Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Swimming - eliminate the scissor kick

Since I've been coaching swimming, I have started to make a theory about the dreaded scissor kick that is the bane of most people who come to swimming from a non swimming background.

You know the kick where when people go to breath they spread their legs to give them more stability in the water.

Well each time that person goes to breath and widens their legs they are essentially creating a massive anchor that they are pulling behind them. They are slowing down their swimming because spreading the legs increases their hydrodynamic drag. Imagine if it was in cycling, you try to make yourself as small to the wind as you can so you go further for the same effort, well the same theory applies with swimming because you are still moving through a fluid.

Who knew that I would find a tenuous use for the the fluid mechanics I studied at University in 2001.

I am sure some swimming gurus like Paul Newsome may not agree with this post but I have been trying to eliminate this with some of the swimmers at Doncaster Triathlon Club and think I have found the culprit behind this scissor kick.

I looked at this with an open mind and after some experiments I believe I have found the cause of the scissor kick and a drill to eliminate it.

First the cause.

The cause for this scissor kick in my opinion is rotation. Yes you read that right rotation!

Before you get started and get angry, stay with me.

Yes you need to rotate in front crawl, but the scissor kick is caused by what you rotate with.

From my observations you are more likely to scissor kick if your shoulders are leading the rotation in front crawl.

The reasons being that your legs will lag behind the other parts of your body as you rotate. Imagine a wave in your mind or better still click this link.

As you can see from the video if the shoulders are leading the rotation it stands to reason that the hips will lag a little behind and the feet will lag even further behind. Because the feet lag so far behind it also stands to reason that the swimmer will need to create some stability for themselves in the water. To do this they kick their legs and the result is the scissor kick.

Second the solution.

If we learn to rotate from the hips instead of the shoulders, in theory the shoulders and feet will be rotating at the same time as we are rotating from the centre of our mass, and the body will be more stable so there will be no need for the scissor kick to occur.

So the key IMO to remove the scissor kick is to learn to lead with the hips instead of the shoulders.

Where I have managed to get swimmers to lead with the hips, the scissor kick is completely eliminated.

But as #practicemakespermanent it takes time and practice to get this to happen. Imagine if a swimmer has been swimming leading with the shoulders for 2 years, thats two years worth of bad habits we need to eliminate before they will feel natural rotating with the hips.

Now for the drill which can help eliminate this problem.

Before some of your lengths practice this drill. Yes you might feel like an idiot but it works.

You have to be in a streamlined position for this to work with your arms out stretched in front of you. The reason your arms have to be outstretched is that it stops you rotating with your shoulders and this means you must rotate with the hips.

As you push off from the wall perform a 360 degree rotation underwater (while kicking) in the streamlined position with your hips leading the rotation before you take your first stroke or breath. Imagine M Bison from Streetfighter II to help with this drill.

Because you have started the length leading with the hips, you will lead your rotation for the rest of the length with your hips instead of your shoulders.

Keep practicing this drill and you should notice that the scissor kick which has plagued you disappears over time.

I hope you find this blog useful and helpful.

If you need anything clarifying, leave me a comment and I will try to answer any queries.

Thanks for reading,