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What does the index of coordination (IdC) have to do with swimming faster?

The IdC is a measure of arm coordination in freestyle. Specifically, the IdC indicates if the arm coordination is less effective by producing gaps in propulsion or if the arm coordination is more effective by producing a more consistent source of propulsion. The main benefit of more continuous propulsion is faster swimming.

An effective freestyle with “no gaps in propulsion” has been supported by research since at least 1955 (Counsilman). Since then, numerous other studies concluded that gaps in propulsion were counterproductive and should, in fact, be considered a technique error (e.g., Chollet, Millet, Lerda, Hue, & Chatard, 2003; Schnitzler, Ernwein, Seifert, & Chollet, 2006; Seifert, Boulesteix, & Chollet, 2003).

The IdC was developed in 2000 to quantify the relative position of the arms throughout the stroke cycle, (Chollet, Chalies, & Chatard). A zero IdC occurs when one hand begins to pull at the same time that the opposite hand completes the push (middle image). With a zero IdC, the arms are in opposition throughout the stroke cycle.

Index of Arm Coordination

A negative IdC occurs when the entry arm does not begin to pull when the opposite arm completes the push (top image). The failure of the entry arm to begin to pull causes gaps in propulsion. A negative IdC is also called catch-up stroke.

A positive IdC occurs when the entry arm begins to pull before the opposite arm completes the push (bottom image). A positive IdC is also called superposition, as there is an overlap in arm propulsion for a more continuous source of propulsion.

The science overwhelming supports a positive IdC for the fastest swimming. Yet, swimmers are almost always using a negative IdC, often -5% to -10% and even lower. A swimmer cannot maximize velocity with a negative IdC.

Swimmers usually only use a positive IdC at velocities above 1.8 m/sec. Even at the fastest swimming velocities (over 2.0 m/sec), an IdC above 5% is rare. An IdC over 10% and probably over 20%, however, is possible and also essential for the fastest human swimming.

Unfortunately, typical training promotes a negative IdC. Swimming longer distances at a slower stroke rate, fatigue, and an arm entry parallel to the water surface all encourage a delay in beginning propulsion with the entry arm. The result is that swimmers are usually practicing an arm coordination that is counterproductive to swimming fast.

Fortunately, there are strategies that can help a swimmer learn to swim with a positive IdC and make use of the arm coordination that produces the fastest swimming. Optimizing the IdC requires 1.) mastering an effective downward angle on the arm entry, 2.) maintaining primarily backward hand motion as the torso rotates upward on the push phase, and 3.) gradually increasing the speed of the arm recovery with an increasing stroke rate. Any swimmers who hope to optimize performance would do well to evaluate their own IdC and work to improve it.

Interested in IdC? Follow the links below to learn more!

By | September 23rd, 2019|blog|0 Comments

5 Things Your Mother Told You About Swimming Technique

We’ve all grown up with an expression or two seared on our brains. You know what I’m talking about! Expressions like “Haste makes waste,” or “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

There are a few of those sayings that make sense today when thinking about them in terms of swimming technique. (OK –probably not exactly what your mom was thinking but maybe an easy way to grasp a few really important concepts and remember them when you are in the water.)

So, in no particular order:

1. You snooze, you lose.

I’m going to lay off the science on this one because there are almost 50 years of research – from Doc Counsilman to Ludovic Seifert – that definitively prove that catch-up stroke has no business in a competition pool. Instead, just close your eyes and visualize taking your best freestyle stroke and then holding your arm/hand outstretched until your other hand catches up with it. What just happened? Were you resting for just a moment? Yes. You were! And while you were “snoozing” you were “losing” velocity.  You were also delaying the beginning of your next stroke (creating a gap in propulsion ) while adding stress to your shoulders. If you want to swim fast, you’ll need to go in the opposite direction: start your next stroke before you’ve finished with the first one.  (i.e. begin the pull before you finish the push. The scientific term for this is positive “Index of Coordination” or positive IdC.)

