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  • Writer's pictureThe Swim Hacker

Swimmers - Strong vs Flexability


With the popularity of knees over toes guy (Ben Patrick) in the fitness community I thought it would be useful to discuss the benefits of ankle flexibility and how it will improve your swimming.

Range of movement is essential to maintain a toe point in your swimming strokes, this reduces form drag, and allows you to keep an efficient streamline at the back end of the “vessel”(you !)

Basic ankle strength & flexibility programme

Ankle circles

Do this exercise while sitting or lying down. Move your ankle slowly in large circles. Repeat in opposite direction.

Toe scrunching

Sit on a chair and place a towel on the floor. Put your foot on the towel and ‘bunch’ the towel up using your toes. Pull the towel towards you using your toes.

Wall lunge

Using a raised box or with your foot on the floor,the further your toes are away from the wall the greater the stretch you will feel. Move your knee towards the wall to dorsiflex the foot.

Elevated heel squat

This is where you start to work the knees over toes position in preparation for the main exercise, the ATG split squat/lunge.

Is the knees over toes position safe for your knees?

The knees over toes position is a perfectly normal movement of your knees.

Think about it – The knees will translate forward when you stand up from a seated position, when you are walking downstairs and even when you are jumping.

The issue with a majority of people is that their knees do not have the strength to tolerate this said position.

(Keep in mind – this position does place more stress on the structures of the knee. But is this necessarily a bad thing? In my opinion – it’s not!) If you gradually, progressively, and safely load your knee with these exercises, the knee structures (muscles, tendon, joints, ligaments, cartilage, and bone) will adapt and become stronger.

If you are experiencing difficulty with these exercises, you will need to make the exercises easier to perform to match your current level of ability.

ATG split squat/lunge

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet together, arms by your sides. Take a large step forward into a split stance and stop. This is your start/finish position.

  2. Bend your front leg, push your knee forward over your toes, and sink forward into a deep lunge. Try to get your hamstring to touch the back of your calf. Your rear leg should be almost straight.

  3. Extend your front leg and return to the starting position.

  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then change legs.

Zazen position

Ideal when watching TV or studying, stretch out and relax the ankles.

Try these out, see if you can improve your toe point and swim faster!

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