August 2005 archives

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14 August 2005

In synchronized swimming (similar to gymnastics) flexibility is a very important skill. Athletes should be able to hold the split position up-side-down in the water, flat on the surface. This is much different than on land, because it is the athlete's own strength and flexibility that hold the legs in the split position; you are not able to take advantage of gravity.

An athlete from England sent me an email requesting information on how to improve her splits. I sent this athlete some ideas on how to improve split flexibility, and thought it would be interesting to post on my website as well. Keep in mind that there are many different drills that can be done to improve flexibility; these are just a few basic exercises. In addition, athletes should also keep stretching their hamstrings to keep flexible enough to do the splits. I think the goal is to strengthen your hip flexors and thighs so they can pull your legs into the splits in the water.

drill in the water:

1) get into the splits up-side-down, holding some kind of jug filled with air on your feet/ankles. pull your legs towards the bottom of the pool using your own strength (make sure to keep your knees tight). the air jugs will want to pull your feet/legs towards the sky, but you will resist and pull them down into the water in the split position. as for the type of jug to use - we went to a camping supply store and found plastic jugs used to store water, then blew them up with air. they have a handle on them so we put our toes between the handle. we used ones like this:
anything that will float with air inside will work. if you can't find anything, try having two of teammates help. you can be upside down in the splits, and one person will be on your front foot and another on your back foot. they will gently try to push your feet up into the air as you resist and pull your feet down towards thet bottom of the pool into a split position. the resistance action should make your quad muscles stronger. you can also do this on your own.

drills on land:

1) lay down on flat on the ground on your back. keep one leg straight down while lifting the other leg straight towards your head into a split position (you probably won't be able to get your leg to your nose). have a teammate stand over you and put pressure on the leg in the air by pushing it straight towards your nose as far as they can (keeping tight knees). they might even hold your bottom leg straight by placing their foot on your thigh and gently pressing towards the ground. then, once you have reached your maximum (gently, and without pain) have the person hold your leg in place while you press against them. you will be pressing your leg away from your face and the other person will be pushing your leg (gently) towards your face. do this for a count of 20 or so, several times. each time you relax and begin again, the other person should press your leg more and more towards your face into the split position. you will then press against them for a count of 20 or so and repeat.

2) you can also stand up against a wall, and do leg holds in the air. one leg at a time, lift your leg straight up and see how high and for how long you can hold your leg in the air out in front of you (straight knees). your body should be flat against a wall, and don't cheat by using the wall with your hands too much. again, your thigh muscles and hip flexors should engage and it should be difficult.

7 August 2005

Synchronized swimming is made up of two general components - routines and compulsory figures. Back in the mid-1990s, the rules of the sport were changed so that figures are not part of the competition in major international events like the Olympics and the World Championships. However, figures are still performed in many competitions, and are a major part of training for young athletes.

Figures are done individually by each competitor in front of a panel of judges. No music is used, and each competitor wears a black bathing suit and white cap to perform the movements. Figure scores are added together, and a percentage of that score is then used in the athlete's overall final score for the event (the remaining part of the score is from the routine event).

The list of required figures is altered and approved by an international committee. This was recently done at meetings held at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal. The new list awaits final approval, but is available at the USA Synchro website.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist