HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
LENNY KRAYZELBERG AT 180 m OF HIS WORLD-RECORD 200 m RACE AT THE 1999 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SYDNEY
Each frame is .1 second apart. Lenny Krayzelberg's time for this race was 1:55.87, a new world record.
Frame #1: The right arm is deep, has completed its direct propulsive thrust, and is starting to sweep inward and upward. At the same time the left arm has entered and crossed behind the head. That unnecessary placement will require movements to reposition the arm so that it can begin propulsion. The position of the left arm at entry is a change that has crept into this swimmer's stroke over the past season. The left arm also illustrates excessive flexibility at the elbow, which could contribute to the hand entering across behind the head. That unusual structural characteristic is clearly seen in the right arm where excessive hyperextension at the elbow has occurred. The body position is streamlined. The right leg is kicking to counterbalance the left arm entry and to produce minor propulsion.
Frame #2: The right arm inward sweep and scull produces propulsion. The "milky" water behind the sweeping arm indicates that drag forces are being created. Excessive hyperextension at the elbow is corrected and the forearm and hand are moved sideways. The left wrist begins to flex in preparation for the development of relatively direct propulsion. The left leg kicks assists the body and hips to roll to the left as well as counterbalancing the strong vertical movement of the right arm. The right leg prepares to kick. The head is not visible as it is covered by the turbulence created by the left arm entry. The head, torso, and hips are streamlined.
Frame #3: The right arm has completed its propulsive inward scull and exits the water. The left arm begins bending at the elbow and wrist to produce propulsive forces. It took almost two tenths of a second for the left arm to be repositioned to where it could commence to be effective, which is the cost of entering the hand across behind the head. Upper left arm adduction begins. The shoulders and hips have rolled to the left, which also facilitates the right arm's exit.
Frame #4: The right arm has exited. The left arm shows further elbow flexion and upper arm adduction. The power of this pull, even at this early stage of propulsion, can be seen by the developing drag force turbulence behind the forearm and hand. The right leg begins to kick. The head becomes visible again as the swimmer progresses through the turbulence created by the left-arm entry. The hips and shoulders have rotated as far to the left as they will go in the stroke.
Frame #5: The right leg kicks and the body begins to roll away from its leftmost position. The left arm continues to adduct and to flex at the elbow. The rising shoulder and the elbow flexion cause the hand and upper arm to rise upward toward the surface although the major force component is directly backward. The excellent streamlining of the swimmer is clearly illustrated here. The head is well back with the eyes almost looking directly upward.
Frame #6: As the right arm continues its recovery, it causes a downward force through the shoulder, a reaction that will cause the shoulder and hip to rotate away from the left side. The propulsive left arm's forearm/hand surface is partially obscured by trailing drag force turbulence. Although the left forearm/hand point upward and the hand is near the surface, it would be erroneous to conclude that this is a deliberate hydrodynamic action. It results from the swimmer's anatomical limitations and the moving shoulder base. As far as the swimmer is concerned, he would be trying to produce force directly backward, the curving movement resulting from accommodations of his anatomy. The right leg has kicked.
Frame #7: Very powerful left upper arm adduction is almost completed. The hyperextension at the elbow actually benefits the swimmer at this stage. The upper arm can come quite close to the body while the excessive elbow angle would still keep the forearm/hand in a position where some propulsion can be maintained. As the elbow is extended the forearm/hand will push back but will also sink downward, again accommodating anatomical limitations of the human body. The head back and streamlined body position continue to be maintained. The left leg begins to kick as the recovering right arm nears entry.
Frame #8: The right arm enters across behind the shoulder and head although not as far as the left. The entry is made with the hand flat on its back. Left arm propulsion continues to push backward and down as the elbow extends. The left leg kicks to counterbalance the right arm entry.
Frame #9: The left arm starts an inward and upward scull, a particularly fast movement. The right leg kicks to counterbalance the vertical force component of the left arm and to rotate the hips to the right. The elevated left hip will facilitate the left arm's exit. The right arm has been repositioned by moving the upper arm away from the head, rolling the hand, and flexing at the wrist. The right leg kicks to counterbalance the left-arm exit and to assist rolling to the right.
Frame #10: The left arm has exited. The right wrist is flexed while the elbow is only slightly bent. It most likely would have been better to bend more at the elbow by this stage, as that would have positioned the forearm propelling-surface earlier in the stroke. The effect of the right leg kick pushing the right hip down can be seen clearly in this frame. The persistently good streamline continues.
Frame #11: As left upper arm adduction continues, but still with minimal elbow flexion, the hand provides the major propelling surface. The absence of considerable elbow flexion will not cause the forearm/hand propelling-surface to approach the water surface to the same degree as exhibited in the left arm pulling action. The left leg bends at the knee preparatory to kicking while the right leg completes its kick.
Frame #12: The hips and shoulders have rotated maximally to the right. The "pulling" right arm is still long with only slight elbow flexion. That produces a weaker pull. The time for completion of the left arm effective pull was less than .8 of a second (frames #2 to #10). The time for the right arm effective pull was approximately a little more than .9 of a second (frames #8 to #15 and frames #2 and #3). It is a known kinesiological principle that bending at the joint increases power/force, and the failure to bend the right arm as much as with the left during the pull supports the inference of a weaker pull. That interpretation is also supported by the longer time taken to complete the right-arm effective pull. A small left kick is executed, probably to maintain kicking rhythm as much as producing any important force.
Frame #13: The right arm continues to sweep wide as the left arm recovers. The power of the left arm propulsion is demonstrated by the amount of drag-force turbulence that trails the forearm/hand surface. The left leg kick is completed while the right leg prepares to kick.
Frame #14: The right forearm/hand pushes back as adduction of the upper arm continues. Extension at the elbow commences. The right leg begins to kick.
Frame #15. A position similar to that in frame #1 is exhibited. Hyperextension in the right elbow begins to become apparent. The right leg kicks to counterbalance the vertical force component created by the poorly positioned entering left arm. Excellent streamlining has been maintained throughout the total stroke cycle.
While Lenny Krayzelberg is the new world-record holder in backstroke events, his stroke could still be improved. The position of entry of both arms could be improved so that delays caused by repositioning do not occur before effective propulsion begins. Entries similar to those of Martin Lopez-Zubero, exhibited in another analysis in this journal, would be better. Matching the right arm pull with the stroking pattern of the left arm would improve the technique and result in performance enhancement.
The streamlining and head position demonstrated by Lenny Krayzelberg is worthy of emulation by all backstrokers.
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