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Australian coaches Paul Newsome and Adam Young run a popular website, Swimsmooth.com, with loads of useful technique tips and videos for swimmers of all levels. Their new book, Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers and Triathletes ($25, Swimsmooth.com), is an extension of their site, with 316 pages of visual, comprehensive advice for improving your stroke.
Quick lessons from a recent read:
It takes two weeks to get bilateral. Have you given up on bilateral breathing after a couple of tries? “Allow yourself about two weeks (or six sessions) to persevere and keep your discipline with it,” the coaches write. “We call this the ‘two-week bilateral hump’ after which breathing to both sides should start to feel progressively easier.”
Your heels can indicate balance. If you need a quick way to check for a balanced body position, ask a coach or friend to see if your heels lightly break the surface (an indication of proper balance). As long as you’re not doing this by bending your knees excessively, your heels are a reliable indicator.
It’s good to be pigeon-toed. “Part of a good kicking technique is to turn your feet inward slightly so that the big toes brush against each other as they pass,” the coaches advise. Swimmers who turn their toes outward create drag in the water.
Knee kicking requires more air. Are you always out of breath when you swim? You could be kicking too hard from the knee, which uses more oxygen from the large quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, and also creates more drag. Kick from the hip with a relaxed, straight leg.
Fix your crossover to eliminate a scissor kick. The coaches write that approximately 70 percent of their swimmers have a scissor kick—when the legs spread wide—that greatly affects body position. It’s normally to counterbalance an arm crossing over the centerline, so if your arms don’t cross, your legs won’t scissor.