ISCA Coach Education Program

We are thrilled that after about a year of production and development, the ISCA Education Program has officially launched!

The program is available online internationally and features evidence-based curriculum developed by sport scientists specifically for swim coaches. Our modern education portal is easy to navigate and secure, with transcript tracking and interactive course content.

ISCA Certification is available for coaches that are ISCA members and also complete the six core science-based courses (Biomechanics 101 & 102, Physiology 101 & 102, and Sport Psychology 101 & 102). The science behind swimming is something that all coaches need to understand to be effective and successful–and we look forward to providing this crucial piece of education to coaches around the world.

Get started today on the ISCA Education Portal:

Learn more about ISCA Education:

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Motor Learning the Dolphin Kick

Dolphin kick consists of a complex set of movements that, when done effectively, look magical; and, indeed, some swimmers are blessed with that magic naturally. Many other swimmers struggle to master the complex task of performing an effective dolphin kick. For those swimmers, breaking the dolphin kick down into its component movements and hammering some blocked practice with the components over time can yield and effective part-to-whole transfer into a complete and effective dolphin kick.

The most difficult and fundamental component movement of the dolphin kick is the pelvic rotation from an anterior pelvic tilt to a posterior pelvic tiltC. Le Clos Knee Flexion Dolphin Kick and back. Two wall exercises, called “Banana Peels,” isolate the anterior and posterior pelvic tilt using the same muscle groups that are engaged during the dolphin kick. This isolated rehearsal trains the proper muscle groups to fire in the proper order to effect a powerful, efficient dolphin kick.

The first exercise, the outward-facing “Banana Peel,” trains the transition from neutral pelvis to posterior pelvic tilt and vice versa. Many people practice the posterior pelvic tilt on their backs in Pilates or in Yoga, using a bridge driven from the legs to tilt the bottom of the pelvis off the ground. While this introduces the positioning of the pelvis that drives into the down-kick, it does not engage the muscle groups that actually inflence extreme posterior pelvic tilt necessary for a maximally effective dolphin kick and so is not effective motor learning for the dolphin kick. The outward-facing Banana Peel translates more directly into the dolphin kick, as the Banana Peel engages the proper muscle groups in the proper order used to perform the dolphin kick. See a demonstration of the outward-facing Banana Peel:

The second exercise, the wall-facing “Banana Peel,” trains transition from an anterior pelvic tilt to a neutral pelvis and vice versa. See demonstration:

Following and in conjunction with the Banana Peels, it is necessary to add hydrodynamics into the motor learning. For the first step, it is ideal to isolate the same muscle groups used on the wall by kicking with a board at the surface. This will allow the swimmer to hold the line that was being held on the wall but now with a kickboard instead. Contrary to common practice, the kickboard should not be “pumped” with the arms. It should be held level and still as described here:

The kickboard drill adds the components of timing and flow to the basic muscle-firing that was done on the wall; however, the kickboard drill is not fully effective at training the motor learning of a quick, powerful transition from the down kick into the up kick. Learning this component requires an additional mechanism: the threat of sinking. This can be accomplished by furthering the motor learning mastery that was done first on the wall, then with a board, now into a drill without the board, but with the same body position: head-up dolphin kick, arms extended, as shown here:

Further augmentation of the kick can be achieved through a fifth drill, again, done in sequence after beginning to master the first four drills Katie-Ledecky-Underwater-Smallmentioned above: underwater dolphin kick on the back, deep under water. This teches follow-through in front of the body. The lower-density water toward the surface and the orientation of the entire body up toward the surface invites greater follow-through than felt in the previous drills. Again, the movements trained in the prior drills are carried forward into this one, with an additional component of greater follow-through in front of the body:

Finally, the follow-through and amplitude achieved through the deep-underwater dolphin kick on the back needs to be matched symmetrically behind at the top of the up-kick. For this component, swimmers can kick on their sides in the middle of the lane with one arm extended out front. The stillness front arm and straightness of the path cut it cuts down the middle of the lane enforce a symmetrical kick. The arm can be made to perceive this with greater sensitivity by slapping the forearm prior to performing this drill:

These six drills, performed over time with stepwise mastery and prolonged blocked practice can effect motor learning of the dolphin kick in a part-to-whole transfer.

Bridger Bell is in his first year assistant coaching with Johns Hopkins and is also the head coach at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, MD. Prior to that, he coached at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, where his boys and girls teams each won Georgia High School State Championships.

Bell served for six years as the National Director of Collegiate Club Swimming for the American Swimming Association, presiding over its growth from four to sixty-eight teams across the country and holding over 40 regular-season meets, seven regional championships and a national championship each season. Bell has been a competitive swimmer himself all his life and was a USMS National Champion and USMS All-American in the 2-mile cable swim. He was featured as a coach in the July and August 2014 issues of Swimming World Magazine. In addition to high school and now NCAA teams, Bell has coached summer league, collegiate club, USA Swimming, Masters.

The post Motor Learning the Dolphin Kick appeared first on Swimming Science.

Visual Feedback in Swimming

Fig. 1: Leader System out of the water.

The optimization of the process of improving swimming techniques from the point of view of mechanics and energetics is still the subject my scientific interest. In fact, fundamental to the development of this process are new lines of research. Many of the studies undertake issues related to the processing of information; recognizing this as an important aspect in learning and improving swimming technique. My thinking is quite similar. One of the key roles played by the teacher or trainer in the learning process for improving technique is how to use feedback for improving motor function. Examples of external information are verbal communication, gestures, video, timer displays.

However, not always does the obtained information impact on the proper execution of a motor task. This happens in particular when the motor action is performed under difficult conditions, for example in a water environment in which the student’s perception is impaired or during fatigue. Due to the existence of factors disrupting communications while providing instruction on how to improve swimming skills (noise, head submerged in the water, swimming caps, etc.) there are devices created in order to improve the quality of feedback transmission.

One such device is the optical fibre ‘Leader’ (Kuca Ltd., PL; Fig 1) giving the swimmer added concurrent visual feedback. The light beam provides the swimmer with the information on swimming speed. The ability to control the speed of swimming is an important part of preparation during swimming training. Swimming with a defined – constant speed impacts on economical labor, and allows for maintaining a low physiological cost. Therefore, the development of a method that allows for acquisition and improvement of that skill is an important methodical goal in the process of swimming training optimization.

‘Leader’ device consists of two parts, a controller and a run-time system. The controller is composed of a digital circuit with a voltage of 4 to 7V. The result of his work is a rectangular generating signal and start / stop signal. It is 6V battery-powered, so there is no danger to swimmers. Used in the working version R1 consists of a starter module, on which it is set in real time the swimming speed or pulse and from which this speed can be read. The speed of spot or pulse can be changed at any time. The cable connects the controller with the run-time system. The system takes the form of an arterial tube, in which there are LEDs. LEDs light up one after the other (Fig 2 and video below). The run-time system consists of five segments, which enables the adjustment off the speed according to need. Installing the unit relies on unwinding from the reel the arterial tube and laying it on the bottom of the pool, along with securing the whole system with weights. ‘Leader’ was built by Polish constructor Mr. Witold Szajnert. I used it in one of my researches and it work really well.

Fig. 2: Leader lightening up on the bottom of the pool.

Actually, in swimming training the provision of information on swimming speed may have an important role. This is especially important when the desire is to obtain a pure training stimulus. Physical training is a dynamic process that requires an individual approach to the body of the trained person. Achievement of better training results often requires the search for new methods and means of training. The use of visual feedback is one way to optimize the training. Swimming at the rate imposed by the moving beam allows for the swimmer to maintain the determined training specific swimming speed. This allows a swimmer to accomplish the aim of training which has emerged from physiological studies. Setting the individual rate of swimming, which is to be carried out during the training is the key to optimization and increases the chance of fast adaptation. For example, if the goal of training is swimming with a rate corresponding to the aerobic threshold, the use of visual feedback can allow the swimmer to perform the task at the desired intensity. The lack of visual feedback may lead to swimming at a different rate than the assumed training rate. Of course, you can use a ‘Leader’ for other swimming purposes if you want, this is just my application and opinion.

I always look out other solutions for the development of swimming. My full manuscript in case of concurrent visual feedback which was prepared with Professor Krystyna Zaton is in the publishing process in one of the journal scientific. Now, I can tell that the control and adjust swimming speed in real time allows for performing an action with the desired intensity, which was determined for the training. During the experiment the usefulness of the ‘Leader’ device, which controls in real-time the swimming speed, was confirmed. The use of visual feedback transmitted concurrently improves the control of swimming speed.

Written by Stefan Szczepan, a scientist at University School of Physical Education in Wroclaw, Poland. Stefan works at the Department of Swimming. He has his doctorate and research interests are motor control and learning included motor skill acquisition processes in water environment, especially teaching communication, forms of instruction, augmented feedback, and practice schedules.

The post Visual Feedback in Swimming appeared first on Swimming Science.