We get a lot of questions from coaches and athletes about our products and how they compare to other things on the market. We are happy to answer these questions but we thought it might be helpful to share our process for evaluating ideas and products. This post specifically addresses our thought process for tools that claim to improve technique, balance, and body position.
As a first step, we look at the problem and try to understand the underlying issue and the fundamental solution. A lot of devices work towards improving the symptom, but we find that you get more improvement when you look for the root of the problem. For instance, if the problem is poor balance and body position, then the swimmer needs to learn how to use core for stability. There are plenty of products that deal with balance, but you won’t really improve unless you deal with the root problem, a strong core and stability through using the core.
Next, we group products into two categories:
Tools that help swimmers develop body awareness and encourage them to learn how to use their own bodies to perform a certain task, and
Tools that perform the task for the swimmers while relieving the swimmers of the opportunity to learn how to perform the task themselves.
If the product falls into the second category—performing the task for the swimmer without teaching the swimmer how to do it himself—we disregard it and move on.
To better understand how this process works, let’s consider the same balance and body position problem. There are several training tools that claim to improve the swimmer’s balance and body position, such as the buoy.
Poor balance and body position typically indicate problems with core stability. The core provides balance and maintains streamlined body position. Therefore, the swimmer needs to learn how to use his core to improve balance and body position. If we want to use a tool to help this swimmer, the tool must help the swimmer learn how to engage the core to increase stability. In other words, the tool must help the swimmer develop awareness of the core and how the core affects balance and body position. Is the buoy the right choice for this task?
By definition, a buoy is a buoyant device that elevates the swimmer’s hips and legs in the water. When this happens the swimmer looks and feels more balanced and streamlined. This might give the impression that buoy helps the swimmer improve balance and body position. Unfortunately, this is an illusion. By elevating the hips and legs, the buoy places and holds the swimmer in a more balanced and streamlined position, but it doesn’t teach the swimmer how to achieve that position himself. The buoy performs the work for the swimmer. When this crutch is removed, the swimmer has the same skills as before; he has not gained any awareness of the core or how to use the core to attain stability. We place the buoy into the second category of tools outlined above. It will not help the swimmer learn how to use his own body to improve balance and body position.
As a contrast, we might look at another tool that also claims to help swimmers improve balance and body position. Vertical Swim Trainer is a dryland device invented by by Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas (aka Dr. G.). The swimmer stands on the balance platform and performs a movement with their arms similar to the movement in swimming. Because the balance platform is not stable, the swimmer is forced to find a way to use his own body for stability. The feedback is instantaneous; it only takes a second to realize that balance and stability come from the core. Vertical Swim Trainer helps swimmers become more aware of their core and how to use it to attain stability and balance. This tool falls into the first category of tools outlined above. It helps the swimmer learn how to use his own body to improve balance and body position.
We’ve only looked at one example of how to evaluate training tools. The process, though, can be applied to other areas as well. When we design our own products, we follow the same process.
We make sure we understand the underlying problem we are solving for, and
We help swimmers develop their awareness of their bodies, not use crutches to achieve temporary results.
This is crucial for us at AquaVolo. Every day we see that developing awareness leads to increased speed. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
We have no affiliation Vertical Swim Trainer. We just think it’s a great tool. ↩︎