When we say the same things repeatedly they loose their impact. The number of times that we say to our swimmers “streamline” is a good case in point. It may even give us an affect that is different to what we want to see. If the word ‘streamline’ becomes part of the white noise that becomes part of the background noise of the pool it is then meaningless. An incorrect streamline may get a body position that is ‘somewhat’ streamlined but not truly hydro dynamically the body position of the least resistance.
If putting your hands together over your head is close enough to a streamline and it is accepted as good technique then you are missing much of the advantage that a good streamline can provide.
There are some important aspects of a good streamline that I like to see. I am lucky to see a great number of swimmers over a full cross section of the competitive swimming world and I often am correcting a weak streamline in swimmers who truly believe they are doing the correct thing.
I believe that a good streamline has some basic elements that can be used to describe the true hydro dynamic:
1. Hands overlapping. They need to be locked in a way to enable a head squeeze. Many swimmers hold their hands by grabbing the fingers of the other hand; like shaking someone’s wrong hand by their fingers. This gets the hands together but doesn’t give the leverage that allows a squeezing action. The correct hand position is one hand covering over the back of the other so that you can not see the lower hand, then the top thumb reaches down and locks onto the lower side of the hand.
2. Shoulder shrug. The muscles around the scapulae need to relax so that the shoulders lift up and the deltoids can be lifted high enough to cover the ears. This basic exercise can be demonstrated by asking any adolescent any question…answer: shoulder shrug, with the mumble “I dunno” or “nuthun”.
Poking fun at a teen is an easy target but if you make the exercise of shrugging the shoulders fun and memorable, then this new way of thinking about the ‘streamline’ will begin to become part of their normal practice. With hands overlapping and the thumb locked onto one side of the other hand the arms can then squeeze together trapping the head. I like to say ‘squeeze that melon’ indicating to squeeze their head. The locking of the thumb then levers the locked arm(s) against the head tightly and this can allow the shoulder blades to become completely relaxed making them protrude out of the side.
3. Tight but loose. If a streamline position is too tight then it is difficult to bend. A good streamline is tight but pliable enough so that the swimmer’s shoulders can bend and undulate. If the large bone called the scapula is loose then you will see it poking out along the sides of the swimmers.
The skill of squeezing the head, and more specifically the ears, but not locking up the upper spine, makes it possible to make your head and upper arms become one unit. It is then easier to undulate like a dolphin. If you can do this exercise on an exercise ball then you are very good already. I also suggest doing hula hoop while in a streamline position. I suggested this idea to Michael Phelps’ Coach Bob Bowman at a conference in 2003 so I hereby take credit for all his medals [insert smiley face!].
As a coach you need to find something that makes the swimmer think about the idea of streamlining differently. For example maybe these images strike a cord with you:
All of this great work comes from a simple aspect:
Good luck…give your tired old shout: “STREAMLINE”! a new meaning.