In swimming, even the motions you make in the air are important. They affect how you move in the water in much the same way that a kayaker’s arm motions above the water affect the kayak in the water. Correcting how your arm comes out of the water, moves forward, and reenters the water can increase the effectiveness of your technique. The following focus points are offered in order from the beginning of your recovery to the end of your entry.
Focus Point - Marionette Recovery
The recovery starts from where the stroke and rotation have finished-you are on your side, with your hand just below the surface by your thigh (or, in some drills, resting on your thigh). Imagine that you are a marionette. Your puppeteer has a single string attached-to the elbow on your recovering arm. Your puppeteer lifts your arm out of the water by pulling up on that string. Your elbow rises while your forearm and hand hang down, relaxed from the elbow, with the fingertips near the water’s surface (perhaps even dragging through the surface) and close to the body (figure 5.6a). As the elbow travels toward the front end of your vessel, the hand follows a nearly straight line forward, never straying far from the body or the water’s surface (figure 5.6b).
Focus Point - Neutral Shoulder
A common recovery mistake is to allow, or force, the elbow to move behind the plane that divides the body between the front (navel) side and back (butt) side. This causes the head of the upper-arm bone to bind against the back and top of the shoulder socket-a no-win bone-on-bone conflict. Over the course of thousands (or millions) of repetitions, this motion will almost certainly cause an injury. But in the marionette recovery, you want to keep the shoulder roughly in the center of its front-to-rear range of motion. This keeps the elbow in front of the body plane and allows the shoulder to stay high and relaxed throughout the recovery (figures 5.6a and b).
Focus Point - Laser-Beam Rotation Trigger
I have talked about rotating the body from one side-glide position to the other, but not much about when to rotate. The secret to timing your rotation is in the recovery. Imagine a laser beam stretching across your lane at the front edge of your head, a few inches above the water’s surface. As your puppeteer moves your elbow, forearm, and hand forward, nothing else about your body position should change (i.e., you stay on your side and you keep the other arm fully extended). When the recovering hand crosses the laser beam, this is the trigger to begin rotating your body (in the side view of the marionette recovery figure, the recovering hand is just crossing this imaginary laser beam). As your legs drive your core rotation, the recovering hand continues moving forward toward the entry point. Using this mental image will result in a nearly perfect front-quadrant stroke.
Focus Point - Sliding-Board Entry
Your legs are not alone in driving your core body rotation. Their job is to initiate the rotation, and another mechanism helps complete the rotation. Lifting your arm and shoulder out of the water during the recovery stores energy (potential energy) in the form of a lifted mass that is poised to fall again (kinetic energy). As your hand passes through the imaginary laser beam and you begin the next core body rotation with your legs, you release that stored energy by allowing your arm and shoulder to fall toward the water. You guide its descent-as if the hand were zipping down a sliding board so that it pierces the surface of the water at a downward angle toward your extension point. The kinetic energy of this falling and extending mass adds to the energy of your core body rotation and is thus transmitted to the stroking arm through your tight line and paddle linkage. The muscles that you use along that side of your body to aggressively enter and extend further add to the power and snappiness of your rotation.
This is an excerpt from Fitness Swimming.