10 Mistakes in freestyle & how to correct them according to the WEST swimming technique
First Five common mistakes in swimming and how to correct them
One – Cutting the symmetry line
The symmetry line is an imaginary line that runs through the center of the body. Many swimmers are not aware of this line, and cut it by moving their right hand into the left side and vice versa.
Perform the arm stretch very slowly, with emphasis on the end of the glide. This way you can touch your shoulder to your cheek or chin, and not cut the symmetry line. If this doesn’t work we move on to the next stage: stretch your right arm to “one o’clock” and your left hand to “eleven o’clock”. This is overcompensation that allows us to stretch the arms both ways in a correct and efficient way, without crossing over the mid-body line.
(Stretch the arm slowly to prevent cutting the symmetry line)
Two – “Stop!” – Raising your palm in the water
80% of the swimmers raise their palm up & create a “stop” at the end of the glide. If we look at it the WEST way, this creates an intense pressure in the shoulder area and an arching of the lower back. This in turn causes a sinking of the legs, which requires strong legwork and requires a lot of oxygen. This way they have trouble advancing, and they tire very quickly.
The answer is simple, according to the WEST way – stretch your arm in a depth that is suitable for you according to your level of flexibility. If you don’t know your specific depth, just stretch 15cm below what you would normally do. This may indeed cause you to lose some traction, but on the other hand prevent the pressure to your neck and lower back and prevent you from making the “Stop” motion which slows you down considerably.
(Stretch your arm according to your WEST flexibility level to prevent stopping)
Three – Head held too high
Our survival instinct makes us lift our heads, especially in long distance swimming or open water swimming. In the past swimmers used to keep their head high in order to create elevation of the whole body. In WEST we say that lifting the head causes sinking of the feet, pressure to the neck and lower back, which causes us to work much harder and swim much slower.
The goal is to look towards the bottom of the pool. A good way to check this is to make sure that when we stretch the arm at a depth of 35cm we see the elbow, but not the palm.
Another good idea is to have a friend video you for 15 seconds or a full length, and check that your head is in the correct position.
Having the head in the right position, looking down, creates better elevation, allows for a more relaxed legwork, releases the lower back and ultimately makes you swim faster.
(Make sure you look down to allow better elevation and speed)
Four – A bobbing head
Many times we stretch the arm and lift it upward (see mistake 2). There are a lot of swimmers who tend to stretch too much and forcefully insert the hand into the water, which causes the head to bob up and down. Their body also undulates like a worm when the back goes up and down, which can create immense pressure. This way, instead of moving forward with each stroke, they have to first lift their body, at the expense of the pull, something which greatly affects the speed.
Correct by balancing your head and by inserting the hand into the water in a calm manner, the palm totally relaxed. Meeting the waterline quietly. This will eventually prevent your head from sinking.
(Insert your hand calmly into the water on the stroke so your head and body don’t bob up and down)
Five – The elbow touches the water before the palm
Many swimmers stretch their hands not according to their flexibility level, but try to do it like the Olympic swimmers, but because they don’t have the same flexibility level many times their elbow touches the water first, falls down, drags in the water and actually stops them before they even begin the stroke, slows them down and makes them sink. This also causes pressure to the neck and shoulders, which in WEST swimming we strive to prevent.
If an Olympic swimmer inserts his hand when it’s at a 170 degree angle(angle between the arm and the forearm ), we will insert it with the palm closer to the head, at a 120 angle and try to make sure the palm touches the water first. In fact, it is only when the elbow is in the water that we start the stretch. This way we prevent the pressure to the neck and shoulders, we don’t create a “stop” with our hand and elbow, and every stroke takes us much farther.
(Insert your arm according to your WEST flexibility level and at a 120 degree angle to prevent your elbow from drooping)
Another five common mistakes in swimming and how to correct them
In this video we will talk about five more mistakes which have to do mainly with breathing while swimming.
