Friday, January 21, 2011

Critique My Swim Stroke

When I decided to do my first Triathlon in May of '09 I was an extremely poor swimmer and really had not even tried to swim a lap since I was a 7-year old kid trying to obtain my Tadpole Badge from the local YMCA.  I was terrified of doing the 500-meter swim so I spent a lot of time in the pool trying to learn how to swim freestyle.  All that time in the pool got me through the swim in my first Tri but the 2:37/100y split was just slow and I knew if I wanted to get faster it was going to take a lot of hard work.

Not being one to back down from a challenge I joined a Master's Class at the LifeTime Fitness and started swimming regularly.  Many of you may remember that from June to November last year I consistently put in 10,000-12,000 yards per week and blogged about seeing some improvements in the pool.  I have a really great coach who makes minor changes from time-to-time and I am feeling very good about my swim. 

Right now I am averaging about 1:35/100 but know I can still get a lot faster.  I "feel" good in the pool right now but being that I am a visual type of learner it makes it easier for me to make corrections if I can "see" my stroke for myself.  So on Tuesday my buddy Dave took a couple videos of me doing a few lengths and I thought you all might enjoy seeing these as well.

These are at 4:45am on a Tuesday morning, be gentile on my scrappy appearance:

Video #1:

Video #2

Many of you readers have awesome swim experience and knowledge and I'd love to hear some critiques.  I am not sensitive and encourage constructive criticism so please don't hold back.  I have already taken a few notes myself so it would be great to compare.

Only regret is I never took a video of my stroke back when I first began.

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend!

Thanks for Reading (viewing),



  1. You are swimming 1:35/100's so what do I know but I did notice that your left arm esp. crosses over your center line on your reach and your pull on your right was drifting a little bit under your body. But like I said, read my fist line again.

  2. I have been swimming since June 08 and I am no where near 1:35 per 100 so I have no comment. I can get to 1:40 on a good day, but that is not for any sort of distance. You rock!

  3. Wow, 1:35/100 is awesome!! I too noticed your arms crossing center line (and also hand entering water too soon?) but agree with Patrick, I'm not a swim coach. :-)

    I recommend Swim Smooth; this is a FANTASTIC critique of Lance Armstrong's stroke; I learned a lot, and I think some of it might be applicable to your stroke too.

    all of their videos on YouTube are fantastic.

    Good luck! If you're already swimming that fast, you can only get faster by refining your stroke. I aspire to your speed! I'm working on it a LOT this year.

  4. So your stroke count is pretty high. I counted 20-21 each for all four lengths that were shown. This is due to a short glide, which is due to little extension of your arms after hand entry.

    When your hand enters the water and you are rotating onto your side and extending your arm out, are you feeling a stretch in your armpit and just below the armpit? If you are feeling this stretch, that means you are engaging those large Lat muscles which should be doing the bulk of your pulling.

    You are also crossing over on both arms. This limits the pulling power and puts strain on your shoulders. You want a wider entry. This will also allow you to extend your arms further.

    Remember, the more extension, the more water you can grab = more powerful pull.

    A good drill to fix this is to have someone take a stick with a ball attached to it and have them drag it right in front of your head. If upon entry your hand is hitting the ball, you are crossing over.

    Another drill if you can't do the above, is have your hands enter like they are pointing to the corners of the pool. Its gonna feel strange, but in fact you will probably be entering correctly.

    Also, are your hands swooping up when extending your arms? Hard to tell, but that is the equivelant of putting on the breaks. Think about angling your hands down after entry and get a good catch. You want them to be flat.

    You have good body position! I can see it with your back being out of the water.

    More extension = more pull = more glide = greater efficiency.

    You can get your stroke count down to 15 or 16.

  5. Wow, I need to write Jon's comments down.. (really).

    I did notice something when we met this week. You are 150 pounds. If you gain 25 pounds you will be more buoyant.... like me. Glad I could help... email me anytime for these tips, no charge.

  6. I am a sloooooow swimmer, so no tips from me, but I definitely learned from the other comments here. Thanks!

  7. I am not a coach, but I noticed, like Jon that you could glide some more, lessen the stroke count. But I think your swim looks terrific! Great job Jeff.

  8. Dude—the swim looks really solid, honestly.

    I agree with Jon—you look like you are crossing over a bit (with both arms). I do this as well. WHen I do drills and concentrate on entering the water a bit wider, I can really pull from my lats with a little more natural rotation.

    Of course, Bob does have a point as well. You look like a svelte Swedish boy. You're from Texas.. eat some ribs hombre. Honestly. Drink a beer—not a light beer. Like a real beer.

    P.S. I would recommend actually getting with a coach. I've been swimming for four years.

    P.S.S. No ONE can take that tadpole badge away from you!

  9. Great comments here already. If you really want to get down and dirty with stroke analysis, you should try to get some underwater footage head on and from the side. Then you will really be able to see what your pull is like and how you can tweak it to make it even stronger. You'd be surprised at how cheap you can get an underwater camera these days...might be worth it.

