[introduction, by Scott Bay]
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Scott Bay. I am the current chair of the USMS [United States Masters Swimming] Coaches Committee. And I would like, first of all, to welcome you all to our talk. This is the Master track, and we are going to be talking about: freestyle stroke analysis of elite swimmers and their applications for Masters. With us today, we have Coach Stu Kahn. My good friend Stu, here, is the head coach of the largest Masters team in the country, Davis Aquatic Masters. He is also the head coach for our USMS High Performance Camp; he is also the vice chair of the USMS Coaches Committee. He has coached at every level: Age Group, Senior Swimming, high school, college, and now Masters. So we are very fortunate to have him. I can talk about him all day. I am really glad that he is, first of all, my right hand man for a lot of things, but also because of his technical knowledge. So I would like you all to welcome, Coach Stu Kahn.
Thank you very much. This is going to be a visual presentation: it is a slide show and it is got a lot of videos. And I am basically here because of technology. And I am going to stay here as long as I can, until I find out that the images that I am using are verboten and they tell me that I have to copyright these and then I am done for it.
I have been doing Masters at Davis Aquatic Masters as the head coach the last 4 years; I was the assistant coach there for 11 years before that. I got started in coaching, or I got started in the sport, back in the ’60s when my father did not attend a neighborhood meeting and he was elected Swim Team Chairman. So all of his kids came on board, and I have been involved in the sport ever since. And as Scott said, I have been fortunate to coach at high school level, I was a junior college coach, I was a state coach for the CSU [California State University] system, I got to help out one year at Berkeley with Nort Thornton. I have had a lot of different experiences, and those experiences have contributed to what I think are this collection of films and shots that I have. But it has led me, also, to this point in my career where I stopped coaching kids, because all the kids that I liked the most had all grown up and they have gravitated into—if they were still swimming—Masters Swimming.
I made the move, like I said, four years ago, and it is a great move. How many of you are Masters coaches here, exclusively Masters coaches? How many of you wear more than one hat: Masters or something else? Great; good. So this is applicable to all levels, this presentation. It is just going to be freestyle, and I hope it will show you that there are some new themes that you probably want to include in your dialog. Not the least of which is that Masters are swimmers too. There was a misconception that when you got older, you needed to be treated differently and that Masters Swimming was a little lighter sport. I do not think Masters Swimming is any different than any Masters exercise.
I do not know if you have seen this: it has been out about two years. This is an MRI cross-section of quadriceps. The top photos are of a 40-year old triathlete, the middle photos are the 74-year old sedentary man, and the bottom are an MRI cross-section of quadriceps of a 70-year old triathlete. So you’ve got your 70-year old with, what I think is, even more muscle-mass than a 40-year old. Bottom line, on the left, use it or lose it. We don’t stop exercising because we get old, we get old because we stopped exercising.
With our Masters team at Davis we do a lot of high-intensity swimming. We only have a 60-minute practice, with a 10-minute warm-up; a 5-minute kind of prep set, and our main set, and if it’s distance, it is 40 minutes. We are not a high-volume team. A lot of my athletes get their aerobic exercise biking and running. We try to spend a lot of time on high-intensity swimming and technique. So today’s presentation is going to be on the technique side. I’m going to try to cover these five areas but the main part is going to be what happens underwater in the pulling and in the timing of the arms.
So let’s start with aquatic posture. And most of the time, when people talk about aquatic posture, the first thing they’ll do is show you a really good streamline and say that you need to have a tight aquatic posture, which is great, but when you leave the wall, as soon as you take the first stroke, then what happens? I think that it’s important that you hold that position, and I will show you a drill that we do on our team to help people learn how to hold that tension in their core when they swim.
I want to tell you also that I coach with my wife. We have 47 workouts-a-week at Davis: I do 25, she does 18, and then we have two other coaches to fill-in. So my wife and I handle 43 of the 47 coached per week. We talk swimming; we live swimming. No, let me take that back: I talk swimming, I live swimming; my wife tolerates it. But we get to share a lot of ideas, and she helped me with a lot of these notions.
So, we’re a speed-oriented sport. And that speed is dependent on these two simultaneous forces that are always happening. You’re trying to overcome resistance, and you’re trying to increase your propulsion. And they happen at the same time. It’s the management of those two variables that determines your success in the water. And it really is an exquisite balance between the two: minimizing your resistance and maximizing your propulsion.
My goal today is when we’re done that you will have seen that all elite freestylers basically swim the same way. Under the water their motions are the same. It’s what happens at the end of their stroke that’s similar. The front of the stroke, the early vertical forearm, it’s not as common across the board as other parts of the pull. There is one exception to this: the men sprinters now, the big, strong-men sprinters, they catch water differently than everybody else. And I’ll show you a couple of guys who are doing that.
This timing sequence between creating propulsion and minimizing resistance, it’s a very specific timing sequence. And the videos I’m going to show you, and some of the photographs, I wish I could have the time to show you every single video. You’ll notice that in all the photographs I’m about to use, they’ve been taken from videos. It would take too long to play the video of each swimmer; but they go back as far as Matt Biondi and Janet Evans, and they are as current as the Olympics in London last month. And there’s no way that these people colluded on this technique. So if it’s something that they came up with through intuition and there’s a similarity, then we can identify that similarity and we can instruct it. And that’s what I want to try to impart to you guys today. It’s a skill that I think can be taught to and duplicated by Masters swimmers.
So the aquatic posture, you have to maximize your aquatic streamline by minimizing your surface area. We know the fastest way to go through the water is with both arms over your head trying to have the longest line that you can. I did some checking on [sailing’s] America’s Cup and they started, you know, 150 years ago. And as the wealthy men starting building longer hulls, they kept going faster and faster. They had to put a limit on the length of the hulls that the billionaires could use because it was just getting out of hand. They’ve learned nautically that all you have to do is just keep making your ship longer and the waves that come around it stay in a line and your laminar flow is continuous. The shorter the hull, the more turbulence is created. So, they went with this limit, I think back in the ‘70s, and they made the hull length, I think it’s 80 feet something. I want to know if you know what’s happening now with the American’s Cup. You know how they got around that? They have catamarans and trimarans. So they just took the hull and multiplied the hulls. They’re still less than 80 feet long, so it’s the letter of the law, but they know that to go faster, have a long line in your body.