 2. Keep your head up.

Every week – including during Trials – you can find print and video images of swimmers who either are in – or will soon be in- excruciating pain because they have dropped their heads below the plane of their shoulders. (The image below is of butterfly technique.) Why would anyone think this position could be advantageous? Of course it isn’t: it increases drag, causes shoulder impingement, and makes breathing far more difficult.


3. Drop the attitude.

Actually, this one should be drop the altitude. Swimmers who come up this far out of the water on every breathing stroke are doing several technique no-no’s. The near-vertical position increases drag. (As anyone who ever held their hand out of a car window and noticed the resistance difference for a hand held vertically vs horizontally could tell you.) It exaggerates the up and down motion of each stroke – and that excess motion slows you down. (Simple physics tell us that the shortest distance between two points is a straight – not undulating – line. All that up and down adds time to every stroke.) While some vertical motion is inevitable, swimmers who are able to minimize this on both breathing and non-breathing strokes will have a time and energy advantage.


4. Practice makes perfect.

While this may be somebody’s rational for mega yardage, distance actually has very little to do with perfecting technique. UNLESS the swimmer (golfer, runner, tennis player, etc.) is practicing effective technique they might as well be doing any strength/cardio/endurance activity. The practice that makes perfect is focused on a single technique element at a time, is accompanied by immediate feedback and adjustment, and stops when the technique can no longer be maintained at the chosen speed.  (10,000 hours of doggie paddle will not make you a better competitive swimmer!) If you want to improve your stroke, you need to first identify what needs to be adjusted, learn exactly what you need to do to adjust, and practice that adjustment at slow speed until it becomes automatic.  This expression needs to be “Practice perfect to make perfect!”

5. Knowledge is Power.

The first step toward improvement – for anything – is to identify what needs to change. Once we know that, we can begin the work to improve. Swimmers have a number of ways to identify needed technique changes. First and most important, a coach can observe a swimmer and quickly identify needed changes for most of the basics and some of the advanced elements of stroke technique. At first those technique elements may be simple, like perfecting breathing on both sides in freestyle or keeping the water level at the hairline.  At some point, however, every elite swimmer will need ever-smaller and more difficult-to-accomplish adjustments. Those adjustments demand better and more accurate diagnosis tools and expertise. (Underwater video and force analysis are tools that some coaches and scientists are now regularly using.) This is also why it is so dangerous and discouraging to model technique after anyone else. (I personally know a talented high school runner who was sidelined for a significant portion of his junior year after “adjusting” his technique in an attempt to mimic his running idol.)

So, just one question:  when is the best time to take mom’s advice?


By | July 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Your Pre-Race Nutritional Plan Based on Bad Data?

A recent article* by best-selling author, Caroline Criado-Perez, describes a serious gender gap in sport science data: research is based almost exclusively on men.

The article included a short list of things that we do not know regarding sex differences between men and women and their different physiologic responses to exercise. One piece of this grabbed our attention:

 “The general advice for endurance athletes is to carb-load, with at least one expert specifically advising against fat-loading. But it turns out that this standard pre-race advice is based on studies in men. And it does not hold for women. “

The article noted that women would need to eat 34 per cent more calories than they usually would to achieve even 50 per cent of the performance benefit men experience from carb-loading. It went on to suggest that, because women burn more fat than men during endurance exercise, they might be better off fat-loading.

Before suggesting that female swimmers consider pre-race fat loading versus pre-race carbohydrate loading, we thought it best to check with swim coach, author and nutritional expert, Abby Knox. Her thorough response (below) merits a careful read by every female competitive athlete.


Fat vs carb

Caroline Criado-Perez is absolutely correct in saying that more studies need to be performed on female athletes. In her recent article, Criado-Perez suggested that female endurance athletes might consider fat loading, rather than carb loading before an endurance race. Before considering that, however, it might be helpful to look at what we do know on this topic.

Our bodies burn a mixture of fat and carbs at rest but as the intensity of exercise increases, the body’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrate. If the glycogen stores are low or not available during hard training/racing, the body is forced to burn fat and protein for fuel. However, more oxygen is required to do this which increases the feeling of fatigue and in addition, muscle mass is broken down. Neither of these are desirable for an athlete!

