Video: How Recovery can help Propulsion
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 23rd, 2010

In freestyle, recovery gets less attention than other parts of the stroke. Most folks are heavily focused on how to pull and kick, because it seems obvious that’s what moves you forward. But recovery is just as important to propulsion as pull and kick.

If you recover incorrectly, it causes instability in the core, or diverts energy up, down or sideways, causing arms and legs to spend more time (and energy) compensating than propelling.

If you recover correctly, how you bring your hand forward can really help move your body forward.

Terry and Shinji -- identical effective recoveries

The Lesson 7 rehearsal that imprints effective recovery

That’s the central idea of Part 7 of our Work Less, Swim Better series, which covers Lesson Seven of the Self Coached Workshop DVD.

How you bring your hand forward will strongly impact propulsion in two ways:

1) A human body in water is highly unstable. Even a small amount of misdirected energy can divert it off-course. Excessive lateral movement—swinging your arm sideways first, then toward the centerline–can move the body sideways. Excessive vertical movement will sink other body parts.  Either will divert energy from propulsion to correcting course or position. It will also occupy your arms and legs with fixing the diversions of mass and energy. The optimal recovery helps channel energy forward.

2) Recovery and entry also set up propulsion by putting your hand in the best position to begin the next stroke. From the first moment you apply pressure to the water, your palm should be facing back. If you have fingers down and palm back throughout recovery, your hand will be ready to pull effectively the moment it enters the water.

The most effective recovery includes these characteristics:

  1. Move your elbow in a circle as it exits the water. (Cyclists might think of it moving like the crank on a bicycle.) This converts the previous stroke’s rearward momentum into forward momentum.
  2. Carry the elbow forward in a straight line–outside your bodyline. This improves stability and minimizes the need for ‘steadying’ actions by hands or feet.
  3. Hand follows a ‘laserline’ from Exit to Target by (i) barely clearing the surface, and (ii) following a straight line on Wide Tracks. This saves time in the non-propulsive part of the stroke, allowing an increase in Stroke Rate while maintaining Stroke Length.
  4. Enter hand-then-forearm – without a splash. Your hand will then be immediately ready for the next stroke, and have ‘quiet’ water to hold.

The skills this requires are subtle — requiring precise adjustments in small muscles. And, like the steep entry angle taught in the SwingSwitch, they’re also strongly counter-intuitive. Learning them requires a sharper focus than any preceding skill.

We’ve had our greatest success teaching these exacting movements with a series of paired Rehearsal+Tuneup exercises, each of which address one narrow aspect of recovery.

You’ll find these recovery exercises in Lesson Seven of the Self-Coached Workshop DVD. Or you can learn and practice them Thurs Oct 21, if you register for our 5-Day Miracle class, taught Oct 18-22, (11 am to 1 pm each day) in  San Diego.

5 Responses to “Video: How Recovery can help Propulsion”

  1. Gords says:

    Nice video and explanations. Totally makes sense. I’ve been giving more thought to how to fix inefficiencies in my stroke and this video helps layout all the thoughts I’ll need to adopt as I retrain my brain/muscles.

  2. Alan says:

    I sometimes felt as if I had spent ‘too’ much time on the recovery aspect but now enjoy the benefits of this focus being, what I feel is, the ‘better’ part of my swimming/ stroke. I’ve also since learned it’s never “too” much in any regard.
    After last nights swim I discovered how much finding (by using this recovery focus) a smooth and efficient stroke rhythm can be meditative. Bonuses a.) offers me an opportunity to practice that meditation b.) offers me an opportunity to transition smoothly in bilateral breathing by allowing that rhythm to go uninterrupted and c.) after taking 20 or more strokes before sighting I find myself more ‘on target’.
    And after swimming an hour in this state found myself lost in stroke thought and rhythm while my swimming buddy practiced muscling through to “stay fit”

  3. How fortunate are we to have this form of practice?

  4. dinah says:

    thanks Terry, great post. i will be forwarding this onto my students whose recent focus has been recovery. dinah

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