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Swim Club Blog: The Dead Spot

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

We've blogged over the last 2 weeks about stroke rate versus stroke count and how the 2 interact. Within those blogs we used terms such as 'over-gliding' and 'dead spot'. This week's blog explains the term 'dead spot' and how it impacts upon your performance.

Stroke types:

There are 2 main types of front crawl stroke, the first is 'catch up' and the second is 'windmill'. Catch up was made very popular by 'total immersion' and is favoured by many long distance swimmers as it encourages gliding and economy. Windmill is more favoured by sprinters as it requires a fast and continuous arm turnover, but is not as efficient over longer distances.

Catch up stroke:

You've probably done 'catch up drill' at some point during your swim training. Catch up drill requires you to leave one arm fully extended out in front of you whilst the other arm pulls, recovers and re-enters the water. When the hands touch at full extension in front of you, that triggers you to repeat with the other arm. In effect, you are swimming with one arm (alternately) whilst the other is at full extension in front of you.

Windmill stroke:

Windmill stroke is very much like a windmill. Both hands are at opposite ends of the clock so as one hand enters the water, the other is leaving. As one hand pulls below the water, the other is recovering above the water. The arms are always at opposite ends of the clock and both hands are always moving.

Catch up and 'dead spot':

The issue with catch up stroke is that as your right hand is recovering above the water, the left hand/arm is still out in front of you, fully extended, in the glide position. This means that neither hand is actually 'pulling' and you are relying on glide. The rhythm of the catch up stroke is pull - glide - pull - glide - pull. By contrast, the rhythm of the windmill stroke is pull - pull - pull - pull - pull.

When performing the catch up style stroke, the part during the stroke where neither hand is pulling and you rely upon glide is the 'dead spot'. Very efficient swimmers counteract this with a great leg kick to maintain propulsion. Unfortunately, amateur swimmers / triathletes and 'great leg kick' are not terms which are frequently heard together!

What's the issue?

Most swimmers come to a halt due to water resistance. The stroke rhythm of pull - glide - pull - glide generally results in move - stop - move - stop. During the pull phase, the body moves and then during the 'dead spot' the body stops in the water. By contrast, the windmill pull - pull - pull results in move - move - move, there is no dead spot, just continuous movement forwards without losing momentum.

Open water is the real issue

The rougher the water, the bigger the effect of the dead spot. We glide well through smooth water, when we are the only people in the pool. If there's 6 in a lane and the water gets choppy, gliding is very poor, which result in the dead spot having a bigger effect and swimmers almost stopping between pull phases. In open water, this effect is magnified even greater, in simple terms, catch up style swimming is very ineffective in rough water conditions.

Keep going forwards

When we get tired, we exaggerate the dead spot and try to slow the arms and lengthen the glide. In open water, this is disastrous. Constant forwards momentum is critical so take away these simple lessons:

1. Don't lengthen the stroke and try to glide further.
2. As the hand enters the water move straight into the catch and pull, don't let it pause.
3. Think about a kayak paddle or windmill, keep the arms flowing at all times so you always have one hand/arm pulling and maintaining your momentum.

Swim on my friends and eliminate your dead spot.

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

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