Monthly Archives: August 2015

Total Immersion: Ankle Mobility

Ankle mobility is important for swimming well and with the least drag. Swimming with your feet not pointed behind you means you have two feet that are creating drag as you swim.
Sometimes it’s a motor control problem. You tell the swimmer to keep the toes pointed behind them and they imprint it, and just keep doing it. They don’t have any inherent mobility problem but rather they just weren’t keeping their attention on it, and now they are and they can do it.
For others, pointing the toes behind them as swim can be hard if not impossible. This is because they have restrictions in their muscles and soft tissues around the ankle that hold them in their normal bent position and getting out of that position can take a lot of effort if the soft tissues aren’t addressed. If you ask these swimmers to point their toes, they will either 1) point for a few strokes but when they get tired they revert back to not pointing, or 2) they will cramp their calves which will be overworked to keep their toes pointed.
Watch this video for some ideas on increasing your ankle mobility:

Total Immersion: The Dead Bug

The Dead Bug is a funny name for a pretty important exercise. It is called Dead Bug because you lie on the floor with your arms and legs up in the air, just like how dead bugs look when they are dead and lying on their backs.
I first learned the Dead Bug from Original Strength. Then I cruised through physical therapy sites and Youtube and found a myriad of variations of the Dead Bug. In this video, I distilled some info about how to do the Dead Bug, and how to build yourself up to the hardest version of the Dead Bug. Certainly there are other variants available to try; I picked some of the more useful ones and put them here.
Key to executing the Dead Bug correctly is the ability to stabilize the torso. While many of us know how to do this with what we like to call a “high level strategy”, meaning squeezing the heck out of every muscle around our torso, yes it accomplishes the task but unfortunately it uses so much energy and restricts your ability to breathe. Thus, we need to train our ability to stabilize with a “low level strategy”, one that creates enough stability for general movement tasks and does not require so much energy and effort. A “high level” stabilization strategy is still important and required in some cases, like attempting a maximal lift of an object. But you shouldn’t be using the same level of energy and effort for things like bending down and picking up a pencil…or swimming.
The other value of the Dead Bug is that it trains our nervous system and re-encourages our coordination in using the cross pattern of moving our limbs. The cross pattern is when our left arm moves with the right leg, and right arm moves with the left leg. This pattern is so important to the normal functioning of a human being; we use it every day for moving but our 21st century lives have cause severe atrophy in this essential skill. Re-educating and reinforcing that with the Dead Bug will increase your ability to learn new movement skills and improve your swimming greatly.
Note that Dead Bugs are especially great for those have over extended backs. There are many reasons why people exhibit over extended backs. One of the possible reasons is lack of proper activation in the anterior muscles and structures of the torso. Without proper activation, they cannot lock their rib cage down to their pelvis. The entire region below the rib cage essentially opens up, and the lumbar spine behind becomes extended. Dead Bugs activate and stimulate the anterior structures, and trains the torso to stabilize in neutral spine position.
Take a look at this video on The Dead Bug: