Long Live ‘Slide And Glide’

I’ve been prescribing the classic TI drill “Slide and Glide” a lot recently. I used this for hundreds of hours in my early self-taught TI days, and it is still my favorite warm-up or warm-down drill. It’s a great way to pull together the focus points we are working on, while still doing whole-stroke swimming.

Essentially, in this drill you are going to swim like Shinji in his famous video, with a smooth powerful switch, but perform the recovery in extreme slow motion, with no pauses anywhere in the stroke cycle. You get only one kick per stroke, which is in essence a 2-beat kick. More kicking than that and it would be cheating because the point is to get as much glide as you can out of each switch from the power of your core rotation. This is the same as the set we do with a Tempo Trainer at increasingly lower tempos (like 1.5 to 1.9), but in Slide-and-Glide you are setting the tempo based on your ability to control Balance and Streamline, not on the demands of the beeping device.

As I understand it the main point of Slide-and-Glide drill is to give your body time to feel and perfect streamline and balance, while executing full strokes. The water flowing over your body during the glide is what gives you the feedback about where you have excess drag.  In order to get a long glide from each catch, you can’t wobble (poor balance) or allow unnecessary drag. The lead arm must reach patiently in front while the recovery arm works its way completely forward- and after each kick, the legs must stay long, hidden behind the body.

I give credit to this drill for helping me imprint incredible balance in Skate Position, as well as develop total control over my patient front arm and the speed of my recovery. Because of this I have better skill at both ends of the tempo spectrum- I can ride calmly through rough water timing my stroke to the waves at slow tempo, and do sprints at below 0.80 seconds per stroke with a patient front arm. It’s not about strength, it’s about control.  Slide-and-Glide done right does not produce slow swimming- it produces total control over the precision of the stroke. This drill allows you to pull every piece together and syncronize them- with time to think about it.

Practice precision with repetition and you get deeply imprinted skills. Start slow and add power only as you can maintain your best precision.

With the absence of a video clip at the moment, I’ll attempt to describe how to do it in simple steps:

1) Lay in Skate Position.

2) Bring the recovery arm forward (elbow leading!) in SLOW MOTION, and perform a normal switch, with no pauses.

3) The spearing arm begins to extend forward, while the catch hand holds the FULLEST catch possible, not the fastest catch. This will teach you how a steady catch is better than a fast one.

4) Pay attention to perfect timing in the whole body rotation- from the toe-flick, to hip, to hand spearing into the water down to its target. You want to achieve your most precise and powerful-but-totally-smooth catch. Any impatience in the leading arm will kill the glide.

5) As the spearing hand drives down to the Target, lengthen the body by opening the armpit (ribs, scapula, clavical bones), and reach forward with the lead arm, reaching with the wrist, not the fingers. Keep those fingers and hand relaxed as always.

There are no pauses in Slide-and-Glide. Instead of a pause at the end of the catch, or at the spear position (you know, our TI Kungfu Pose), keep a steady catch and a slow-motion recovery.

This drill employs all the Focus Points for Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion.

At first, use it without stroke counting so you can simply focus on the feel of the water flowing past the body on each switch. Feel for any part of the body that seems to be causing extra drag. Correct it.

Then add stroke counting to measure your effective glide distance and challenge yourself to get fewer SPL.

Then add a Tempo Trainer at slower-than-normal tempos to challenge balance and streamline further.  (But don’t get ridiculous about it- 2.00 seconds per stroke is about as far as anyone needs to go I think).

Then to add even more challenge do this in open-water when you’ve got some current, swells, waves, or wind-chop sloshing about.

To give you a reference point:

I have a 1.79 meter wing span and on a good day I can achieve an 11 stroke (in 25 meter) SPL because of the skills this drill helped me perfect. That’s 1.72 meters per stroke, or 96% stroke efficiency rate (Stroke Eff. = SL/Wingspan). That’s not quite as impressive as Shinji’s 9 SPL which must make his SL over 2 meters in that video clip. He’s just two centimeters shorter than me, but with a slight longer wingspan I believe. Still I can say this drill deserves the credit for helping me refine my stroke this far.

