Crawl - swimming as first swimming technic

“What are the reasons for my child being taught the front crawl swimming technic?”, “Why is it not learning to swim the classical way- known as breast-stroke swimming?”, or “What are the benefits of my child learning to float and glide, while primarily, it should be acquiring to swim?”. These could be some of the questions preoccupying parents, when watching their child during swimming class from the tribune or glass front.

Please take the time, to allow us to clarify these questions.

The Christian Alberts University’s offer of beginners swimming lessons does not aim at an isolated mediation of the breast-stroke technique, as is the case in many other swimming schools. As a matter of fact, its main focus lies on mediating a safe orientation in and under water in both prone and supine position. In the course of their swimming lessons, the children should build up an anxiety-free connection to the still rather unfamiliar element water, develop trust in their own abilities and thereby acquire security in their actions.

Due to its complexity, a great deal of time is needed for the schooling of a correct breast-stroke. Consequently, other fundamental elements of water familiarization, e.g. jumping, diving, breathing technics, floating and gliding are rarely taken into account before the conceptual conversion to crawl-swimming as the first taught swimming technique. Even despite the fact, that floating and gliding are known to be essential skills in the process of the correct acquirement of any swimming technic. Thanks to the conceptual conversion, the schooling of these fundamental elements is intensified, generating a solid basis for any further swimming training.

Accordingly, in the process of learning any swimming technique correctly, a broad water familiarisation is required first in order to create the optimal anxiety-free learning atmosphere. Not until a child feels truly safe in the element water and is capable of holding its body nearly effortlessly in a horizontal water position, is the acquirement of a correct swimming style reasonable and possible.

Furthermore, the preform of the front crawl that is being taught throughout our beginner courses is very close to the intuitive movement pattern which children without previous swimming experience reflexively execute when they fall into water. Thus, it is often more accessible for young beginners than the complex breast-technic. At a young age, at which the coordinative abilities are still in the early stages of development, children often develop an irreversible so called “leg scissors” while learning the breast-stroke. Another positive aspect of the conceptual conversion is that in the course of our swimming lessons, your child will also be taught the basics for the back-stroke. This swimming style has a big advantage over those in prone position, as it does not involve the learning child automatically throwing its head in the neck to prevent water from entering mouth, nose and eyes and is a lot less exhausting. Obviously, this described phenomena, which is unfortunately recurrent, is not very healthy and joint-gentle, often causing muscle tenseness and hindering the child in attaining an ideal water position.

How does this change in concept affect you as a parent? How can you best support your child in its process of acquiring to swim?

We would like to give you the chance to further integrate yourself into your child’s learning process.  So, to make our concept more tangible and accessible, we have uploaded a collection of practical exercises in the form of short film clips and texts.

With these sources, we hope not only to provide you with inspiration and clear instructions for moments of practice outside of swimming class, but moreover we wish to motivate you to actively take part in your child’s development.

In order to access this practice material, a password is needed. This will be e-mailed to you at the beginning of the semester and can furthermore be transmitted through your child’s swimming trainers.

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Floating

 

Water Lilly

Click here for the video!

What should this exercise look like?    

In the end position, the child lies floating on its back. Its view is directed towards the ceiling, arms and legs are stretched out on the water surface. For a better visualization of the correct position, evoking the image of someone “lying down in bed for a midday nap” may be helpful.

To attain this position, the torso is slowly lowered backwards onto the water surface (the “water bed“). During this action, the limbs are carefully spread out sideways, imitating a water lily. The belly and pelvis balance up towards the surface, the limbs are as elongated as possible.

What is to be considered?

Body extension and tension:

The flexion of any body part (e.g. the knee) hinders the body from rising. Comparable to an anchor, a genuflexion automatically causes the legs to sink and pulls the rest of the body downwards. Similarly, an incorrect posture of pelvis and posterior has a sinking effect on body, e.g. by taking in a slouching, almost sitting position rather than the described lying position. Keeping full body tension and extension upright, as well as keeping the body’s center of gravity balanced is essential for attaining the floating water lily. Assistance is best provided by holding a hand beneath the child’s body centre of gravity additionally giving it a more secure feeling.

