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Coupling Motions: Boost Your Distance Per Stroke
When swimming, nearly all of the forces that create propulsion come from the hands and feet. However, there are motions that we can perform with our bodies to help maximize the distance and speed of a swimmer’s pull and kick. These movements are referred to as coupling motions.
While coupling motions do not generate propulsion on their own, pairing them with a maneuver such as a leg kick or an arm pull, will help increase your momentum. Rotating faster, lengthening your arms, or snapping your head down faster are all examples of coupling motions that help increase your kinetic energy.
In this SwimMirror article, we will discuss best practices for incorporating coupling motions into your swimming routine:
- Rotation for Freestyle and Backstroke
- Elevation for the Breaststroke and Butterfly
- Training techniques for improving coupling motions
Ready to get a jump-start on improving your coupling motions for maximum propulsion?
Rotation: Freestyle and Backstroke
Coupling motions are implemented to help swimmers increase the distance they can cover in a single stroke. Coaches often tell swimmers that timing and speed is important, but rotation is one of the most crucial techniques you can incorporate into your swimming routine. The faster you rotate your body, the more force you can generate. For this reason, swimmers focus on aggressive rotation when practicing freestyle and backstroke movements.
When you focus on the rotation of your body during freestyle and backstroke, your body begins to become more streamlined. The counter rotation of the hips against the pull of the arms turns the torso into a propeller blade. Thus, allowing your body to propel forward through the water, while the legs rotate from the hips, emphasizing the power behind your initial thrust. This coupling of legs-to-hips, and hips-to-torso generates maximum force for the swimmer.
Elevation: Breaststroke and Butterfly
During these strokes coupling of the upper and lower bodies is crucial as swimmers can experience significant frontal drag. The elevation of the upper body improves the motions of your pull and helps strengthen your kick. The key to this coupling motion is elevating the shoulders out of the water, which can require some flexibility in the lower muscles of the back. During the kick, you can increase the speed of re-entry by snapping your head to your chest and pressing your upper body down.
When swimming the butterfly, focus on straightening your arms on the recovery to maximize the kinetic energy of your pull. Be sure to time the coupling of your arms and the snapping of your head with your second down kick. After you breathe, snap your head down far and fast to drive forward through the water. Speed and agility are the key with this technique.
Ways to Train for Coupling Motions
When timed correctly, coupling motions are one of the most powerful ways to increase distance moved through the pool with each stroke. It is imperative to not only train hard, but to train smart, especially when practicing and fine-tuning your swim strokes. In addition to coupling motions training should include both dryland and water exercises:
Abdominal Exercises: Building the core in swimming is essential for athletes to create optimal rotation and elevation through swim strokes.
Roundhouse Boxing Exercises: This is another dryland exercise that strengthens the core, shoulders, back and arms for improved elevation and rotation coupling motions.
Swim Drills: Drills in the pool teach swimmers to rotate swiftly, relax their hands for re-entry or angle their bodies through a stroke to maximize their speed.
SwimMirror: Real-time Training Results
Take it from Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist and International Swimming Hall of Fame Member, Rowdy Gaines:
“I know firsthand how difficult it is to make adjustments to your swim stroke based solely off of a coach’s advice. SwimMirror allows you to see your movements in real-time so you can improve your technique right on the spot.”
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