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Coach Steve being aero! SWIM TECHNIQUE: Swimming is different than cycling or running. With cycling you have a structure that controls the motion; your feet are clicked-in the the pedals so your legs move in perfect circles. When you run you're on solid ground, repeatedly bounding off one leg, airborne until the next footstrike. In the pool, a lake, or the ocean, anything goes because it's entirely up to you how you move through a liquid.

Good swim technique should feel as if you're holding onto an immoveable object, pulling (then pushing for second half of stroke) your body smoothly through the water. Keep in mind it's your body that's moving, not your hand. Swimming should feel like climbing a ladder where your hand doesn't move until you grab the next rung. Holding the water effectively is the goal while keeping your body streamlined for minimal drag.

The most common form flaw I see is a poor catch where the hand enters the water and goes too shallow; then the elbow locks-out as the swimmer tries to glide, and the stroke begins by pushing toward the bottom of the pool. Pushing downward creates no useful force to move a swimmer forward and stresses the shoulder (in fact this is the most common cause of swim injuries). 

An optimal catch has the hand entering the water not far in front of the head at a steeper downward angle, finishing extension in the water and going at least six inches below the surface. The elbow should never lock-out in front, and the wrist flexes immediately to put the hand in position to pull. The hand/arm pulls toward the body, not down. The elbow always stays higher than the wrist, so you're pulling with the whole hand/arm unit, not just the hand.

Many swimmers have poor body position as they swim. Their chest is too high, and their head is usually also too high. Your body only has so much float, so if your chest and head are high, your hips and legs will drop.

The remedy is to push your chest down toward the bottom, and in some cases tip your head back slightly. Initially the sensation may feel like you're swimming downhill. Your body position swimming should be similar to good posture out of the pool. This posture is the position you'd hold standing back against a wall with heels, butt, back and head all touching the wall.

Most swimmers I watch in the pool don't finish their stroke well. This last part of the stroke is what I call the push, or follow-through. The problem is that they don't push all the way back beyond their waist, pulling their hand out of the water too soon. Or they do push all the way back, but with their hand at an ineffective angle. Your hand position relative to your forearm must constantly change through the pull/push so it's perpendicular to the direction you're moving. At the finish of your stroke your hand should be bent back at wrist in the direction it does not want to go!
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