Head posture:

The child’s head should lie flat on the water surface in a relaxed posture, the nose pointing towards the ceiling. As soon as the head posture diverges, e.g. through the head being lifted up or being aligned with the feet, the water position reactively changes too, causing the body to sink.

The posture of the head, being the extension of the spine, determines the degree and direction of spine flection. If tilted towards the breast, a large amount of body tension declines, the back rounds and consequently the pelvis sinks.

Placing down the torso:

As courage and overcoming is needed to slowly place the torso backwards onto the surface, anxieties often occur during the first attempts and must be dismantled. Many children fail in the beginning because they try to keep their torso in an upright position in order to prevent water from running in their facial cavities rather than extending their pelvis, allowing them to lie down flatly.

Sea Star

Click here for the video!

What should this exercise look like?

The child lies flat on the water surface in prone position, the face placed down into the water.  While lowering the torso onto the water, all limbs should deliberately be outstretched laterally, resulting in the image of a sea star floating on the water surface. The whole body, including legs and arms should be fully extended and kept tensed throughout this exercise.

What is to be considered?

Body extension and tension:

In order to keep the body floating on the surface, full body tension and an elongation of all body part up until the fingertips and tows is mandatory. It is recommendable to also practice this position on land, beginning with relaxation and stretching exercises for example under the shower before attempting the sea star in water.

Head posture:

In order to succeed, the head needs to be held flat on the surface. In the early stages of practice, many children have difficulties placing the face into the water. Bending the head back, will result in a compensation movement of the spine, visible through a hollow back and the loss of body tension preventing the correct water position from being obtained.

Placing down the torso:

During their first attempts, many children tend to fail mainly due to anxieties when it comes to placing the torso and face onto the water surface. In order to prevent water from flowing into their facial cavities, they are too tense and try to obtain an upright position rather than taking in the correct position of the sea star. Assistance is best provided by holding a hand beneath your child’s body centre of gravity, also giving the child an additional feeling of security.

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Gliding

 

Gliding in supine position: “Rocket-Ship”

Click  here for the video!

What should this exercise look like?

Starting position:

The child begins this exercise on the poolside, holding on to the rim. It then places its feet against the pool wall, the knees are flexed so that they touch the abdomen. The pelvis and posterior should be positioned approximately at the same height as the feet. During the countdown for the „rocket ship take-off“, the „engines“ need to be switched on. Meant by this, is the generation of pretension during which the child holds on to the rim even tighter and presses its feet against the pool wall with all its might, as if trying to push them in.

Movement execution:

The moment the signal “take off” is given, the grip should be loosened from the poolside and simultaneously the feet should push off the wall as energetically as possible. The legs are to be brought to a full extension whereas the arms are to be held closely to the sides of the body, in order to attain an ideally small brake surface and enable a maximally long gliding phase. The head should lie on the water surface with a view towards the ceiling. This position should be obtained as long as possible until finally the propulsion lapses and the feet begin to sink. For a better visualisation of this exercise, drawing the image of rocket, in this case represented through the fully extended and tensed child, shooting through the pool on top of the surface may be helpful.

What is to be considered?

Body’s center of gravity:

It is of great importance that the posterior does not sag lower than the feet at any time before take-off as this makes it unnecessarily difficult for the child to attain a full body extension and bring its abdomen and pelvis towards the surface for the ideal gliding position.

Body position:

After the push-off, the child should take in a fully extended and tensed position. Head, abdomen, pelvis and limbs should all be aligned to a horizontal line moving along the water surface.

Arm posture:

Directly after “take off”, the arms should be pressed as closely to the sides of the body as possible. This not only constitutes the ideal water position, reducing water resistance to a minimum and enabling an unhindered acceleration, but also generates the required body tension. An outstretched limb will immediately be followed by a deceleration and have a sinking effect on the body.