And for swimmers this is important because you have to balance your center of buoyancy and your center of mass—I think you guys all know this. Our center of mass, our center of gravity, is basically where we could sit on or lie on a teeter-totter and be balanced. It’s pretty much there, right near our hips. Our center of buoyancy is where our lungs are. When you’re swimming, you’re trying to get your center of mass closer to your center of buoyancy. And you do that by stretching one arm or two arms over your head. So when you’re swimming, one of the goals in freestyle, is to get one arm out in front of you quickly and leave it there for a moment to extend your hull, your length, while the other arm completes its motion. And that’s one of the ways that you can keep transferring your legs back and forth.
I didn’t know this but there’s this fellow who has measured the drag coefficients of everything. There’s a book on drag coefficients. If you want to know what the drag coefficient is on some object in water, it’s out there. Now I don’t know if you can see these, but the drag coefficients, they’re real big for a cube. If you shove off the wall and you’ve got your elbows sticking out, you’re going to have a very large drag coefficient. The most effective way to cut through the water is in the streamline position. The next most effective way is in the streamline half-body, leaving one arm out in front of you. The least effective way then would be to have both arms behind your shoulders. That’s one of the main reasons we teach front-quadrant swimming. The front-quadrant swimming sometimes creates too much of a gap in propulsion.
So what I want to demonstrate today is, again, the timing that swimmers use to reach these positions. So I think when you enter the water, this is aquatic posture on your entry, your arms should enter shoulder-width, your palms should be down, continuing forward into a momentarily locked position: locked at your shoulder, locked at your elbow, locked at your wrists.
Jono Van Hazel… I don’t know if anybody yet has discovered the Swim Smooth website down in Australia. You guys familiar with that? Great place to go. It’s oriented towards triathletes and distance freestyle. But they have this animated model called Mr. Smooth and they based it on Jono Van Hazel. This guy’s got a great, great freestyle, if you want to see somebody who’s moving in the water properly.
So there is this position when you want to have one arm out in front, the other arm is finishing in back. The faster you go—here’s Nathan Adrian—the faster you go, the more that the overlap is going to be minimized. So Nathan’s just taking his hand out of the water here, and he’s coming down in the water to catch and create his propulsion. He’s not a Sun Yang, who has a hand out in front of his head. So the shorter the distance, the less overlap there’s going to be; but there’s still things that Nathan does that is similar to Sun Yang under the water. The amount of time you’re going to stay in that tensed-arm position out front is determined by your tempo and your race duration.
You do want to try to keep your shoulders next to your cheekbone. If you’re working with Masters, I’m sure you have swimmers that put their hand in when they take their breath, they drop their shoulder down, and they’ve got a 10-inch gap and they’re just pushing their arm right through the water. We want to try to make sure that you keep cheekbones next to your shoulders.
Alright, so here’s a drill. This is a drill that we do on a kickboard to try to teach people how to learn a tight body in the water. It’s a variation on what Richard Quick had Dara Torres do when she was swimming with him at Stanford. So you start off pressing your T, pressing your chest, down on a kickboard in the jellyfish float—so your limbs are real loose, everything’s down in the water. Then you tighten-up so that you’re on the surface, then bring your legs together first and then your arms, and then start kicking. So you’re in a real tight position and you’re holding your torso, your core, in that rigid spot. Then we ask the swimmers to begin using their arms.
So I did this last week. My wife Mary is filming me. She told me I’ve got three chances to get it right. So I’m pressing, still trying to just keep my torso tight when I swim, because—you’re going to see in a moment—when you race, there’s not as much shoulder and torso and hip roll from the underwater view as we’ve been thinking. Alright, so I’m thinking I’ve got the feel of it: pressing it, my chest and my kickboard, my head is lower, I got that feeling now where I can stay on the board. I’ve got a little bit of a kick going behind me.
Alright, so this is just a real, good progressive drill; real simple on a kickboard to teach your swimmers how to do it. Then we have to take the kickboard out and then they swim without the board, and you’re trying to pretend like it’s still on there and you’re trying not to over roll. Because, here’s Cullen Jones, this is one of, I think, the semifinals from London. Cullen Jones coming down the lane. There’s not a lot of body roll on these sprinters. They’re keeping their chest pressed right down in the water and all they’re trying to do is create propulsion with their arms.
We also know that in terms of propulsion, if you want to go forward, you have to anchor your palm in the water and angle water backwards. It was great to watch the rowing in London and see those oars come up out of the water, turn 90°, rotate and then square themselves right before they went back in again and stay squared the whole way. We know that the rowers do not swing their oars all the way back to the edge of the hull into a 180°-sweep because they’ll be pushing 40° out, 40° back, something 40° back in it. You just want to angle water backwards. So on these sprinters here, they’re just putting their hands in, trying to dig as much as they can, angle water backwards. If you deflect it behind you, your body will move forward.
So I don’t think sprinters are rolling their hips as much as we’ve been counseling. In Masters swimming, that was our big mantra in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s: roll, roll, roll. Swim like a fish, get on your side. The problem I have with that is the only fishes who are on their side are dead fishes. Normal fishes have a tummy, have a bottom: they swim on their tummy. They have their two sides over here and they have a dorsal fin on their back. They’re just really thin; but they don’t swim on their sides. I don’t think we swim on our sides as much people have been saying. So this is sprinting. So here’s Sun Yang in his 400-meter free, and he rolls to one side but not to the other. And he rolls his hips up just to take a breath; on the other side, his hips are flat.
I know the comment I was going to make: I was very disappointed in underwater coverage that NBC showed of the Olympics. And it’s my understanding that these underwater cameras were on all the time. And each producer from each country got to choose the images that they wanted to send back to their nation. Our American producers chose the above-water shots most of the time. The fiasco with the Olympic Trials in Omaha was that the meet was so big, they had to use the outside lanes, lanes 0 and 9, to accommodate [all] the swimmers; and that’s where the tracks were for the underwater camera in Omaha. So if you can remember, in Omaha, all we got was turns; the only thing we got from the Olympic Trials underwater was turns. So it was very disappointing that we didn’t get to see more underwater work.
So little bit more hip roll on distance swimmers.
