Better results faster and with less effort

Fast learning with SmartPaddle

With the effortless visibility to the rootcause of movement, i.e., force, SmartPaddle removes the main obstacle of swimming performance development. This will change the rules of the game: as visibility is no longer limiting the progress, the ones that are fastest in deploying the new insights will be the winners. SmartPaddle enables turning each swimming pool into a laboratory where coach and swimmers can continuously learn more about the swimming and coaching.

SmartPaddle comes with a learning path. It will take time and effort to utilise the system to full of its potential. Only way to get there, is to get started. Getting started is easy: just record a set in the normal practices and compare the average stroke for the first and last lap. There will be difference and by discussing the difference through with the swimmer you will both learn something you did not know before. After a few iterations of the same you will master the system and information. At the same time you will end up creating a list of items to be tried out and questions to be answered. By trials and answers you will keep on learning on your own phase.

Target of this page is to help you proceeding on your learning path. We in Trainesense are further on our learning path thanks to ~6000 SmartPaddle recordings. Analysing those and discussing the observations with the swimmers and coaches have helped us putting together the information below. Still the status is that with each analysis we keep on learning more. We will be updating the content and sharing the new insights to help you being faster on your learning path.

Changing human movement is a laborious task and takes time. Therefore it is essential to ensure that the focus for the effort is correct. SmartPaddle simplifies the task by making visible the movement as it happens: force and resulting movement.  Force moves the swimmer in water and getting visibility to that enables focusing the efforts.

Minimise the gaps in the force

The main challenge in swimming is the fact that water is 800 times more dense than air. In practice this means that as soon as the forward directing force level drops, the body speed drops dramatically and extra effort is needed to accelerate again.

Human body is not built to create constant force output throughout the stroke cycle: the amount of forward directing force varies and therefore also the swimming speed varies. The efficiency, and speed, of swimming is dictated by the gaps in the forward directing force. Getting visibility to those gaps enables focused actions on improving the efficiency and speed.

Measuring the body speed does also make the gaps visible. However, that information does not provide insight on what created the gap.

SmartPaddle provides the direct measurement of forward directing force in the level of detail that enables identifying the rootcauses for the inefficiencies in the swimming.

Why to measure only hands ?

Hands are not creating the whole of the force in swimming. However, hands create most of the variation in the forward directing force in freestyle and backstroke. In breaststroke and and butterfly legs have a bigger role in variation, but even there you can ensure that hands are providing their contribution to the efficiency.

Additionally there is a benefit on measuring in the end of the whole kinetic chain. In swimming efficiency analysis it is important to look at the operation of the whole kinetic chain and ensure that the relevant muscles provide the support for the other muscles to create the force to move forward. In floating environment there is no solid surface that would provide the support for the force production. Instead the swimmer creates the support by own muscle work. This is not natural for human being as evolution has developed us to operate standing upright on a solid surface and in effect of gravity. In dryland the natural reflexes automate good deal of the movement, whereas in water those reflexes work against the efficiency of movement.

The selected approach with SmartPaddle is to measure the movement accurately in the end of the kinetic chain. This makes visible the summary effect and it is possible to identify the leakages in the kinetic chain. More detailed isolation would require measuring of each individual joint and modelling all of the complex relationships between them. This is an overwhelming task and it would not be possible to use that approach frequently enough to have relevant impact on the performance.

Another viewpoint to measurement accuracy is the target of the measurement: in the end the target is that the swimmer will be able modify his movement. When they start learning the new way of using their muscles, there is only limited benefit in knowing exactly the muscle that is not operating optimally. It is not possible to isolate the muscle from the kinetic chain and exercise only that. Instead swimmer needs to discover a way to modify the action of whole kinetic chain. Experience has shown that the measurement in the end of kinetic chain provides accurate enough results for the discovery. Each modification in the kinetic chain will have an impact on the whole dynamics and it is more important to measure accurately enough and regularly than exactly.

