Which Holding Position is Correct When You Learn to Swim How to Kick?

Kickboards

The use of swimming aids is important for developing kicking ability. The most commonly used teaching aid is the kickboard, which should be introduced in the learn-to-swim and water safety programs. The kickboard should be thin enough to sit comfortably in the young swimmer’s hand. Initially, the swimmer should hold the kickboard with the hands apart, fingers on top and thumbs underneath (as in answer A above)

As the skill of the swimmer improves and their confidence grows they should hold the kicboard by the sides, with hands approximately shoulder-width apart, fingers curled under and thumbs on top pointing in the direction of propulsion (as in answer B above). Why? Holding the board at the leading edge (the one furthest away from the swimmer’s face as in answer C) tends to keep the swimmer too high in the water and force the hips down too deep; holding the kickboard at the edge closest to the swimmer’s face with fingers on top of the board reinforces a dropped wrist position, which is a difficult fault to correct.

As skills improve and confidence grows, the introductory strokes development group swimmer will not rely heavily on the kickboard. If skill quality is maintained, the advanced hand position should change in order to prevent a dropped wrist when releasing the kickboard to initiated a stroke (when doing drills of how to stroke). The wrist-up position (ie wrist higher than fingers) must be maintained when releasing the kickboard and this cannot be achieved with a hands-on-top-of-the-board position (as in answer D).

The hand position and the size of the kickboard should change as the skill level improves. Use a of a smaller board should be recognized as an achievement in the introductory strokes development group. The kickboard’s size can be reduced – just cut off the back end of the board. Alternatively, the board can be turned sideways, which also increases resistance.

For advanced kicking and body position skills for backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, introductory strokes development group swimmers can advance to just holding a large rubber band or a tube band. Swimmers should concentrate on a greater kicking effort and a locked, elbow-in body position.

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Who would win in a swim race in the year 1739?

There is every indication that for centuries Native Americans swam in great numbers with a superior overarm stroke, while so-called civilized world persisted with breaststroke and sidestroke.

Unfortunately, early organized swimming in North America copied the European swimming style, particularly the methods brought to America by the colonial English. This was a pity because more advanced styles already existed in North America, as noted in 1739 in the diary of the English colonial William Byrd, founder of Richmond, Virginia, and a planter, satirist, and writer of diaries (Byrd 1928),

Writing on September 30, 1739, Byrd noted:

This being Sunday, we were glad to rest from our labors; and, to help restore our vigor, several of us plunged into the river, not withstanding it was a frosty morning. One of our Indians went in along with us, and taught us their way of swimming. They strike not out both hands together but alternately one after another, whereby they are able to swim both farther and faster than we do (Byrd 1928).

Even when the better American style was exported to England 100 years later in an 1844 London exhibition by two Native Americans from the Ojibbeway Nation – Flying Gull (we-nish-ka-wen-bee) and Tobacco (Sha-ma) – the English paid little attention and refused to change, despite the obvious superiority of the Native American swimming style. This forerunner of the modern crawl (freestyle) stroke was described in The London Times (April 22, 1844) as being totally “un-European,” declaring that the Indians thrashed the water violently with their arms like sails of a windmill and beat downward with their feet flowing with force and performing grotesque antics.

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How many sessions should a young swimmer undertake each week?

The short answer is … as many as the coach recommends and the swimmer is available for. However, there is no one right answer to this question. Basic training principles tell us that every swimmer is unique. Eight sessions a week for one swimmer may be ideal: for another it may not be enough: yet for another it may be excessive. In addition, each sports has unique demands. However, there are a few guidelines:

  • Most sports are built around skills and techniques. No matter how many sessions are done, how many kilometers are covered, ho much weight is lifted, the most important aspect of many sports is good technique.
  • The body will respond to the stresses and loads placed upon it, providing it is given enough time and the right conditions to recover and adapt. In other words the more training, the more emphasis on rest and recovery.
  • Young simmers should not work at high intensity for sustained periods.

The last guideline is perhaps the most important. Too many coaches, when faced with the situation of swimmers not improving, try to increase the intensity level of the training, believing that more work means better swimmers.

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