Mo­bil­ity is the key to swim­ming fast

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 -

Swim­ming well is a com­bi­na­tion of good mo­bil­ity, strength, tech­nique and fit­ness. Most triath­letes fo­cus on fit­ness first, then try to ad­dress their tech­nique and, in the process, ne­glect strength and mo­bil­ity. This is a mis­take as in­ad­e­quate mo­bil­ity makes strength, fit­ness and tech­nique im­pos­si­ble to achieve.

Per­form­ing swim drills re­quires mo­bil­ity to ac­cess the new mo­tor pat­tern. Sim­i­larly, tight mus­cles work as in­ef­fi­ciently as weak mus­cles, so strength work to dial in new pat­terns is in­ef­fec­tive if you aren’t flex­i­ble enough. Some ath­letes try to use strength work to pre­vent in­jury when it’s ac­tu­ally mo­bil­ity (pre­vent­ing proper tech­nique) that is the root cause of the in­jury. Fi­nally, most triath­letes who strug­gle with swim­ming have poor tech­nique, but are very fit, so train­ing harder, with an in­ef­fi­cient stroke, is not pro­duc­tive. All of th­ese fac­tors point to mo­bil­ity as the foun­da­tion of a bet­ter swim split.

One rea­son chil­dren pick up swim­ming more eas­ily than adults is be­cause they have more flex­i­ble joints and mus­cles – ba­si­cally they have a greater range of mo­tion. Cre­at­ing new mo­tor pat­terns to adopt a bet­ter swim stroke is im­pos­si­ble if the body can’t get into the right po­si­tion. Adults who have spent years hunched over a com­puter have a dif­fi­cult time ac­ti­vat­ing the cor­rect mus­cles for a good swim catch. This means the body, which is great at com­pen­sat­ing if the cor­rect mus­cles are not avail­able, uses less ef­fec­tive mus­cles to try and adopt the new tech­nique. The good news is that per­sis­tent work on fun­da­men­tal mo­bil­ity can help you im­prove sig­nif­i­cantly.

Even elite swim­mers con­tin­u­ally work on mo­bil­ity. Elite swim pro­grams in Vic­to­ria fol­low a dry­land rou­tine of 10 min­utes of mo­bil­ity, 10 min­utes of strength and 10 min­utes of dry­land warm-up be­fore ev­ery prac­tice. This work is on top of any strength and mo­bil­ity train­ing that oc­curs reg­u­larly as an ad­di­tional ses­sion. Con­sid­er­ing that flex­i­ble swim­mers are al­ways work­ing on their range of mo­tion, triath­letes strug­gling to achieve even min­i­mum mo­bil­ity should in­clude th­ese ses­sions.

The fol­low­ing are some ideas on mo­bil­ity and strength ex­er­cises for swim­ming. Th­ese ex­er­cises fo­cus on the tho­racic spine, shoul­ders and pec­toral mus­cles. Th­ese are a good place to start, but ex­er­cises for the hips, lower back and an­kles are also im­por­tant. With per­sis­tent prac­tice, tight and in­flex­i­ble ath­letes can im­prove their range of mo­tion and ac­cess a good catch and ef­fec­tive pull, the keys to swim­ming well in open wa­ter.

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