One thing is clear from the beginning when we enter the water: We sink no matter what. A swimmer spends a huge amount of energy to overcome water resistance. A world class swimmer is at best 9-10% efficient. That means, that 9 – 10% is applied for forward motion the rest 90-91% is required to overcome various forces of drag. In comparison, running has an efficiency of approx. 90%. 10% are losses such as, friction (road-shoes), wind, metabolism, etc. Cycling efficiency is approx. 85%.
The road for swim improvement is not to make more energy available by doing a harder training work-out or mileage, it is to waste less energy by improving the swim style. Improving the swim stroke is not the once for all solution, it is just a small part of it. When we change our swim stroke we have to change our body position as well, which gives us a new feeling of the water.
What kind of force of drags are we encountering during the freestyle?
Form drag is a resistance depending on the shape of the object which travels through water. For us swimmers, keep the body balanced in a horizontal position, as long and narrow while swimming. Streamlined position is a term commonly used in training. When we start swimming we form an area of high pressure in front of us and behind us an area of low pressure.
The stretched forearm is ready to make the catch. The catch is, bend the elbow and the wrist a bit, point your fingers, hand, wrist, forearm structure towards the bottom of the pool this is what we call "the catch".
Wave drag is resistance as a result of creating a wake. Creating a wave takes energy, supplied by the swimmer. If a swimmer swims flats on its stomach the swimmer creates a wider wave than swimming on the side. The conclusion is that in freestyle we should spend less time swimming on the stomach and more time on either side. (Rotation)
Surface drag is resistance caused by the friction when the object has contact with the water. Good fitting swimsuits, wetsuits and swim caps help to reduce this type of drag.
The task of swim drills is; minimizing drag, reducing turbulences by the swimmers action, make the swimmer taller and more slippery and learn the feel of the water.
Taller, slippery swim; how do I do it?
The clue is; learn to sink in a horizontal position.
When you find a balanced horizontal position (head to toe), your propulsion is with ease and saves energy.
First thing to do is "hide your head".
Hiding does not mean that you have to press your head down or bury it between your shoulders. It means, the head should be in a neutral position (similarity is if you would stand upright, look straight forward, good body position). In water, the head will find its own neutral position because of its own weight. Neck and shoulder problems may come from an enforced head position.
- Your nose points directly to the bottom of the pool or lake while holding your breaths. Just peek a little bit forward so you know where you swim.
- You should feel a thin film of water flowing over the back of your head – neck.The hand enters the water.
Your elbow should be higher than the hand and the hand swings forward and enters the water without crossing over the imaginary center line of your body. The imaginary line runs from the crown of your head along the spine to the toes. Once you cross over the upper body structure will follow the move and as a result more form drag is created.
In the next "swim" I explain the term "front quadrant swimming".