If you want to accelerate learning, you need variation.
In this article, I'll explore how to bring this idea to life through practical strategies.
Ideally, you’d like to rely on a small handful of skill development exercises to facilitate the changes you desire. Less is usually better. Using fewer exercises is really powerful at keeping you focused on what is most important. It also forces you to use the exercises that are most effective for you.
At the same time, this is not without its downsides.
Simply repeating the same exercises can become boring, especially if you’re something that likely variety in their swimming. Beyond the issue of boredom, there’s also the issue of effectiveness. A key part of the change process is getting your attention by using novelty. If you’re repeating the same exercises over and over again, what’s novel at first becomes very much not novel before long.
To maintain the benefits of focusing on a small number of exercises, while also ensuring that you’re maintaining novelty in your practice, you’re going to need some tools. Here's one that's particularly effective.
Change the Hands.
If you want to make any exercise feel dramatically different, simply change the position of your hands. Not only does this change the sensory input the hands receive (very good!), it grabs your attention. In addition, changing your hands can make it MORE difficult to perform specific exercises, and this is exactly what you want when you’re looking to challenge your skills. There are two main ways to change your hands- you can make them bigger or you can make them smaller. Both have their advantages, and we’ll cover them here.
It’s much more effective to be forced to make a change as opposed to ‘think’ your way or be instructed to a change. Making your hands smaller is effective because the hand is gone, and you’re FORCED to use the forearm to create propulsion. It’s not necessarily that the forearm is better than the hand, it’s that the forearm can be used in addition to the hand. The problem is that this type of action FEELS much different than you’d expect, and attempts to verbally describe the action don’t do it justice.
There’s more to it than just learning how to use the forearm more effectively. By reducing the action of the hand, the sensory information is greatly decreased. The hand goes ‘silent’. The magic happens when you open your hand back up and you’re FLOODED with new information. I guarantee you feel your hands in a way that you’ve never felt before. The learning happens while the hands are closed AND when they’re opened again.
Having just described the virtues of making the hands smaller, we’re going to look at the value of increasing the size of the hands. Expanding hand size allows you to experience a spectrum of sensations from small surface areas to large surface areas. If you just stick to your hands, you’re going to be limited in what you feel. Paddles can help to expand what you feel, thereby allowing you more opportunity to learn and enhance your sensory awareness.
There are a lot of different ways to change the size of your hands. Use any of the positions shown below, or simply create your own. You may find that some are more effective for you than others. Regardless, change it up and incorporate different ways of performing the same drill. You can change your hands on a repetition to repetition basis, or you can even swim with different hand positions on each arm at the same time. Doing so will enhance your learning while maintaining your attention.
In the next article, I'll show you how to use gear to continue to provide variation to your skills.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.