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Using Resistance Part IV

Here are two more AWESOME ways to use resistance to improve your swimming and your feel for the water.


Sculling is all about learning how to change the direction of your arm actions while maintaining pressure on the water. There is a lot of vertical and lateral movement. Learning to manage those transitions in direction is what effective sculling is all about. The challenge can sometimes be that it’s hard to feel when pressure is lost or reduced during a transition in direction. If you can’t initially feel what’s happening, that’s going to make learning difficult.

So, what the solution? Add resistance! The extra resistance will provide more feedback about the pressure you’re experiencing. More pressure feedback equals more progress. Because the resistance is making the pressure more obvious, it will be much easier to tell if you’ve lost pressure while you’re sculling. If that’s the case, there will be strong pressure followed immediately by a huge drop in pressure on the arm. You’ll definitely feel it.

This extra feedback can be really useful when there are certain sculling actions or positions that you struggle with. You can spend extra time in those positions working with added resistance. This will help to speed up the timeline for learning how to control pressure while changing the direction of your arm path.

Hand Manipulations

Earlier, we explored how changing the surface area of your hand is a great opportunity to improve your awareness and sensitivity, as well as improve your pulling actions. A key aspect of changing hand surface areas is to feel differences in pressure. The ability to create and feel pressure with resistance is magnified. Likewise, the difference in pressure as a result of a change in surface area is also greatly magnified. When you experience changes in surface area, the impact of these changes is much more obvious with resistance.

Whereas the difference in pressure while swimming with one paddle is subtle under normal conditions, there is no subtlety when swimming with resistance. It’s obvious. This is beneficial for two reasons. Because the difference is obvious, it’s much easier to become aware of what is happening. Further, because the differences are more significant, there is a much greater challenge in learning how to minimize the differences between the paddle and the hand.

Awareness is increased, as well as the challenge of creating change. That’s win-win.

These benefits apply whether you are using contrasting methods where each hand has a different surface area, or whether you are using variation methods, where the surface area of both hands is changing across repetitions of a set. By increasing the awareness of pressure, we can change the ability to sense and manipulate the pressure that already exists.

Resistance Works

Hopefully, the power of resistance work is evident to you. While most use this type of training for increasing strength in the water (it works!), we’re going to use resistance for an even more important purpose, enhancing what you feel with each and every stroke.

Learning to feel the water is difficult because the sensations are often subtle and they’re often ‘quiet’. To get attuned to what the water is telling us, we need an amplifier. Resistance work is that amplifier. While it works well on its own, it’s even more effective when combined with all of the other strategies described so far. If you’re struggling with any of the other the tools we’re using, simply adding a light amount of resistance can make all the difference in the world. Start light, go slow, and turn up the feedback!

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