Instructions for

Information for swim teachers, coaches, parents and swimmers seeking to improve their skills in the art form of Human Displacement in the pool or open water. A swimmer, as every educated athlete in any sport, you are always looking to improve your technique; in swimming we call it “Shed Drag.”
As a swimmer, one can only improve. At Swim Gym, we developed an online tutorial for all different swimming levels: for Learn to Swim and Age Group Swimming, for High School and Master’s and for College and Elite swimmers. We organized TIPS (Technique Instructions for Perfect Swimming) We know it will help parents and children learn to swim for life, not for their life.

Learn to swim.

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2015 El Entorno Amistoso EN

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Letters of the stroke.

Learn to swim IN the water so that you are “FALLING UP”, not ON the water so that you are “FALLING DOWN”.  Everyone is getting into body balance; the next generation of swimmers will achieve their swimming speed from a better combination of Balance and Distance per Stroke.  Of course, turnover rate will still be important.  Shedding drag has taken priority over increase of stroke rate.  The intention of this paper is to identify body positions, with letters that depict the places where the arms need to be in order for the body to travel.  The letters of the strokes give the beginner, advanced and adult swimmer a good mental picture of what the body should look like at the different positions of the style.  Can you write letters with your body while swimming? …Can you stay in “balance”? TAKE THE CHALLENGE!


“U”- Everyone has done catch-up freestyle, initially, with a kick board to speed up learning of the skill. The arms and shoulders write a “U” when the recovery arm catches up to the leading arm while the swimmer still has side exposure to the bottom. At the instant when the leading arm strokes the body goes past the flat position to roll on the other side. We have said that, “you do not swim freestyle on your belly…keel down, you swim arm pit to arm pit.” The object is to enable the body travel faster on its longer water line, just like a boat. Photos 1&2

1.                                                       2.


“Broken L”- The swimmer that recovers the arm with a high elbow and fingers near the water is said to be writing a “Broken L”. The swimmer’s arms and shoulders form the “L” when the elbow is perpendicular to the body, and the hand is about to slip in the water.

3.                                                   4.


“Long L”- Some swimmers recover their arms straight over the top, with little or no elbow bend. Back in 1988 Janet Evans was very successful with that type of arm recovery. It is important not to drop the leading arm while you are breathing. If the arm drops too soon we say you are writing a “T”, one hand to the bottom and the other hand to the sky, which is not a very efficient position.

5.                                                  6.


“I”- The swimmer looks like an “I” when the leading arm is in the front end and the swimming arm is exiting, extended near the hips. It is a position in which the body is truly flying, supported in liquid. We cannot remain in this position for a long time because there is too much weight at the back end of the “vessel”. The “I” letter position is used frequently when doing drills like 8-kick free side to side and variations. Photo 7



“I”- As in the Freestyle, the instant that your leading arm is at the front end and the arm exiting the water is extended near the hips, and you are slightly rolled on your side, is the letter “I” position. It is very important that the back end hand recover toward the sky before the leading arm drops deep into the water. Photo 8


“L”- When the recovery arm points to the sky and the leading arm is about to drop towards the bottom, we pass by the “L” position. Do not stop at the “L”. Photo 9


“T”- At the instant the leading arm drops towards the bottom, and the trailing arm is pointing to the sky, the swimmer passes by the “T”, on the way to reach the “I” on the other side. This position is very useful for swimmers; they learn a good feel for depth in the stroke. Notice the picture shows the “T” lying down. Photos 10, 11

10.                                                  11.



“Y”- When your arms are extended to the front end, at the instant they enter the water, your body looks like a letter Y. The Swimmer “drives” or “glides” at the “Y”. Photos 12, 13, 14.

12.                                      13.                                    14.


“T”- Many swimmers find it difficult or tiring to learn the Butterfly stroke. The simplest way to correct this is to teach the arm movement standing up; instructing the swimmer to bring the arms around the ears; not over the head. After a few “easy strokes” of standing up fly, add the breathing to the rhythm and your swimmers will FLY. Photos 15, 16

15.                                                                           16.


“T” – From the “Y” press your hands down and scull out to the “T”. That is the instant you breathe. You go by “T” to breathe, and then you drive on the “Y”. Kicking rhythm includes one kick at the “T” and one kick at the “Y”. Photos 17,18

17.                                              18.



“Y” – The breaststroke has a phase to glide or drive the body forward, when your legs kick, you reach the “Y” the instant your feet clap. Photos 19, 20
Circle the Pizza and Cut it in half: – The arm motion is described as the hands drawing a pizza that is traveling vertically in front of the swimmer, “above the head”. The arm recovery is at the instant when the hands cut the pizza in half, and you are on the way to the extension of the stroke, and then drive into letter “Y” position.

19.                                                20.


Once you are set up at the “Y”, you are ready to:
Circle the Pizza. We’ve used a ring buoy to illustrate the round pizza. Once you have circled the pizza you have “cocked the body and legs”; you’re ready to finish the stroke. Photos 21, 22

21.                                                22.


Cut it in half: – Cutting the pizza involves lunging the body, and kicking the legs as the arms drive into the next stroke. Photos 24, 25

23.                                                24.





Stroke Count Applications to the Physiological Aspects of Training

When we swim we have 6 “gears” or “velocities” that we can shift into, depending on the objectives of each set: warm-up, basic endurance or over distance, threshold and overload endurance, VO2 max, lactate anaerobic tolerance and sprint or power training. Warm down could be added as a gear, but for the practical purposes of this manual it is not considered because of the lack of concentration in performing the skills needed to recover from a hard swim.

Each speed has a cadence or rhythm (a turnover rate) at which a person strokes. This allows you to move from warm up, which we will equate to your BBDPS, (best balance and distance per stroke: the slowest you can swim, the fewest strokes you can do in one length, or the longest you can glide in each stroke to take the least strokes possible in one length) to sprinting, which is the fastest rhythm at which you can turn your arms. Sprinting is your “worst” DPS, and you only last 10 to 15 or 20 seconds at this top end gear before lactate levels (acidosis) are such that you need to slow down.

Chart I

Swim warm-up perfectly and carefully. Do your “BBDPS swimming” like a martial artist preparing for the “big fight.” The warm-up speed at which you perform is the best you can swim. If you cannot do it perfectly when you’re doing it slowly, you certainly cannot do it perfectly when you are breathing deep and fast and hurting inside. It is important when warming up, during over distance training and during part of threshold training, to swim with “hummm” breathing or gradual nose blowing so as to keep your stroke rhythm, i.e.: AAAAAA-111111, AAAAAA-222222, AAAAAA-333333, and so on.

For freestyle and backstroke, one arm stroke is driving during the letter count and the other arm is driving during the number count, so that both arms, swimming one cycle, make one stroke.
Notice in chart I, the fly and breast are different and you mentally count the letter during the breath and the number during the glide in the front, both arms completing a stroke when they reach the front end each time. To race you will probably do it in the higher gears and then you will be more inclined to do burst breathing, releasing your air explosively through nose and mouth.
Most swimmers 10 years and older, if they pay attention (if they count), will develop a lot of “feel for the water” when they concentrate on learning to swim the 25 mts. pool in 5 strokes or less with any stroke. The improvement in streamlining off the walls will be truly amazing. In the 50-meter pool, learning to swim with 12 strokes or less produces the same development of “feel for the water.” In order to enter into all the physiological gears the recommendation of strokes to add over your best stroke count in Long Course is equal to double the number of strokes you add in short course pools plus 2 strokes.
Refocus the object of counting to, “do not swim more than X number of strokes over your best (OB), (BBDPS).” Recommended number of strokes to swim in the gear (system) you want to train at, and be able to last the whole set as fast as you can, easy enough so you last ALL out!
The number of strokes we take in a length tires us eventually depending on how fast we turn them over. We know that at warm-up speeds we rest while we swim, and as our arms turn over faster we swim faster up to a point of diminishing returns, when too many strokes wear us out too quickly to last out the whole set. If a set is too easy after you complete it, next time add 1/2 stroke to the parameters of intensity, until you reach the desired intensity. Likewise, if the swimmer cannot last the set at the desired speed, next time drop 1/2 stroke or more to be in the correct gear to last the duration and intensity of the set without “dying.”
The recommended allowance over best for long course swimming is double plus 2 from sc meters or double plus 3 from short course yards; for obvious reasons: the lack of jump from the wall in the middle of the pool, and in the case of short course yards because it is 10% more distance when you double it.


Physiological Functional Areas