Carbohydrate loading is a key strategy used by many athletes in preparation for endurance events lasting longer than 120 minutes. Carb loading optimizes endurance performance by increasing the body’s glycogen stores (supercompensation) which help to delay time to exhaustion. Athletes consume very high amounts of carbohydrate 24 hours prior to racing which super-compensates muscle glycogen stores to extend the time to exhaustion.

Because most swim races last between about 30 seconds (for a 50m) and 20 minutes (for a 1,500m), it is not necessary for swimmers to carb load before a swim meet. Instead, competitive swimmers should concentrate on eating enough of the right carbs at the right times and on consuming the right snacks between races to maintain their energy levels.

Does carb-loading work for females?

The question that was raised in the article regarding pre-race nutrition was: if women are better fat burners than men, would they be better off eating fat rather than carbs prior to an endurance event? Women will still burn carbohydrate as a preferred fuel source when they are training or racing at higher intensities, but if the intensity is lower, then the ratio of carbs to fat decreases. At lower exercise intensities, if women can burn fat more easily than men, then in theory, glycogen stores should last longer, and their onset of fatigue will be delayed. If women are able to conserve their glycogen stores longer by burning more fat, it means that they do not have to refuel as often as men and they run a lower risk of “hitting the wall” which is devastating for an athlete to experience (extreme fatigue and inability to perform). This may be one of the reasons why there is a smaller percentage time difference between men and women in ultra-endurance events compared to shorter endurance events.

Most studies on the effects of carbohydrate loading and endurance exercise performance have been carried out primarily on male subjects. An early study on female athletes found that women were less responsive to carbohydrate loading compared to men. However, the female subjects consumed less carbohydrate than the men (per kg body weight) and this was not enough to super compensate muscle glycogen stores. Later studies confirmed that when females consumed higher amounts of carbohydrate, they had similar increases in muscle glycogen to males. This suggests that with substantial carbohydrate intake, female athletes can carbohydrate load just as well as male athletes.

Does fat loading work for females?

It has been theorized that because women burn more fat during exercise compared to men, they rely less on carbohydrate compared to men. This is a great physiological advantage for women! This means their muscle glycogen stores should last longer and their onset of fatigue will be delayed compared to men. Female athletes would still use carbohydrate as an energy source during higher intensity bursts, but they may need to refuel less during a race to prevent glycogen depletion. This may explain why there is a smaller percentage difference in times between top level male and females as the length of the race increases.

The bottom line?

For Criado Perez: Science’s failure to understand how women’s bodies react to exercise differently to men’s poses serious health risks. The average male does not equal the average human.

For Knox: Until there are more studies targeting female athletes, we don’t know whether fat loading in female endurance athletes would provide more of a performance benefit to females compared to carb loading. Pre-race carbohydrate (or fat) loading is not required for either male or female competitive swimmers. Swim races are high intensity over a short duration and the body will burn carbohydrate as the preferred, master fuel, regardless of gender.

For STR: We need additional research in swimming on women and not just their male counterparts. We already note significant differences in injury based on specific stroke technique. More work needs to be done on male-female differences in every sport.


Abby Knox is a Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutritionist. She is also a Swim Coach  (Okotoks Mavericks Swimming) and author of Eat Right, Swim Faster. Abby’s course, Nutrition for Training and Competition, can be purchased at

If you are interested in exploring this topic, Knox provided the list of references below.


  1. Walker JL, Heigenhauser GJF, Hultman E, Spriet LL. Dietary carbohydrate, muscle glycogen content, and endurance performance in well-trained women. J Appl Physiol. 2000;88(6):2151-8.
  2. Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, Phillips SM, MacDougall JD. Carbohydrate loading and metabolism during exercise in men and women. J Appl Physiol. 1995;78(4):1360-8.
  3. Tarnopolsky MA, Zawada C, Richmond LB, Carter S, Shearer J, Graham T, et al. Gender differences in carbohydrate loading are related to energy intake. J Appl Physiol. 2001;91(1):225-30.
  4. James AP, Lorraine M, Cullen D, Goodman C, Dawson B, Palmer TN, et al. Muscle glycogen supercompensation: absence of a gender-related difference. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001;85(6):533-8.
  5. Paul DR, Mulroy SM, Horner JA, Jacobs KA, Lamb DR. Carbohydrate-loading during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle: effects on muscle glycogen and exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001;11(4):430-41.
  6. Jeukendrup AE, Saris WHM. Fat as a fuel during exercise. In: Berning JR, Steen SN, eds, Nutrition for Sport & Exercise, 2nd ed. Aspen Publishers, 1998.
  7. Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Evans WJ, et al. The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: preservation of submaximal exercise capacity with reduced carbohydrate oxidation. Metabolism. 32:769-776, 1983.
  8. Lambert EV , Speechly DP, Dennis SC, Noakes TD. Enhanced endurance in trained cyclists during moderate intensity exercise following 2 weeks adaptation to a high fat diet. Eur J Appl Physiol. 69:287-293, 1994.
  9. Stellingwerff T, Spriet LL, Watt MJ, et al. Decreased PDH activation and glycogenolysis during exercise following fat adaptation with carbohydrate restoration. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 290: E380-8, 2006. 
  10. Burke LM, Kiens B. Fat adaptation for athletic performance: the nail in the coffin? J Appl Physiol. 100: 7-8, 2006.
  11. Havemann L, West S, Goedecke JH, et al. Fat adaptation followed by carbohydrate-loading compromises high-intensity spring performance. J Appl Physiol. 100: 194-202, 200


By | July 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Can Less Mean More?

How Triathletes Can Get the Most Out of Limited Time in the Water

We get it: There is a limited amount of time that a triathlete can spend training in any one sport. It doesn’t help that swimming is most likely not a triathlete’s favorite event – or that access to water for training might be a significant impediment to training year-round.  So how can you make your swimming more effective and improve your finish times – without increasing swim training times?

For starters, science doesn’t push for ever more time/distance in the water as the best way to improve your swim times. In fact, just the opposite is true: research suggests that even a limited time in the water can produce a substantial improvement in performance time. Obviously, no one is advocating that swim training isn’t required to be successful. Instead, this post – and the significant research behind it – suggests 5 ways you can make the most out of every swim.

  1. Dedicate a large portion of your time in the water to swimming slow. This allows you to avoid fatigue and focus more on technique.  Your goal is to establish a regular routine of short, slow swims with the priority on skill improvement.  (Your endurance training with your biking and running make this focus on technique swimming possible.)
  2. Practice breathing less frequently to improve visual input. When swimming slower, a swimmer can minimize the number of breathing strokes. If the head is motionless on nonbreathing strokes, swimmers can better focus on visual input. They will be more certain of what they see and be better able to control their movements using visual feedback. This will also help when you are swimming in open water when conditions are less than ideal.
  3. Set a goal and work towards improving technique on every swim. Strokes performed with an ineffective technique (because of fatigue, speed, breathing, etc.), are not likely to improve or reinforce effective technique. It is essential to practice your technique to develop skills that enable you to swim faster. It’s far better to swim more slowly while focusing on technique elements like arm entry, head position, pulling through to the thigh on each stroke, etc., than it is to swim as fast as possible for as long as possible.
  4. When possible, practice in race-specific conditions. The ultimate goal of skill-learning is to maintain the most effective technique throughout an entire race. A reduced distance regimen allows more time for swimmers to practice under simulated race conditions (i.e. choppy water, swells, transitions). For example, training sets that include a start from shore provide swimmers with the opportunity to practice starts.
  5. Get feedback from a coach or fellow triathlete. While many triathletes work regularly with both sport and strength coaches, many do not. For both, asking for feedback on some aspect of your swimming technique can provide valuable information. For example: Is your head level when not breathing? Do you raise your elbows the same way on left/right hand strokes? Are you “dragging” your legs or is your body position basically level? Are you rolling your body excessively when you begin your stroke? This kind of feedback is essential to improving technique. If you are fortunate enough to have a swim coach, don’t be shy about asking for a regular short technique assessment. Getting a friend to video record your stroke for you to see can also be an eyeopener.

The bottom line: A limited amount of time spent swimming results in fewer stroke cycles and allows a triathlete to focus on technique in a way that enables lasting change.  Fewer cycles also mean less shoulder stress and pain. Shoulders that are not stressed and not suffering from inflammation are not as likely to interfere with swimming, biking or running. Which means: you can get the most out of your practice swims, swim faster with better technique, and devote more time to the rest of your packed schedule.

By | June 21st, 2019|blog|0 Comments

How to Stop Shoulder Pain Before Injury

Of the three primary risk factors for shoulder injury (excessive training distance, muscular imbalances, and improper technique) only technique is controlled by the swimmer. That makes changing technique the most effective way for a swimmer to prevent injury and avoid pain.

In butterfly and freestyle, the arm entry can be especially stressful. Because of this, adjusting technique elements in the arm entry can make a huge difference not only in a swimmer’s shoulder pain but also in a swimmer’s times. Here’s what you need to consider.

Freestyle Arm Entry

For many swimmers, the hand is closer to the surface than the shoulder at the completion of the freestyle arm entry. This position generates only minimal propulsive force and is directly related to joint aggravation or “impingement syndrome.”  It also provides a “triple whammy” to swimmers: (1) it stresses the shoulder, (2) it wastes time by slowing the stroke rate (often .1 – .3 seconds each stroke!), and (3) it wastes effort by generating less propulsive force on each stroke. Still, this technique of arm entry is common, accepted, and often promoted.

Some swimmers intentionally keep the arm in the entry position as the opposite arm begins to recover. This technique, known as catch-up stroke, leaves the arm in a weak, awkward and stressful position and causes a timing delay as it produces gaps in propulsion. A swimmer cannot substantially increase hand force until the hand submerges below the level of the shoulder.

Two different positions at the completion of the arm entry: hand above the shoulder (left) and hand level with the shoulder (right).

Modifying the freestyle arm entry with a downward angle positions the hand deeper than the shoulder to immediately begin the pull with elbow flexion and allows the transition from entry to pull in a continuous motion. The resulting arm position is stronger (more mechanically advantageous), and less stressful on the shoulder.

In the image that follows, a biomechanical model shows an effective freestyle arm entry that provides a mechanical advantage at the beginning of the pull. Hand force increases quickly and dramatically with minimal shoulder stress.

Arm Entry in Butterfly

In butterfly, many swimmers complete the arm entry with the hands closer than the shoulders to the surface with the head slightly below the surface. This arm position stresses the shoulders and results in a weak and awkward position to begin the pull.

The extreme – but all too common – examples below of an ineffective butterfly arm entry shows the position that is classically related to joint surface aggravation or “impingement syndrome.” 

In contrast, a downward arm entry angle results in a stronger arm position, less wasted motion, and reduced shoulder stress.

In the image that follows, a biomechnaical model shows an effective arm entry that immediately begins the butterfly pull with elbow flexion. This allows hand force to increase quickly and dramatically with minimal shoulder stress.

Whenever the hands are above the shoulders, the arms are in a weak and awkward position. Stress to the shoulder is significant and mechanical leverage is poor. In fact, a swimmer can only generate minimal force – in either freestyle or butterfly – until the hands submerge below the level of the shoulders. This “wasted time” is a universal problem of dramatic proportion and is well-documented, even in swimmers at the highest level of competition.

The Bottom Line?

Adjusting technique elements in the arm entry can make a huge difference not only in a swimmer’s shoulder pain and injury but also in a swimmer’s times.

By | May 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Your Shoulder Pain Caused by Injury or Conditioning?

Swimming through injury pain can delay recovery and in many cases may cause more damage. Swimming through conditioning pain, on the other hand, is part of training. Because of these differences, it is critical to identify the cause of shoulder pain.

