Doing it because an Olympian does it is no way to improve your stroke

Over the years I have seen many stroke variations become popular in the sport with no more supporting evidence than we saw it done by a top swimmer.  Showing me an Olympic swimmer or even multiple swimmers is not a justification or proof that this is a good idea.  Swimming has backward engineered from top swimmers since the sport was invented, so that’s a long time.  Here is what you get when you take advice from watching technique in top swimmers:

  • For every stroke mechanic you show me on a top swimmer I can show you two that don’t do that.
  • Often a swimmer is successful in spite of an anomaly in their stroke, not because of it. Do you know when it’s a benefit?
  • Look out for stroke mechanics that have been backward engineered. Cause and effect are often confused. Swimmers, and coaches too, wind up making the wrong change trying to get the effect they can see without understanding the physics of the underlying cause.
  • A stroke mechanic that works for an individual may not work for the general swimming public. You may not be flexible enough, strong enough, or simply have the wrong body type to mimic a specific swimmer.

This does not mean that no stroke mechanic change coming out of the elite swimmer is unworthy.  In fact many an advancement comes from watching the best in most any field. But, before you change your stroke mechanics ask for the why. Why does it work the way it works?

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