  10. Main thing I notice was the cross over and early hand entry. :)

    I have a waterproof case for my flip... great for catching the underwater stuff. I need to do this again! ;) Also wish I had done it back in the day! :)

  11. Your stroke looks great, but like others mentioned, I did notice you crossing over. BUT, you are still super fast! I wish I was that fast!

  12. You passed the guy in the lane next to you like he was treading water. You're doing great. I'll be happy to ride your wake at IMTX. :)

  13. I have nothing new to add, except I'm impressed with your flip turns and you smoking the guy next to you! :)

  14. I feel like I learned a ton from reader's comments in this post. I am a below amateur swimmer and can offer nothing other than I admire you for training for a tri! Don't know how you all manage the training.

  15. Thanks everyone! Some awesome tips here!

    Just seeing myself has helped tremendously.

    And I really wanted Jon to see this because I knew he would have awesome feedback as he has crafted himself into quite the fish!

  16. One way to increase the power and glide is to rotate more in you hip as you pull. So reach like you mean it when your hand enters the water, then pull the water like you are pushing back a ton of bricks, and use the force of that push back to rotate your opposite hip in a snap. You are so focused on good technique that you are not really using the pull to GRAB that water. Imagine you are using your arms to push yourself out of the pool-that is the feeling. You USE the water to propel you forward and you will rotate in response to that. you are pretty flat in the water.

  17. Believe me I am still working on this myself and I can see what I do wrong but it takes a few months for me to get it right!!

    You are crossing the midline with your hands- finger tip drills are excellent for this. You want your shoulder and hand in alignement

    no high elbows- Imagine pulling from your lats and forearm. PT paddles really help with this one!!

    Rotate with your hips and glide. Imagine youare trying to get your hand over a barrel that is too high for you to reach. Thats how it should feel right before your catch!

    You have great speed! You will perfect it! Underwater swim analysis is the way to go to see exactly what you are doing with your catch as well

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  19. I'm a 1:30-1:35 swimmer myself and I know that I can still improve. I don't have much more to offer, you've gotten lots of great advice.

    Nice work blowing past the guy in the lane next to you!

    PS: Do you think Jon is available to hire as a swim coach???

  20. Agreed with the other posters.

    I am a swim coach.

    Another drill you could do to stop overcrossing is to swim heads up freestyle. Then you see where your hands are entering the water.

    I'd also recommend not bending your elbows quite so much. I think it will help you lengthen your stroke, your hand point of entry.

    Underwater you start off the a high elbow and then towards the middle of the stroke you can see you elbow pull thru. You want to keep a higher elbow under the water.

    On some strokes it looks like you are doing the "s" curve. That's an old school swimming.

    Another thing-You are flipping too close to the wall. You don't need to take the last stroke. Your legs look really scwunched. When you push off the wall you legs should be at or close to a 90 degree angle.

  21. Great job dude. I'm pretty sure you earned your tadpole badge at the PVCC.

    But seriously, you know I'm not a coach and a newbie to swimming like you but an easy drill my coach made me do was the superman. So arms straight ahead, shoulder width apart (like superman), maybe even a little wider, kick, and count to two, take a stroke, back to superman, kick, count to two and repeat.

    BTW loved reading your post a few days ago about running slow to go fast. Felt foreign to me at first, but totally works.

    Keep up the good work.

  22. after watching that smooth turnaround I am turning around and going back to the road (for my shoes and my bike). Thanks for nothing!!

    Keep it up, you look great!

  23. I don't know the first thing about swimming so I won't even pretend to comment but I did want to say congratulations on the improvement!

  24. Yeah, I swim 2:00/100s on a good day, so I am not saying a thing...

  25. I think everyone has pretty much said it all - I noticed the crossover of midline as well as shortchanging yourself in terms of length of arm placement - you cut in not far from your head. Try to lengthen it and reach a little further forward. The way I found that helps to stop the crossover is to do Freestyle with the board - hold it in front of you at your fingertips then whenever you take a stroke make sure your hand ends in the same position.

  26. Good luck to your squad this evening! May they get to the SB and CRUSH the annoying neighbor cheeseheads....neighbor as in state of WI and also the little "party" that has filtered onto our street:( those f'ers!!

    Great job taping yourself and agreed the comment tips are priceless. Im taking Jon's comments for myself:)


  27. I think your seat is too high...

  28. Great comments by everyone - like everyone else the crossover (both entry and in the s-curve underwater), but I think you need to be careful when you work on your glide. If you notice on over half your strokes you are almost doing a catch up (one hand is still out front when the other begins it's pull) Your hands should be at opposite positions so make sure when you are adding in glide it's not in the front of your pull. (does that make sense? If not email me and I can find some videos to send you to show you what I mean)

  29. This was huge for me, and I know for you as well, but watching swimmers better than I helps me to get better as well.

    Jon's comments are invaluable as well.

    I have some swimming on deck tomorrow and will certainly be thikning about this.


  30. I think it's totally awesome that you put this out there. I might have to copy your idea!

  31. Hi Jeff! Jason asked me to check out your video after reading my post today re my swimming issues.

    I hope to be able to improve on my freestyle just like you. Now I'm thinking of enrolling in a class this summer. =)