Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

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mike333
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Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby mike333 » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:09 pm

Did the pre-retirement Ian Thorpe overglide? In 2011 he said now that I'll being doing just sprints I need to learn to start my pull as my other hand is exiting the water whereas before I started my pull much later. Video of pre-retirement Ian Thorpe seems to back this up. So did he overglide? And if so, why?

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby cottmiler » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:05 am

Adam Young has done some clever calcs on over-gliding times. Maybe he knows the answer.

Could there be a difference between acceptable gliding assisted by foot thrust and costly over-gliding where the body slows done and then has to be accelerated back up to speed?
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Paul Newsome » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:49 am

mike333 wrote:Did the pre-retirement Ian Thorpe overglide? In 2011 he said now that I'll being doing just sprints I need to learn to start my pull as my other hand is exiting the water whereas before I started my pull much later. Video of pre-retirement Ian Thorpe seems to back this up. So did he overglide? And if so, why?


Hi Mike333

Here's the article that cottmiler is referring too:

http://www.feelforthewater.com/2012/03/ ... y-and.html

And here is a quote from Ian Thorpe himself on this matter, regarding how many strokes he takes per 50m:

Ian Thorpe wrote:I've got it down to 24 per lap, which is about as low as I want it to get. I could reduce it by another four strokes but the danger is that I'd get to the point where I'm gliding rather than swimming efficiently.


...can't say fairer than that from the horse's mouth! This quote is from his autobiography "This is Me" (highly recommended) - available here: http://amzn.to/12P7IQD

We discussed Ian actually in this manner here: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2013/02/ ... immer.html

...as you can see, what made him quick was a combination of a very long stroke but with a stroke rate (75spm) that is very surprising to most people given that it actually *appeared* much slower:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaneChQkX3w

By studying slow motion video of Ian swimming we can see that any perceived glide in his stroke is an illusion. The gap between one of his strokes finishing at the rear and the next starting at the front is just 0.15 to 0.2 of a second - less than the blink of an eye! (see more on this measurement in the first link).

This highlights the fact that while Ian developed a brilliantly efficient freestyle stroke, he didn't do so by making his stroke as long as he possibly could. Instead, he found the right trade off between the stroke length and stroke rate given his height, build, flexibility and fitness level. And you should do the same.

(Hint: unless you're 6'5" with size 17 feet and have swum all your life, expect to end up at more than 32 strokes* per lap!)

*his average race stroke length

On this same topic (but from the Swinger perspective rather than the Smooth), I was rather interested to read these comments in their (The Brownlee's) brilliant new book "Swim, Bike, Run" (http://amzn.to/12ACFUI), Olympic Gold Medallist Alistair Brownlee:

Alistair Brownlee wrote:Swimming for triathlon is very different from swimming in a pool. You don't want the perfect stroke, because you're not swimming alone in a pristine pool lane. You're being bashed around, beaten up, thumped by waves...there's no point practising a perfect stroke at slow, controlled speeds because as soon as you step on the gas it will fall apart"

"A lot of tri coaching tells you that the fewer the strokes you take the better. Not for us. I swim best when I'm fit. It's as simple as that. I don't swim off a powerful stroke, or a long stroke, but on arm turnover - the number of strokes I take per minute.


...I highly recommend a copy...these considerations that Alistair describes lead us to defining his stroke as the "Swinger" swim type. You can see him and Jonny leading out the water here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8_aZ80O9ig (from 4:07) - whilst we are not stating that every swimmer or triathlete needs to swim this way, we are stating that these considerations and adaptations to the stroke are important for anyone venturing into the open water, even someone with the classic "Smooth" style of stroke, e.g. Jono Van Hazel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs

It's also no coincidence that 95% of the elite triathlon world (specifically the females) swim with a Swinger style. Whilst we can argue back and forth about the merits of copying the elite as a good model for a specific style of stroke in a specific environment for an Age-Grouper, there is a reason that these guys and girls swim like this and that is because it works in that environment and we can all take guidance from this, even if it's just to tune up some of our open water skills (sighting, drafting, controlling anxiety etc) or address whether or not our strokes have the rhythm and momentum to thrive in the conditions in which we are racing.

Hope this all helps mike333

Cheers

Paul
2013 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim Champion. Don't forget to check out our valuable Know How section on the main site at http://www.swimsmooth.com/knowhow.html

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Karlstine » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:08 pm

Paul,
Is that Skye that won the female race?

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Paul Newsome » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:48 pm

She was one of the first out the water, but Jodie Stimpson won overall.
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby mike333 » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:00 pm

Thanks for the responses... I'm gonna check those links out now.

