Thursday, October 11, 2012

Read This Twice -- It Makes A Lot Of Sense

Here's some great advice from Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman.  Hyman is a fellow coach at MAC Masters.  She's got the knowledge and the expertise to help any swimmer improve their stroke.  She knows the secret to any great swim is the kick...

In my experience, most pullers have trouble getting propulsion from the upward motion of the kick, known as the upkick. The upkick is in either flutter kick or butterfly kick when your legs come up behind your body in a straight position. A lot of people think of this motion as resetting the leg for the next downkick which is when the knee bends and whips the foot towards the front of your body and towards the bottom of the pool. The mistake many make is that they rest on the upkick and work too hard on the downkick. This puts most of the stress of the kick on the quadriceps which are large muscles in the thighs that require a lot of oxygen and can tire quickly.

A more balanced kick can be much more sustainable and effective. The key to a more balanced kick is twofold; being able to engage your glutes (your rear end muscles) and hamstrings (muscles in the back of your thighs) and opening up the hip flexors (muscles in the front of your hip). If you are lifting your leg up behind you while it is straight, you must use the muscles in your hamstrings and your glutes. A lot of us forget how to use those muscles or are just so tight in our hips that we can’t.

You can’t engage your glutes in an extended position if your hip flexors are too tight. Your hip flexors are a group of muscles located in the front of your hip where your upper thigh meets your lower abdomen.  There are a number of different ways to stretch your hip flexors. My favorite is a
kneeling lunge as shown to the right. It is important to keep your  lower abs tight to support your lower back. Lean forward in the position until you feel the stretch in the front of your hip. If your front knee goes over your front toes step the front foot forward more. Practice contracting your glutes while in this stretch. To increase the intensity of the stretch resist your knee into the ground as if you are trying to
pull the knee towards the front foot. I recommend resisting the knee for five deep breaths then
relaxing deeper into the stretch for three breaths. You can alternate this stretch with a hamstring stretch by simply straightening the front leg and moving the hips back over the bent knee. To increase the intensity of this stretch keep the back straight and lean forward over your front leg. Perhaps even bring
your hands to the ground. Keep your front toes pointed towards the sky. Hold this position for five deep breaths. Then repeat the entire routine three times in a row. Do this at least three times
per week.

Stretching is an important part of any swimming routine. Gold Medalists Jason Lezak and Dara Torres consider stretching an indispensable part of their dryland regimen. Jason stretches 3 times per day, and Dara stretches over an hour per day! Stretching for just 15-20 minutes each day can significantly improve your swimming especially your kick. Ask your coach for other great swimming stretches that you can do!

It is often difficult to engage new muscles when we are in the pool, because we naturally revert back to the habits we have had since we were very young. It can be helpful to simulate a proper kick motion out of the water in order to change our technique in the water. This is one of my favorite dryland exercises. You will need a medium sized inflatable exercise ball, often called a physio ball. Place your lower abdomen on top of the ball with your hands on the ground right under your shoulders. It is similar to a push up position, except the ball is under your lower stomach and hips. Extend your legs straight out behind you. Then do  a flutter kick motion in the air. Make sure that the leg that is going down towards the ground is bending to create a whip motion as you extend your toe towards the ground.

When your leg comes back up, make sure that it remains straight until it reaches its highest point which
should be slightly above your hip and body. Remember the self-talk, “Whip (bend the knee) down, lift up straight.” Alternate this motion with your legs as if you were kicking in mid-air. Be sure to keep your head in a neutral position in a straight line with your body. Keep your abdominal and back muscles engaged throughout this exercise to avoid injury. Balancing on the ball is part of the challenge of the exercise. At first the coordination is a challenge, but with practice it will become more natural.
Do this exercise for :30 seconds at a time then rest. Start with one set of :30 seconds the first time. When you are ready, build up to two sets of :30 seconds and then eventually three sets of :30 seconds. Do this exercise at least three times per week for 4-6 weeks. When this becomes moderately easy you can try the same exercise, but with your legs together for butterfly kick.


STRETCH!  Go to yoga on a regular basis or get stretched from a certified stretch therapist.
STRENGTHEN!  CrossFit helps strengthen the glutes, the hamstrings and the overall core.

You can kill two birds with one stone at Build Up Crossfit in Mesa.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True