Last week when I sat thinking about the breaststroke for my blog, I struggled with what others will think about my emphasis on adduction (that is the motion of squeezing the legs together). You see, these days several top breaststrokers are being very successful with a much narrower kick that emphasizes the whip of the lower leg rather than the press. My hesitation to write a blog on breaststroke made me realized what my next blog needed to discuss. How stroke mechanics evolve in swimming.
Swimming as a very long history of evolving not from careful research, or an advanced understanding of biomechanics, or hydrodynamics. So how does swimming evolve? An attitude of: “It worked for that top swimmer, so it must be good, let’s do that.” Over the years the single largest driver for stroke change is the reaction to what top swimmers are doing.
It does not mean that because it worked for them, that it will work for you, or anyone else for that matter. Top athletes often achieve success in spite of a flaw, but we don’t want to pass that flaw onto other swimmers. There is also the small problem with incorrect reverse engineering. That is, seeing a stroke tendency in a swimmer or in many top swimmers, but coming up with the wrong cause. Then creating a stroke mechanic that seems to match the outcome but misses the critical point of what made it work.
So, what do you do? You ask why. Why does it work that way? Make sure the answer is in terms of simple to understand science. Physics, physiology, or hydrodynamics. Don’t accept answers like, it feels like you are swimming downhill. Phrases like this one are great, sometimes, for helping a swimmer get the feeling of a stroke change, but should not be a substitute for a grounded in science explanation.
Be aware of the change that no one will explain, it is probably not worth your time.
Up next: The much misunderstood “distance per stroke”