2/1 – Coach’s Corner: DMC Swim Fin Review

As the year begins to progress, we will begin to incorporate the use of swim fins in order to build some more power with our legs and core. I have noticed that most of us are using fins that are a bit out of date. The rubber material that most fins are made of begins to stiffen and also warp after a certain point which can change the impact they have on your swimming. I also don’t advise using longer fins. Therefore, I wanted to provide you with some information on a brand of swim fins that I am becoming a fan of and am going to purchase. I was speaking to Michael Eisenberg (The Swim Guy) about the new DMC swim fins that he is selling at his stores, and he provided me with the following paraphrased description of the different kinds they make.
There are 3 styles of DMC fins. Each are good for the Master swimmer but we recommend the Original and the Elite 2 both softer and not as stiff as the Elite 1. All 3 fins are made to engage the core while also correcting any imperfections in the kick. They theory is that you will gain the muscle memory when you take the fin off to have a better kick.
Original: This fin has a heal cup and was the first of its kind. Soft silicone and many sizes. Perfect for people who are swimming for Wellness. ($49.95)
Elite 1: Stiffer fin, perfect for more regular swimmers with stronger kick and core that is looking to build leg strength for competition. Open back Ankle allows better movement and a more natural ergonomic feel with the leg when kicking – soft silicone. ($58.95)
Elite 2 (NEW): Best of both worlds. Softest Silicone Fin that reduces stress on the lower back and knees. Pushes you along but also engages your core. More Ergonomic since it is softer but is still stiff enough to engage your core and correct imperfections in your kick. Can do ALL 4 strokes, yes, even the breast stroke! Perfect for people who are swimming for Wellness.  ($79.95)
There are some other good fins out there, and you all don’t need to go out and upgrade your fins immediately. But, if improving your core strength, balance, and efficiency in the water is of value to you, this will be of great benefit. Your other fins will still work, but I think you will like the feel of these better. I would hypothesize that they will help you to not cramp so easily when you where fins, not deal with heal slippage, have less tension on the ligaments and tendons of your ankle while still gaining the benefit of added muscle power, and help you to build more neuromuscular connections to help close the gap between your speed with and without fins. If you have any questions feel free to ask me or you can call The Swim Guys as well!

1/1 – Coach’s Corner: Philosophical Rant

I’ve long been wanting to have a conversation with all of you about what it means to move in water, what it means to swim.
There are three phases of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. As terrestrially-bound creatures, our existence as an organism is spent almost entirely dealing with two phases (solid and gas). In fact you can view yourself as liquid matter, on solid matter, in gaseous matter. This is essentially you down to its simplest categorization (matter). If this has actually sunk in, this would mean that venturing into a liquid environment would be both completely alien and totally nostalgic. How is that possible?!
This is one of the most important concepts to understand and is the basis of understanding movement in water. Liquid is an intermediate form of matter (lies between solid and gas phases). It is essentially, a solid which behaves as a gas, or perhaps, it is the other way around. Behaving in water is a contradiction (for terrestrial lineages). It is equal parts gas and equal parts solid. It is equal parts of tension and equal parts of relaxation. It is as much holding your breath as it is constantly breathing. It embodies stillness and continuous motion. Just think about the nature of swimming. We move sideways (freestyle, backstroke) or vertically (butterfly, breastroke) with the sole purpose of moving forward. The pull occurs in a straight line, vertically and horizontally, while being cyclic. The fact that we are frustrated when we do not know how to behave properly in water is preposterous. Liquid environments favor both tension and flexibility. There is nothing more foreign to your body than being in water, however, at the cellular-level, that is all there is. In order to learn these concepts at your most basal being, you must spend time in the water! Enough time so that you abandon all of the ill-conceived ‘laws’ of movement which your mind will tell your body it most assuredly knows. Once you have spent an adequate amount of time in the water, you’ll find that this concept takes no thought, no sense of understanding, no effort. It is fact. It is something you have already known and will always know.
Understanding the basis of your confusion may help you to understand some of these contradictions with which you must embrace when swimming. If you understand this principle, we will comprehend the answers to these questions…
Q: How do I lift my feet without kicking?
A: Tuck the tailbone down, lowering your feet further. (Then press down with the chest.)
Q: How do I make it easier to breathe?
A: Press your chest and head deeper into the water. (Then rotate.)
Q: Is the pull an S-shape?
A: Yes, but as shallow (straight) of an S as possible.
Q: How much should I rotate?
A: the maximum amount while never reaching 180 degrees (different with very short sprints). In other words, you go as far on your side as possible while never technically being on your side.
If you struggle with these things, I encourage you to try different strokes, swim at different speeds, use equipment (buoy, snorkel, board, paddles, fins). The more space and time you have to play in the water the more quickly you’ll uncover these secrets. If this confused you more, see you at practice!

12/4 – Coach’s Corner – Product Review: paddles

A few of you have recently asked me which paddles I recommend to help improve your swimming, and the answer is whichever one works best for you. Most of the paddles will work just fine for most of you. But, they do have different purposes, and it is important to understand the purpose of each paddle design. Below I have detailed a general guide to the purpose of the different design styles and have a few specific examples.
There are 4 general classifications (according to me) of paddles that exist:
1.) Round
2.) Square
3.) Contour
4.) Specialized
4.) Specialized paddles are for a highly specified purpose (e.g. catch-paddles that extend to your forearm, freestyle paddles, finger paddles, resistance gloves, etc.) and I usually advise against them because it limits the range of possible motions you can do with the paddle. However, if you are looking for a tool to train a specific area, that could be of benefit to you. It will not be good for sculling or other strokes.
3.) Contour/concave paddles are for primarily designed to reduce the resistance on your hand and subsequently your shoulder. This can be a good thing if you have had shoulder injuries in the past, do not possess significant shoulder/upper body strength, or if you plan to swim high yardage with the paddles. These paddles, are okay for breastroke and butterfly but not the best for backstroke. The goal of the concavity is to simulate natural swimming form, but this claim is erroneous. I do not advise these paddles, but they may be the ‘safest’ (if you plan to swim dangerously).
2.) Round paddles are primarily designed to maintain a relatively high resistance, while reducing the ‘negative’ effects associated with pulling error. These paddles are often slotted (contain holes) to further reduce the resistance and subsequent strain on your shoulder. Many of these paddles also tend to be oversized which essentially counteracts the resistance-saving ability described above. Don’t get them too big, unless you have great stroke technique! These paddles are the most widely used and come in a diversity of forms. These paddles also come in a symmetric or asymmetric form. Symmetric versions are definitely advised if you plan to swim other non-freestyle strokes. The Finis paddles do not have fingerstraps which some of you may find nice, but they will require thumb strength…
1.) Square paddles are probably the most ancient version of paddles but have tremendous value. They are not made to reduce the resistance on the water. This makes them the most ‘dangerous’ but at the same time this is what makes them highly beneficial. They are typically not slotted and have square edges. The square edges force a limited array of movements. The consequence of not maintaining movements in this range are much more noticeable with these paddles. Therefore, they can actually promote better swimming technique which will reduce the likelihood of shoulder injuries in the long-term. That also, means that caution must be taken with them in the immediate. Technique must always be a focus with these paddles, and they are not advised for breastroke or butterfly due to their more cyclic stroke pattern (but can still be used).
Whichever paddle you decide, as long as you consider its purpose, we will use them effectively in practice. Please take caution when using it on your own. Do not feel obligated to buy or use paddles. I have a few pairs that I can lend some of you and the pool has a few kinds as well. There are two more things to consider when buying paddles. Do not buy them too big (often a size smaller for the round paddles), and do not wear the wrist strap (if it comes with one).

