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

In the previous article, I discussed the value of sculling in a stationary fashion. The advantage of stationary sculling and vertical sculling is that you don’t have to worry about making forward progress. You can just focus on what you’re feeling and improving your sculling.

However, the advantage is also the disadvantage. You don’t get any feedback if you’re sculling is being effective in the manner that matters most, making forward progress. That all changes when we switch to head first sculling.

Head First Sculling

The majority (all?!) of your swimming experiences will be with the head leading your body. With sculling, it’s no different. Head first sculling presents a lot of options in terms of how you scull. Here are some options, keeping in mind that no one style necessarily better than any other. They’re all good!

Sculling with your hands above the head

Sculling with your hands at the level of your shoulders

Sculling with your hands at the level of your chest and stomach

Sculling with your hands by your hips

Sculling with straight elbows, bent elbows, or anywhere in between

Sculling with motion coming primarily from the shoulders

Sculling with motion coming primarily from elbow

Sculling with your hands anywhere in between

Sculling with the hands out wide

Sculling with the hands narrow

For videos of many of the above sculling various, click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Regardless of how you choose to scull, there are two key objectives that you’ll need to focus on. The first is maintaining pressure through the transitions, just like you did with the prior sculling tasks. The second task is the big change, as now it’s time to focus on moving forward. Sculling is not just about feel. It’s also about being effective. You’re doing it for a reason, and that reason is to move forward, fast.

As you start focusing on moving forward, the pressure you’ve been working on maintaining should help you move. If you’ve never tried to do this before, this might be more challenging than you think. Be patient, focus on maintaining pressure, and include some SLIGHT forward to backward motions.

WARNING! Start with vertical sculling. If you’re not able to keep your head above the water, it’s VERY unlikely you’ll be able to make forward progress. Go back to vertical sculling. As noted before, the great thing about vertical sculling is that the innate need to avoid sinking tends to help you figure out how to scull effectively.

With head first sculling, you can start to incorporate metrics into your sculling once you’re able to generate some speed. As you get more experienced with sculling, start timing some of your efforts, and keep track of your speeds when using different styles. Faster sculling will lead to faster swimming!

*A cheat code- if you’re struggling to move forward, it’s going to be harder to float. Rather than struggling to do two different tasks at once, throw in a pool buoy to help you float. It will allow you to focus on one thing, rather than trying to do two different tasks. As your skills improve and floating is less of an issue, ditch the buoy.

Feet First Sculling

Feet first sculling presents many of the same traits as head first sculling in terms of focusing on creating motion. However, sculling with the feet first is a novel position that most haven’t been exposed to in their swimming journey as all strokes lead with the head. Due to this novelty, there is opportunity to learn new skills and improve your feel for the water.

Because of the position of the body, you’re a lot more restricted in the type of arm actions that you can use, and those arm actions are typically less effective than when the head is leading the process. However, that can be a great opportunity to learn how to scull well in less than ideal positions.

Sculling can be done with the hands by the side, or the hands up above the head. Sculling can also be performed with the legs straight out in front and the body lying on the surface. This can be done on the stomach or the back. When on the back, you can also scull with the knees bent and brought to the chest. The bent knee position tends to be easier to navigate first. All have value.

As this position is more challenging than leading with the head, it’s probably not the best place to start. If you’re new to sculling, it’s fine to play with it occasionally. However, you’re going to have a lot more success starting with more manageable tasks. Further, as the sculls performed in this position tend to be ‘less specific’ than with the head in front, there may be less benefit, especially for the beginner.

Once you can make forward progress, you’re well on your way to getting really skilled at manipulating the water. Congrats!

Stay tuned for two strategies that you don’t see very often, yet can be quite effective at improving your sculling if you’re really struggling, OR if you’re getting really skilled.

Faster. Better. Easier.


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