I’m fully convinced that every coach out there is doing their best to help their athletes improve. Drill recommendations are made based on their own knowledge, understanding, background and exposure to various coaching techniques. Great coaches pick up the best of what they are exposed to and add their own customizations based on their own personality.
And as we learn, we discard old ideas, ones we may have previously thought were grand…in favor of a new, better or different way that seems to work better.
SO here are my thoughts on better ways to do the freestyle swimming drill known as “side kicking drill”, “one arm extension drill”, “statue of liberty drill” or the older version of “skating drill”. all describe a similar body posture, but there are better ways for triathletes and swimmers to execute this and practice it well.
In this drill the body is rotated, head is looking down with nose/chin directed at the bottom of the pool, and the arm that is lower in the water is extended forward. This drill helps imprint the “slipperiest” streamlined position in swimming freestyle. However because full stroke freestyle is not a static activity, the most streamlined side kicking position is NOT the best position from which to initiate a freestyle stroke or recovery.
It’s best to practice a body position that is in a better dynamic position to initiate the next stroke when ready. Here are three quick checks to make sure you’re doing it better.
Rather than having the body rotated a full 90 degrees or with shoulders “stacked” one on top of the other, flatten the body’s rotational angle just a little bit so that the top shoulder comes closer to the surface.
Belly button is pointed at the corners of the pool where the side walls meet the bottom, rather than the side of the pool.
The lead arm and the head should have a small gap or separation between the shoulder and the chin rather than being resting or touching together.
These small changes may be very subtle but the approximate the posture of full stroke swimming better than the “older” versions of the drill, and help to avoid imprinting cues that may lead to errors down the road.
All drills compromise the full freestyle stroke and while understanding their benefits we should also try to minimize detrimental takeaways. By making these deliberate adjustments, flatter rotation, gap allowed between the chin & the extended arm, and fingertips/palm tipped down towards the pool bottom, you can bring focus to each of these three areas in subsequent full stroke if you choose.