Swim Like Lucy Charles-Barclay | Swimming Technique Analysis

Swim Like Lucy Charles-Barclay | Swimming Technique Analysis


– Right, If I asked you to
think of one of the fastest swimmers in the sport of triathlon, I’m pretty sure most of you would think of Lucy Charles-Barclay. Yeah, she has brought a whole new dynamic to the long-distance racing scene. She basically just attacks
from the off during the swim and tries to lead from gun to tape. And correct me if I’m wrong,
I’m not sure she has ever been beaten out of the water. Now, Lucy is a great friend
of the channel here at GTN, so we’ve filmed loads of her
over the past couple of years and conveniently, we’ve got
loads of swim footage of her. So I thought I’d have a
bit of fun here today. I thought we could analyze
Lucy’s swim technique and see why she’s such a great swimmer, and you never know, maybe
give her some pointers, too. (logo humming) (relaxed trap music) Okay, so I’m going to be running
through a number of clips that are going to be
appearing here on screen, but before we head below water, I’m actually going to start
off above water first, just quite good practice, to see what’s going on above
water with the recovery, so if we hit play here, so
Lucy has a lovely technique, really powerful technique, but considering she comes from
a pool swimming background, I’m actually quite surprised to see just how straight her arm recovery is, that you see coming over here now, and then also how much splash she makes as that hand enters the water, and I’ll pause that there for a second. I have actually spoken to
Lucy about this in the past because since she’s come into triathlon, she’s actually started changing
her stroke ever so slightly, so one of the things she’s been working on is her arm rate and increasing
that, and basically, how quickly her arms come
over and into the water. With that, obviously a
slightly less emphasis on that nice clean hand entry that you might see in pool swimming. We actually see this quite a lot with some of the top level swimmers
within triathlon, and I guess you can call it almost like a windmill arm effect. I do the same, it doesn’t look pretty, but the emphasis is more on
just getting that hand in, getting that catch and getting that pull. And the idea is that in the open water, the water’s more choppy. Obviously that clean hand
entry isn’t important but also if you’re getting
knocked around by other swimmers or the water’s moving underneath
you and you lose a catch, then you want that next
arm to be coming over really quickly, so Lucy’s
been working on that and you can see that it’s reflecting in her technique right there. If we press play again, of course, there, see, she’s got a
really lovely rotation with her strokes here, rotating over now, the other shoulder coming out, and also, it’s just really nicely
in time and in sync, her shoulders and her hips
both rotating together. Now, this is really important, and actually something that a
lot of people fall short on, so the rotation really helps to utilize these much bigger muscle groups and more muscles, actually, in the body. So if you compare someone that’s swimming flat in the water and actually, they’re just hammering
their pecs, their biceps, maybe a couple of other
smaller muscles, but that’s it. When we start rotating onto our side, we’re then also utilizing our
lat muscles, our back muscles, it stabilizes us in the
water and it becomes a much, much more powerful stroke. Another thing also, again, if you’re swimming flat in the water, think about that surface
area in the water. From shoulder to shoulder, it’s almost submerged in the water, and you’re almost trying to
plow that through the water. As soon as we start
rotating onto our side, we’re reducing that surface area, almost halving it every
time we rotate over. So not only are we utilizing more muscles, we’re also reducing the
surface area in the water, so it’s a win-win. I’m also noticing a few
other interesting things with Lucy’s technique here, so I think it’s time we head underwater. Okay, so now we’ve got Lucy swimming at us head-on
underneath the water. We can see that our her line
is pointing more or less directly beneath her to
the bottom of the pool. She’s got that great rotation
that I was just talking about but now I want to talk
about how she pulls, and also how her hand
tracks underneath the water. Now, she’s got an incredibly
strong pull, as we’d expect, and a really good bend in the elbow that allows that strong pull. But interestingly, her hand does not track
underneath the body quite as the textbooks
would suggest you should. So if I pause it now with her right arm, because this is particularly bad, I guess, as, or not as the textbook
suggests, it comes really wide. We should expect the
hand to be more or less underneath the body, but
that looks particularly wide. And what this could actually do is force her over to the other side. So the right arm’s going
to force her to the left. However, if we keep playing it here, her recovering arm entering
sweeps ever so slightly left and she does this every
time of her stroke, I’ve looked through all her footage, and what that does is it almost
automatically corrects her and pushes her back into alignment. And this is probably
something that Lucy isn’t even aware that she’s doing, it just happens. Now for those watching this out there, this isn’t something that
you should be striving to do. You should be looking for a
really nice symmetrical stroke, but I guess it’s just
really refreshing to see such a good swimmer
doing these things too. (funky music) Right, so side-on here now,
and we can really start to see why Lucy’s such a good swimmer. So with that rotation that
we were just talking about, it allows her to enter with the hand, scoot forward a extra
fraction or so with the hand, and then we go into the catch phase, which she is incredibly good at. She looks incredibly strong, she doesn’t allow her elbow to drop and she has a really good
purchase on the water, she’s applying a good, even pressure throughout the whole stroke. Now, this helps in a couple of ways, so one of which is to
remove any dead spots that we might see when we analyze a lot of other swimmers’ strokes. And what this means is that essentially missing out that first part of the stroke, the catch phase, the stroke
would just slip through it, and then we’d start to
get traction or purchase on the water during the pull phase. Now I guess I kind of
liken this a little bit to if you had a really
pronounced heel strike when you’re running, that heel goes out, it’s like a braking force, slows you down, and then you’ve got to
get it back over that to get your speed back up, and that’s a little bit like
missing that catch phase, we start to slow down, and
then into the pull phase you’re trying to get