Here’s my thoughts; and these thoughts are coordinated with the information that we’re going to pull out of the slides. All freestyle swimming techniques should prioritize precision timing of those propulsive and resistive forces. The really successful swimmers, including Masters—and this is what we try to teach at DAM, Davis Aquatic Masters—should extend and, with the appropriate timing, immobilize the entering arm while you maximize the thrust from the finishing arm. Overlapping those two motions is counter-productive. It makes about as much sense, again in rowing, if you have an eight and you got all eight oars come out of the water and you lift them up and the eight [rowers] start going back again and one guy decides he’s going to add more propulsion by dropping his oar back-in too soon. That’s not going to create propulsion; that’s going to disturb the momentum.
I think in Swimming, particularly Masters, we’re in a hurry to get somewhere. I think we really mean to teach people to slow down in order to speed up. And it’s counter-intuitive, but a lot of Masters like to put their hand in and start pulling right away. And if they do that, it’s going to force the other hand to minimize its finish at the end. And I hope to show you, based on a lot of information, that I think the finish is more important than the catch.
I think this is either out of [Ernie] Maglischo’s book or [Bill] Sweetenham’s book or Cecil Colin’s book, but it’s just to show you that really good swimmers who have a feel for the water have a tendency to put one arm in and leave it there as they finish the other arm. And when they go to switch places, the hand that was out in front, the one that starts out here, when it exits the water, it actually leaves ahead of where it went in. You may have first heard this when [Doc] Counsilman was filming [Mark] Spitz with the lighted hands in that underwater pool: Spitz’s hands came out of the water ahead of where they entered. Counsilman at the time thought it was all due to Bernoulli’s principles of lift. He said eureka! we’re onto something, and it took us in a direction in our sport that we really got mixed-up on for quite a while. The bottom line is these tight positions are what good swimmers still do. Alright. so that was the information I wanted to give you on aquatic posture: you need to be rigid in the core, you need to have some sort of drill that establishes that tight core when you swim, and it should stay in that tight position throughout your effort.
Kicking is an underappreciated part of Swimming, particularly in Masters. At Davis, when I came on board, I started a philosophy right from the beginning: we have a four-day training routine that follows the acronym K.I.S.D. It was very important for me working with the Masters that at least once a week we have a pure kicking day. I’d been an assistant coach at that program for long enough, I didn’t think we did enough kicking.
• K: So we have one day a week of just hard, intense kicking; with fins, without fins, but just kicking.
• S: That’s always followed by an IM or stroke-specially day—I did not want to ignore our breaststrokers, butterflyers and backstrokers. So we always do a stroke day that follows kicking.
• I: After the IM day, we have the high intensity day. So at least once a week we’re out there doing high-intensity swim work.
• D: And then high intensity day is always followed by distance. That’s our recover day or high volume.
KISD. Whatever we do on a Monday of KISD, we repeat again on Friday; then we start the next week with ISDKI. So, through the course of the month, if our swimmers only come on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, they get everything. I know other Masters programs, they always have Mondays to be this, always Tuesdays that; and if you have an irregular pattern, you don’t get to benefit from everything. So we need to prioritize kicking.
We have our swimmers begin their kick in the hip region, let the motion pass through the knee joint into the ankle. Another image that Mary and I talk about, especially when we’re doing long fin kicks on backs, is we tell our swimmers to almost lock their knees, think of their leg as a crowbar and you’re trying to pry the water up with the tip of your fin.
There was a study just came out of Johns Hopkins, and we’re going to talk about two studies. This first one said that there was more benefit from a flexible ankle than from a large thigh. So really then, musculature isn’t as important as a flexible ankle. The shorter the distance you’re swimming, the faster the kick. And the kick should stay behind your torso profile; you ought not to be kicking too deep below you. Boats don’t have their propellers under the hull, they have their propellers behind the hull. But there are some limitations to Masters’ physiques, but we can change this.
Oh would-that-we could be like Natalie Coughlin: this is from a picture in Vogue magazine from about eight years ago. I don’t know if you can see this clearly, but her foot bends backwards. So, we normal mortals, our toes would just be in a plantar-flex, right here, just pretty much straight; Natalie’s go back. So when she’s kicking, she can flick water down and flick it back up and her foot will bend. She will grab twice as much water as anybody else before she flings it the other way. This is matter or range of motion. I don’t know yet anything that says once you reach a certain age, you can no longer do flexibility exercises—I haven’t come across that yet in the literature. Because I think you can keep flexible as long as you like; you can try to keep increasing your range of motion as much as you want.
Here’s just another example. So Natalie, or anybody who has that type of flexibility in their foot, when they start their impetus, they’re going to be pushing water backwards and then down versus somebody who just is kicking down. So, given your druthers, you’d like your runners—and I bet you have a lot of runners on your team—who are really good at dorsiflexing, and their feet just stay in that 90° bend, you’ve got to get them to be able to point their toes more.
I’m going to show you the drill that we use to try to get our swimmers to learn how to curl their toes up. This is Sun Yang doing the 200 Free in the finals of the Asian Championships in 2011. I don’t think he keeps his feet under the water when he kicks. And yet that’s something that, as a sport, it’s almost universal that coaches tell their swimmers: don’t kick the air, keep your feet underwater. I was going to try to get more video, but I wanted to stay away from too much above-water stuff. Here he is on his last lap, picking his speed up. He’s lifting his feet out of the water, pushing the water backwards and down; backwards and down to create that propulsion. Now, the water is swaling over his buns, so it gives maybe a false illusion; but all these swimmers are doing the same thing. If you’re not encouraging your athletes to try to get their feet up on top of the water, I don’t know that you’re yet giving them everything that they can do. But what do you do though with….
This is just an example: easy kicking on a kickboard. It’s continuous. This model is trying to get the toes up to the surface and just snap down in an easy pattern. Then they’re going to come back. And all they’ve done now is change their tempo, and try to drive-down harder and snap [the] feet up. The problem most Masters have in kicking is they kick their feet down and pause. So now this model is doing easy kicking again with arms, and now they’re going to do fast kicking with arms. If you can teach somebody how to kick on a kickboard, you can transfer it over to swimming. But to teach somebody how to do it well on a kickboard, you first have to be able to overcome this.
So this is a guy just last week; he’s a runner. And you can see on his downbeat there, when he kicks down, he pauses: he stops his feet and comes to a standstill. So this is an exercise that we do to get people to learn how to feel the water. I had him pull over, lean onto the back of the wall—one arm on the wall, one arm on the lane line—and I’m having him kick water up. Now look at his downbeat: that’s his lowest point, this is five minutes later. Five minutes later he is able to point his toes more and not have that same hole. So there’s that hole: ouch—that’s a pause right there because he just stays in that position. (Let me stop this and tell you how this drill works better… I can’t stop it, it’s just going to keep looping.)
