Dec 10, 2004

There is a string on our Discussion Board about the validity of hesitation drills in freestyle and backstroke. I think that hesitation drills can be effective for isolating core movements, and that they are great for learning the basics of rotation and hip timing. As you progress in proficiency, however, hesitation drills should be used sparingly. Try to subsititute drills -- or focus points -- that incorporate a fluid motion all the way through the recovery to the catch. This week's Drill of the Week is actually a focus point for backstroke and freestyle.

Why Do It:

Jeff's hand entry

Hip rotation is really important in the long-axis strokes. It's so important that almost all the backstroke drills you can think of are drills for HIP ROTATION. But, an equally important skill is the ability to accelerate the hand into the catch. There aren't a lot of drills for this; it's just something you need to focus on when you swim (without forgeting about hip rotation, of course).

There are certain correlations between backstroke and freestyle...and the golf swing, with the CATCH equating to the moment when your golf club hits the ball. The catch point in both backstroke and freestyle is much the same as the impact point in golf. You have to hit (or catch) square, clean, and true. If you timing is off, the result is a decrease in speed and efficiency. If your angle is off, you'll send the ball (or your body) shorter or, worse yet, into the woods. I don't claim to be a great golfer, but when I practice hitting balls out at the range or hacking up a course, I focus on the arm-hip connection. One thing that I never do is hesitate in my foreswing.

How To Do it:
Swim your choice of long-axis strokes. As you recover the hand, make sure that you continue to carry the momentum of your recovery forward all the way through the water and to its end point in the catch.

To help demonstrate this point, we have used some clips of Jeff Rouse swimming backstroke at various speeds. Notice that no matter how fast or slow he is swimming, his hands are always accelerating through the surface of water and into the catch point. The varying speeds are controlled by how fast he is moving his arms and body. The catch is always deep and precise and true -- like the golf club hitting the ball. This is really the most important thing. No matter what his speed, there is no hesitation in his stroke.

Next time you go to the pool, play with this focal point. Imagine that the catch point is the same as the point of impact in golf, or in baseball. If you are a pitcher, or even a bowler, imagine it as the release point. See if you have any hesitation in your stroke.

Only a few people in the world can do what Jeff does. But we can all learn lessons from what he is doing. I will never be able to hit a golf ball as far as Tiger Woods, but that doesn�t mean I can�t learn by watching him.

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