Basics of SmartPaddle Stroke Analysis

"Gaps in the green force"

Getting the variation in forward directing force into control is the key target. During the stroke cycle the target is to accelerate the body so that there is time to start the shift to the next cycle. Studies have shown that:

  • the peak in intracycle velocity is maximised when there is consistently increasing force in forward direction
  • the droppage of velocity is minimised when the new cycle is started in a controlled way, i.e., increasing force production starts early in the cycle

SmartPaddle makes visible the gaps in the forward directing force. Force information is accompanied with the hand speed and trajectory information. This enables  identification of muscles which are too much, or too little, active during those gaps. With this level of information, it is possible to isolate the limiting factor and define the specific drills to optimize removal of those.

Even with the help of these basic guidelines it is possible to make a list of things to be tried out. Additionally, a set of reference strokes are provided to help identifying the differences and possible changes in the execution technique.

"Bumps in the speed"

Experience has shown that most of the swimmer do have the gaps in their "green force". However, if this is the case the question is more about efficiency of creating the force. Speed profile makes visible the efficiency of force production. Usually there are unnecessary speedups … which are always followed by a slowdown. Consistent and steady acceleration is a result of “intact kinetic chain”, i.e., the right and only the right muscles activated at the right time. With the help of trajectory it is possible to identify the muscle groups which are over/under exercised and create the bumps in the speed profile.

Knowing what to change in the stroke is a good start, but the real work starts from there.

Even though the basic rules on efficient movement in water are common to all, there is no single  way of executing a perfect stroke. Same solution for the same problem does never generate the same result. The reason for this is the fact that the movement patterns in human mind are always specific for that person and modifying them happens always individually. Human movement patterns are stored in our long term memory and it is a challenge to reprogram those. Making this happen requires longer term commitment both from the coach and especially from the swimmer. The old truth of 10000 correct repetition is still valid. That is required to automate the skills to the level that enables efficiently applying the skills in variating environment of water.

Each of the swimmer is a different learner and each of the improvement points is different. From the coach teaching a new movement requires eye for the specific needs of each swimmer. SmartPaddle provides the coach and swimmer an "extra eye" that helps on concentrating to the essential.

Find the limiting factor

Each swimmer has a capability limitation that makes them to execute the stroke in the way they do. It can be either flexibility, coordination, muscle balance or endurance. This limitation needs to be removed before they are able to execute the movement differently. Many times just the removal of the limitation will help them to become more efficient.

SmartPaddle measurement makes accurately visible the improvement areas in the stroke. This information can be utilised to simulate the correct movement and see if the swimmer is able to execute the movement differently in that specific point. Almost always it has turned out that they are not able to activate the correct muscles and are compensating the movement with the stronger muscles. When this is the case, they cannot fix the movement by swimming more. The correct corrective action is then to identify a dryland drill which will improve the control on the correct muscles.

A few examples below

"load the kinetic chain":  this drill helps isolating the limitations in the early part of the stroke

  • nothing happens: not capable of activating the relevant muscles
  • shoulder turning in: compensating with Pecs
  • limited range of movement: strength or flexibility limit the movement
  • limited number of repetitions:  endurance of the muscles

"trigger the kinetic chain": this drill helps identifying the limitations on maximum force output

  • length of the throw: movement triggered from the middle of the kinetic chain (shoulder)
  • direction of the ball: imbalance in the strength of the muscles

"shifting to back": these drills (pool edge pullup1, pool edge pullup2) help on isolating the limitations in the later part of the stroke

  • nothing happens: not capable of activating the relevant muscles
  • shoulder turning front: compensating with Pecs
  • limited range of movement: strength limits the movement
  • limited number of repetitions:  endurance of the muscles

"shifting to back": this drill help on isolating the limitations in the whole kinetic chain

  • nothing happens: not capable of pre-recruiting both the back and front
  • shoulders&elbows turning front: compensating with Pecs
  • limited range of movement: strength limits
  • limited number of repetitions:  endurance of the muscles

Let the swimmer discover the movement

When the capability to move is no longer limiting the stroke execution, the focus shifts to controlling the group of muscles as part of the whole kinetic chain. These movement pattern are recorded to the long term memory in human memory system. The only way to reprogram those is to have a controlled environment in which the swimmers themselves can re-discover the movement. Discovery happens most efficiently on dryland where it is possible to setup the environment in the way that it is obvious for the swimmer when they execute the movement correctly. This enables  self-discovery.

