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    SwimPath Blog

    Defining Backstroke

    So it seems Mr Lochte caused a bit of controversy at the Worlds this summer by performing his fly kicks (on the freestyle leg of the I.M) on his back!!

    But it's freestyle right so that's ok?

    According to FINA, probably not....

    Despite not being DQ'd in Kazan, Lochte's kick exploits have caused swimming's governing body to re-look at the laws within IM - and as a recent article on Swimswam states - by adding further clarification to what constitutes the freestyle leg...

    The basis of the current rules is that the freestyle leg on an IM can be anything other than back, breast or fly - and thus most of time folk will swim front crawl! However, the concern over Lochte's front crawl leg is that he did 15m of it on his back, which means he was swimming backstroke of a portion of the leg and so contravening the rule of not being allowed to swim one of the 3 other strokes...

    Current perception therefore is that the rules will be changed so that on embarking on the freestyle leg of an IM the swimmer must be on his or her front...

    Here's the interesting bit...

    So if Lochte turns breast to free to come off the wall on his front (as we would see in a breast to breast or fly to fly turn) and performs 15m of fly kick underwater before swimming front crawl - has he not completed a portion of the leg swimming butterfly??

    It raises the question whether therefore the freestyle leg will not be allowed to contain any fly kicks...

    Or can they only be done on the side? (thats not a stroke right?!)

    Or is the can of worms opened even further by looking at the technical laws of backstroke that state the entire swim must be completed on the back for it to be legal. And so if a swimmer kicked 15m underwater on the back, came up and turned onto the front then he/she would be DQ'd - and vis a vis therefore the 15m underwater on the freestyle leg if done on the back does not constitute backstroke because the swimmer comes up on the front thus rendering the lap NOT backstroke...

    There's quite a few forums and chat on this subject already and it has been debated ever since he did it!

    For my mind I don't accept that 15m underwater fly kick on the back is backstroke. It is an element of backstroke swimming that has come into the sport as swimmers have become more adept at fast kicking underwater - and rules, such as 15m distance, have been introduced to embrace and regulate its use.

    Without a severe overhaul of all regulations of what constitutes strokes and allowable underwater phases I'm not convinced there is an issue...

    After all, his winning time of 1:55.81 was nearly a second slower than the time he won the same event in 2 years previous (1:54.98) and nearly 2 seconds slower than his own World Record (1:54.00)!

    So in conclusion kids, don't kick on your back on the freestyle leg of the 200 IM. Not because its illegal, but because it makes you slower :)

    Strength training - when to start?

    When to begin a strength training programme, in terms of chronological age, is always a much asked question. Fear of long term damage, stunting growth or damaging bones that are not fully matured are all common concerns and coaches will often delay strength programmes until late teen years. Usually however, this is due to a misconception of what we term as strength training and a lack of understanding of the modalities strength and conditioning coaches use to support athlete development.

    Generally when we think of strength training we imagine weights, drawing up connotations of heavy barbells being repeatedly lifted over head, or vistas of bulky guys sat hitting rep after rep of a bicep curl with a solid iron dumbbell spring to mind. And if this were the case then for sure, lets not encourage kids to do this (in fact lets not encourage most adults to do this either!!!!!) But strength training doesn't all have to be about weights - not if we strip the term strength right down its most fundamental level.

    Strength can be described as “the ability to produce force against resistance” and within this term we only have to look at new born babies to see that at the beginning of life, so does the strength training programme begin!! Supine babies will kick their legs against the sides of the cot in order to begin developing the strength they will need one day to walk. Rotational strength is developed as the bambino exerts force through its torso in order to attempt to roll onto its front - and so on through lifting its body to crawl and the eventual bi-pedal stance as its first step draws ever nearer!

    In reality strength work is all about increasing the body’s ability to exert or withstand force and whilst it would be wholly unnecessary for a 12 year old swimmer to be hitting max effort bench press reps there are many more subtle methods of training that will over time prepare the swimmer fully for when the resistance does need increasing. Not only that but if conducted properly in a controlled environment, these training methods are fun and far safer than some childhood sports - particularly contact sports, that all include various lunging, jumping and twisting patterns, only with the added fear that mid twist you might get blind-sided by an opposing player and end up in a pained heap on the floor! Not fun (for most anyway!!!!!!!!!)

    The key points here, whether talking about a young swimmer or a baby, are that the strength work is appropriate - and as long as it is appropriate, fit for purpose and safe then the only truly limiting factor will be an athletes mental readiness! Babies will crawl when they are ready! We need to get better at discerning when our athletes are ready to begin a supplementary programme as opposed to asking are they the right age…

    Can they listen to instruction, follow safety guidelines and appreciate the level and standard of work required from them to embark on this new regime? Can they be trusted to respect equipment, other trainees and staff? Can they appreciate the risks associated with improper form? And ultimately do they understand the reasons why they are doing it and the benefit that will ensue?

    There is certainly no rush to get kids into strength programmes as for a large portion growth and varied sport will play the biggest role in strength and conditioning. However, once a swimmer, or track athlete or football player, begins to show enthusiasm to get more involved in the sport, supplementary strength work can be a great way to develop a rounded athlete and allot training time to beneficial activities that will keep training interesting and fun…