Characteristics of pain caused by injury are:

  • Localized pain that can be pinpointed at the front of the shoulder
  • Tenderness in a specific area when gently palpated with the thumb
  • A dramatic increase in pain when the arm is lifted overhead and inwardly rotated
  • Noticeable restriction in range of motion

Characteristics of pain caused by conditioning are:

  • General soreness throughout an entire muscle
  • Pain that does not severely increase as the arm is elevated and inwardly rotated
  • Little or no restriction in the range of motion

Coming soon: Swimming Without Pain by Rod Havriluk, Ph.D., p.88

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a possible injury or persistent pain.

By | April 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Olympians Are Not Flying Pigs!

When scientific information doesn’t seem useful to coaches or swimmers, they may turn instead to information that is readily accessible, explained in familiar terminology, and which has demonstrated applicability. That information can encourage them to model the fastest swimmers and the most successful teams. For example, the “noticeable” (i.e. obvious) mechanics of an Olympic champion are often modeled. The weakness of this approach is that the characteristic technique elements of a champion are not always effective.

For wholesale adoption of an individual’s traits, a performance must be so outstanding that it’s the equivalent of “teaching a pig to fly” (Brewer, 1976). For example, in a 50 m race a swimmer would have to beat the field by several body lengths to meet this oft used “statistical” standard. Since this race is usually determined by a small fraction of a body length, even the fastest Olympians can’t be classified as “flying pigs.” The danger in modeling a champion who is less than a flying pig, is that his or her success may be due to an attribute such as size, strength, or pain tolerance –  and not technique.

Fortunately for swimmers and coaches alike, science can – and does- reliably determine the relative impact of specific factors on performance. It’s time to apply proven, science-based information — and time to forget about those flying pigs!

By | March 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Streamline Cues with MONA

Checking your streamline cues off every wall for one set each workout is a great way to make sure you’re on track with tight streamlines. Repetition is key when it comes to fixing bad habits.
By | March 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

4 Technique Tips That Will Benefit Almost EVERY Swimmer

Every swimmer has different strengths and limitations. However, research has shown that almost all swimmers can make improvements on these 4 technique elements to swim faster.

1. Butterfly – Limit head submersion on arm entry.

Cue: Feel the water level at the top of the head when the hands enter the water.

2. Backstroke – Increase hand force throughout the push phase.

Cue: Feel the hand pushing water back towards the feet throughout the push phase.

3. Breaststroke – Kick feet back and together so that they touch at the finish of every kick.

Cue: Feel the feet touch at the finish of every kick.

4. Freestyle – Push hand back beneath the thigh.

Cue: Feel the thumb touch the front of the thigh at the finish of every stroke.


By | January 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Loch Ness Monster Neck

Loch Ness Monster Neck (Otherwise known as breathing position in breaststroke!)

During a recent meeting with a client, I was asked:  What’s up with the Loch Ness Monster neck you recommend for breaststroke breathing?”

It took only a few seconds to understand the question – – and a few more to stop laughing. What a great question though – – and one that made sense to us both.  That’s because I do teach a pretty different approach to breaststroke breathing. It’s definitely not a hoax though, as science clearly shows a better way than what conventional wisdom tells us. (By the way, we don’t actually refer to an effective breathing position as “Loch Ness Monster Neck.”)

Common recommendations for breaststroke breathing call for lifting the “head, neck, and upper chest out of the water to breathe.”  In Figure 1, Michael Phelps does exactly that.

Figure 1. Michael Phelps breathes on breaststroke.

In addition, many sources recommend a “neutral” angle at the neck while maintaining the head and torso “in alignment.”  You can see clearly that these recommendations require “lifting the head” (a strictly vertical motion maintaining the alignment of head, neck, and body), as opposed to “extending at the neck” (a primarily rotational motion of the head about the neck).

So what’s wrong with this picture and how does the “Loch Ness Monster neck” make a difference?

First, let’s consider the laws of physics.

