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Get a (better) Grip! – Addendum

(Other Sculling Drills)

Fair Warning: What follows relies on terminology and concepts developed in the preceding parts. This article will make little sense to you if you have not yet read the preceding stuff.

The drills described here are not part of the core progression but are offered as opportunities for you to expand your sculling skills by adding variety, complexity and utility to the implements in your sculling toolbox.

V-sit Sculling drill

For this drill, watch the following video….

Sit-sculling video

Note that when the swimmer is moving in a feet-first direction he establishes a blade plane with finger tips at roughly a 45˚ down-angle. This accelerates water backwards (for some propulsion) and downwards (for some support). When the swimmer is moving in a head-first direction his blade plane has finger tips at roughly a 45˚ up-angle – again for a combination of support and propulsion. You should play with the angle of your blade plane to get the right mix of propulsion and support.

Play with some variations:

  • How quickly can you reverse direction of travel (but not orientation) by simply switching both blade planes from up- to down-angle (or down- to up-angle as the case may be).

  • How quickly can you reverse your orientation, turning 180 by simultaneously angling one blade plane up and the other blade plane down? Can you turn the other direction just as quickly?

  • The following clip shows a variation on V-sit Sculling, called Crunch-sit Sculling…

 GoSwim Crunch-sit sculling video

Take solace in the fact that any variation on this drill is also great for your abs!

V-sit to OTB back to V-sit drill

Start with a feet-first V-sit scull. Once you establish good forward propulsion, begin to let your legs and hips slowly drop and drift backwards through your blade plane. Continue letting them drift back behind you as put your face in the water and move toward the Over The Barrel sculling position.

After sculling in the OTB position for a few seconds, reverse the process, drawing your knees up, curling our hips forward through the blade plane and finally extending your legs back into V-sit position again.

Reverse Alice drill

This is actually an extension of the Alice drill. Instead of doing a breaststroke recovery after sliding through your blade plane in the Alice drill, keep sculling and allow the body to slide slowly “backwards” through the continuously forward moving blade plane. Let the body slide “backwards” till you get back to the OTB sculling position. I use quotes around “backwards” because even though the body is sliding BACKWARD through the blade plane the idea is to keep it traveling FORWARD through the water.

When you first try Reverse Alice drill, start by doing the Alice drill with 30+ sculls to get your hips past your hands. Then use roughly the same number of sculls to allow your body to slide backwards through the blade plane to the OTB position. Then try it again using fewer sculls going in both directions. For many people sliding backwards through the blade plane seems more complex (and requires a longer learning curve) than sliding forward through the blade plane did in the original Alice drill.

How few sculls per cycle can you get down to in the Reverse Alice drill without losing the sensation that your body continues to move forward through the water continuously even as it slides backward through the blade plane?

One-Arm Reverse Alice drill

Just as the Reverse Alice drill is an extension of the Alice Through the Blade Plane drill we can do a Reverse One-Arm Reverse Alice drill as an extension of the One-Arm Alice drill. It is no different than the Reverse Alice drill – except you do it one arm at a time.

This is quite challenging and will likely require a lot of work to perfect. I’d wait till you’ve had satisfactory experiences with the Reverse Alice and One-Arm Alice drills before trying this one.

When you do try this drill for the first time you’ll have greatest success by using lots of sculls for each cycle. But the real visceral learning will come as you begin to decrease the number of sculls. Just as in the Reverse Alice drill, how few sculls can you get down to without losing the sensation that your body continues to move forward in the water, even as it slides backward through the blade plane?

Two-Lane Highway drill

This drill is like doing the Alice drill with one arm while you do the Reverse Alice drill with the other arm.

Start the Two-Lane Highway drill by pushing off from the wall in prone position with one arm extended in front of you and the other arm at your side. Then begin sculling with both blades – front arm in the OTB position and the other arm near your hips. You’ve now established separate blade planes at opposite ends of your longitudinal wingspan. Now, using 30+ sculls, slowly move the blade planes past each other. Try to move each blade plane at the same speed smoothly from one end of your wingspan to the other. They should pass each other somewhere between chest and shoulders. Once each arm reaches the opposite end of your wingspan from whence it started, spend a few seconds sculling there, making sure that the two blade planes are as far apart as your wingspan allows. Then reverse directions of the two arms and slowly move the blade planes past each other to return them to their starting locations to complete the cycle.

Once you get the hang of this with 30+ sculls, start reducing the number of sculls. Your goal is to see how few sculls you can use and still have the sense that each blade is contributing sculling pressure – palm side is the pressure side – especially on the “reverse” arm, and that your body continually moves forward.

Experimentation is good

The drills offered here are just a hint of all the possible activities you can employ to expand your sculling toolbox. I encourage you to experiment, improvise and be creative. Here are a couple more great sculling drills from GoSwim:

GoSwim Overhead Sculling video

GoSwim Kickboard sit scull video

Come up with new positions and methods of sculling and send me a description of your invention (and youtube it too). Maybe I’ll include it here and give you credit!   v

H2Ouston Swims, Inc. 2006

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Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1981, holds an ASCA Level 5 Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He recently overhauled his popular book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers) and the second edition was released mid-2008. The first edition has been translated and released in French (entitled Natation, published by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, published by Hispano Europea), Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong) and, soon, in Turkish. Currently Coach Hines coaches the H2Ouston Swims Masters group in Houston, TX and works privately with many clients. He can be reached for questions or comments at 713-748-SWIM or via email.

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