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Swim Smarter: Expert Tips to Fix Common Technique Mistakes

Feb 23, 2024

Want to transform from flailing to fast and fluid in the water? Effortless Swimming coach Brenton Ford shares his insider view on frequent flaws undermining many triathletes’ swim potential.

As a leading technique guru analysing thousands of underwater videos, he’s honed an eagle eye for subtle things sabotaging speed and efficiency. 


Take note of these common trending mistakes:

Over Rotating

Instagram makes rolling almost 90 degrees tempting. But for efficient forward propulsion, most athletes benefit from a narrower 30-40 degree rotational range using core strength rather than momentum.

Excess drag from pivoting too far simply slows you down. It also stresses the rotator cuff and compromises arm position entering the water. Think "rock the boat" not "capsize the boat"!


Exaggerating Cues

Many triathletes overcook helpful coaching cues into performance-limiting extremes:

High elbow recovery becomes restrictive jamming the arm against the torso rather than allowing some space.

Overdoing the early vertical forearm in catching causes shoulder stress and negates the power phase. Find a midway slot that maximizes propulsion.

The Goldilocks Method typically works best - avoid the two extremes and find the “just right” middle option for optimal efficiency.


Missing Foundational Mobility

Triathletes often suffer limited overhead shoulder mobility from hunching on the bike or slouching at desks. Two key tests determine if restrictions undermine proper stroke mechanics:

High Elbow Test - Thumbs under armpits lifting elbows overhead. 180 degrees is elite range, 160 great for swimmers, but 120+ helps sufficient catch.

Lateral Arm Raise - Lying face down, hands out front, lift straight arms with elbows locked. 20 degrees is elite scapular movement. 10 degrees gives decent strength. Below that often causes issues rotating properly.

Use targeted warmups with cords and light weights before swimming to actively maintain (not just stretch) important strength and range of motion.


Poor Training Environment

While squad swimming builds fitness, logging endless laps in chaotic washing machine lanes rarely cultivates flawless technique. The cognitive overhead focusing on timing while getting constantly bumped and blocked generally exceeds most athletes’ mental bandwidth.

Create space for focused practice too. Be sure to build solo technical drills into your weekly routine to ingrain proper patterns without scrambled eggs distraction.


Video Your Stroke

Eyes on your own technique provides invaluable objective feedback to stop guessing. While underwater footage offers optimal insight, even quick above-water clips captured by a friend's phone deliver solid intel.

If no coach available, use Brenton's self-analysis guide to methodically spot stroke shortfalls. Our eagerness to rush the process often results in practising mistakes unconsciously for months. Be your own technique lifeguard!


The Takeaway

Small adjustments will make a sizable difference propelling performance in no time. But left unchecked, inefficient habits harden like concrete over years hampering your swim fitness ceilings.


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