Freediving No-Fins Technique Guide-Part2
- Technical Points
The Recovery: As the arms begin their recovery, bend the knees and draw the heels in a straight line up towards the buttocks. If you think about it you’ll see that you can do this with varying amounts of flexion of the hip and this will affect the amount of leg that ‘shows’ above or below the plane of the body. Swimmers try to keep a straight line between the thorax, abdomen and thighs during this phase (i.e. they have a neural hip position) at the expense of slightly more drag above the body. They can get away with this because their body is already angled upward and out of the water. For freediving, we have a flatter body position and so need to compensate by flexing the hips just enough to distribute the drag evenly above and below the body.
The power phase: With the heels up against the buttocks rotate the ankles, internally rotate the hips and dorsiflex the foot (draw the toes up towards the knee) so that the toes point outwards and downwards with the medial (inner) surface of the lower leg facing backwards as far as possible. The knees should stay as close together as possible. From here, explosively whip the lower legs around in a circle, straightening them but again keeping the knees as close together as possible. The hip should be held in internal rotation as far as possible to press the medial surface of the lower leg and foot out and backwards against the water for as long as possible. Good flexibility is key to perfecting this rather unnatural movement. As the legs whip round and together, snap the feet into a pointed position, swirling the water with the feet towards the end of the kick.
The most common fault here is a ‘screw kick’ where one foot kicks backwards and down (in the same way as a bifin stroke) whilst the other kicks out and around in the correct way.
Perfecting the kick not only requires technical practise but, unless you’re extremely lucky, you’ll have to put in some work on flexibility as well. The key movement that requires work is the simultaneous external rotation of the foot and internal rotation of the hip. The best way to practise this is to kneel down with your feet pointing outwards and then (gently!) sit back on your heels. It can be quite difficult to begin with but this is the position that you need to try to achieve momentarily in the water just before the power phase begins. The stretch of the muscles involved is what makes this position uncomfortable and impossible to hold for any length of time but you can use it to your benefit: As the muscles stretch, energy is stored in them and can be quickly released, giving you the ‘pickup’ on the water that you need when you’re moving quickly. The feeling that you should look for, then, is a slight ‘over-stretch’ of the muscles of the inner thigh, and almost uncomfortable feeling in your hip joint, a pull along the front of your shin and a twisting sensation in your knee. Sounds horrible? With practise it won’t be.
It’s a common misconception that you should kick using the soles of your feet but in reality, power comes from the rapid whipping action of the legs with the medial aspect of the lower leg and foot acting as the propulsive surfaces. The technique described above allows you to present the largest amount of this area to the water for the longest time and if you’re doing it right, you should be getting some serious power from your legs. In competitive swimming, propulsion is about 2/3 legs and 1/3 arms but there are very few freedivers who achieve this. Practise on your legs alone with a kickboard or ideally (because it allows you to adopt the correct body position for freediving) a head snorkel will help you to get the feeling of driving yourself through the water by whipping with your legs.
Follow the last part, next week and learn more about no-fins technics. Review the part1 if you need to here.