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Adam Young
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Adam Young » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:03 am

As Paul said above I've spent quite a bit of time studying the gap between strokes (when one stroke finishes at the rear to the next starting at the front) for all swimmers of all ability levels.

For elite swimmers the timing of their strokes varies from 0.1 second of overlap (where the stroke starts at the front just before the previous one finishes at the rear) to a 0.2 second gap. These are very short periods of time - which goes to show that although many elite swimmers appear to glide down the pool, it's actually an illusion, their propulsion is actually nearly continuous from one arm stroke to the next. We measure 'moderate' overgliders in the 0.4 to 0.6 seconds range and extreme overgliders right the way up to 1.4 seconds! As we pointed out in the blog post, the relationship between glide-time and speed is striking:

Image

Any coach recommending people glide when they swim needs to take a close look at that data and what it teaches us about swimming efficiency. There's plenty of good things about the long smooth stroke of an elite swimmer - and we're great admirers of this stroke style - but it's a huge misconception to think that you create this by gliding down the pool. Once an over-glide is develop it's incredibly hard to change the stroke timing to lift the stroke rate - timing changes are one of the hardest changes you can make once they become ingrained. Even a super skilled swimmer like Thorpie struggled to change his timing slightly (as mentioned by Mike333 and discussed below). This is why we don't like teaching glide to anyone but especially novice swimmers, yes it makes their stroke longer but in all the wrong ways (see next paragraph) and once learned its a very hard habit to break.

There are three ways you can make your stroke longer:

1) You can reduce drag so you slip through the water more easily. Examples of this are improving your kicking technique, body position and alignment in the water.
2) You can increase your propulsion, so that the work you are doing is pushing you forwards effectively. Feel for the water, catch and pull technique are all good examples of this.
3) You can add a pause-and-glide between strokes.

1 and 2 are great ways to make a stroke longer - and when we see Ian Thorpe's silky smooth stroke in action (32 strokes per 50m) it's awe inspiring for these two reasons. However, if we add in the pause-and-glide then yes we make the stroke longer still but the swimmer becomes less efficient and slower because the stroke becomes accelerate-decelerate-accelerate-decelerate.

As we can see in the chart above, the drop-off in efficiency is extreme. As Paul mentioned above, Ian talks in his book about what happens if he tries to introduce a pause and glide into his stroke - he says he can get down to 22 or 24 strokes per 50m (incredible!) but he's much less efficient and slower as a result. He races at 32 strokes per length instead.

cottmiler wrote:Could there be a difference between acceptable gliding assisted by foot thrust and costly over-gliding where the body slows done and then has to be accelerated back up to speed?
Yes, the role of kick propulsion is an interesting one and definitely enters into this. Kick is a more continuous form of propulsion which helps maintain speed through any gap between strokes. The thing about a strong kick is that it can't be sustained over longer distances, which hints at the relationship we get between race distance and the gap between strokes. Three types of swimmer then:

1) Sprinters have to work very hard on the water and generate maximum power at a high stroke rate. They use a strong kick obviously but they can't afford to have any gap between strokes to keep the power output as high as possible.

2) Middle distance (200/400m) swimmers such as Ian Thorpe can still sustain a strong kick over this distance but are not looking for maximum power from the arm stroke. The strong kick allows them to use a slightly longer gap between strokes (only slightly) as it helps push them through the gap between strokes. These middle distance athletes tend to have the longest gaps between strokes of all, normally 0.2 seconds. Michael Phelps over 200m is another example of a 0.2 second gap.

3) Distance and marathon swimmers (800+m) cannot sustain a strong kick for long distances and so they reduce the gap between strokes again. This depends a little on individual preference, but we see gaps between -0.1 and 0.1 second.

So yes, using a very powerful kick (these guys can kick 100m with a board in 65-70 seconds) you can use a slightly longer gap between strokes, but only 0.2 seconds which feels very continuous from one stroke to the next when you do it - you can't perceive any glide being in place.

mike333 wrote:Did the pre-retirement Ian Thorpe overglide? In 2011 he said now that I'll being doing just sprints I need to learn to start my pull as my other hand is exiting the water whereas before I started my pull much later. Video of pre-retirement Ian Thorpe seems to back this up. So did he overglide? And if so, why?
Hi Mike, what Ian's talking about is trying to change his timing from 0.2 second gap down to zero to use more of a sprint style. This feels like a huge change to him (and in a way it is) but it's still a long way from the 0.4 gap for moderate overgliding out to 1.2 seconds for extreme overgliding!

