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How To Use Sculling To Improve Your Feel For The Water Part II

Manipulating the water is a key skill in swimming, closely linked with ‘feel for the water’. While water ultimately needs to be moving backward to help you move forward, there ARE lateral and diagonal movements that are occurring. The more effectively you can manage these movements, the more effectively you will swim.

If you want to learn this skill, sculling is the tool you use.

In part I, I introduced the concept of wrapping the water to effectively scull. The more skilled you can be at wrapping the water, the more effective you will be at managing the lateral movement of the water that Is reuired for fast swimming.

As effective as ‘wrapping the water’ is, it’s not complete. In this article, I want to add a few more concepts that will help you take your sculling to the next level.

Sweep rather than pull. Sculling is not pulling. As we’ll see below, your arms become less of a paddle and more of a blade, sweeping back and forth. While there is something of a pulling component during some aspects of a scull, these are brief periods in between different transition points.

The transition points are where the focus is, as it is these points that we’re leveraging to learn how to change the direction of the water we’re moving. Focus on brief sweeping actions that are constantly punctuated by changes in direction. Mastering these changes in direction is what effective sculling is all about. This is a large component of establishing a great feel for the water.

Be stiff. A common mistake is to scull with a limp wrist, especially when changing directions. Some swimmer will end up sculling primarily by rotating and moving their wrist. As we discussed earlier, focusing primarily on the hand is a mistake.

You want to get the forearm involved to create as much surface area as possible. By keeping the wrist stiff, not only does this help you maintain pressure with the hand, it allows the forearm to get in on the action as well.

Consider the elbow to the fingertips as one big blade. You’ll have a lot more success when that blade is rigid from end to end. There can and should be some be some subtle bending of the wrist. However, stiffness needs to be maintained as this occurs, rather than simply allowing the hand to flop around.

Control the elbow. There are two options here. In one case, the upper arm is pretty stationary and a lot of the movement comes from bending the elbow. Not much motion is occurring at the shoulder joint. Because of the relatively fewer motion options of the elbow compared to the shoulder, this action tends to resemble ‘windshield wiper blades’, with the forearm/hand operating as the blade.

The other option is to keep the elbow angle relatively stable. The actual angle you use doesn’t matter. It can be really open or relatively closed. To create movement, the shoulder is going to move through a much larger range of motion. Sculling can take on many forms when sculling in this manner, as there are many possible patterns you can choose to employ.

In both cases, you’re still focused on wrapping the water as you transition directions. How you do so will be a little different depending on where the motion comes from. Get skilled at both actions, and you can work to move seamlessly from one to the other.

HOWEVER, it’s best to choose one style versus the other at any one time. If you moving a lot at the elbow AND at the shoulder at the same time, you’re not going to be particularly effective and maintaining pressure, particularly during transitions. Your ‘blade’ is going to start resembling a limp noodle, losing the stiffness required to maintain a hold on the water.

Work on a variety of actions. Use big motions and small motions. Move the elbow and move the shoulder. Make gradual changes in direction and abrupt changes in direction. Scull with the arms by your side and with the arms out wide. Scull with your arms out in front of your head and your arms down by your hips.

The idea is to master the skill of sculling in many different positions. This helps to ensure that you’re able to manipulate the water in any aspect of your stroke.

Maintain pressure. This is your primary task. Whenever you change directions, you want to maintain pressure on your palm and the inside of your forearm. If you can, you actually want to INCREASE the pressure you feel as you change directions. This is particularly true if you’re reversing the direction of the scull. If you feel that you’re losing pressure when you transition, that’s an indicator that you’re not sculling as effectively as possible.

If that’s the case, slow it down a bit and really focus on what you’re feeling and what you’re doing as you switch direction. It can also be very helpful to make the change in direction a lot more gradual. Rather than quickly reversing directions, slow it down and use much larger circular actions. Once you can sustain pressure through these larger patters, start to tighten it up and move towards faster transitions.

Always maintain pressure on as much surface area as possible.

Adding these tricks to the overall framework of ‘wrapping the water’ will help you improve during any sculling task.

Speaking of which, in the next article, we’ll focus on how to best practice your sculling.

Faster. Better. Easier.


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