Head posture:

The head should be held flat on the surface, the face turned towards the ceiling. If the head is lifted or the chin is put on the chest, the legs and pelvis will automatically sag. As in all other exercises, the head posture is of great importance and should be given particular attention. Being the extension of the spine, it has a significant impact on the direction in which the rest of the body tilts and moves in the water.

Gliding in prone position

Click here for the video!

Starting position:

The child holds onto the poolside with one hand, the correlative arm is elongated. The other arm is stretched out in front of the body, lying on the water surface and pointing into the desired “take-off” direction. The head is aligned just the same, held slightly above the water surface with the view directed to the opposite pool side. The feet should be closed, toe tips pointing downwards, and be stemmed against the wall. The knees are bent to a large extent, the behind is placed close to the wall, slightly above the heels. Thus, the upper body is already in prone position which prevents the child from twisting the torso after push-off and makes the optimal gliding position easier to attain. During the countdown, the “engines” need to be started. This means in effect, that a certain pretension should be generated during which the child holds onto the pool edge even stronger and metaphorically tries to “push in the pool wall” with its feet.

Movement execution:

Shortly before the signal “take off” is given, the child should breath in deeply once more. The grip is then to be released from the rim, simultaneously, the feet push off as powerfully as possible. The back arm should quickly shoot forwards aligning with the front arm on top of the water surface. The hands should overlap, building a tapered triangular form together with the arms. At the same time, the head and face should be put down into the water and clamped between the arm. Only this way a long gliding phase is enabled, as the body takes in an optimal water position with a minimal break surface. The legs should be stretched to a maximum and held tightly together. Any spread-out body parts, that do not align with the rest of the “rocket” will result in a deceleration and a rapid sinking of the body. This elongated position should persist until the feet automatically sink due to the naturally emerging loss of speed and propulsion. Comparable to a rocket-ship, the child “shoots” through the pool gliding on the water surface.

What is to be considered?

Arm extension:

The arm which is in front at the beginning of the exercise should be stretched out to a full extent and already be pointing in the desired direction of movement. If held too lax, the child is likely to lose overall tension during take-off.

Pretension:

In contrast to the take-off in supine position, attaining a slight pretension during the count-down is of great importance to enforce a preferably powerful repulsion from the pool wall. This especially strong repulsion force is required in order to overcome the existing water resistance and overall to compensate the emerging resistance from joining together the back arm with the front during the push-off.  In other words: The longest gliding phase possible is predominantly attained through a strong push-off impulse and an adequate pretension.

Body position:

The push-off with the feet should immediately be followed by an extension and tensing of the whole body. Thus, the abdomen and pelvis are automatically brought towards the water surface enabling the body to glide with minimal water resistance.

Arm motion:

Moving the back arm forward during take-off to join the stretched-out arm in front, momentarily creates a greater water resistance. Thus, special attention should be given to the arm motion- ideally happening above rather than underneath the surface to avoid unnecessary water resistance.

Arm posture:

The fully extended arms ideally meet at the hands, forming a point and enclosing the head. This not only generates the desired body tension but furthermore leads to an efficient water position, reducing the emerging water resistance to a minimum.

Head posture:

The head should lie flat on the water surface, with the view towards the bottom of the pool. A lifting of the head or a tilting backwards, automatically causes the pelvis and legs to sink. For this reason, the head posture is of great importance and demands special consideration in all exercises. Being the extension of the spine, the head’s role in attaining an ideal water position is significant. Its posture determines the direction and angle in which the rest of the body tilts and moves in the water.

Leg and foot position:

The legs and feet should likewise be elongated and held together as closely as possible to keep the water resistance low and retain the full body tension and extension built up during the countdown.

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Propulsion

 

Crawl-kick in supine position

Click here for the video!

What should this exercise look like?

Starting position:

The child begins this exercise on the poolside, holding on to the edge with an extended arm. It then places its feet against the wall, knees flexed so that they are touching the abdomen. The pelvis/posterior should be positioned approximately at the same height as the feet. During the countdown for “take-off”, the “engines” need to be switched on. Meant by this is the generation of pretension during which the child holds onto the pool edge even tighter and powerfully presses its feet into the pool wall, as if trying to push them in.