Examples below

"unsupported control": eliminate the support from solid surface and let the muscles find the range of movement which can be controlled

  • lay on a big gym ball having weight on hand and hand extended in front (2-3kg): find posture in which it is possible to stay stationary for 3min ... which muscles are getting tired
  • lay on a big gym ball having weight on hand and hand extended in front (2-3kg): roll from back to stomach keeping palm pointing upwards ... which muscles are getting tired

"weight on top of the shoulder": enforces the activity in whole of the kinetic chain

  • keep kettle ball above the head bottom upwards and move as big circle as you can by first locking the shoulder with the other hand, then body and then without the lock ... which muscles are getting tired

"throwing a ball": helps finding the muscles that create both the acceleration and accuracy into the movement

  • lay on your back, 2-3kg ball in extended hand and throw the ball  to a target 5/10/15m away
    • activate the kinetic chain
    • trigger from the correct point in the chain
    • focus on getting the ball to the target (both the distance and range)
  • same standing up, bending over and throwing the ball backwards

Integrate to swimming

During the process of re-programming the movement pattern it is important to maintain the feeling on how the new skills impact on the overall dynamics of the swimming. Water is a floating environment and it is important to ensure the balance and timing of the movement. Based on the findings the cues on the dryland can be adapted.

SmartPaddle measurement makes visible if the changes are where they were supposed to be and how the overall dynamics changed. This enables identifying the phase of the stroke that needs action, the targeted level of force and direction of the movement. Based on this information it is only the imagination that sets the limits for finetuning the dryland drills.

Create controlled variation

We are good in controlling the things we see. Therefore in the normal swimming especially the early and late part of the stroke are naturally challenging. On dryland it is possible to setup the environment so that the swimmer sees the movement and in that way learning is easier. When the basic movement has been learned, it is important to be able to repeat the movement eyes closed and turning head away from the movement.

What further helps in transferring the newly learned skills into water environment is automating the movements. By variating the stimulus for the movement this can be developed: mirroring others movement, doing the movement on external signal (beep, touch, verbal command, ...), ...

When the movement pattern starts to stabilise, it is important to variate the environment also in water and see how the newly learned skill remains and adapts to different stimulus. Paddles, parachute, pull bouy, tempometer are the traditional ways variating. With the help of SmartPaddle it is possible to make the impact visible.

Maintaining the efficiency of movement during the season is a major contributor to motivation and competition results. The challenge is that movement is controlled by the unconscious part of our mind and we automatically adopt the movement according to the feelings. Alertness, flexibility, tiredness and strength balance variate during the season. These create new limiting factors and human movement control automatically adapts to those limitations. This easily develops the movement into unwanted direction. Therefore it is essential to have concrete measurable targets for the efficiency and regularly monitor the progress during the season.

In addition to maintaining the existing skill level usually there is a target to develop new skills during the season. The season plan needs to leave room for the skills to develop. It is a good practice to have the natural steps of skill development included into the season plan:

  • Pick the skills that are essential for the targets: old skills that need to be maintained, new skills to be developed
  • Have the focused periods for new skill development ... enough of the controlled and focused sessions to learn the new movement
  • Have time to stabilize the changes ... get the variation into control by identifying the parameters which are more sensitive
  • Monitor the maintainance of the skill during the high intensity periods of the season ... have the control parameters for monitoring the sensitivity

Target setting: regular finetuning of focus

The fact is that nobody is able to plan in detail what happens during the season. Therefore it does not make sense to create a detailed plan covering all of the details. However, it is essential to draft the basics and finetune the plan based on the learnings on the the progress. The basic approach on S.M.A.R.T target setting is:

  • Pick the main target for the end of the season
  • where do we need to be in mid season
  • what do we need to do next week to approach that and how to make visible the progress in 2wks time

Good practice is to use race analysis level metrics as the main target, but link those into tangible actions and metrics that can be measured in 2wks time. In the traditional race analysis stroke rate and length are used. However, they are results of rhythm, force, direction and speed of the hand during the cycle. 

