Get an Edge in the Water With Dolphining Skills

Open Water Source video-taped and analyzed Rodrigues using the highly sophisticated SwiMetrics methodology. The SwiMetrics methodology is able to measure the velocity, force and acceleration levels 60 times per second. The instantaneous velocity is represented by the white line that appears on the video. The intersection of the vertical green line and the white line indicates the velocity (i.e., speed in meters per second) reached by Coach Gerry at any specific moment. Based on an analysis of the velocity data, coaches and athletes can understand and pinpoint exactly what motions and techniques are efficient and generate propulsion and what motions create resistance and need to be improved upon.

In the video, an increase in the white line upwards indicates an increasing velocity (good). Conversely, a decrease in the line downwards indicates a decreasing velocity (not so good). Knowing where and why you are increasing or decreasing in velocity throughout your arm stroke, kick or dolphin is essential to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of movements under the water--and improving. In order to accurately view and analyze Coach Gerry's open water dolphining technique in an ocean or lake, he was tested in a shallow pool where he replicated his open water swimming techniques.

Coach Rodrigues pushes off the pool bottom at a 45-degree angle and uses a butterfly kick to maintain his momentum. After planting his feet on the bottom and pushing forcefully with his legs, his peak velocity reaches 2.3 meters per second. Also, very importantly, he pushes off the bottom with both hands, enabling him to generate a speed of 1.9 meters per second. Just as he maintains a streamlined position up out of the water, he also keeps his chin down as he re-enters the water. His ability to maintain a high velocity throughout his dolphin is because he remains tucked in a streamlined throughout his push-off and re-entry back into the water. His arms remain squeezed tightly to his head and his hands are overlapped, an example of an exemplary dolphining technique.

This dolphining technique is appropriate for flat and calm conditions, but should be modified when the ocean surf is large. When large swells and lots of whitewater pass over you, you may want to push off the bottom at a lower angle (30 degrees) so you can streamline past the turbulence on your way out. On your way back to shore, if you can catch a wave, ride it all the way in--or as long as you can, kicking strongly in the whitewater as it engulfs you.

During your pool workouts, you can practice dolphining techniques that are both suited to flat, calm conditions and techniques that you may employ when the waves are crashing onshore.

So during the winter, imagine the bottom of your own pool as the ocean floor or lake bottom. Do a set that incorporates dolphining in your workout in order to simulate race conditions. Your starts, transitions and finishes will improve as a result.


Steven Munatones is a multi-time USA Swimming national open water swim team coach, NBC Olympics marathon swimming commentator, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and 1982 world 25K swimming champion. He created the Open Water Swimming Dictionary, Open Water Source and The Daily News of Open Water Swimming.

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