I received this comment on a blog post recently…
I tried to practice Spear Switch drill. I do this along with two beat kick instead of flutter. When I switch, I don’t see any forward propulsion in my body due to the switch or kick. I do see a propulsion due to the pull action of my lead arm. I really don’t know what I am missing.
It’s a good drill and this swimmer is doing a great job using it integrate various parts of his stroke – the switch in front with the kick in back. His comment shows that is expecting forward movement, assuming this is what the activity is meant to produce when done correctly.
My expanded response to the comment follows…
Keep in mind that drills have a limit to their utility according to how they are setup, while they also have flexibility in how they can be used. We can use one drill for possibly many different purposes like diagnosing strengths/weakness not just improving skills. But we must be careful to understand that specific purpose and set expectations for it accordingly.
Arranged in a certain way a drill will allow the swimmer to ‘slow down time’ and ‘focus more easily’ on a certain part of the stroke in order to increase awareness and/or increase control. In many of the standard drills you are familiar with in Total Immersion the drilling activity will not achieve the full range of effects and sensations one should have in the whole stroke action, but only one or a few specific parts of it.
In the case of using Spear Switch, as this swimmer described, its purpose is to help you establish switch timing and train the arms to work independently but cooperatively, each getting into position and doing their job at the right moment. And, as you have been doing, it can be used also to help feel the timing of the kick. But, without repetitive strokes to create momentum, you are pushing against the inertia of still water and you won’t move ahead easily. The purpose of this drill in this case is to become sensitive to timing in this stable position, not for creating propulsion. If that happens or not is not important. The underwater switching arm in Spear Switch situation creates a lot of drag so it works against most of the forward propulsion the gentle catch and gentle rotation create. And if you try to abruptly pull and/or abruptly kick in this drill to create some satisfying movement, then you may actually start working against the greater benefits of this drill – timing and steady, smooth pressure (of catch and kick).
One more thing – keep in mind that the 2-Beat Kick has very little value for forward thrust. It’s purpose is to assist rotation by pressing on the water in a torquing manner, not push back on the water to thrust the body forward. So, the 2-Beat Kick, done well (or at least in the way I practice and teach it) should actually not push you by itself. It only works to accentuate the torso rotation.
Now, with that said, we need to keep the big picture in mind – becoming good at doing a certain drills is not the goal, rather integrating that skill into whole stroke and making full use of it is the goal.
Even though a swimmer discovers the need to spend a lot more time doing some drills, why do so and how much should he do?
Drills are meant to improve awareness of (sensitivity to) small but critical details in the stroke and thereby put you in position to improve control over those details. And that awareness and control needs to be regularly and increasingly tested in whole stroke. How many whole strokes? Well, that depends on where the failure point is, where the control over the skill breaks down. One can take 1 stroke or 1000 – the number he should take depends on what will take him up to his failure point and then he knows his benchmark for subsequent testing. (More on that in a the post How Long Will It Take?)
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This comment topic coincides well with the previous post Correction vs. Over-Correction.
And there is a bit more on my blog to help improve understanding for how to use drills and focal points more effectively. Try these:
- Using Focal Points
- Focal Point: A Tool, Not A Rule
- Using Drills
- How Much Drill Work?
- The Drill Sequence
- Definition Of A Drill
- Drills For Troubleshooting
- Drills for Proprioception