Let’s see why and, above all, how to improve your push-off when diving in and turning.
As we all know, there are four different swim strokes, but over the last few years the underwater phase has come to be seen as a fifth stroke.
The exercises I am proposing today will be specifically aimed at improving your underwater phase or, in other words, strengthening your push-off: either from the wall during a turn or off the starting block when diving in.
The reason for this is very simple: having the best underwater phase possible will be totally useless unless you can push off (the wall or starting block) properly. That is because pushing off hard during a turn or when diving in enables you to rapidly accelerate to a fast pace.
The equation is very simple:
start swimming at a faster pace
less energy “wasted” in reaching top speed
For this equation to be right, a number of factors come into play: your body position determining how hydrodynamic you are and the flexibility of your movement under the water (although, as we have said, everything ultimately depends on your push-off with your legs).
There is a word that sums up perfectly what your push-off should be like: explosive. This means the main muscles involved, your legs, must be able to inject as much power as possible in a very short space of time. Try these two leg-strengthening exercises: one is performed with weights and the other with just your body weight.
The first is the exercise most commonly associated with training your legs, i.e. squats with weights. Ideally, use a bar placed behind your neck to add extra weight. When performing this exercise, you should lower your body very slowly and then straighten up very quickly, taking approximately 5 seconds to lower your body and 1 second to push back up again. Make sure the weight is not too heavy otherwise you will not be able to straighten up quickly.
4 x 6 reps with 1:30 minutes rest between sets.
Bend your knees as if you were performing a squat making sure your hips are level with your knees and your knees do not stick out beyond your feet. Hold this position for a few seconds with your arms hanging at your sides and your hands touching the floor. After 2-3 seconds, jump up as high as you can, stretching your arms above your head as if simulating your body position during the underwater phase. Remember to bend your legs to soften your landing.
5 x 5 reps with 1-minute rest between sets.
You will soon notice your swim times improve just by strengthening and hence improving this minor detail.
Enjoy your training!