Movement execution:

The moment in which the signal “take-off” is given, the hand should be released from the poolside and simultaneously the feet should push off the wall as energetically as possible. The legs should be brought to a full extension whereas the arms are to be held closely to the sides of the body, to attain an ideally small brake surface and thereby to enable a maximally long gliding phase. The head should lie on the water surface with a view towards the ceiling. The child should obtain this position as long as possible until the propulsion naturally lapses. At this point the child should begin with the crawl-kick ideally without losing its body tension and remaining fully extended. For a better visualization of this exercise, draw the image of rocket, in this case represented through the fully elongated and tensed child, shooting through the pool on top of the surface.

Alternating leg impact:

The legs execute an alternate up and down (a “pushing and pulling”) movement pattern. This originates from the hip, not the knees! The joints in knees and feet should be elongated, but loose. The isolated observation of the motion carried out by a single leg symbolically reminds of a horse whip.

What is to be considered?

Leg motion:

The movement is executed by the hip, there is merely a small knee angle present in the spell of pressure. Advise the swimmer to execute the movement at a high frequency and with a rather small amplitude right from the start. Because: The larger the amplitude is, the higher is also the emerging water resistance. An efficient swimming technic is characterized by a minimal water resistance through an optimal water position at all times, enabling a long gliding phase. Furthermore, a large amplitude often causes the pelvis to sink and the hard-earned water position to recede.

The ankle should be loose. Also, the transition between the spell of pressure and the pulling phase should be fluent and rhythmic without any breaks or delays.

 

Crawl-kick in prone position

Click here for the video!

What should this exercise look like?

Starting position:

The child holds onto the poolside with one hand. The other arm is stretched out in front of the body, lying on the water surface and pointing into the desired “take-off” direction. The head is aligned just the same, held slightly above the water surface with the view directed to the opposite pool side. The feet should be closed, toe tips pointing downwards, and be stemmed against the wall. The knees are bent to a large extent, the behind is placed close to the wall, slightly above the heels. Thus, the upper body is already in prone position which prevents the child from twisting of the torso after push-off and makes the optimal gliding position easier to attain. During the countdown for take-off, the “engines” need to be started. This means in effect, that a certain pretension should be generated during which the child holds onto the pool edge even stronger and metaphorically tries to “push in the pool wall” with its feet.

Movement execution:

Shortly before the signal “take off” is given, the child should breath in deeply once more. The grip is then to be released from the rim. Simultaneously, the feet push off as powerfully as possible. The back arm should quickly shoot forwards aligning with the front arm on top of the water surface. The hands should overlap, building a tapered triangular form together with the arms. At the same time, the head and face should be put down into the water and clamped between the arm. Only this way a long gliding phase is enabled, as the body takes in an optimal water position with a minimal break surface. The legs should be stretched to a maximum and held tightly together. Any spread-out body parts, that do not align with the rest of the “rocket” will result in a deceleration and a rapid sinking of the body. This elongated position should be held for a short while, until a natural lapse of propulsion occurs. That is when the child begins executing the crawl-kick, ideally without the loss of body tension and the optimal water position, causing the child to actively move further forward.

Alternating leg impact:

The legs execute an alternate up and down (a “pushing and pulling”) movement pattern. This originates from the hip, not the knees! The joints in knees and feet should be elongated, but loose. The isolated observation of the motion carried out by a single leg symbolically reminds of a horse whip.

What is to be considered?

Leg motion:

The movement is executed by the hip. The legs are elongated, there is merely a small flexion of the knee present during the spell of pressure. Right from the beginning of practice, we suggest advising the swimmer to execute the leg motion at a high frequency and with a rather small amplitude. Because: The larger the amplitude is, the higher is also the emerging water resistance. An efficient swimming technic is characterized by a minimal water resistance due to an optimal water position, enabling a long gliding phase. Furthermore, a large amplitude often causes the pelvis to sink and the hard-earned water position to recede. The transition between spell of pressure and pulling phase, should be fluent and rhythmic without any breaks or delays.