Ten Steps to the Perfect Streamline
~By Scott Rabalais
Every swimmer, when diving in the pool or pushing off of the wall, achieves a degree of streamlining. Swimmers who understand that minimizing the physical surface area exposed to the water and are willing to make the effort to achieve such streamlining will be rewarded with greater distance. While there is no substitution for a developed kinesthetic sense through the pushoff, here are a few tips to follow to position the body for maximum streamline effect.
Place Hand over Hand – At the moment of acceleration, one hand should be placed firmly on top of the other, which the thumb of the upper hand wrapped around the palm of the lower hand. Some streamlining advocates like to preach “wrist over wrist,” with the hands in the above stated position, minimize flow disturbance.
- Keep Hands Parallel to the Surface – Just as a horizontal body is going to create the least amount of resistance, the swimmer should avoid pointing the hands in either an upward or downward direction. Often, swimmers are unaware that they are actually pushing against the flow of the water by allowing the hands to slip out of the horizontal plane.
- Lock the Arms – Some swimmers may find that a lack of adequate flexibility prevents them from fully extending the arms. The more bend in the arms, the wider apart are the elbows and the greater is the exposed surface area.
- Press Biceps behind the Ears – Tuck the arms slightly behind the ears and press the biceps firmly against the head. Avoid placing the biceps at the rear of head, as such action tends to lower the head below the rest of the body and out of the optimal horizontal plane.
- Align Head with Body – One of the most common errors in streamlining among adult swimmers is the displacement of head in relation to the body. Rather than looking forward as one leaves the wall or lifting the head mid-way through the underwater glide, keep the head down and locked in place through the breakout and initial strokes. While frontal vision is impaired, streamline in much improved.
- Tighten the Buns – It’s worth a chuckle, but squeezing together your two gluteus maximus muscles will enhance your streamlining ability. While this may not be a common means of improving body position, it requires roughly a one-second hold and release.
- Straighten the Legs – As with the arms, flexibility is the issue. Most adult swimmers have the ability to easily extend the legs upon exiting the wall, though the less flexible among us may be challenged. This action is a natural response following the pushoff, much as it would be when attempting a maximum vertical jump.
- Point the Toes – During kicking, the feet, ideally, are in a relaxed, unforced and extended position, 180 degrees, more or less, from the lower leg. However, when attaining a “perfect” streamline, the feet should be forced into the horizontal plane, toes pointed directly away from the body.
- Connect the Feet – So that the water tapers off of the body, place the feet directly next to one another, one slightly on top of the other. While this may be disturbed by kicking, a momentary pause immediately after pushoff allows speed to be more easily maintained.
- Go the Extra Inch – Once you have mastered the above nine steps, go one more by extending the body, head to toe, another inch or so. Feel the stretch run though the arms down the side of the body, through legs and into the feet. It’s takes a little extra effort, as do all of these tips, and with a little practice you’ll be known as the “Super Streamliner!”
Scott Rabalais, fitness editor for SWIM, coaches Masters and collegiate swimming in Savannah, Georgia.