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All-Strokes – Underwater Tempo-Trainer Dolphins

Originally published August 19, 2008

In case you missed the Olympics last week, and in case you missed how swimming was sorta in the limelight, you may have also missed seeing how important underwater dolphins are to a swimmer’s success.   As a hint, it’s the first thing we’ve started working on… even for us old Masters swimmers.

Why Do It:
Underwater dolphin is the fastest way to move through the water, and learning how to manage the effort (so you don’t run out of air) and the rhythm (so you don’t have to work so hard), is something we’ll all have to learn and experiment with.  If we get it just right, even older swimmers can take advantage of this useful move.

How to Do It:
1.  Grab your Tempo Trainer and set it to a moderate rate.  You may have to experiment a couple times to figure this out.. but don’t set it too fast.
2.  Start by pushing off the wall in a streamline position and match the rate of the Tempo Trainer.  Each beep gets a solid dolphin kick.
3.  Each time you finish a length, adjust the Tempo Trainer so that you increase the rate of your dolphin by just a bit.
4.  Continue increasing your rate until your kick is small enough to limit the resistance of the set up, and big enough to maintain your velocity off the wall.
5.  Breakout and swim either freestyle or butterfly.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
One way to monitor yourself is to take the same number of underwater dolphin kicks each time you push off, no matter how fast the Tempo Trainer is beeping .  Make a note of WHERE you come up, and what your effort level was.   You may find that smaller kicks are far more effective in maintaining velocity and minimizing the workload.  Keep playing with the rate and size of your kick… and keep thinking of the images you watched from the Olympics… that is… if you happened to catch the swimming.

If you need some inspiration for your underwater dolphins, pick up a copy of Go Swim Butterfly with Misty Hyman.  Misty’s underwater dolphins helped propel her to a gold medal in the 200 fly at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.