Monthly Archives: February 2014

More Than You Want to Know About Underwater Kicking


It’s called dolphin kick, fish kick, butterfly kick, and other names, but what everybody can now agree upon is that underwater dolphin kicking is the fastest form of swimming. In this post I cover the history of underwater kicking, why its so fast, and which body orientation is best.

If you’re not aware of how fast underwater kicking is, here’s a great video. Hill Taylor does a 23.10 for 50m LC with a backstroke start. Give him a dive and this would be faster than the 50 Free world record.

Fastest 50m Underwater Dolphin Kick Hill Taylor

But how did we get to this point of discovering how fast underwater kick is? Well, it turns out that underwater kicking has a long and fascinating history, probably much longer than you thought.

The History

There is some controversy surrounding the inventor of the dolphin kick. One legend has it that Canadian George Corsan, an instructor and pool designer for the YMCA was teaching “fishtail” kicking in swimming way back in 1911. Another legend has Jack Sieg of the University of Iowa developing it much later in 1935. They both could be true. But both had a common problem. They had no place to use this kick!

Dolphin kick was much slower than flutter kick for swimming freestyle or backstroke, and there was no such thing as butterfly yet. The only other stroke, breaststroke, required whip kicks. So that wonderful insight into swimming (perhaps invented twice!) was lost to the world for until the official recognition of butterfly in 1952.

The next big innovation came about in the early 1950s, when it was realized that breaking the surface increased friction and actually slowed down the swimmer. This spawned the idea of swimming breaststroke underwater for as long as possible, surfacing, then going under …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Our Unhealthy Obsession with PBs


This may sound like heresy, but we in the swimming world have an unhealthy obsession with Personal Bests, or PBs. There. I said it.

The problem is simple. The vast majority of swimmers, and virtually all parents, believe that the time is the only measure of a race. And for major meets, they are mainly right (but not always)! For non-major meets, they are often wrong.

So, let’s get right to it. When is a PB not the best measure of a race? There are many reasons, but let’s touch on the highlights:

  • It’s a training meet with minimal rest beforehand. A PB might be nice, but not expected.
  • They finished a hard race 10 or so minutes before and haven’t fully recovered.
  • They are asked to try out a different strategy or tactic, eg. sticking with a faster rival as long as possible, or negative split the race (2nd half faster than 1st half), or go farther underwater on all of the turns, or go out much faster than in the past.
  • The swimmer might be sick or injured, or just got back from being sick or injured

Even in major meets there are reasons why a PB is not necessarily the goal:

  • Multiple finals. Remember Ryan Lochte at the Olympics? He had the 200 Back and 200 IM finals within 20 minutes of each other. A PB in the 200 IM would have been an unreasonable expectation. And highly irrelevant as hewas there to win, not do a PB.
  • Any Trials meet where the goal is to make a team. In these cases tactics are sometimes more important than going for a PB.

And let’s flip this on its head and consider a related question. When is a PB not necessarily a good swim? Here are two common reasons:

Own the Podium and the Difference Between Success and Victory


This last Thursday, Brett Wilson wrote an interesting and controversial article for the Globe and Mail called Own the Podium is a recipe for failure. The main contention in this article is Own the Podium’s sole focus on top 3 results is “artificial and arbitrary”. He says “If we define success in narrow metrics – that is, winning a medal – we set our athletes, and our nation, up for failure.”

I love this article and the type of debate it raises. But I also realized that the author didn’t address a critical aspect of the issue: he didn’t address the fundamental difference between Success and Victory, and how Own the Podium is fundamentally flawed if viewed in these terms.

Victory is defined in many ways in various online dictionaries, but all have a common thread. Let’s consider the definition from

“A success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war.”

Victory is a basic black or white issue, with no shades in between. It is win or lose. Own the Podium is a victory-based program, and the opponent has been defined as everyone in the world. In their terms, victory is starkly defined as finishing in the top 3. Finishing 4th is the same as not showing up, or finishing 50th, or finishing last. It’s considered a failure. Is this approach appropriate? You may be surprised to find that I give medal counts a qualified yes. Top 3 performances are the metrics to which countries are measured at major international competitions, and so counting medals is a valid international metric (although perhaps not the best one).

Success is also defined in many ways, with the common thread being as follows (

“The accomplishment of one’s goals.”

Success then only requires one to set goals, but at least …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

What Makes a Pool Fast?


This is one of those questions that makes non-swimmers look at you kinda funny. How can you have a fast pool or a slow pool. It’s water. And the formula for that has been known for a while. H2O.

But as any swimmer can tell you, there are definitely fast pools, and definitely slow pools. So what makes them that way?

Swimmers will come up with more reasons that you can imagine, and I have to admit that some of them are pretty creative. But let’s stick with more conventional thinking. There are 4 main factors that affect the swimming speed of a pool: turbulence (surface waves), pool depth, water circulation, and starting blocks.


This is the big one – the major factor that affects speed, and the major factor that has impacted on pool design over the years. If you’ve ever swum in the ocean, you know what swimming in waves can be like. Although pool waves aren’t as high, we do create our own waves as we swim. After all, we’re basically shoving water out of way so we can get down the pool. And those waves will slow a swimmer down when they hit them.

Turbulence comes in 2 forms: Direct, and Reflected. Direct turbulence is basically swimmer to swimmer. Without lane ropes separating swimmers, the pool would become one big choppy mess, slowing everyone down. So besides separating the swimmers, the lanes ropes are there to absorb the waves that swimmers create. They’ve improved tremendously over the years. I remember swimming in meets years ago where the lane ropes were just ropes with a little donut-shaped plastic piece every metre or so. These days all big meets will use the best ones available to absorb the turbulence. But in many …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog