Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Karate Made Me Swim Faster

Due to our crazy family schedule, plus all the karate and kickboxing I'm doing lately, I've only gotten into the pool once a week (and not even that in the last few weeks). So how is it that I'm getting faster? How is it that I just made a move up to our fastest Master's lane? How could I be coming in on 2:30 for the 200's and not even feeling like I was pushed to the limit?

It's very simple: skills transfer. The skill of swimming fast largely depends on being able to fire your core muscles in a carefully choreographed series in order to propel your arm outwards from your body and into the glide. Then you need to use the core muscles in your back to haul your arm back toward you, carrying all of that water with it. These are the same muscles and almost the same sequence it takes to throw a really good punch.

You throw a punch from your hips, not from your biceps. Likewise, you swim from your hips, not on the strength of your arm muscles. People who say "I did a hard swim workout today, my arms are really sore" are missing the larger part of the swimming stroke. All of that punching I've been doing has made my stroke stronger, because I'm learning how to fire my core muscles harder, faster, and longer. Likewise, all of the conditioning I've been doing to make my karate better has helped not only my punching and kicking but my swimming.

So you want to swim faster? Go punch a bag! Learn how to throw and retract a hard punch, and see how much that tranfers to your stroke. Not only that, I guarantee that it's terrific stress relief!


cherelli said...

2.30 for 200m?? my jaw just dropped, you are one heck of a fish. I like your tips though, I recall speaking at length to a kayak coach a few years ago and felt the same "core mechanics" that swimming required when I followed his instructions, I can see punching would do the same, thanks for the tip!

Jessica said...

I noticed a huge jump in my swim kick when I started doing a lot of kettlebell work. I think part of the reason we both saw improvements in swimming through another sport is due to posterior chain development. Regular SBR training is very quad dominant, so anything we do (like kettlebell or kick boxing) that focuses more on multiple planes of motion and hamstring strength will show up in the pool as a stronger kick.
Also, the multiple planes of motion shows up as a stronger core that can transfer power better, as you pointed out.

Robin said...

That's a great point Jessica on the multiple planes of motion. I think just recognizing the power of hip flexors and how to engage them really helps as well.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

agreed! way to go on the 200 & moving up to the fast lane!
Good points on the transfer of skills and power. Interesting!