11/1 – Coach’s Corner – Practice Problems

Each of us has a different level of experience in the sport of swimming, and one of the things that comes with experience is an understanding of the lingo and the terms that coaches often use during a practice. On top of that, there is great variation from coach to coach on terms they prefer to use. So, I have provided a couple practice problems for you to test your understanding of swimming vocabulary. Each scenario is presented how I would announce a set, and below each scenarios are some set comprehension questions. Answers are at the bottom of the newsletter, don’t cheat!
Scenario 1:
Coach says, “We’ll be doing 2 rounds of a 200 swim, 4 x 50 descend 1-4, and a 100 kick on 20 seconds rest. ”
1. How much total rest will you take during the set, not including rest after the final 100 kick?
2. What does descend mean?
3. What stroke is the 200?
4. Is the 100 kick with a kickboard?
Scenario 2:
Coach says, “We’ll be doing 6 x 125 freestyle with a pull buoy, going 25 scull/125 pull on 2:30 followed by 8 x 50’s swim going 1 ez, 1 fast on 30 seconds rest.”
1. How much rest will you get on the 125’s?
2. Is the 4th 50, easy or fast? Will you get the same amount of rest on the easy 50’s as the fast 50’s?
3. How many yards is this practice (Scenario 1 and 2, combined)?
Scenario 1:
1. 11 x :20 = 3:40
2. increase speed by replicate (seperate swims). Your times are descending.
3. If not specified, it is always your choice.
4. If not specified it is always your choice.
Scenario 2:
1. It depends on your speed. Given a scull 25 in :40 and a pace of 1:30 for a 100 pull you would get :20 seconds rest.
2. Fast. Yes, they are on :30 seconds rest
3. Scenario 1 = 1000 yards, Scenario 2 = 1150; Total yardage = 2150 yards.

6/1 – Coach’s Corner – Intro to Biomechanics and Physiology of Swimming

I just wanted to include some information that may be helpful to your understanding of the biomechanics of swimming. As most of you know, I’ve been taking some Anatomy and Physiology courses through UCLA Extension. Since I have been taking these courses I have been able to formulate a more scientific explanation of some of the important concepts of swimming which I repeat on a regular basis. I wanted to provide you with this more exhaustive explanation because there are some of you that learn better this way. For other more visual leaners, this may be of no help at all, but I want to provide it nonetheless. This month’s Coach’s Corner will focus on rotation and reaching. Rotation and reaching are closely tied together; if you are not on your side, you are not reaching as far as you can. In swimming this rotational movement is referring to movement of the torso (including the hips, excluding the head) during long-axis strokes. Freestyle and backstroke are defined as long-axis strokes because the rotational/longitudinal axis does not change nor does its position throughout the movement.
Rotation is one of the first things that any swimming instructor teaches to their swimmers. It is important for many reasons, most of which should be review for you. It makes it easier to breathe, it allows you to reach further, it transfers energy from one side to the next (momentum), lightens the load on your arm during the pull, and it reduces frontal drag by eliminating the need to lift your head (hip sinking) to breathe. I won’t be elaborating on any of those, but instead will introduce some new concepts that have been widely studied in Biomechanics which have application to rotation in swimming.
The first concept is called the Length-Tension Relationship. This posits that the contractile tension that a muscle can produce increases with the length of the muscle. Often times I see swimmers attempt to pull water before they have fully extended their arm forward (rotated). This acts to weaken your own strength. So how far should you reach? This concept also proposes that the maximum contractile tension a muscle can produce is at its resting length (relaxed and extended, no flexion at the joints). So, this concept also emphasizes the importance of not over-reaching (rotating) because over-stretching your muscles will act to decrease the strength with which one can pull.
The second concept I would like to share with you all is called the Stretch-Shorten Cycle. This proposes that concentric force production (active muscle shortening) is enhanced when an eccentric (active muscle extension) contraction immediately precedes it. At a given moment, each muscle has a maximum force with which it can contract. But, if the contraction is immediately preceded by an eccentric contraction the muscle can produce an increased force through the storage of elastic energy. So in the water, as your arm extends forward, your lats (latissimus dorsi), posterior deltoid, biceps, and several muscles of your upper back are eccentrically contracting (actively lengthening). These are agonist muscles for your pull, meaning these same muscles will be used throughout the reach and the pull of your stroke (along with other smaller muscles). Extending them forward (to their resting length) prior to pulling, will increase the strength with which you can pull. This should also caution you however as to how long you should reach or glide before you pull. The storage of elastic energy is very brief and dissipates quickly. Over reaching and pausing too long out front will not yield an increase in strength and will actually tire out your muscles faster. This is the point of the Distance-Per-Stroke (DPS) drill. The point is not to over-exaggerate the extension so that these benefits are lost but too prolong the conservation of elastic energy into your pull (the moment that eccentric contraction transfers to concentric contraction). Being able to do so, dramatically increases your ability to actively increase your own strength in the water.