Video: Where to Find “free” Propulsive Power and Energy
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 21st, 2010

One of the most-repeated swim-technique phrases is “Swim with your hips (or core.)” Good advice as far as it goes, but how does an improvement-minded swimmer apply it? It’s obvious we still need the arms and legs to get anywhere. Segment 6 of the Work Less Swim Better series explains and illustrates, using excerpts from Lesson 5 of the Self Coached Workshop DVD.

The primary benefit of core-based swimming is in replacing muscular exertion with “free” energy from body mass and gravity. This is the latest in a series of counter-intuitive ideas that appear in each lesson.

In Lesson 1, we learned to experience ‘weightlessness’ by cooperating with, rather than fighting gravity. In the SwingSwitch drill series we learn, once again, to take advantage of the always-present natural force of gravity. Think of it this way:

Your extended arm, ready to pull, is the “low” side of your body. Your recovering arm is the “high” side.  Potential energy is stored here.

High (Right) Side set to drive down in SwingSwitch

Instinct tells us to move forward by pushing water back with the ‘low-side’ arm. There is no potential energy here, so you must use muscular force.

In Perpetual Motion Freestyle, you propel by driving down the high side of the body (propelling that side through a ‘human-sized sleeve’ cut by your extending arm as we learned in Segment 5). We use that combination of gravity and body mass to throw a ball or a punch, to hit a golf-, base-, or tennis ball, and even to run and jump. It’s far more powerful and far less fatiguing than brute force exerted by your low-side arm.

What Lesson 5 shows is the really critical role played by your arms in Swimming with your Hips. The long-reaching, low-angle entry used by nearly all swimmers causes much of the energy produced by weight shift to be dissipated. A steeper ‘angle of attack’ on entry on delivers far more energy from weight shift to propulsion.

But the steep angle illustrated in this video doesn’t come naturally. The drills in Lesson 5 are intended to

1) Heighten perception of the most effective angle; and

2) ‘Wire’ the new angle into brain and nervous system.

4 Responses to “Video: Where to Find “free” Propulsive Power and Energy”

  1. Nice, I’m sending all of these posts to my swimmers!

  2. Katie Kenny says:

    I like it that you showed the clip of you and Shinji (5:04) to illustrate how rotation makes the recovery arm *look* higher than it is. That made me realize I was lifting my arm too high.

    I had a nice swim this morning combining a focus on 1.) Minimal clearance between my fingertips and the surface and 2.) Making my kick as seamless as possible. (

    It turns out that keeping my recovery arm a little lower improves my balance. That makes it easier to maintain a seamless kick.

  3. Mary Sloper says:

    Ahhhh! That’s what its all about, neck to shoulder to elbow in a straight line, what lifts the elbow above the water is the body rotation. Thank you for explaining it all so clearly.

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