Again, using Slide-and-Glide is not about building a slow swimmer or an over-glide as some critics fear. It is about perfecting precision and control that can then be used in a wider range of tempos. The ability to form a long stroke from full-body-syncronization, and then protect it at higher tempos or hold it for longer distances is the result of using this drill well.


11 responses to “Long Live ‘Slide And Glide’

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    • I think Shinji’s 9-stroke video here gets the idea across:

      Notice how there is no pause in the stroke. One arm is always moving, and moving steady and smooth, just at slower speed. The catch and hold is still strong and steady, not lighter, nor snappier – just firm and steady pressure at all tempos.

      Add a Tempo Trainer at tempos slower than 1.40 seconds (like repeats at 1.40, 1.50, 1.60, 1.70, 1.80) to really help you learn to examine and hold finest details in balance and streamline.

      • I think there is a pause in Shinji’s stroke in this clip. It’s really noticeable in the slow motion views. if you look at the background of the tiles or lane lines you can see he slows down between many strokes. One arm constantly moving doesn’t eliminate the pause, or more to the point, the loss of momentum. That happens from gliding too long. I also see a “bounce” which looks like it comes either from lengthening too emphatically or pulling too emphatically – both compensation for loss of momentum. If the swimmer slows down they have to do something to speed up again & re-establish momentum.

      • Good fine-detail observation.

        For the benefit of the other readers I will clarify… I was referring to there being no pause in the stroke cycle (arm not pausing back at the hip, for instance) – the movement of the arm being relative to the body, while deceleration is referring to his entire body moving relative to a fixed point in the water. Often I see swimmers who are moving from SwingSwitch to Whole Stroke pause the arm at the back of the body before swinging it forward and this is what I want them to remove. SAG can be used as the drill-like transition to Whole Stroke, working in slower motion to synchronize all the features of the stroke, one at a time, finger tip to toe, with no pauses.

        If the SAG is used as a drill to smooth out the acceleration and deceleration curve then this is where we are aiming to find that sweet spot between under-glide and over-glide, for each tempo. There is a fine trade-off between:
        1) maximizing propulsive phase to non-prop phase,
        2) maximizing body line length to width ratio throughout the stroke cycle.

        Pulling the arm before the other comes to take its place in front of the body abruptly shortens the body line and shoots drag through the roof. That’s one of the things that imprinting the patient from arm is meant to prevent.

        The cliff to avoid on the other side of that equation is the dead-spot – the rapid and extended deceleration – that happens when there is too much lag time between propulsive phases and poor streamline as well. For this the swimmer needs to learn to swing that recovery arm a lot faster (but keep it totally relaxed and still spear smoothly) while also holding a streamlined body line. This will soften that deceleration curve significantly.

        However, if SAG is used as a drill to magnify balance and streamline problems that are harder to detect at faster tempos then we’re not so concerned about smoothing that curve out, or in other words. The slower the tempo the more difficult it will be to hold lateral balance (like on a bicycle). So the non-propulsive deceleration section in the SAG drill becomes the moment where balance is most exposed, while in the propulsive acceleration section of the stroke balance problems are covered up the most. That may be one of the reason many ‘fast’ swimmers don’t realize what poor balance they have – its strangely uncomfortable to swim so slow because they have poor lateral balance. This masks how much energy they are actually wasting that could be put to better use if they’d only take time to slow down, face the facts, and clean up their balance.

        A skillfully balanced swimmer can ‘walk-swim’ and ‘sprint-swim’ with the same control of balance and enjoy complete stability at any tempo.

        Another thing about the context of Shinji’s extraordinary SPL performance is that Shinji has a 170cm height and a 184cm wingspan. This provides him a 1.08 wing to height ratio (Sun Yang’s is 1.07, mine is 1.02, Terry’s is 1.00) which gives him an unusual amount of leverage in his stroke. We suspect he is able to achieve and sustain such extraordinary stroke length at least partly because of this high ratio. In other words, he has an easier time making his propulsive phase longer in proportion to the non-propulsive phase – or so goes the hypothesis on this wing/height idea.

  3. Pingback: Slide And Glide Example | Smooth Strokes·

  4. In the old four-stroke DVD it was a backstroke drill, but I suppose the principle is the same.

  5. Pingback: Slide And Glide Example | Total Immersion·

  6. Pingback: Slide And Glide Example | Mediterra International Swimming·

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