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POWER UP YOUR CORE

Use rotation and anti-rotational exercises to develop more power and speed in your front crawl swim stroke, says Nick de Meyer

You’ve probably heard about core-powered or core-driven swimming: the idea that you use the muscles in your core to become a more powerful, efficient and faster swimmer while reducing your risk of injury. At the risk of getting technical, I want to explain why it works and how you can apply the principles, through developing your core strength, to your own swimming.

Bernoulli’s law states that to go twice as fast in water you need to expend four times the amount of energy. The implications of this, if we want to swim faster, are firstly that we need to be as streamlined as possible and secondly we have to be efficient in how we apply power to the water. Articles in previous issues of H2Open have examined the streamlining part of the equation in detail: here I want to look at the power side.

On the face of it, forward motion in freestyle is created by pushing water backwards with the hands (and, to a lesser extent, the feet). But, if that were the full story, we could lie flat on the water and simply spin our arms quickly to swim. Yet the fastest swimmers don’t do this. Instead they rotate their bodies through almost 90 degrees on each stroke, driving the motion from their core. This rotational movement has a number of advantages. Firstly, it extends the swimmer’s reach at the front of the stroke (just look at everyone finishing on their sides at the end of a freestyle race). Secondly, it is more streamlined. Thirdly, and most importantly, it allows us to apply more power to the stroke. This works through two mechanisms: by rotating, we put our arm into a biomechanically better position of strength, engaging much bigger muscles in our back and core to help with the pulling phase of the stroke; the second reason has to do with the counter-rotation. When our right hand enters the water, our body is rotating to the left. At the moment we begin the catch, the body stops rotating left and initiates the counter-rotation back to the right. We call this point the connection (between arm, core and hips). This counter rotation creates a stabilizing force that gives us something to pull against.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

One of the things that keeps me going through the winter is my daily outdoor dip, whatever the weather or temperature. A few years ago this would have been considered pretty odd behaviour by many, but opinions seem to be changing as outdoor swimming and cold water swimming is featured more and more in the media. Indeed, a group of sea swimmers now feature daily on the BBC in the short films between programmes! Find out the story behind the swimmers in our news section. Elsewhere in the magazine we hear from Beth French about her close encounter with a shark in the Molokai Channel, we meet English Channel swimming legends Kevin Murphy and Sally Minty-Gravett and gain an insight into what happens when a swim goes wrong from Mickey Helps’s story of his unsuccessful two-way English Channel swim. I have really been enjoying Terry Laughlin’s series on mindfulness in swimming, which he brings to a close this issue with a look at swimming as ‘moving meditation’. It is a really interesting element to introduce to your training sessions. If you haven’t decided what swims you would like to complete in 2017, check out our event listings. And remember, events are not just for competitive swimmers – a race is only a race if you race it, otherwise it is just a lovely swim. We have some exciting news to share about H2Open – turn to page 27 to learn about our big plans for 2017 and how the magazine is changing. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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