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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

That Dropping Lead Arm

I mentioned previously about my problem with the lead arm pushing downward during the breathing stroke. I was looking for some analysis on this and found one, a video analysis by Swim Smooth’s Paul Newsome.

Here the triathlete is also pushing down on his lead arm, as can be seen on the screenshot below. Now he doesn’t normally push down on the lead arm; it only happens on the breathing stroke. Otherwise he’s got a brilliant catch.

Example of pushing down with the lead arm

Example of pushing down with the lead arm

The training to fix this is the Unco drill with fins and paddles.

A view of the Unco drill. It looks like the traditional single-arm drill, but it's not. You actually roll to breathe on your non-stroking side.

A view of the Unco drill. It looks like the traditional single-arm drill, but it’s not. You actually roll to breathe on your non-stroking side.

Last month I purchased Swim Smooth’s training guide according to swim types, but have not done any of the drills. I’m the Bambino type of swimmer.

One of the characteristics of such describes me to a T:

“The lack of purchase at the front means the lead hand tends to collapse easily offering little support whilst breathing. Bambinos often struggle with breathing for this reason.

Typically a wide and deep arm pull through, relying heavily on the shoulder muscle groups to pull them through the water.”

The last time I plowed myself several times across a 25m pool, my upper arms felt so tired and were in pain that I had to apply hot compress before going to bed. I knew that my pressing down hard on the breathing stroke was causing my arms to hurt.

To get rid of the pushing-down-with-the-lead-arm bad habit, the Swim Smooth Bambino Training Guide recommends doing the Unco drills on a regular basis. I really need to drill more, despite the fact that I prefer to swim whole stroke now.

I really like how the video demonstrates the Unco drill progression:

Unco Drill Progression

  1. Do the traditional single arm drill on both sides.
  2. Do the traditional single arm drill but keep (what would be) the lead arm molded to the side, so that you are stroking on one side and breathing on that side as well. Repeat on the other side. (I think this one will help me realize that I can roll to breathe without my lead arm pressing downward).
  3. Do the Unco drill, stroking with one arm (the lead arm) and rolling to breathe on the non-stroking side. Make sure you feel the catch on the stroking arm before pulling. Repeat on the other side.

So far I’ve been doing the traditional single-arm drill and failing to cross a 25m, especially on my weak right side. Since my gym pool does not allow fins of any kind I’ll try to substitute with the pull buoy to do the Unco.

There’s no use of swimming whole stroke when you are doing it so wrong you tire after 50m.

So drill, drill, drill!



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  • slf

    You need an inner drill sergeant shouting at you, hihihi.

    • beverlyclaire

      Hehehe, yep, that’s exactly what I need! I think I had a drill sergeant in my head a long time ago (when I liked to jog in Nagoya) but I don’t know where she went. I think I inadvertently killed her at one point… I wonder how I could acquire a new one (or raise the old one from the dead)? :)

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