Swimming: Front Quadrant Swimming Reduces Drag

Swimming: Front Quadrant Swimming
Reduces Drag

Dick Moss, Editor, PE Update.com

Less Effective Crawl Technique: Early Pull With Stroke Hand Reduces Length of Time the Body is in an Extended Position
Less Effective Crawl Technique: Early Pull With Stroke Hand Reduces Length of Time the Body is in an Extended Position
Since the 1840's, it has been known that wave drag (which comprises 80% of total drag) is affected by the shape of a vessel in water. To be specific, the ratios of length, width and depth all affect drag, with longer shapes reducing friction through the water. This is why racing vessels, such as America's Cup yachts, are long and sleek.

 

This principle affects swimmers too. The less drag, the less energy it takes to move through the water. Fortunately, there is a way to increase the “length” of your swimmers in the water and reduce their drag. Here's how to accomplish it in the front crawl. The concept is called Front Quadrant Swimming.

More Effective Technique: Arm Pull is Delayed Until Recovery Hand is Almost Ready to Enter the Water
More Effective Technique: Arm Pull is Delayed Until Recovery Hand is Almost Ready to Enter the Water
Concept
Front Quadrant Swimming in the crawl means keeping one arm extended in front of the body at almost all times during the stroke. This increases the average length of the body as it passes through the water, which reduces drag.

Your swimmers can maintain this streamlined shape by not pulling with their stroke hand (keeping it extended forward) until their recovery hand is almost ready to enter the water. That is, the recovery arm is almost in the water before the stroke hand has pulled beneath the head.

Overhead View of Front Quadrant Swimming: Hands Pass Each Other At the Head or Above
Overhead View of Front Quadrant Swimming: Hands Pass Each Other At the Head or Above
Side-Effect: Hips Up
Streamlining the body by keeping one arm extended also moves the body's center of gravity forward—closer to the lungs, which are the center of buoyancy. This lifts the legs and hips closer to the surface of the water, which also reduces drag.

Monitoring
You can monitor this technique by watching where the two hands pass each other in the stroke, as the recovery hand moves forward in the air and the stroke hand pulls backward through the water.

They should pass each other in the front quadrant—that is, the area at, or forward of the head. This shows that the stroke hand is delaying its pull and staying extended.

The less effective (and more common) alternative is for the recovery and stroke to begin at the same time. In this case, the hands will pass each other behind the head, shortening the total length of the swimmer.

Demonstration
Do your swimmers need convincing about the benefits of front quadrant swimming and how a long body position reduces drag? Try this demonstration. With their hands at their sides, have them push off the wall as hard as possible and note how far they glide in a shortened body position.

Then ask them to assume a longer body position for reduced drag. With their arms extended over their head, hand-over-hand, wrist-over-wrist and head squeezed between their arms, have them push off again. They should glide 25%-50% farther.

References:
1. Emmett Hines, (Head Coach,  H20uston Swims Club) “Swimming in circles.” and “Of gravity and air (Or is your head attached?).”
Originally from Schwimmvergnugen, the monthly newsletter of the H20uston Swims. Reported in the U.S. Masters Swimming Website, 2000, (www.usms.org)
2. Jim Montgomery, Mo Chambers, Mastering Swimming, Human Kinetics, 2009.
www.humankinetics.com


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