Having a concrete measurement every 2wks enforces the concretism on the target setting: it does not make sense to have targets that do not have impact on the daily work, and if there is no visibility on the progress, the targets will not have effect the daily work.

From the skill development point of view the importance of regular concrete measurement should not be underestimated. It takes a second to modify the movement and this happens easily without noticing. Therefore it is essential to identify the changes when they happen, and be able to link back on what made the change to happen. This enables understanding on the causal conditions: what impacts what.

SmartPaddle enables detailed measurements in the normal training conditions. The benefit is that there is no need for the extra laborious test sessions to provide feedback on the progress of swimming efficiency.

Time to stabilize a skill

The normal development in changing the movement is

  • one correct movement
  • 10 correct movements in a row
  • 100 correct movements in a row
  • variation in control in normal conditions
  • variation in control in physiologically loaded condition
  • variation in control in mentally loaded condition

When this process is appreciated, there is no problem on linking it to the normal training program. However, there needs to be enough of focused time to learn the correct movement and enough visibility during the loaded conditions. SmartPaddle can help on the visibility to the progress of the movement, but the focused efforts need to be planned into the program.

Speed up the stabilisation

In swimming it is essential to be able to adapt the skills into different circumstances. The fact is that even in a 25m each of the stroke is different. Not to talk about a longer duration of swim when tired. Each of the strokes is dependent on the previous one, and the more tired the swimmer gets the more variation there is. Therefore it is good to force the variation also into the program.

When swimmer knows the correct movement, the stabilisation of the skill can be accelerated by forcing the variation.  Even learning to execute a lap length swim differently is a good challenge: how to get to the rhythm after the glide ... how to maintain the speed in the middle ... how to approach the wall. Additionally you can variate:

  • speed: fast/slow/accelerate/deaccelerate
  • load: pull-buoy, paddle, parachute, towing each other, power tower etc.
  • triggers: change on signal, mirror each other, tempotrainer, ...
  • environment: morning/evening, open water, right/left traffic, ...
  • ...

SmartPaddle enables making movement visible in any conditions.

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Human movement is dependent on the environment and situation. Therefore it is not enough to have visibility to performance only in laboratory environment. Monitoring should happen in three levels:

  • fresh -> what can be done when focused and fresh
  • test series -> controlled environment for loading a specific limitation
  • normal practice sessions -> the real skill level !!!

Real merit of progress is the capability to maintain the skill level in normal practices. Each of the swimmers do have their specific survival technique: when they hit their limiting factor, they modify the stroke to meet the targets that have been defined. It is important to appreciate this and ensure that the selection of the survival technique is such that optimizes the learning.

SmartPaddle enables monitoring the progress in different conditions. Depending on the need, it is also possible to view the data in different levels of granularity:

  • Stroke level monitoring
    Makes visible the stroke level details and enables comparing to the selected reference stroke for each of the strokes.
  • Development over time
    makes visible how the parameters have developed over time
  • Power parameter monitoring
    makes visible the swimming dynamics, i.e., changes and differences over the different swimming speed

Development needs to be linked to the end goal. If the end goal is being faster in the competition it is a huge benefit when the parameters used in the daily practice can be linked to the ones that are available in the competition. Unfortunately the only automatically gathered information in swimming competition is laptimes, i.e., average swimming speed per lap.

There are two ways on creating insight to how times were created in competitions:

  • facts through the video based analysis
  • developing the feelings on what just happened

Facts are always good to backup the feelings. However, the fact is that the feelings are guiding the swimmer during the competition. Therefore the only long lasting way is to develop the swimmer's feeling on the "race analysis": what did you try, how did it feel and how you succeeded. Using the same approach in the training sessions provides the best result.

