HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D., R.Psy.
FRANK ESPOSITO'S FULL STROKE AT 75 m OF HIS 200 m SILVER MEDAL BUTTERFLY RACE AT THE 1998 PERTH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The timing of these frames could not be determined. They were captured from a slow-motion video replay where the frame rate was not known. However, the duration between each frame is constant throughout this sequence.
Frank Esposito's stroke is different to some of the other swimmers depicted in this section of the Swimming Science Journal because he exaggerates recovery height even though he breathes to the side. Normally, a side-breathing butterfly recovers relatively flat but, apparently, this swimmer's shoulder flexibility is such that unwarranted height can still be achieved. The introduction of an emphasized vertical force component in the recovery will cause a counter-balancing reaction to the movements underwater. This is purely an artifact of Newton's Third Law of Motion, the "Action-reaction Law," which is ever present in all human movements. The negative tone of this analysis is deliberate since the stroking pattern and emphasized facets produce unnecessary movements that unnecessarily consume energy and also disrupt streamline in a detrimental manner.
Throughout this analysis the reader should keep in mind that the problems underwater are often a reaction to the high uneconomical recovery.
- Frame #1: The entry is made with the hands almost touching. This is a position from which no beneficial propulsion can be initiated. The arms have to be repositioned to commence effective propulsion. The high arm recovery also leads to a higher shoulder movement than is necessary. In the vein of "what goes up must come down" the shoulders are being driven down, instead of forward, in concert with the entry. The kick nears completion.
- Frame #2: The hands are together and pitched to start a lateral breaststroke-like movement. The shoulders have been forced further down resulting in an unnecessary elevation of the hips. The kick alone could not produce sufficient force to counter-balance the arm-shoulder vertical forces component and so the hips rise. The upward movement of the hips produce a large wave-drag since much water is moved by this action and the energy for that movement comes from the swimmer. The semi-pike posture is not conducive to streamline and will cause detrimental frontal drag behind the backs of the arms, the torso, and the legs.
- Frame #3: The hands press/scull sideways and downward. This movement is not actually like a good breaststroke pull for good breaststrokers scull sideways and upward. The lift forces created are used to stop the shoulders from going deeper and then to raise them. As a consequence, when the shoulders rise, the hips begin to sink and the feet also start to rise.
- Frame #4: The hands continue to scull sideways and down and the shoulders rise. As the hands accelerate, the hips sink much more rapidly. Once again the wave drag caused by the vertical movements of the shoulders, hips, and legs consumes much energy. To this stage very little of the swimmer's actions have been propulsive. They have been largely "paying the price" for an unwarranted style of arm recovery.
- Frame #5: In this frame the shoulders and hips are level (streamlined) but overall are too deep, also a consequence of the exceptionally high recovery. The arms begin to be repositioned for propulsion. The elbows commence to flex and the upper arms remain high. The feet are held very high preparatory to kicking.
- Frame #6: The upper arms are medially rotated so they remain high and in a good position to begin adduction. The elbow bend continues to position the hands and forearms to produce backward propulsive forces. The head is raised to orient the body to also move upward as well as forward. If this were not done then the swimmer would not be able to effect his exaggerated recovery.
- Frame #7: Very strong propulsive forces are created by adduction of the upper arms. The hand/forearm surfaces direct most force backward but some is needed to assist in elevating the shoulders. The head is lifted prior to turning to breathe. The kick has started extraordinarily early in the stroke to counter-balance the forces that produce shoulder lift.
- Frame #8: Arm propulsion is almost entirely backward as upper-arm adduction is nearly completed. The head is turned to the right and aligned flatter than was displayed in the previous frame. The legs are well into the kick although the arms are still propelling.
- Frame #9: The arms continue to propel but mainly through elbow extension and consequently, the propelling surface diminishes as the forearms become more obtusely angled to the intended direction of propulsion. Breathing occurs as the shoulders rise further and the hips drop causing a decline in streamline. The effectiveness of the kick is minimal for there is hardly any change in knee angle.
- Frame #10: Recovery commences producing strong vertical forces even though the hands are still in the water. Since the legs have completed kicking they cannot be used in the normal role of counter-balancing the recovery. Consequently, as the arms rise, the hips drop, producing more "stall" due to decline in streamline.
- Frame #11: Arm recovery continues and the overall body position sinks deeper as a reaction and remains inclined. The head begins to be returned.
- Frame #12: Arm recovery continues further and the overall body position is quite deep and still angled. To reduce the frontal surface area of the total swimmer, the legs bend at the knees. This movement is also preparatory to kicking to counter-balance entry forces.
- Frame #13: The head is returned and the arms sweep in and down over the water. The overall "system" rotates about swimmer's center of gravity and so the upper portion of the swimmer (torso, shoulders, arms) sinks down and the lower portion (hips, legs) rises up. This "rocker" or "hobby-horse" action causes large wave drag and is particularly costly in energy loss.
- Frame #14: A position just prior to that demonstrated in frame #1 is achieved. The hands are just out of the water and already the head, shoulders, and upper arms are being driven downward.
While it is necessary in all swimming strokes to perform movements that have vertical force components it is detrimental to exaggerate them. Frank Esposito's stroke is an example of what happens underwater when excessive vertical forces are created out of water. It is not just that counter-balancing has to occur during the recovery but that detrimental effects occur well into the initiation of the stroke as well as during the whole stroke. Instead of being able to initiate forward propulsion correctly and immediately, the first part of this swimmer's stroke is spent terminating the damaging facts of the excessively high recovery. Only when appropriate "corrections" to this technique are made could the swimmer emphasize propulsion. Further, the exaggerated high recovery forces the athlete to swim deeper than necessary and so during the propulsive phase, the swimmer has to exert energy to "get back to the surface. So many faults and problems could be corrected by simply correcting the recovery and entry arm positions.
Since this swimmer was so close to winning this race, one is set to wondering how fast this swimmer would perform the 200-m if his recovery were flatter and his entry wider. It should be noted that the swimmer's pacing in this particular event was also poor, his 100-m split being .12 seconds faster than the existing world record and .35 seconds faster than Denis Silantiev, the eventual winner. Both swimmers tired markedly in the second 100-m with Silantiev recording a time 1.39 seconds slower than the world record of Denis Pankratov.
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