Swim Like a Chicken!

Well, not exactly but emulating a chicken’s neck (or a giraffe’s, or a turtle’s, or even *Tim Duncan’s) will help you swim farther and faster with less effort.

Here’s how:
Effective swimming requires an effective glide. The way to an effective glide is by creating a hydro-dynamic tube around your entire body that you can slip through with minimal effort. Of course getting to that effortless place requires a lot of effort … but you can do it. Really!

Look at a chicken (or a giraffe, or a turtle, or even Tim Duncan) and you’ll see that they all have really long necks. Moreover, they all have really flexible necks that can lengthen and shorten at will. They extend and contract through their cervical vertebrae which enable them to rotate in a greater radius with less effort and distortion to the rest of their bodies.

Look at your typical adult and you’ll see that their necks aren’t very flexible at all. This poses a special problem for swimming: in order to breathe effectively while swimming you need to be able to rotate your head independently from the rest of your body, and the only way to do that is by unlocking your neck, which means extending through the back of the your neck.
Here are some exercises to help you unlock your neck and extend it to an effective gliding posture. Try them before you start your next swim.

  • Stand tall and practice slowly rotating your head side to side
    • o First lead with your eyes
    • o Next lead with your nose
    • o Finally lead with your chin
  • Stand tall in front of a mirror (preferably full length)
    • Align your eyes to be horizontally level and your nose to be vertical like a T-Square.
    • Hold that position, engage your core, and rotate your body as far as possible without losing your head position.
  • Practice lengthening the back of your neck so that your chin naturally lowers a bit verses tucking your chin.
    • Do the same things in the water while practicing your initial push and glide off the wall and notice if you go in a straight line just below the surface of the water.
      • If you’re going deep toward the bottom, you are probably tucking your chin.
      • If you’re breaking the surface of the water too soon (i.e., before you intend to) then you are probably raising the back of your head.
      • If you’re not gliding very far at all you may be ‘riding the brake’ by looking forward.
      • If you’re holding a level line just below the surface of the water, your neck is probably in pretty good position.

So pick your goofy role model and have fun as you practice gliding!

* Before Tim Duncan became a Hall of Fame NBA Basketball player with a fist full of championship rings he was on track to becoming an Olympic swimmer.

If you have any questions about this post or training with Nathan, please feel free to send him an email.

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