By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant
Freestyle techniques can vary widely; almost no two are exactly alike. But despite the myriad of differences inherent in the stroke, the most common flaws can often transcend the variations and many of them go back to the same basic root – balance.
A lack of balance can manifest itself in visible stroke flaws during the entry and extension portion of the stroke. Palm turns, sweeping motions, and compromised catches are among the most common. See below:
However, the causes of these over-corrections generally have little to do with the arms themselves and are normally driven by issues with a swimmer’s breathing and kick. The most common is perhaps a late breath, which causes a delay in returning to a clean body-line and necessitates a corrective motion – like an outward hand sweep. Another is the consistency of an athlete’s kick. Kick tempo tends to drive arm tempo and inconsistencies in the kick can lead to delays in body rotation and/or the execution of a proper catch.
Check out the video examples again and note the athletes’ timing of the breath and kick consistency and see how it is impacting their balance.
In all strokes, but particularly in freestyle, accurately identifying the problem is the key to successfully addressing it. For more on specifically correcting a late breath check out this HP article from earlier this year: Fix Late Breathing in Freestyle.
Once you’ve addressed that a strong steady kick will more easily achieved, which will almost certainly make you faster.