By Mat Steinmetz for ROKA Sports | Photo by Nils Nilsen
With the growing popularity of triathlon, more and more athletes are learning to swim later in life. While at first, the swim might feel like a necessary evil, developing confidence in the water goes a long way in the enjoyment of the sport.
If I had to pick one thing that limits a swimmer’s rate of improvement, it would be poor body position in the water. Poor body position accounts for most of the bad habits and deficiencies you see in the pool. It’s the main reason you see a swimmer putting their arms and legs in places they shouldn’t, attempting to balance themselves in the water. Balance in the water is crucial to developing proper stroke mechanics and creating forward propulsion in the water.
But how do you balance in the water so you don’t develop these bad habits?
Either start swimming when you’re a youngster, swim 20-50 K per week, or use a pull buoy. The pull buoy is a swim training staple. Its purpose is to improve a swimmers body position so they can isolate or concentrate on their arms without the frustrations of dragging their sinking legs behind them. However, a lot of swimmers use a pull buoy because it just makes swimming easier. I’m not here to judge as different approaches work for different goals and ability levels, but the pull buoy has some unintended consequences when used as a crutch.
A pull buoy improves a swimmer’s body position, which is very important for a developing athlete, but limits your natural stroke mechanics. Besides the fact that squeezing a piece of foam between your legs and attempting to keep it there, is an awkward battle in itself…the buoyancy is unbalanced and locks up your body’s lower half, preventing you from kicking efficiently. This is important, not because we are focused on using our kick for significant propulsion, but because we must use it for balance, stability and rhythm – all keys to effective power transfer. For this reason, you cannot develop an effective stroke with a pull buoy alone.
The ROKA SIM short solves this problem. The SIM short is basically a neoprene jammer that improves your body position in the water, just as a pull buoy would, but allows you to swim naturally with no restrictions to your normal swimming mechanics. Your entire body is free to move and rotate as it would without gear while your hips and body are riding higher in the water. The front end isolation of using a pull buoy might be okay for some, but if you’re a swimmer struggling to convert the feeling of what a pull buoy offers to your actual stroke…the SIM short is much better option.
The ROKA SIM short is also the best option for triathletes and open water swimmers who are preparing for wetsuit races. Other than roasting in the pool wearing your wetsuit, the pull buoy was the only tool you had that could mimic the body position of wetsuit swimming.
The SIM is also a great option for the elite triathlete in heavy training. When the legs are dead from intense efforts on the bike and run, it’s difficult to maintain proper form in the pool. This can put your technique and shoulders at risk. Swimming with the SIM short allows you to maintain proper form in the pool during that critical swim workout.
And while I’ve mainly focused on triathletes and developing swimmers, the ROKA SIM short is a great addition to any swimmer’s gear bag. Competitive swimmers who want a more natural feel and rhythm while doing pull sets can use it as a simple pull buoy replacement. It is great for masters swimmers looking to improve whole body swim mechanics with the feedback of proper body positioning, and it’s also great for recreational swimmers, who can use the tool to swim longer and enjoy the water vs. fighting it. This is a bit of training innovation that will make you smile at the pool and more confident on the start line.