That angled body position creates considerable additional resistance as more of the surface of the upper body must push through the water.  Think about it and try a simple experiment. (No need to jump in the pool.)  Imagine riding in a car with the window open and your arm out. Hold your hand parallel to the road for a few seconds. Then, flex at the wrist to hold your hand perpendicular to the road.  Which position generates more resistance against your hand?  Now, think about that same movement in water, which generates considerably more resistance than air. The angled body is a less hydrodynamically effective shape that increases both form resistance (underwater) and wave resistance. (See Figure 2.)

It seems “eyeball” obvious that maintaining a position more parallel to the water would make a difference.

Figure 2. An above surface arm recovery is consistent with the excess upward head and body motion of typical breaststroke technique. Also, note the wave resistance. Is there any way that could help a swimmer swim faster?

How about the biomechanics of that excess vertical motion?

The typical upward breathing motion limits a swimmer’s speed in a number of related ways:

  • Generating upward body motion compromises forward arm propulsion.
  • A decrease in arm propulsion, in turn, slows the swimmer’s velocity at a critical point in the stroke cycle – just prior to the kick recovery.
  • The excess vertical motion increases the path that the body travels. (Again think about just this one point: what is the shorter distance: a straight line or a curvy/undulating line?)
  • From the breathing position, it requires considerable time for the swimmer to regain the streamline position. (Which takes longer? Bobbing up and down or staying level and streamlined in the water?)


Which brings us to the Loch Ness Monster Neck.

There are two main options to position the mouth above the surface so that the swimmer can take a breath. The first option for breathing is to change the angle of the body. In Figure 3, the model maintains the nonbreathing neck orientation and angles the body. Much of her torso must push against water and wave resistance. (This is the option illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 above.)

It might help to look at an illustration rather than a photograph. (Figure 3 below)

Figure 3. In this illustration, the model has a 30o angle at the lower back and a 0o angle at the neck.


The second breathing option (Figure 4 below) is to change the angle at the neck to breathe. While this option might feel strange and seem difficult at first, it offers several advantages.

Figure 4. The model has a 12o angle at the lower back and is extending her neck through the full range of motion (about 60o angle at the neck). The front view shows an improved hydrodynamic shape.

If the body maintains a more level position by breathing with full neck extension, limitations are minimized. Specifically:

  • The arm motion generates more force to move the body forward instead of upward.
  • A greater arm propulsion maintains a greater body velocity prior to the kick recovery.
  • The more level body is more hydrodynamically shaped, reducing form and wave resistance.
  • Less vertical motion produces a shorter path for the body to travel.
  • From the breathing position, it requires less time for the swimmer to regain the streamline position.

So, how do you develop this improved breathing technique? Practice!

You probably already know that a swimmer will not naturally use the full range of motion at the neck to breathe.  Learning to use complete neck extension may initially be uncomfortable.  Consequently, swimmers may be discouraged from practicing sufficient repetitions. But there are 3 considerable rewards when a swimmer masters this breathing technique:

  1. Resistance is minimized as the body remains more horizontal
  2. Arm motion is more effective as the body travels a shorter path
  3. The reduced vertical motion enables the swimmer to more quickly regain the streamline position on every stroke cycle.

As with other technique improvements, there are cues that a swimmer can use to learn to completely extend the neck for a more effective breathing motion. Focusing on cues will help change the breathing motion.

Cue 1: As the neck begins to extend, the swimmer can feel the chin move forward through the water.

Cue 2: As the neck completely extends, the swimmer can feel the limit of the range of motion at the back of the neck.

Cue 3: When the head is in position to breathe, the swimmer can see the wall at the end of the pool.

Remember those two options?  If the swimmer does not change the neck angle, then he/she must change the body angle to position the mouth above the surface. When the body angle changes, the swimmer generates excess resistance, expends more energy, and swims slower.

I hope you’ll consider the “Loch Ness Monster Neck” and discover for yourself that this breaststroke breathing technique is real – and far more effective that the more conventional method!

By | December 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments