Of the three disciplines in triathlon, swimming is the most difficult to master. Efficient swimming really comes down to technique. Improved efficiency means going faster without a substantial increase in effort or energy expenditure. Even the best swimmers in the world continuously have a swim stroke analysis and refine their training.
As you cannot see yourself in the water, it’s difficult to know which elements of your stroke need improving. A video-based swim analysis can be very useful to get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve been swimming for 7 years but I’m constantly looking to improve my efficiency, particularly with the European Age Group Championships approaching. I recently booked in for a swimming technique assessment with Barry Williams at Group Evolution. The session was very comprehensive and involved an anatomical assessment in the gym before moving onto the poolside analysis.
The session took place at Barry’s home where he has a 12.5m heated indoor pool and small but well-equipped gym.
He went through a thorough assessment of my body’s flexibility, stability, symmetry and strength using Pilates-style exercises. His observations were that whilst I am engaging my superficial core muscles, I’m not fully activating my deep core. I had a lack of control during single-leg balance and hip twists. It wasn’t all bad news though- he commented that my body rotation was good and my shoulders and lats are strong.
The pool assessment takes place in a pool with a fastlane- this generates a current at varying speeds, which means you swim in a static position in the water. First I swam in my wetsuit and then in just my swimming costume. Barry filmed me from various angles, both underwater and from outside the water. He gave some feedback immediately, but I was also later sent a detailed report and video with advice on areas to improve. The full video with Barry’s commentary is on my IGTV:
The feedback was that generally I have a good position in the water, strong kick and good rotation, but my arm action could do with a little work:
- Arm recovery is a little low- I need to focus on exiting the water with my elbow.
- Hand entry is a little shallow and arm not fully extended- I need to focus on entering the water fingers first with a slight bend at the wrist, the fingers should be below the wrist and the wrist below the elbow.
- Elbow is carried too low so that it does not set up the catch- I need to engage and bend at the elbow to set up the catch. By having a higher elbow I will be able to catch more water rather than the water slipping off my arm.
- Pull-through is a little curtailed- I need to complete the stroke by pushing back with my hand, activating my triceps more forcefully.
I was also sent links to YouTube videos which explain these recommendations more visually. I’ve been focusing on some of these concepts and already I’ve noticed improvements. At club swimming, my average speed for 100m repeats has gone from 1:55 to 1:47-8 and I was moved up to a faster lane.
The swim assessment has really renewed my enthusiasm for swimming as I’m enjoying putting these new techniques into practice. For a long time, I’ve been focused on improving my running and cycling, so my swimming hasn’t progressed and has reached a plateau.
Group Evolution offer a wide range of services including gait analysis, running and cycling technique assessments, sweat tests, nutrition advice and body composition analysis. They also host retreats and training camps in at chateau in France, which looks absolutely amazing! They’ve got some top coaches on board including Dave Scott and James Beckinsale. Find out more about the training camps here.
My swimming technique assessment was gifted but all opinions are my own.
Have you ever had a swim stroke analysis?