Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning How To Swim as an Adult - Kicking & Buoyancy - Floating Face Down 2



If you have been following this blog regularly you will have noticed a comment that came in from a swimmer who was having problems with a few things. I thought that the concerns were worth a little more than a passing reply so I decided to put them in separate posts.

The questions were roughly in two parts with the first part broken up into part "A" and part "B". The following is the part B of the first questions that came in.  Learning How To Swim as an Adult - Kicking & Buoyancy - Floating face down is part "A" of my reply part "B" is below:

If you remember the initial question went like this: I have a couple of questions and would like to know if you have any suggestions since I would like to put in more productive hours at the pool. I will try to be as succinct as possible:

1. Floating face down: my legs sink as I try to float and I am on an incline on the pool; doesn't matter if I just go face down or kick off. I am told its just because I am all muscle (5' 8" 145lb), but I somehow cannot fathom no buoyancy in legs at all. I would like to be able to get a feel of this and would appreciate any suggestions on this and if any drills could improve this. Does this have any affect on kicking?

Part B
Does this have any affect on kicking?
Yes! If you have an efficient kick then you probably do not need to worry about floating, as your kick will bring your feet to the surface.

The fact that you are concerned about the float may suggest that you do not have an efficient kick. If this is the case you will need to work on it.

The problem of an inefficient kick usually lies in a failure to understand what it is that propels a body in the water.

For example a straight leg is what most people are taught to do when they kick. Now this is a reasonable thing to teach as in most cases a swimmer has too much bend in there knees when they first start to swim or if they have never been properly corrected, but a straight leg only moves a limited amount of water and the reason why most people kick with a bent knee is because they get more movement out of that action.
 
The problem is that too much bend in the knee is counter productive in that every time you pull your knee back to start the kick again you create drag that slows you down.

The trick is to get a compromise between a perfectly straight leg and a bent knee.

So you do need to straighten you leg but only to the point were there is a little flick in it. Not a big enough flick to have your knees come out of the water because that creates other problems, but one that is big enough to propel you along whilst keeping you body including your hips reasonably flat in the water and close to the surface.

Now the other thing that most swimmers don’t recognize is that there are two parts to the kick. The first part is the knee and the second is the foot. Once you have sorted out your knees you still may be only getting minimal propulsion. This is almost always due to a swimmer not flicking their foot just as their leg straightens.

I don’t mean that you should actively flick your foot. That too would be counter productive as the energy, timing and concentration required just makes it so it’s all too much to think about for the new swimmer. No what I mean is setting your ankle relaxed (not loose as that may cause an injury) but relaxed so that it is free to move in the water.

                                                            Fig 1 Big Eddies


If your ankle is relaxed when you kick then you end up with a nice little flick at the end of your kick. That flick creates big eddies (Fig 1) in the water. These eddies are what creates enough resistance for your foot and leg to push against, giving you a nice push along in the water.

                                                                     Fig 2 Little Eddies

You can see the actions of this in the water and the effect that a flick has at the end of your kick by tying a flipper to a stick and keeping both under the water and close to the surface, moving them up and down. You will see a great deal of water moving in eddies along the surface. Now take the flipper off and just move the stick up and down. You will see a whole lot less water moving (Fig 2). This is the result of the flipper doing a flicking action at the end of its movement. Look closely at the end of the flipper as you move it up and down and you will see what I mean.

So now if you don’t want to spend time on your float then you need to spend more time on getting your kicking correct in order to maintain good streamline in the water. Better streamline means more efficient movement in the water and an easier, faster and more effective swim and swimming action.

Once you have the flick in your kick correct you will need to  practice  kicking with your legs close to the surface but not out of the water. The closer your feet are to the surface without breaking the surface, because feet out of the water only kicks air and air does not move you in the water, the more effective you propulsion will be, eliminating the sinking of your legs

Personally I’d be working on both your kicking action and your float as it seems to me that if both actions are good then your swimming must be superior to those who only are good at one.

Next time well be talking about our swimmers problem with breathing. A very common problem.

Enjoy
Richard

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