Swimming can be a wonderful thing for both your body and your mind, and the best way to do it is the WEST way to swim!
One – Bendy legs – “Bicycle”
Many swimmers tend to mix breaststroke with freestyle by bending their legs to a sort of bicycling motion.
Our first recommendation would be to swim without legwork at all. If you keep the principles of WEST – a correct stretch depth with relaxed palms according to your flexibility level and you head looking down – the legs will float, letting you drag them behind you with no effort. You can even keep your knees together, elongating the leg muscles until you get to the exact bend you need to maximize your swimming.
Another recommendation is swimming with fins – at the end of each stretch you kick a little with your legs with your feet in a“point” position. Swimming with fins will create the correct elasticity and not let your legs bend. It’s important, of course, to see that you can do the same without the fins.
(Swim WEST without legwork or with fins to get rid of over bendy legs)
Two – The arm falls while breathing
It is important to know how and when to breathe in order to protect the neck and get more oxygen. Many swimmers get to a point where they feel out of Oxygen . When they breathe, they get both eyes out of the water, and then their front arm droops.
If you see that you indeed lose the stretch while breathing, you should just stretch more slowly, for the first few times touching your ear to your shoulder. This will create some tension to the shoulder, but you should only do this in the beginning. At the same time, it will prevent your arm from drooping, you won’t stop or work with your neck, and so breathe more easily.
(Stretch your front arm slowly while breathing)
Three – Head goes too high while breathing
Our survival instinct is to take as much air as possible, and we try to do this while keeping one eye in the water. Many times water gets into our nose, causing us to lift our head. This creates a drooping of the arm and an immediate sinking of the head, so that we swallow water and almost stop every time we breathe.
What you need to do is practice the breathing position – one eye in the water, mouth and nose out, and a stretched hand, with no tension in the shoulders. You can practice this a few times with fins, or even hold a small buoy in your hand, to get the body used to kicking in the right position, at a 90 degree angle. When you get used to it, you’ll see you’ll be able to do it without fins, get much more air and your hand won’t sink while breathing.
(Practice the correct breathing position with fins first to get more air)
Four – Looking back while breathing
This situation can occur for a number of reasons, such as cutting the symmetry line with the front hand while breathing, or unconsciously protecting the mouth and nose. This movement causes a strong pressure on the neck, very much like a whiplash, and that is something we try to avoid in WEST swimming technique. This mistake is common among swimmers who breathe every two strokes, but can also be found among those who breathe every three strokes.
If you breathe to the back you need to make sure you breathe at a 90 degree angle. This is hard to discern by yourself, so you should have a friend video you.
The goal in WEST swimming is to have zero neck work while breathing. A nice trick to make sure your head is in the right position is to have a friend walk on the poolside parallel to you. Every time you go out to breath you should be looking at his knees.
Breathing in the correct position will let you get much more air and prevent any stress in the neck and lower back, fatigue and sinking.
(Have a friend help you make sure your head is in the right breathing position and you don’t look back)
Five – Too many strokes for each length
One of the parameters to the quality swimming technique, flotation and efficiency of our pull is the number of strokes we need for each pool length. If we try to stretch forward too hard a defense mechanism of the body will kick in, in order to guard our plexus area, and shorten our stroke, so that eventually we make more strokes and get tired very fast.
Make sure you insert your hand into the water in a calm manner. In addition, the end of the stretch is important. We want to stretch the hand really slowly, allowing our body to be elongated, float better and make fewer strokes. This causes the body to oxidize more slowly, our muscles to get longer over time and eventually makes us swim much faster. It’s important for this drill to find your correct stretch depth according to your WEST flexibility level.
(Make fewer strokes by stretching slowly and calmly at your WEST stretch depth)
You’d do best to try and correct your mistakes in freestyle swimming. Swimming correctly will preserve your health, your neck and lower back, but will also allow you to float better, swim faster, elongate your muscles and break down any stress or tension. The beauty in WEST swimming is that it all happens at once!
See you in the water!