SmartPaddle can be used in the normal training sessions and race simulations to develop swimmers feeling on what happens during a competition. Stroke-by-stroke visibility enables adjusting how the race is started, how laps are executed and how the speed is maintained during the race. The effortless measurement enables, e.g., comparing broken swims against the competition distance swim. This enables discussion and confirmation on the feelings of the swimmer.

End results vs rootcauses

Traditional race analysis is limited to the visible things: stroke rate and frequency. The challenge for using those in teaching the swimmers to swim differently, is to first teach them to control the strokerate or frequency: how to change the muscle activation to make the difference in numbers. This is the thing that the swimmer needs to learn to control during the race.

SmartPaddle provides visibility to the actions during the swimming cycle. This information helps taking into use a more sophisticated approach for race strategy definition. The level of detail helps on isolating, developing and stabilizing different skillsets to optimize the speed and to balance the effort. Those skillsets can be applied differently in different phases of the competition to optimize the result. Stroke-by-stroke comparison makes it visible how well the strategy was implemented.

Many of the athletes have commented this when they have for the first time seen their swimming measured with SmartPaddle. 

Movement as it happens

The main contributor to the comments is the fact that they have never seen their movement exactly how it happens.  Swimmer moves himself in 3D space and controls the movement in the level of tens of milliseconds. All of this goes through their system, but afterwards they have only wake feelings on what just happened. The others have seen the movement as it happened, but they can never explain the things on the level that would enable constructing the whole picture. Even video is a 2D presentation of 3D reality, and it is dependent on the shooting angle etc. what the swimmer sees in the picture.

SmartPaddle records the movement as it happes: movement and resulting force in 3D space. This enables the swimmer to pick the details that they want confirmation on. One good sign of them understanding their movement better with the information is the fact that when we ask them "what happens in this phase of the stroke", they very often give a precise answer. Afterwards it usually turns out that they were correct.

 

This comment is often heard in SmartPaddle feedback sessions. The fact is that the swimmers have been told many times, but there is a difference in hearing and understanding. Not to talk about believing.

The difference on the SmartPaddle information is that there is no explanations needed. Force makes swimmer move in the water and when you see the force you don't need to understand the theory behind generating force in water to understand the root-causes for the inefficiencies in moving in water. This enables getting directly to the real discussion on what to do about the observation.

Common terminology

Many times swimmers use terms "feel for the water", "feels powerful",  "feels weird". And coaches use terms "high elbow", "fast", "strong". And often they do not understand each other in the same way.  Good thing on measurement in general, and SmartPaddle in specific, is that it provides concrete things to discuss about. And the fact that those are measured facts on the actual human movement make them unambiguous.  The result of the common terminology is that in 10seconds it is possible to exchange more information than in an hour with plenty of explanation. And 10sec is the luxury that the coach and athlete has in between the sets. These short moments make a big difference on the speed and direction of development.

The best way to give feedback on the SmartPaddle measurement is to check for the artefact in specific phase of the stroke, place the hand as shown by the data and ask the swimmer to push against the hand. You can see the incorrect muscle activation and are able to instruct how to change that. They immediately say that they do feel the difference. It is these kind of HEUREKA-feelings that make the swimmer change their movement. Only when they themselves discover the difference, the magic will happen.

We control our movement mostly with the unconscious part of our mind. The gap between the conscious control and unconscious actions is so big that there is no way we could explain how to execute the movement differently. And have swimmers consistently doing so. They might once be able to do as told, but when they go back into the normal training environment, the unconscious mind takes over. This does not mean that the swimmer wouldn't want to do the stroke differently. The reason usually is that they do not have skills or capabilities to utilise their muscles in different way. It takes time to re-program the movement models in long term memory, and only after that you can expect them to consistently execute the movement in the new way.

After the hands-on feedback and a few of example drills, it has often times happened that the swimmers come back with multiple variations of the same exercise. And magic happened: they discovered it by themselves. They were motivated and informed enough to start developing new level of awareness of their own movement and muscles. When they get started on this track, it usually means that they continue doing so. SmartPaddle information is a powerful trigger for self-discovery.

Feedback: name for the feeling

It is seldom that the first trial on changing the movement would be optimal, and it never remains the same after a few repetitions. The only way to optimize the movement is to continue trying and get good quality feedback on the trial. The main thing on the feedback is that it is actionable: helps making the next trial in a more optimal way. Actionable feedback requires that:

  • It is available immediately
    Human memory system flushes 97% of the memories on the movement in 3 minutes. If the feedback is available before this happens, it is possible to bring unattended information to the acknowledged memory and in this way speed-up the learning process.
  • It is easy to understand
    Feedback in practice always means discussion. Therefore it is essential that it is displayed in a format that enables unambiguous interpretation and provides terminology for high quality interaction.
  • It is easy to identify with
    The displayed data needs to correlate with the feelings of the athlete. If they change something, it should also be visible in the feedback. Usually the end result (= swimming speed /laptime) does not immediately correlate with feeling and therefore the feedback information needs to provide visibility to the movement itself.

When these criteria is met, each of the trials becomes quicker and better directed. This leads to learning faster and also the learned skills are longer lasting. This based on the fact that each iteration helps the athlete to understand more about their movement, improve the coordination and improve they capability to adopt feedback.

Swimmers control their arm movement by speed of the hand and the feeling of the pressure on their hand. SmartPaddle measures those things making it easy for the swimmer to identify themselves with the measured information.

We are good on remembering the best and worst things on what we do. This easily leads to a hasty conclusion.
A natural tendency for a swimmer is to rely on "the good old habits" when they are stressed or don't focus on the execution. This makes changing a movement an adventure that requires "a map to coordinate".

Getting variation in to control

When new movement is being learned, first the variation of the movement will be big: there will be good and bad strokes. In order to see the progress it is essential to get visibility to the average stroke and the variation around it. This will help on setting the constraints for the execution by finding ways to eliminate the worst strokes and in that way build-up the confidence on the change both for the swimmer and coach.
SmartPaddle automatically calculates the average stoker for a lap and set. The actual strokes can be compared to the average stroke of the set and previous sets.

 

The swimmers that have been using the SmartPaddle for a longer time have commented that "they modify the curves" when they change their swimming. This indicates that they have stored the SmartPaddle stroke information in their memory system and pick the most suited one for any specific situation. This is how human movement control works: movement patterns are programmed into our long term memory and those are used by the unconscious movement control to guide the muscles during the movement. SmartPaddle measurement happens on the same level of detail as the human movement control and after using the information for some time, human mind seems be able to process the information really efficiently.

Appreciate the variation

The fact is that there is hardly a similar stroke in lap length of swimming. As this is the case, it is important to appreciate the variation and learn to control it. There is always a bad stroke, and the next strokes are affected by this. Some swimmers do the adaptation more naturally than the others. For all of the swimmers it is important to learn to adapt their stroke.

Efficient race strategy requires capability to adapt the stroke. For example, 100m run takes 10seconds and it is consciously trained as three phases: start, acceleration and maintain. In the same way swimmers need to know how to execute a lap: how to get to the rhythm with the first strokes, how to maintain the speed in the middle and how to approach the wall. Another example on the race strategy is that nobody is able to work hard enough for whole of 200m with the same muscles. Those swimmers have a huge benefit that can slightly modify their stroke for the last 50m.

To some extent the capability to modify the movement happens by itself when the swimmers become more aware of their muscle action. However, the causal connection need to be taught so that the correct movement pattern gets selected for each situation.  SmartPaddle enables comparing strokes easily and in a detailed level. An example for analysing the variation: in a training session swimmers easily comment something like "3rd lap felt hard". With the data you can quickly scroll to the 3rd lap and see what was different there compared to the other laps. In this way the feelings get a shape and a name which turns the wake feeling into information on "what makes the swimming feel hard". Next time the swimmer will be more informed to maintain the efficiency during the swim.

SmartPaddle also enables new kind of interactive drills and practices. It is possible to play around, try and learn from the trials. In the same way as the hockey players go on the ice on their own to practice the drills, or guitar players spend hours on just trying to create a specific sound.

Using SmartPaddle is a learning journey. It helps the user to learn constantly more about the swimming performance.  There are so many aspects to the swimming and human performance that with SmartPaddle it is possible to keep on learning to the extent and depth you personally want. The experience has shown that each of the users is roughly going through the same learning path:

  • 1 day: intrigued by the new visibility on the swimming
  • 1 week: learn to use the system and navigate it smoothly, learn by comparing the swims and discussing the observed differences
  • 1 month: swimmers have adopted the data and start to find ways of controlling their stroke, coaches start adopting their practices to the new information
  • 3 months: 1st results visible in the competitions, more efficient use of the system in different kind of training conditions, initial steps on using data in programming and monitoring
  • 6 months: capability to utilise the data as targets in race strategy&analysis, 2nd step of adapting the practices to the new learning

Where to start ?

Easiest way to get started with SmartPaddle is to recognize survival technique by measuring normal practice sessions and comparing the strokes. If a recurring test series is used, the best way to get started is to monitor the results and use the information on understanding what makes the difference. It is possible to easily scroll the laps and strokes, compare and discuss how the sets should be swam more efficiently. Actions can be taken and the results can be easily compared to the original one. Already after the first recording, the swimmer’s limiting factor has been isolated and more focused actions can be taken. A few more iterations will enable mastering the performance development.

Often the limiting factor is such that cannot be fixed just by swimming more. The detailed visibility to the stroke dynamics enables defining specific drills and dryland exercises that simulate the correct actions. These focused actions will speed up the removal of the limitation.

Learning faster and better

As more experience is gained with the data and system, each of the iterations becomes faster and better focused. A huge contributor for getting faster is the improved quality of interaction between the swimmer and coach. Concrete and regular facts on training sessions create unambiguous terminology and help swimmers to become more aware of their actions in the water and the consequences of the actions.

As the experience is gained, also more specific test and training sessions can be developed. Detailed measurement enables seeing how the efficiency of the swimming is impacted by certain kind of coaching intervention. This enables tailoring the training to the purpose of each phase of the season.

The full potential

The full potential of the system is realized when it is used according to the principles of “deliberate practice” and “motor control”.

Thinking behind "deliberate practice" is that human performance is too complex to be resolved with a single analysis once per season. Changing one thing will always have an impact on the overall dynamics and it is impossible to predict the outcome. More efficient is to make focused trials and learn from the results. The more you learn, the more focused the trials become. This will lead to better results faster and with less effort.

The cumulative SmartPaddle information helps on gradually shifting to more statistical analysis and in this way being more educated on the trials. Monitoring the parameters over time helps understanding the impact of the training load into swimming dynamics. Swimmer Profile helps recognizing the changes in dynamics over swimming speed and repetitions. This information enables better adjusting and focusing the season and weekly programming. When the dynamics of the swimming are in control, the information can be directly used for more accurate race strategy definition and analysis.

"Motor control" is the modern understanding on how we control our movement. The basic thinking there is that movement is controlled unconsciously and the only way to learn the movement is to let the unconscious mind learn. In practice this means setting up the environment in the way that it is instantaneously obvious if the movement was correct or not. This perception & action chain is the one that enables reprogramming the movement models in our long term memory.

Using SmartPaddle as a learning tool will help the coach to see what kind of drills work on what kind of issues. It is recommended to analyse as many different swimmers as possible. Or as many different situations with the same swimmers as possible. This will raise different challenges on the surface and help developing the solutions for them. A good example has been the analysis on the paraolympic

 

What can be seen from the force measurements?

The ability to produce high maximum force is important especially in sprint distances.

It is equally important that the duration of the force is long, in order to get a large impulse to the hand stroke.

