If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the shortest distance between one end of the pool and the other is…a straight line, then why do so many swimmers NOT take the straight line? Are you one of them? Do you add unnecessary distance to every length you swim?
We focus so much on how fast we get OFF the wall that we sometimes forget how important it is to go STRAIGHT when we leave the wall. We spin (or flip) around as quickly as possible. We say, "OK, let’s try it," to whatever position our feet happen to land in. And then we hammer off the wall (if you can call a one-legged, sideways push-off a "hammer"). Combine this with the fact that most of us have to circle-swim in practice, with other swimmers hard on our heels, and it’s no wonder that our turns are lopsided. In practice, our bodies push off over and over again to the right. So why are we surprised when we push off to the right in a meet? The problem only gets worse in a race, when there’s no time to think and you’re spinning as fast as you can.
Why Do It:
When you race, you don’t want to waste ANY time by adding distance to your event. You want to direct all your efforts into getting to the other end as quickly and efficiently as possible. Underwater Spin & Push-Off helps you focus on the correct foot position, hand/arm position, and hip position for a straight, powerful push-off.
How To Do It:
This drill is fun, and easy for me to practice in my backyard pool. It’s the PERFECT distance across, so I can make several turns on one breath. If you don’t have a pool that’s 20 to 25 feet wide, then simply practice one Underwater Spin & Push-Off at a time.
1. Stand at least 5 yards away from the wall (outside the flags if you’re in a 25-yard pool). Push off the bottom, or give a few kicks to get started, and swim into the wall under water. Adjust your pull so that you hit the wall with two hands, and with your body stretched out.
2. As soon as you touch the wall, spin around with a tight tuck, and push off as fast as you can.
3. Try not to look at the line on the bottom, because that will line you up, and makes the drill a little too easy. You want to go by FEEL and instinct, rather than by SIGHT and thought. Test your body awareness by closing your eyes for an instant as your hands touch the wall. Once you touch and close your eyes, spin as fast as you can, then push off, open your eyes, and see where you’re heading.
4. You’ll find that if you push off at even a small angle, you have to make a huge correction to get back in line, and this really slows you down. You’ll soon realize that to swim FAST, you need to initiate your push-off in a straight line.
How To Do It Really Well (the fine points):
You’ll notice that my backyard pool has no markers on the bottom — except for the drain. This makes it really challenging to stay straight (and even to determine WHERE the wall is). I have to go by FEEL. If I place just one small marker on the bottom, it helps clue me in to a better push off (and makes me appreciate how helpful the lines on a competition pool can be).
By keeping my body and turn under the surface, my rotation and spin will be slow, but that’s not the point of the drill. The point is to see how well you can line up your feet, torso, and arms for a STRAIGHT push-off. You won’t spin like this when you’re swimming, but you DO want to leave the wall perfectly on every length, and this drill helps you focus on just that.
In the video, it’s easy to see the difference between when I’ve pushed off correctly (I travel in a straight line) and when I’ve hit it a little bit wrong (I veer off and travel a crooked line to the other side). Try to focus your attention so that you feel any sideways movement of your body. Adjust your feet, body, and arms as necessary to eliminate this feeling, so that you’re traveling as short a distance as possible toward the other end.
Finally, understand that if you take just an extra instant to plant your feet correctly on the wall, you’ll be more consistent in pushing off STRAIGHT. This is a valuable trade-off of accuracy versus time. A firm, straight push-off will also give you more momentum and power than a one-legged, off-balance push-off. Taking time to plant your feet can actually make you faster in the long run.