
Video stroke analysis is simply the best way for any athlete who is looking to improve overall stroke technique to meet that objective. Video stroke analysis gives us the opportunity to view a swimmer at a multitude of angles, speed and positions to better assess their unique strengths and weaknesses.
Some of the key elements of the stroke we examine closely are:
Hip rotation along with shoulder rotation
The catch phase
More is not better. Simply spending countless hours in the water hammering out lap after lap with the hope of creating and generating a more efficient stroke is not going to get it done. Einstein once said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
The benefits of conducting a video stroke analysis are endless. The ability to identify the good, the bad, and yes, sometimes even the ugly is essential in creating the necessary technique to move efficiently and effectively through the water.
Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion, described swimming to me as the ability to move from point A to point B in the most efficient and effective manner by minimizing drag and resistance. This is obtained by proper body positioning, balance, body streamlining, excellent breathing technique and proper timing. First you need to see it. Then you need to rehearse new movements and get a feel for them to know what it takes to make it happen in the water.
And, what we practice becomes permanent.
To keep our stroke finely tuned and efficient I strongly recommend that all swimmers should have their stroke analysed at least once or twice per year, especially when the stroke feels fantastic or when it feels unbalanced and out of tune.
Nb: it is as important to know what is working well as much as knowing what needs attention.
The “Off season “ is the perfect time to work on your technique.