Why Learning Technique at Race Pace Prevents Injuries
“There’s a myth that’s going around that young swimmers should learn technique at slow speed,” said Brent Rushall, Ph.D., founder of Ultra-Short Race Pace Training (USRPT). “Science says that at slow speeds you’ll do one technique and at fast speeds, you’ll do a different technique.”
That means that all the technique you worked on while swimming easy is going to go right out the window once you’re striving for time. Falling into the wrong pattern is hard on the body also. “If you swim properly, you save your joints,” according to USRPT coach Peter Andrew.
Training thousands of yards with bad technique leads to injuries: The most common, according to University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine (UPMC) include:
- Irritation and inflammation in the shoulders
- Rotator cuff tendonitis or tears
- Shoulder impingement syndrome, which is a result of pressure on the rotator cuff muscles from part of the shoulder blade when the arm is lifted overhead
- Tears in the cartilage around the shoulder socket
- Neck and low back pain
- Bicep tendonitis
Overtraining with poor stroke mechanics and breathing technique are the top reasons cited by UPMC for these injuries. The medical center advises that proper stroke mechanics as the primary way to prevent injury, particularly head and body position, proper breathing technique and rotating the body during freestyle and backstroke. For butterfly and breaststroke, the emphasis is on body and head position, timing and proper kicking mechanics.
Using USRPT training, Sedona Race Pace Club focuses on proper technique at the same speed and intensity swimmers use when racing in a swim meet. Even the littlest swimmers have a blast getting the feel for stroke mechanics and then striving to hold the form as they race against the coach’s stopwatch and their goal times.
Proper technique for each stroke is broken down into a number of components that are taught in cycles. The goals are to first reduce water resistance and secondly to move more effectively through the water. As nature intended, these body positions are also the easiest on the body.
Body position in the water is key — head and hips should be aligned along the same horizontal plane in a streamlined position for the least resistance moving through the water. Then you can add in proper technique for breathing, arm movements, and kicking. “Correct limb techniques can only be achieved when they are performed on an efficient, stable, central structure,” according to Rushall.
Our head coach Sean Emery and his Sedona Race Pace Club coaches focus each week on one aspect of a stroke to help swimmers “overlearn” each principle. This week, for example, swimmers concentrate on the power phase of a stroke for maximum forward movement in the water.
“If overlearning is not achieved, then over time, what should have been learned will regress back to what originally was done,” per Rushall. Reverting back to incorrect technique is likely to lead to injury, especially when swimming at high velocity such as going “all out” in a race.
So how is a swimmer supposed to hold the correct technique while racing? The feedback received from our Sedona swim team coaches help kids find and practice their best form at racing speeds, training their brain and bodies to “swim smarter, not harder” even at their top effort.
Are you interested in finding out more about getting your children or yourself enrolled in race pace training? Call Coach Sean Emery at 928.254.7765.