our speed back up again, so you’re very stop-start. It’s quite an inefficient way
of swimming, but as with Lucy, she’s applying a nice
even pressure throughout and not having to overly exert or try and put a lot of force
down at one particular point to get that speed back up. Another thing it helps with, and we’ll see when Lucy
pops back up on screen now, is that it also helps
sort of lift in the water, so by applying that pressure at the front of the
stroke in the catch phase, helps to lift her ever
so slightly in the water, which again, reduces that
surface area in the water, and I guess a little bit like a powerboat that’s trying to skim along
the surface of the water, or something like that. Well, another thing to note also is that Lucy really ticks that high-elbowed box that we so often hear
people talking about, so as she goes through that catch phase she keeps the elbow really nice and high as she’s applying pressure
down through the water, and then into that pull phase. Now that pull phase is
essentially when the hand, or the palm of the hand, is
pointing back towards your feet or the opposite end of
the pool, and for Lucy, this seems to be around
in line with her head. Now, as she actually starts the catch, she actually initiates
the rotation and roll back towards the other side, so she goes through the
catch phase through the pull all the way through to pushing
out at the back of the hip. And as she’s doing that, her other hand is entering at
the front, starting the catch, and providing that
continuous momentum forward, but as she starts that, she’s already fully rotated
onto the other side. You would also notice that
through all these clips today that her fingers are
actually quite relaxed. In some cases, you might actually see a little bit of a gap between the fingers. Now, there is actually
increasing evidence out there to suggest that this is faster, and that’s why a lot of
the top swimmers do this. Now, just to make clear, she has her fingers relaxed
rather than being all floppy, and it’s actually just,
they’re just naturally open, rather than her forcing them open, but yeah, really interesting to see that. Right, well now let’s move on
to talk about the breathing. And I’m going to revert back
to one of these original clips because it just highlights it really well here with Lucy’s stroke. And Lucy’s actually breaking some of the textbook rules again, but obviously making it work for herself, so let’s hit play here. What we would want to
see is that the eye line is pointing down towards
the bottom of the pool and when we go to take a breath, we actually just rotate the
head around with the body. What Lucy actually does is, as
she goes to take the breath, she lifts her head up and her eye line up so she’s looking forward,
and then rotating the head around to take the breath, so it’s just a little
bit surprising there, which we can also see from a side-on angle here too as Lucy comes into shot now. For a lot of people, this
would actually force their legs to sink almost like a seesaw action. As the head comes up, legs sink. But Lucy does a fantastic job of keeping herself flat
and neutral in the water. Now, this obviously also
probably comes from the fact that she’s been doing
more open water swimming, and swimming more in
triathlons and having to sight, so being able to sight more naturally without it impacting
the stroke, the better, which Lucy is doing superbly. Now, what she’s also
doing is actually helping by, when the hand goes in and catches, that’s applying pressure on the water and allowing the slight
lift with the head, so the eye line comes up. Obviously, if she was sighting, she’d lift her eyes out
a little bit higher. And then as that recovering
arm comes around, she then snaps her head round to side rotate and takes her breath. So it’s always sight and then breathe. (relaxed trap music) And finally, the leg kick. Now, if we were to be comparing
two polar opposite swimmers, sprinter versus a long-distance
10K open water swimmer, their leg kicks are going to
be wildly different, obviously. Now the sprinter’s going to
have a very fast leg kick, something like an eight-beat leg kick, so that means eight leg kicks
for every one arm cycle, whereas the open water
long-distance swimmer is going to have something
like a two-beat leg kick, so it’s almost going to
look like they’re just dragging their legs along
and it’s just acting like a balance for their stroke. Now, if we look at Lucy’s kick, now she has something in the region of a four-beat leg kick, so
it’s not too over-the-top. It’s providing some propulsion, but it’s not going to
be tiring her too much, and I do know, having
watched her during racing and also doing race pace
efforts in training, it doesn’t change too much from that. And there’s good reason for that, I mean, triathlon is still a long-distance event, it’s an endurance event, so there is an element of
having to save your legs, particularly given that we’ve got a bike and run leg to come. Now, in terms of her technique, you can see that it comes from her hips, and we’ve got a ever-so-slight
flex through the knee and then following all
the way down to the feet and flicking off at the toes. Now, Lucy is very lucky
given that she comes from a swimming
background, swum for years, she’s got really nice, supple ankles, so you can really see
that she’s got a very good flick off at the end and really providing that extra propulsion in her kick. Well, as I mentioned already, it’s very rare to find
the perfect technique. You’ll find with most top-level swimmers, they’ll have some slight discrepancies with their techniques or
unusual bits to their technique, as we’ve seen with Lucy today. But she clearly makes it work and it’s still an absolutely
incredible stroke. It is worth pointing out obviously, Lucy comes from an international
swimming background, she’s spent countless hours in the pool, so some of those slight
micro-adjustments that she’s making are just happening subconsciously, and that’s something that will come a lot more naturally to her than it will for someone that maybe hasn’t spent quite as much time in the pool. So I really would advise trying to learn the textbook techniques first, and really nailing the
fundamentals of the stroke before going on to adapt
the stroke further. Now, if you do like today’s
video and you like Lucy Charles then please do hit that thumbs-up button, and if you’d like to see more
videos like this from GTN, just hit that globe icon
on the screen right now. If you’d like to see a video
that we shot with Lucy Charles and some of her own swim tips, you can see that by clicking down here, and if you’d like to see
our pool versus open water swim technique video where we compare the differences between the two, then you can see that by
clicking just down here.

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