Do you want to be like the guy who already has 14 gold medals at the Athens and Beijing Olympics, and probably more to come at the 2012 London Games? The guy who’s been nicknamed The Human Dolphin, Sharkboy, Baltimore Torpedo, Aquaman, Hottie McHotster, etc.?
The greatest swimmer in the world today, and perhaps the greatest Olympian ever? Do you want to be – scream altogether now, girls of America – Michael Phelps? Do you want to swim the Phelps way? Well, you can always try. There’s no harm in trying. So what are the swimming techniques of the American superhero? Here are some helpful tips you may want to add to your swimming workout.
Extend your stroke
Phelps’ long-time coach Bob Bowman says: If you watch Michael Phelps swim, you’ll see that his power comes not from fast strokes, but from long ones. The average freestyle swimmer takes 12 to 16 strokes to cover 25 yards. Michael requires just six to eight. Follow his lead by trying to trim one stroke per pool length the next time you jump into the water. C
onsciously extend your arms. It will feel awkward at first, like you’re exaggerating each stroke, but once you start hitting those longer strokes at your previous short-stroke speed, you’ll be faster, stronger, and fitter.
Control head position
Phelps’ excellent streamlining and balance are primarily due to his controlled head position. Phelps keeps his head well down and doesn’t lift it at any stage. Not even when turning his head to take in air or on approaching the finish or turn. Another important point is that he looks not at the wall, but straight down.
There are many factors that affect head position: the shape of your head (whether your face is broad with eyes separated by a wide gap, whether your face is narrow and long) and your physique (whether you’re lean and tall or chunky and thick-set with bulky shoulders, whether you have a thick, short neck, or a long neck with streamlined shoulders, and whether you have long streamlined torso like Phelps.
Armor-plate your core
Bob also suggests that you have to armor-plate your core. Here is his tip: In order to slice through water with deftness and speed, you have to be strong in multiple planes of motion. I have Michael do medicine-ball exercises to achieve that end. My favorite is called the diagonal woodchopper. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball over your right shoulder.
Chop down and across your body until the ball touches the ground outside your left foot. Return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each side. Next, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Holding the ball directly above your head, suck in your navel and lower the ball behind you as far as you can without lifting your back or bending your arms. Do three sets of 15 reps.
Shave your entire body
Another secret for Phelps’ success in the pool is shaving his entire body. Yes, our hero shaves, too. He usually shaves every bit of hair on his body every 6 months. Phelps says that shaving enables him to swim faster: I shave the day before the meet…so when you get in the water the next day, you feel unbelievable. If you shave a few days before, then get in the water, you won’t feel as good as you do if you shave the day before.