So we have the swimmers just lean onto the wall and the lane line, and I’m having them do kick. They start near the surface. And then I tell them do drop their feet down below the surface and kick the water up as high as they can, and from as deep as they can, make the surface boil. If they can make the surface boil from 20 inches down below, they’re learning how to flick and snap. It’s a real sensory response: they’re getting that visceral flick motion.
The other thing we do—and Mary told me this years ago—when you see somebody learn a new skill and you have the chance to help them cement it, tell them to close their eyes momentarily. The understanding is: if you can take away one sense, it’s going to heighten the others. So I told this guy Paul, when he was doing that on his back and he finally had it, close your eyes, feel that and now roll over. So he rolled over, back on the wall, into the same position, and now he comes up with his kick. It’s a very simple way that we found to help people, especially new kickers who grab onto a board and just stay still, to move forwards.
So we don’t like feet to come down and stop, so help me figure this out. This is Matt Biondi; this is 1989—he’d come back out of retirement after Seoul. And let me show you what we have here: he’s doing a 50 free from a push. Here is his right hand; in picture 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: it’s hardly budged—each of these frames is about two-hundredths of a second. Here comes his kick here. He has a Natalie Coughlin foot as well: it’s bent backwards, it’s pushing forwards, it goes down to this 90° position, and then it starts coming back up. And I ran out of room—I didn’t put picture number 8—in the very next frame, his foot is bam out of the water; that’s how fast and snappy his kick is. Now, I just told this other guy, Paul, last weekend to stop doing that. Should I have told Matt Biondi in 1989 to stop doing that? I don’t know. There’s other things I wish I would have told Matt, but we’ll get to that in a second. So the whole thing is: try to get a powerful kick, have a fast kick, have a kick that’s flexed. And if there’s one thing you want to tell your swimmers, tell them you want to see their toenails on the upbeat; if they lift their toes up, they’ll grab water and throw backwards.
This is a Russian in 1988 before we discovered the benefits of a six-beat kick. He’s in the finals of the 400 free, and he has a two-beat, crossover kick. (I just threw that out there because I don’t like it.)
OK, breathing—real quick, we’re almost to the good part. Swimmers need to begin their inhalation as soon as their shoulder-space opens, as soon as there’s room. Breathe early, rather than breathe late. Inhale fast, exhale fast: getting air in as quick as you can, get it out. Think of your lungs as bellows, and you want to inhale and then push it back out again as fast as you can. I’m not a big proponent of the slow-trickle breathing; I like things going fast, especially when you’re moving fast.
Inhale mouth, exhale nose. In your mouth if you want, but I’m also a big proponent of nose exhalation. Return your head to the neutral position as soon as you can: right after you’ve taken your breath, get your head back to that neutral spot. And I got this from Donny Heidary in Orinda, he coaches the Orinda Aquatics, skateboard head—it’s a real good visual. After your athletes have taken their breath, pretend they have a submerged skateboard track right in front of them. And they’ve got to get their head right back on the skateboard, and let it cruise along until they take their next breath. Turn it to the side and get it back as soon as they can.
And then this, I think it sometimes is overlooked: relax your face.
Tom Dolan: this is what exhalations should look like. If your athletes are running out of air, you know that they’re not at a loss for inhaling. How many of you in your collective careers have ever had to tell one of your athletes to breathe in? How many of you have had to remind them to exhale? Yeah. So, it’s not the breathing in, it’s getting rid of your oxygen. Now, I forget from this image, so we can take a poll: how many do you think Tom is doing the butterfly? How many think he’s doing breaststroke? How many, like me, just don’t know? I don’t know. But I do know that he’s an incredible exhale. So I’m pretty sure that when he’s done emptying his lungs, when he comes up to breathe, there’s just going to be this vacuum and he’s going to fill right back up again. Have your athletes exhale.
And this is the 800 Free Relay, Missy Franklin, she’s just dove in. She’s getting ready to take her breakout stroke and her mouth is open. Here she is, in the finals of the 800 Free Relay at the Olympics, they’re in the lead; and she’s so relaxed in her face that her mouth is open. Wouldn’t we like to have that composure? That when we’re that age, at that level, we’re that relaxed in the water.
All right, one of my favorite Yogi Berra expressions: you can observe a lot just by watching. What I want you to do with me now for this next half an hour is watch how the freestylers swim. This is out of Counsilman’s book. We know that the dropped elbow was bad; the straight arm pull doesn’t have as much power. The correct pull is to: put your hand in, angle your palm backwards as soon as you can, make it be as deep as you can, make it go backwards as long as you can, and accelerate it—make it as fast as you can. Deeper, longer, faster: those were the three elements. Angling water backwards.
This is (I think, I forget where I picked this up), but these are people who have the ability to do an incredible early-vertical forearm: [Grant] Hackett, [Ian] Thorpe, Laure Manadou. But look at what you have to do to succeed at this: you’ve got to be able to keep your humerus bone in one position, and have the shoulder strength and range-of-motion to pull your forearm down. Not everybody has that; these people do and it’s great, but it’s not for everybody. As much as we try to teach early-vertical forearm, not everybody has the strength and not everybody has the range-of-motion to do it.
Now, we just saw Ian Thorpe doing that early-vertical forearm from the side view, and it looked just like we thought it should. Now here’s the front view: he angles-in a lot more than we thought, and his thumb pretty-much comes under his navel. I bet if he stuck his thumb up, he could touch himself. What that means is that the water he’s passing through, that’s already in motion, he’s trying to push it as it goes around his body. I think his hands needed to be further away from where his torso was.
But here’s also… (hey, Nort, did you come in? No). So I was Matt Biondi’s coach from 1976 until 1983. I met him when he was 10 years-old, coached him until he graduated from high school, then he went to Cal-Berkeley. When I first met him, I was a swimmer at Cal State University, Chico, where Ernie Maglischo was writing his first Swimming Fast book. At the time, piggy-backing on what Counsilman thought, the notion was that sculling propulsion was more important than straight-arm propulsion: that lift trumped drag. So learning from Maglischo then, I taught that to Matt Biondi as a 10 year-old—he was already real good, really just guided him but I gave him pointers. He learned really well how to move his hands fast and use propeller-like motions.
After the ‘86 World Championships, my understanding is, Nort gave a presentation at one of these World Clinics and the Russian coaches were there. Nort showed a video of Matt Biondi; they asked if they could borrow the video; Nort said yes; they made a copy. They spent the next two years trying to out-Biondi Biondi by changing Popov’s stroke. And the main thing they did with Popov was they had him stop sculling as much, and dig a little straighter down. So I don’t know if you remember, shortly after the ‘92 Olympics Popov was in that weird incident where he got stabbed in the market—he was buying a watermelon in a farmer’s market and he got stabbed. Fearing for his life, he and his coach then go to Australia, where they start passing-on information on how they should have the hand-pull be deeper. But it’s too late to make an impact on Ian Thorpe; Grant Hackett, though, picks up on it.
So here’s… let’s do this. [briefly playing video]
There was another video, I thought. I want to show you Matt Biondi swimming and how great his… here he is.
This is Matt, from a shove, swimming a 50-meter effort. And you can see how curved his hands are. If we knew then what we know now, we would not have had him dig and come underneath and scull as much in-and-out. But we didn’t know that; at the time, that was the best school of thought.
So they’ve just been doing some studies, and here’s the other study and this was just released over the summer. Pretty controversial when it came out. It’s these researchers at Johns Hopkins, and they did this study. And the result of the study says that you should have a deep catch.
The deep catch should be as forward as you can get. You put your arm in the water, you put it as deep as possible into the water and push it back as hard as you can. While keeping your palms as perpendicular to the direction you are moving to.
All right, this is what got off lot of publicity: the deep catch is better than sculling motion. Because you put your arm in the water, you put it as deep as possible in the water as you can, and push it back as hard as you can. “Comma” while keeping your palms as perpendicular to the direction you want to move. In this controversy, and as people are talking about this, I think the comma has been overlooked. What we’re looking at is trying to say that: “Oh yeah, we know sculling is bad, but just put your arm in and go down deep.” No, that’s not what the research says. The research says: keep your palms as perpendicular to the direction you want to move. And that’s how swimmers swim.
The other thing that happens: we’ve gotten rid of that S-shaped pull, so it’s a lot more linear. This is Grant Hackett; and I tried to draw those lines on there just to show that pretty much the pulling motions are in these long planes. This is Tae-Hwan Park from South Korea; he pretty much keeps his hands on the same lines. (And again, we don’t get a lot of underwater shots from the TV to borrow; I wish there were more.) Here is Eamon Sullivan leading-off the 400 Free Relay in Beijing—the camera was on the bottom. And you can see that Eamon Sullivan—who I think’s had three shoulder surgeries—was supposedly now just a straight-arm windmiller, he too is pausing out-front temporarily while he creates his maximum propulsion. But his arms are following one path: a path underneath his shoulder plane. He’s not over-rolling.
This is from a study that Russell Mark did at USA Swimming. And shoulder roll at entry should be roughly 30°. You shouldn’t be putting your arm in and dropping down to 90°—you’re not going for that deep catch. 30°, roughly, from the surface of the water.
At our pool, we have 2 practices in the morning, 4 mid-day, 2 at night; and the sun comes-up right behind me. So, about a month ago, I wanted to demonstrate how hands pull in a straight line. So I put this piece of tape on the wall. And for the 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. people, they could see what I wanted to do; but I had to make a little film and then put in on the TV to show the other workup groups. And all I’m trying to do is put my hand in and do my freestyle pull, but roll my shoulders only enough to keep my hand on that line. The same way you just saw Grant Hackett, and Park Tae-Hwan, and the first guy, doing it.
Alright, so let’s give you some swimming: here is Ryk Neethling. He’s in motion; he’s doing the same thing that we just saw: arms go-in straight, and he’s grabbing and pushing back. One of the ways we demonstrate this for our swimmers is with a pantomime. And I tell them: they’ve just come from The Price is Right, they won a whole new kitchen ensemble, their refrigerator has been installed, but now they have to crush their refrigerator box—and Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen uses this example as well. I have them put their hands on-top of an imaginary box that’s bigger than them, and I ask them to crush the box down into the ground. Invariably—and I hope you can see this—most of them will get-up on top of the box and they’ll push it and they’ll come down here, and they do that: they push their hands backwards just like they swim in the water. Very few of them, intuitively, know to continue pushing towards their feet and flex their wrists.
One of the things you’re going to see here coming up is: some of the real good swimmers, when they go to catch the water, they tip their wrists. And if we put a protractor inside this internal angle to measure their initial catch, a lot of them have the same external angle at the end: that’s how much they hold onto the water to create forward thrust. We’re going to come back to Ryk later.
Early-vertical forearm, the catch, the beginning. I have stuff written on the back page, and I tried to put it all here to go with the photos. This is one of the men on our team; he’s about 38 years old, swam in college. He can do the early vertical forearm, but that’s really unusual. I found a study, also that was done with Russell Mark and Scott Rodeo, and they claim that 70% of the most pain that swimmer’s shoulders occur in are during the initial pull-through: here, when they’re trying to mimic this high elbow. Here’s Matt Biondi: he did not have a high elbow, because we didn’t teach him that. But he is flexing his wrist to begin that catch.
So we’re going to go through this:
• Rebecca Adlington: She’s got an early-vertical catch.
• Brooke Bennett: She did not.
• [Alexander] Popov: Yes, he’s catching.
• Gary Hall, Jr.: I don’t know what that is. Could just be the angle, but he’s got some extra things in there.
• Jenny Thompson: Very good. Pressure on the palm should not be imparted… you don’t want to be putting pressure on the water, until your palm is angled backwards, which is about at the 45° mark.
• Michael Klim (Australian freestyler): He led-off one of their relays once and set the World Record doing lead-off. Does anybody remember what Michael Klim’s signature style was? He was a windmiller; he windmilled and he recovered his arm straight-up in the air.
• Jason Lezak: He’s now starting to anchor and he’s feeling more sensations.
• [Pieter] van den Hoogenband.
• Janet Evans: She did not have an early-vertical forearm. But how did she go so fast?
• Anthony Ervin: Not an early-vertical forearm. This guy is almost under his shoulder and he hasn’t really started bending yet. How did he go so fast?