Force x Time = Impulse

In the example below, swimmer A produces a higher maximum force. However, swimmer B generates a higher impulse and is swimming faster, because the duration of the force is longer.

Swimmer A: Force 42N, Impulse 18.6Ns, Time 1:32 / 100m


Swimmer B. Force 35N, Impulse 24.5Ns, Time 1:11 / 100m

Any break in the generation of the force reduces its effectiveness substantially and prevents the swimmer to reach the top speed.

In the example below, the drops in the force mean that the impulse of the stroke decreases by 25-30%. At the same time, the stroke is relatively tiring as the maximum force applied is high.

The drops in the force may be related to non-optimal orientation of the hand. If the palm is not facing the movement of the hand, it does not generate force efficiently.

The force is also reduced, if there is a break in the muscle chain used for the stroke.

Force dropping during stroke:

In addition to the magnitude of the force, SmartPaddle displays also its direction. Ideally, the magnitude and length of the force in forward direction should be maximized, while keeping force in other directions minimal.

In the example below forward, lateral and vertical directions are presented in green, yellow and red colours respectively. The swimmer applies relatively high force in vertical direction (red) especially in the beginning of the stroke. Such stroke typically leads to a non-optimal body posture.

Stroke references found in the Analysis Centre show, how top level swimmers apply the force in different directions. The references may help in improving the efficiency of the hand strokes.

In all swimmers the hand creates some drag, especially when it enters the water. If the velocity of the hand is slow or its direction changes, it can start to resist the swimmers movement even during the stroke.

In the picture below the resistance of the hand is visualized as negative values of the force. In this example the resistance is even greater than the impulse of the stroke. The drag force is especially high, when the hand enters the water. The force graph shows also significant negative values at the end of the stroke, when the swimmer is pulling the hand upwards.

Minimizing the drag force may in some cases be even more important than increasing the impulse of the hand stroke.

If the strength of the strokes is not evenly balanced between the right and the left hand, it can easily lead to fluctuation in the body speed. Any such deviation from a constant speed increases power consumption. With the SmartPaddle the balance of the hands can easily be checked.

In the example below the force profile of the left hand is presented with dotted lines on top of the right hand profile. It can be seen that both the maximum force and the impulse of the right hand is substantially larger. In addition, the right hand starts to produce force earlier in the stroke than the left hand.

Typically, the impulse of the hand strokes decreases with increasing speed. It becomes progressively harder to maintain the force of the hand stroke when the body is moving faster to the opposing direction. The decreasing impulse is often the factor limiting the maximum speed of the swimmer.

Also the balance between the hands may change as the swimming speed increases. The example below shows the impulse measured from the right (green) and the left (orange) hand in different swimming speeds. It is evident that in this case the difference in the impulses increases when the swimmer is speeding up.

In addition to the balance between the right and the left hand, SmartPaddle application offers a view to the development of the swimmer over time as well as an easy comparison between different swimmers.

The strength of the hand strokes may vary greatly from one stroke to another, especially if the swimmer has difficulties in maintaining the body posture. For example the breathing rhythm can often be seen from the variation in the stroke impulses.

An example of a significant stroke to stroke variation can be seen in the figure below. The difference between individual strokes causes fluctuation in the swimming speed as well. The mean velocity of the swimmer decreases since part of the power is consumed by acceleration.

Swimmers can rarely maintain optimal technique when the swimming distance increases. Typically the strength of the strokes decreases as the muscles get tired, even if the swimmer is able to maintain a constant frequency. This change is usually evident also from the decreasing stroke length and swimming speed.

The figure below shows the development of the stoke impulse during an 800 m swim. It can be seen that the strength of the hand strokes decreases significantly during the first 100 m. Thereafter the swimmer is able to maintain the impulse in a stable level. It is also evident that the stroke to stroke variation increases when the swimmer gets tired.

The analysis of the swimmers technique is usually based on tests carried out over relatively short distances. This example shows that it does not necessarily help in optimizing the technique for long distance swimmers.

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