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Body roll - Part 2

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

As demonstrated in the previous blog, Sippy Woodhead's two beat kick and flat body position dismantled the myth of excessive body roll in freestyle (Body roll - Part 1). Next up we will look to one of our Trisutto favorites, (we love replicating some of her swim sets!) the great Tracey Wickham!

Tracey Wickham Australia 3 world records 2 x World Champion 1978 400m 800m

Her world records stood for 9 and 10 years and it took Janet Evans to break them.

Tracey is one of the greatest distance swimmers that Australia has produced. She is another very small lass that in every pound had a nasty fight in her. Her public claim to fame was in 1978 when she broke the stranglehold that East Germany had on women's swimming.

The 'angry ant' was known to trash talk before it was made famous. Also both before her gigantic feat of vanquishing the much larger East German swimmers of the 1970s! It still lives in my mind as the greatest swim performance I've witnessed. Starting from a wide lane, Tracey broke the 400m world record with a 4 minute 6 second swim. Even more impressive was how she did it:

  • The first 200m in 2 mins 4 secs

  • The next 200m in 2 mins 2 secs, including the final 100m in 60 secs

  • She swam right over the top of them.

Tracey is a personal favourite of mine, as she encompasses many of the qualities that are taught as fundamentals, very high elbows, breathing on both sides but was not bilateral. She breathed 3 on one side, 2 on the other side. Not locked in to a strict pattern but could do 4/2, or 3/3, or 2/4. Never 1/1. She had a two beat balancing kick, and was extremely high on the water with a high head position. What is interesting with Tracey is her hips worked in a perpendicular fly motion, not a whole lot of side on body roll. Thus with some of our Trisutto athletes who have a very good feel of where their hips are (often dancers or ex-gymnasts), with practice, can access this type of hip movement.

Perth, 1979 - Tracey breaks her own World Record over 1500m 16:06

We developed this as I watched Tracey do her training, freestyle with fly kick. This is only for a select few but if they have a natural 'bouncy butt' rather than change that we use it, with practice and patience to become an advantage to them. Now Tracey did huge amounts of cheat band work (band only, no pull buoy) but not dragging the legs low in the water but with a 'cheat' fly hip movement. This also ties in with a talk I had with a bio-mechanist (that had nothing to do with swimming!) He said to me that athletes would swim long distances faster if they used fish movements like a dolphin, more like a single arm butterfly. Now I don't want to lose you in that debate but Tracey was the closest swimmer except for Steve Holland that I ever saw with this motion. When I approached her coach on how he taught it (scientists turn away now please!) he said:

'she does so much work with a band only, and to keep up with the freestyle lane she cheats fly kick. If you ever got in and tried to swim with no kick, you will know why I let her do that. The funny thing is she can beat everybody who is normal freestyle swimming, while she has the band only on'. Warning! This is not going to make nearly all of you swim faster. Those that don't drown will end up slower, but it has paved the way for our pull boy band technique.

Training with Swim band (no pull buoy) - very important! One of the misunderstanding of our Trisutto swim training is that we use 'band only' for our age group athletes. We don't. Why? It is too difficult for even good swimmers. One must be highly skilled to gain benefit from this training tool. We use the band with a big pull boy for age groupers to offset the lack of that high level skill. Steve Holland, who we will discuss in a later blog also used monumentous band only work, also did it with a 'cheat' fly kick motion.

Conclusion Both of these great women distance swimmers, Sippy and Tracey, created their world records with minimal body roll. My observation amongst triathletes across the board is the emphasis on body roll is completely overstated. The natural roll when turning to breathe is enough - and avoiding too much rotation reduces the 'wiggling sea snake' of many age group swimmers. Just the way I see it!

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