• Best video I got from London was the Women’s 800 Free Relay—for whatever reason, NBC kept the camera on those ladies the whole way. So, here’s Allison Schmitt—yes; Dana Vollmer—not so much. Shannon Vreeland—yes. And Missy Franklin—oh yeah, big vertical forearm.
• Nathan Adrian—sprinter, no. He’s going straight down in the water. Cullen Jones—no, straight down in the water. So, where are they getting their propulsion from, if we know that to go forward you have to angle water backwards?
• [Ranomi] Kromowidjojo: She’s got a bit of an elbow bend, more than the men. But I think she just lacks the strength and she can’t do what they do.
• [Katie] Ledecky: On her left arm, when she breathes—this is very common—she’s pressing down for leverage and balance, so no. But on her right arm, yes. Interesting.
• Inge de Bruijn.
• This is Maritza Correia: She was an NCAA sprinter. She’s over here on the side.
• Claudia Poll: She held the World Record in the 200m Free for a while. Two-beat kicker, but boy, did she catch.
Now, if those people swam that fast and it wasn’t unanimous in the early-vertical forearm, what’s the part of their stroke then that is the common element? And it’s what I’m now going to call the late-vertical forearm—which I think is the perfect position in swimming. If you can teach your athletes to get into this position, you’re going to teach them how to maximize propulsion and minimize resistance.
Velocity peaks when forearm and palm are both perpendicular to the floor. About 80% of the propulsion in Freestyle comes from the arms, and about 80% of the arm contribution is from hand forces. I paid my $100 in Clovis four years ago, and had Dr. G. [Genadijus Sokolovas] film me on that velocity meter—have somebody on your team do this so you can put it in your piggy bank. So here are my velocity fluctuations during the cycles: he measured 60 fluctuations a second—so there’s a lot of feedback. At this point (here’s the green line), I’m at this level at 2.5 meters-a-second. If I could continue swimming at 2.5 mps throughout my whole arm cycle, that transfers to a 100m Freestyle of 39.5: I would break the World Record by eight seconds as a 59-year-old man—I’m pretty excited about my potential. And the reason, I talked to Dr. G, this is velocity, it is up around three-something and zeros, three-something and zeros: my kick was hitting the string behind me and bouncing it. So, he told me I had to take those out of the equation. But he said this was very good—very good.
Next picture: I’ve let go of the water, I’ve extended my arm and released. I’m now down to 0.5 meters-a-second; if I do the math, now my 100 free takes 3:07. So, inside of every single arm cycle, there’s this huge velocity fluctuation that’s constantly occurring. We have to teach our athletes how to maximize their propulsive forces and minimize their deceleration forces; and we certainly don’t want them to overlap.
This is Aquanex. This is this another company; they do a lot of force testing. This is a male Olympic freestyle medalist with force loss during his pull-to-push. So, he’s pulling, he’s letting go too much. But look at how much push he gets at the end. My point I’m trying to make is: more of velocity happens at the end of your freestyle pull than the beginning. If you’re focused-on teaching early-vertical forearm and then you say way to go, you’re done to your swimmers, you’re doing them a disservice. You need to start talking about early-vertical forearm, and then what comes next. And this early-vertical forearm can occur in all of the strokes. Once they start learning this, you’re good; but the late-vertical forearm is actually more important in all of the strokes.
So now let’s talk late-vertical forearm. We knew Biondi, he has a straight-arm in front, but he’s got almost the same 90° bend that I did while his other arm—he’s sprinting—is still roughly in a neutral position. He’s starting to dig, because I taught him to do that. (Again I think if we had known what we know now, then, we would’ve had him hold his arm up.) Here’s the guy on my team: he’s got a really good 90° bend, his other arm is at the surface.
Now I’m going to go through all those same people that I showed you that have differences on the early-vertical forearm. On this late-vertical forearm, every single one is in this same position; And they never ever talked to each other about this, it’s just how they swim:
• Adlington, Brooke Bennett (she had a straight arm), Popov, Hall: Everybody has one arm out in front creating zero resistance at the moment of maximum propulsion with their forearm in a vertical line.
• Michael Klim (the windmiller): We thought, because we didn’t have underwater cameras, that when he windmilled, he just had a straight-arm—that’s what he looks like above the water: straight. But he comes around and he’s going to come down, and he’s going to get into this closed-armpit, vertical forearm, maximum propulsion.
• Janet Evans: (This was a tough video to find.) Look at this moment of late-vertical forearm, classic: arm out in front, zero resistance being created here, maximum-sized forearm there. She’s going the other way, same thing. This is what she looks like: she’s got that bouncy head, she’s all wiggly; under the water, she was as pristine as anybody. She’s reaching out front, her hand comes down, she closes her armpit at the exact moment that the other arm is stretching, and she hangs-on to the water farther back than we ever thought. (Alright, back to late-vertical forearm.)
• Jason Lezak (the galoopber): same thing. All these people share the same characteristic.
• Cesar Cielo: It’s a little harder to capture this on sprinters. But he’s closing his armpit and he’s moving water backwards with his forearm.
• Grant Hackett: that’s a great line. He’s doing a much longer swim, but this is where his propulsive forces are greatest. He’s probably got 18-20 inches of forearm and palm creating just backwards forces, while he travels forwards, neutralizing his resistance in front.
• Gary Hall, Jr. again.
• Jodie Henry, another Australian.
• Claudia Poll, the Costa Rican.
• And now we get to this year’s girls on the 800 Free Relay: Dana Vollmer, 90° bend; Shannon Vreeland, 90°.
• Jessica Hardy; a sprinter. She is also a windmiller, but she has time to close her armpit and have that backwards-facing forearm, at the moment the opposite arm is out in front stretching.
So, that’s where all these swimmers have the same position in common.
Even-later vertical palm
But there’s more. And this is… Mary and I came up with this: the even-later vertical palm. So, we’re back here to Ryk Neethling. Here’s that same shot from earlier, when I was having a look at how his arms reach out in front. This is his backwards-facing palm, and it’s almost down to his thigh. Here’s Matt Biondi: right arm is out in front, his left armpit is closed, his forearm is extended; but his wrist is flexed and he’s still pushing water backwards with his palm.
You may have heard recently, and it’s been very popular, coaches tell their swimmers: to not push water back, to exit at their hip and come out of the water because the triceps muscles are too small. Yes they are, unless you’re a swimmer. Think of the men and the women at the Olympics when they’re standing up there getting ready to swim and they’re shaking. What’s the size of that thing that’s moving around in back? They have incredible triceps.