The interaction with kick power can also be used to explain why distance swimmers use higher stroke rates than middle distance swimmers. Obviously power output over longer distances falls and so you might expect stroke rate to fall in line with that, but it doesn't. In fact it tends to increase again. Part of that is that higher stroke rates are more effective in disturbed open water but it's also related to the fact that it's not efficient to kick hard over longer distances and so a higher stroke rate has to be used as you can't afford a gap between strokes.

Hope that explains,

Adam

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby mike333 » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:11 pm

Thanks for the thorough answers... it all
seems pretty crystal clear now. Much
appreciated :D

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby smootharnie » Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:50 pm

I think there is some confusion, because you see some swimmers with the leading arm spearing the water in a stationary position, and you tend to think this is all glide time.
If the other arm is pushing while the forward arm is spearing, there is still propulsion.

In an ideal world, It would be clearer to devide the stroke in 4 parts
- Entry from water surface to start of propulsion
- propulsion phase
- end of propulsion to water surface
- recovery


If someone has a eyeblink fast recovery, his arm is already in front and sinking to catch while the other has not finished the push.
He could be mistaken for an overglider, when in fact he could have a negative glide time.
Especially at slow stroke rates you can get this impression, when the recovery time does increase less than the underwater phase time.
It would be interesting to compare pure relative recovery times. Maybe this can give some infornation about the virtues of a relative long time outstretched streamlined position /fast recovery compared to a slow recovery/fast to catch.

Anyway a 0.2sec gap in propulsion at 75 strokes/min (0.8sec/stroke) means no propulsion 25% of the time!
(And that is even from a buildup of propulsion to a brakedown, its all far from constant.)
No wonder you get the impression Ian Thorpe is a bit of an overglider..
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby SharkFM » Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:49 pm

smootharnie wrote:I think there is some confusion, because you see some swimmers with the leading arm spearing the water in a stationary position, and you tend to think this is all glide time.
If the other arm is pushing while the forward arm is spearing, there is still propulsion.


True enough ..I use or describe this as "burrowing" because that lead hand opens the envelope in the water that the body will follow through. It's invisible and hard to imagine, but it is one of the keys for why Thorpe was so fast. He is huge and very very precise. His precision is the best I've seen. His ability to create, maintain the invisible envelope, guide his massive body through it and propel with highly efficient paddling is amazing to watch.

if it were possible to track his envelope, the volume he occupies in the water and its position I am sure we'd see a highly consistent path. So this is what I mean by precision. I think there are other aspects of resonance in a stroke that also yield "free energy" and the longer the body the more effective this phenomena can be.

Also about stroke rates, it's like discussion gearing on a bike. You can go with high cadence, and a shallow stroke = x horsepower. Or you can go with a lower cadence and a big digger stroke = x horsepower (same). For open water, i guess like the tri bikes - operating at a higher cadence is "proven" to be more efficient for the bike at least. Ultimately it comes down to the athlete & event though. A sprint you want max power from the pull and kick. Long distance the kick drops off so yeah more rpm from the stroke, has to make up for the reduction in kick. Makes sense Adam's analysis.

I am at this stage now in my stroke, seeking the best (arm) positioning for the pull, to go shallower is less torque and possibly more hydrodynamic too, I don't know...
.

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby SolarEnergy » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:27 pm

Adam Young wrote:As Paul said above I've spent quite a bit of time studying the gap between strokes (when one stroke finishes at the rear to the next starting at the front) for all swimmers of all ability levels.

For elite swimmers the timing of their strokes varies from 0.1 second of overlap (where the stroke starts at the front just before the previous one finishes at the rear) to a 0.2 second gap. These are very short periods of time - which goes to show that although many elite swimmers appear to glide down the pool, it's actually an illusion, their propulsion is actually nearly continuous from one arm stroke to the next. We measure 'moderate' overgliders in the 0.4 to 0.6 seconds range and extreme overgliders right the way up to 1.4 seconds! As we pointed out in the blog post, the relationship between glide-time and speed is striking:

Image


I would love to see the same plot cross referencing stroke rate / gap (ie, gap function of stroke rate). I'd expect nothing less than a strong inverse relationship between the rate and the gap.
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby smootharnie » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:08 am

If you use this relative gap time, Thorpe would be in overglide mode when you bring his speed down to 1.50/100.
Gap 0.4 sec, stroke rate 37.5/min.
Its lucky that the absulate gap time diminishes at greater speed, because the decelerating at greater speed is much worse.

Compares a bit with bicyling having head or tailwind. With headwind, no time to pause between legpushes, otherwise you will be blown back.
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby cottmiler » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:15 am

smootharnie said
Compares a bit with bicyling having head or tailwind. With headwind, no time to pause between legpushes, otherwise you will be blown back.


I think this is a brilliant analogy since the "head wind" in swimming is absolutely huge.
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Adam Young » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:16 pm

Hi guys, sorry only just spotted this thread is going again! :)

SolarEnergy wrote:I would love to see the same plot cross referencing stroke rate / gap (ie, gap function of stroke rate). I'd expect nothing less than a strong inverse relationship between the rate and the gap.

Yes, that's what you'd see because the gap slows the stroke rate dramatically. I would plot it but unfortunately I didn't record SR (sounds obvious now...) I'm not sure what it would tell us though other than to increase stroke rate you've got to reduce the glide-time, which is what we already all do as coaches obviously?

The reason I plotted it against glide-time is that I see that as the key determinant, deceleration is against time and also factors like how much you sink lower in the water are related against time, not percentage of cycle. This is why it's such a 'clean' relationship of speed to glide time.

smootharnie wrote:If someone has a eyeblink fast recovery, his arm is already in front and sinking to catch while the other has not finished the push.
He could be mistaken for an overglider, when in fact he could have a negative glide time.

Yes I agree, and this is especially the case for taller swimmers who relatively have a faster recovery, it certainly looks like they're gliding more than shorter swimmers.

smootharnie wrote:Anyway a 0.2sec gap in propulsion at 75 strokes/min (0.8sec/stroke) means no propulsion 25% of the time!

Yes indeed, which is why swimmers with that sort of gap (smooths / thorpe) tend to use a strong kick to power through the gap in propulsion. As soon as you're out to a long enough distance not to be able to kick hard you pretty much have to reduce that gap down.

smootharnie wrote:If you use this relative gap time, Thorpe would be in overglide mode when you bring his speed down to 1.50/100.
Gap 0.4 sec, stroke rate 37.5/min.

Yes, anyone at 37.5 SPM has to overglide, it's a crazy slow SR - try it with a beeper. In reality though Ian wouldn't be able to swim at 1:50 like that, he would sink and/or have to treat it like a kick drill with the odd stroke chucked in.

Adam

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby smootharnie » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:48 pm

It seems the swimsmooth guys have to deal with a lot of triathletes with sinky legs. :)
A gap in propulsion can be sub optimal in total power spent to keep a certain speed, but a 0.4 sec gap does not mean you are sinking bad time in that time.
Enough swimmers who stay perfectly balanced during such a gap, only a little lower riding body during the lower speed at the end of the gap.
Maybe Solar has a video of a muscular dense elite guy trying to swim 2.00m / 100m. ;)
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby babage » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:00 pm

A gap in propulsion can be sub optimal in total power spent to keep a certain speed, but a 0.4 sec gap does not mean you are sinking bad time in that time.
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby nightcrawler » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:15 pm

Did M. Phelps overglide? Especially during right arm extension:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9D ... x77_hHq9Dc
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Adam Young » Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:18 pm

Hi nightcrawler,

nightcrawler wrote:Did M. Phelps overglide? Especially during right arm extension:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9D ... x77_hHq9Dc


Definitely not. These two frames are 0.1 second apart showing the completion of the stroke at the rear and the commencement at the front of the next:

Image Image

Same here, 0.1 second apart:

Image Image

That's actually slightly less than most 'smooths' who are normally a little close to 0.15 second gap between strokes.


Overgliding really starts around 0.4 sec gap, with move extreme overgliding in the 0.6-1.0 second range.

It's deceptive isn't it? You can see why some coaches got it so wrong in the 1990s and decided to teach everyone to glide. These guys have such long strokes because of great propulsion and low drag that is looks like they're gliding when in fact they're not.

Cheers, Adam

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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby nightcrawler » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:09 pm

Adam Young wrote:Hi nightcrawler,

nightcrawler wrote:Did M. Phelps overglide? Especially during right arm extension:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9D ... x77_hHq9Dc


Definitely not. These two frames are 0.1 second apart showing the completion of the stroke at the rear and the commencement at the front of the next:
Same here, 0.1 second apart:

Image Image

That's actually slightly less than most 'smooths' who are normally a little close to 0.15 second gap between strokes.

Overgliding really starts around 0.4 sec gap, with move extreme overgliding in the 0.6-1.0 second range.

It's deceptive isn't it? You can see why some coaches got it so wrong in the 1990s and decided to teach everyone to glide. These guys have such long strokes because of great propulsion and low drag that is looks like they're gliding when in fact they're not.

Cheers, Adam


Thanks for analytical explanation. How could you measure the 0.1 seconds gap between his strokes?
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Re: Did Ian Thorpe Overglide?

Postby Adam Young » Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:52 pm

If the video is at 30 frames per second and if there's 3 frames between the stroke finishing and the next starting at the front that's 0.1 seconds.


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