And because of that triceps-strength, they can hold on. And as you’ll see, a lot of these swimmers do:
(And I took these pictures in this perspective because when the hand was on the other side, it was blurred by their torso. So, it’s much clearer and easier to see the hand opposite.)
• Anthony Ervin.
• Michael Klim: straight arm.
• Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen (great, great Masters swimmer): Her humerus is still at the surface; you got a 90° bend. But she is pushing water, angling water, backwards.
• Here’s Inge de Bruijn: Look at that angle right there. Her palm is still pointed backwards. She also has a wrist flex, she’s pushing water backwards.
• Federica Pellegrini.
• Thorpe: He’s doing the same thing; there’s a wrist flex.
• 800 Free Relay: Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky. (I lost the video image someplace.) This woman, I don’t know who it is, but it’s in that 800 free; this woman does not have the late-vertical forearm. She slipped and came under herself (and somehow I lost the picture). She has a very-bad dropped elbow, she’s slipping through the water; but she’s so good at saving herself by coming out-here and pushing and having that late-vertical forearm, she makes up for it, she’s in the finals.
• Nathan Adrian: You want to make sure that you’re trying to straighten your triceps as your thumb nears your thigh and your palm continues directing water backwards. Please don’t teach early releases anymore; teach swimmers to hang on as long as they can, even if it results in what looks like a flick. We’ll watch Nathan Adrian swim now and his hand comes up out of the water, and I think that’s the origination of his windmill/his straight arm, that give him his power. Tell me what you think; you can watch him now. Look at that right hand: boom, boom. He flexes. And you can see it pointing backwards. But he starts his stroke on that right arm, he’s just pushing downwards. He’s not creating as much propulsion in front as he’s creating in back. Trying to paint a picture that there’s more to the freestyle stroke underwater than perhaps we’ve been paying attention to.
• Back to 800 Free Relay: Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin.
• Janet Evans: This is kind of hard to see: that’s her palm sticking down. (This is real fuzzy; you know, 1988 was a long time ago.) That’s her palm; she is pushing water backwards.
• Kromowidjojo: You can see the same thing. There’s an angle flex in there.
Now, let’s just look at perfect lines. Katie Ledecky, again, same thing I’ve been mentioning earlier. Timing is such that: when her left arm goes in, she’s locking her shoulder, elbow, and wrist with her hand on the surface as she creates her propulsion. How do you help your swimmers learn that?
This is a drill that we do and it involves a string and a buoy, so we call it the string-buoy drill. I got this from Coach Brian at Asphalt Green. So, he’s holding a string that’s wrapped around his immobile hand and it’s been stretched down his body, and he’s stroking with just his right arm. What I want you to see is when that right arm comes out of the water, the buoy changes from floating on the surface to being submerged—it’s just like that scene in Jaws when they harpoon the shark, and he’s got those two big air barrels and they’re trying to submerge him. Look how the buoy goes down; this is a great visceral reinforcement of pushing water backwards.
The swimmers on my team who don’t have that, who come out early, they don’t feel a tug. So, we try some other drills with them to get them to learn how to flex their wrist. But the goal is to do just that: pull and push, pull and push, and then feel that acceleration on the string, the hand forces as a result. So, here’s a guy on my team that I’m dealing with; he does not yet have that sensation of flexing his wrist. He’s okay on his left arm, but he doesn’t have it. And it’s part of the Masters’ world that we live in: we try to spend more time with him.
Dara Torres. (I’m almost done.) She got a great line. Here’s Dara Torres anchoring the 400 Free Relay. And what I want you to notice, again, just on this is…. (Here’s the final clip; I just pulled it out. It’s really blurry). But this is her arm, parallel over the surface of the water. She’s pushed so far back and flicked, that her arm is lifted and it’s over the top. She has not had an early exit. She couldn’t have gotten to where she got without proper technique.
Some of the things that we also say for teaching late-vertical forearm:
• We use the acronym EAT: elbow, armpit, triceps.
• One of the little image: have your swimmers think of popping a little balloon inside their armpit. Anything you can to get them pushing water backwards.
• And then this is the drill that my wife and I made up. It’s in Swimmer magazine; it was in January/February of last year.
(But I think I’m out of time so you have to read that. How much time do we have, Scott?
[Scott]: We have time.)
[Kahn]: All right. So this is a drill that we made-up, people-paddle progression. It’s to get people to learn how to flick water backwards, maintain their length in the stroke, but keep their hands still underneath their shoulders. So, lap #1 and #2, arm stays submerged. This is lap #3: Mary’s doing fingertip drag all the way forwards, trying to push water ahead of her, while she still does a flick. And then here’s lap #4: she’s got the length of stroke, she’s got the flick at the end, she’s got a nice smooth recovery. My wife is 53 years-old, and I think that’s a pretty, good-looking freestyle. But she’s spent a lot of time on that. But we both agree on what the element should be: length of stroke, width of the stroke, and the proper height of stroke.
I’m done. Any questions? Yes, Steve.
[Steve Haufler]: I’ve a number of questions—about three or four. First of all, on the kick—and I’ve always wondered just how to explain this to somebody. On the freestyle kick when you talk about keeping the legs up, you see the feet make whitewater, but we don’t say that on backstroke. I mean, maybe boiling water. It’s lower for backstroke and butterfly: why? Could you explain that we want the legs up?
[Kahn]: I think in butterfly the feet come up, because I think, anatomically, the knee bends that way. When you roll over a backstroke, the knee joint doesn’t allow for your foot to come up to the same height as when you’re on your stomach.
[Haufler]: But why would we say—and I don’t disagree—but why would say we want the legs… why we want to see the feet out of the water rather than underwater? I just don’t know how to explain that to somebody.
[Kahn]: I’m not a scientist yet either, but I’m a good observer. And what I’ve observed is: the fast freestylers have their feet up on top.
[Haufler]: Same thing. And I just want to be able to explain it to somebody and I don’t really know.
[Kahn]: All right. So, I haven’t gotten any pushback on this answer: I tell them that it’s you’re releasing the water so you can re-grab it again.
[Haufler]: All right. I like this late vertical forearm, but I don’t see the closing your elbow until the end of the stroke more. I mean, I feel like you’re… I see that a little bit later. I just wondered if…
[Kahn]: So, anatomically, the front of your stroke is a pull—any force that comes towards you is a pull. Once your hand passes underneath your shoulder plane, it automatically turns into a push. And when you make that transition from pull to push, I think your hand just stays still and you rotate your humerus before you shove.
[Haufler]: Yeah. But did you say you close the elbow?
[Kahn]: Close the armpit.
[Haufler]: Close the armpit. I don’t see the armpit closing until later. I could just… I wondered if you meant that… right at the beginning of the late-vertical forearm.
[Kahn]: I do mean that, because almost all those people in that late-vertical forearm, when they’re here in this position (and I’m having a hard time demonstrating it) get started there. It starts here and you want to just keep your forearm pointed backwards as you rotate your elbow to your ribs. Did I say that I thought you should close your armpit before?
[Haufler]: I thought. And then on the beginning of the stroke, we have a flex of the wrist and then at the end as an extension of the wrist. Is that what you?
[Kahn]: Yes. But not everybody does that same flex. The slower swimmers, I think, distance swimmers tend to do it more. Sprinters are going to dig-down faster.
[Haufler]: You said earlier… and I do like this, I do agree with this. I agree with everything you say [laughter], except that one thing….
[Kahn]: Hey, folks, do you guys know Steve Haufler? Steve Haufler, real big with GoSwim. One of the best swimming teachers in America; he’s out of Orinda, California. Pretty much just like SmithBarney: when Steve talks, people listen.
[Haufler]: We were in the same league when we were in college; we’ve know each other a long time, teammates actually. I like what you said: good swimmers angle the palm back as soon as they can when they are at swimming. But again, you’re also coaching, like I do, kind of that long stretch on the extension. So, what’s…?
[Kahn]: Let it drift drown. I don’t think you should put backwards pressure on the water until your hand is facing backwards, which is at about the 45° mark.
[Haufler]: So that’s what you mean, talking about angle back as soon as you can? That’s as soon as you can, as soon as you’ve stretched for a while. And then…. Because with our swimmers, we talk about gear 1, gear 2, and gear 3. The longer stroke, gear 1; kind of a medium stroke, gear 2; and then like that super-sprint, those straight arm—how Nathan Adrian finishes freestyle—gear 3. All on hands separation. I know you talked about hand separation a little bit in there; that you see that the more speed, the more hand separation.
[Kahn]: Yes. So when teach catch-up freestyle, and we do teach a lot of catch-up free, we want 100% catch-up free as the basis of the drill. We don’t teach stacking anymore; we teach parallel parking. And so, if this is 100% catch-up free, this is 0% catch-up free, these are: 50%, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100%.
So, I think Nathan Adrian, he’s at no catch-up, he’s got no overlap. As soon as he gets done, and this hand finishes and lifts, he’s going to catch. The longer the… what do you call them, gear 1, 2, 3? So, gear 1 then, the freestylers are going to have their hand pass in front of your head, you’re going to see traditional front-quadrant swimming where both hands in front of the hip.
[Haufler]: That’s the 1500 guys.
[Kahn]: Yes. And probably, your 200 freestylers are about here and your 100 freestylers and your 50-freestylers [here].
[Haufler]: Yes. That’s how I wanted to differentiate what to talk about it.
[audience member]: About the Johns Hopkins theory about the catch: don’t you think that’s really for the sprinters? True for the sprinters?
[Kahn]: Yes, and we saw Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones-
[audience]: You wouldn’t say that is correct for long distance?
[Kahn]: No, I’m not. I say let your hand only go down far enough to get your palm pointed backwards, and then keep it pointed backwards the rest of the way.
[audience member]: You indicated that a lot of people with shoulder problems are going to have it up here. So what do you with the people that are complaining about that sort of… do you back off on maybe not having elbows so high?
[Kahn]: Yeah, we have them swim wider and we have them do fist swimming. And usually the big problem comes from crossing-over on entry; and then after they take their breath, they try to re-align their arm and put it out again, and that’s just from the shoulder that they’re trying to do that motion. We have a really long pole with half of a pull-buoy on the front. And my swimmers would come down that lane, if they’re crossing over too much, we just hold that buoy out in front and back-up, and if they crossover and hit it, then they know that they need to go in wider. But we do teach wider entry. Yes.
[audience member]: On that same subject, the overwater, for people with shoulder problems, do you allow them to do the windmill or do you have them use the high elbow and keep it close to the body?
[Kahn]: I used to be a stickler for good-looking freestyle: that I wanted to see a high elbow and the low fingers. I’m not that concerned with the recovery anymore; I want to know what happens when they get under the water.
[audience]: And then when pointing your ankles, do you want them really tight or do you want them a little bit loose when pointing?
[Kahn]: The ankles should be as loose as you can get them, as loose as they can possibly be. So that your foot acts like the fin, a rubbery fin.
[audience member]: What’s your opinion on fingers and finger distance apart when they’re going into the water?
[Kahn]: I think it’s miniscule. I know that Sun Yang had his fingers apart during his whole 1500. I think they’re going in. Again, I don’t think we get as much propulsion out of the front of the stroke as we do at the end. And I bet if we look closely at what he was doing, he might be spreading his hands to grab more water; but once he gets into the real forceful part, I bet he’s firming up and he’s trying to be as hard as he can as those forces increase.
[audience]: It did look like he parted them under the water.
[audience member]: On the same thing: do you believe in curling your fingertips?
[Kahn]: Boy, if you have the athletes that you can get to curl their fingertips, you’re working with some unique individuals. That year that I had Matt Biondi, when he came out of retirement in 1989 when we’re doing the filming; We went back to his house the first day, and he thought that on his left and right hand, his pinky was out too far. So he spent about a week trying to re-align his pinky. If you have athletes that can re-align their pinkies, good on you.
[audience member]: You know when you used that red line on the wall and you were showing… Are you saying that line should be even with your shoulder? Like where, in relation to the midline of your body, would you say that middle part of the stroke of your hand would be?
[Kahn]: It’s still going to be below your shoulder plane. But relative to your body, your hand looks like it’s doing an S-pull, relative to your body. Relative to that red line, it was straight. Relative to the Earth, it’s a straight line; and it stays just below your shoulder plane. I think the real reason people turn their hips is so their hands won’t hit themselves as they finish their strokes. I think that’s a real reason people are swimming in a straight line, going backwards, palms directed that way.
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