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Beginner's Guide to Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is often mocked, and some even doubt it as a 'real' sport―those folks have obviously never tried it. It's a heck of a workout, and requires immense core strength and stamina. Why not give it a try?
Barracuda move in synchronized swimming
Did You Know?
The origin of synchronized swimming can be traced back to the later part of the 19th century. It was then known as water ballet.
There might be people out there who believe synchronized swimming is funny, but one cannot deny the fact that it is one of the toughest sports out there. Synchronized swimming is swimming, dance, and gymnastics, all rolled into one! It is best defined as a series of dance steps performed over and under the surface of water. The choreography may look a little cheesy, but it’s loads of fun and one tough workout. While it may appear to be nothing but a glamorous sport, with the swimmers all decked up in elaborate makeup, the reality is far from it.

In fact, synchronized swimming is one of the few sports that require the swimmers to possess a host of skills and different levels of physical fitness. Are you keen to try it out with a few of your friends? Well, then surely go ahead! But before you do, just glance through this article to know how to get started.

Getting Started with Synchronized Swimming

While you might be way too enthusiastic to start, there are a few things that you must be aware of. Remember that synchronized swimming can be a dangerous sport if the right technique is not followed. This Buzzle article shall guide you with a few basic techniques.

Synchronized Swimming

1. Treading Water

Synchronized swimming takes place in the deep end, so the swimmers are actually treading water the entire time. Can you? Try sculls and eggbeaters. Sculls are the hand movements―bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle out to the sides, and flutter them to stay afloat. Don’t flail, just gently flutter. No splashing! Sinking? Add the leg movement, called eggbeaters. Just like the name implies, you should move your legs like an old-fashioned egg beater. Ah, so you’re staying afloat now?

Well, a real synchronized swimmer generally uses either sculls or eggbeaters―not both. And when they use eggbeaters, they are able to rise out of the water to their hips, and remain steady enough to lift another swimmer out of the water. So ... work on that.

2. Floating

The most basic moves are the front layout and the back layout. If you’ve been in a body of water ever in your life, you’ve done both at some point―sort of. You know how you float on your back? Do that, but stop letting your butt sink. Keep your body absolutely straight and rigid, with your legs together and arms by your sides. Oh, you’re sinking? Try sculling underneath your hips. That’s the back layout. The front layout, as you may have guessed, is the exact opposite. Remember floating face-down in the water and playing 'pool corpse' as a kid? Do that. Except be totally straight and rigid like you did with the back layout. How long can you hold your breath again?

Synchronized Swimming

3. Getting Leggy

Here’s where you find out how sturdy your layouts are. Some of the most iconic images of synchronized swimming involve long legs with pointed toes sticking up in the air, forming some sort of design. Do a back layout, then bend one knee until the toe is touching the other thigh―that’s a sailboat. Did you immediately sink? Work on your layout. If you stayed afloat, try straightening the leg in the air―that’s called ballet leg.

Can you move around without your leg wavering? If yes, try the flamingo by pulling up your leg until the shin touches your top knee. Another key move to try is the barracuda, in which you are in an upside down position, with just your upper body in the water. So, you see that synchronized swimming is actually quite a feat of athleticism.

4. Catching Some Air

Now that you and your friends are thoroughly humbled, it’s time to try some lifts. Lifts compose the other half of the iconic images that legs don’t. First, figure out whom among you is the lightest―that person will be going into the air. The heaviest among you will work support for the one supporting the person who is lifted. The lifter does a back layout underwater, and the lifted person squats on her abs (yup) until she breaks the surface, at which point she should stand. The heaviest then use the eggbeater move to support both the lifter and lifted person out of the water.

It is recommended that you do this in the center of the pool, so falls don’t result in injury. If you want more of a challenge, try a stack lift in which the lifter squats underwater and the lifted individual squats on her shoulders. The heavy swimmers support both of them and raise them out of the water, while the lifted person and lifter should both stand as they break the surface.

Essential Precautions and Safety Measures

Now, let's talk about the few safety measures you should take before you venture out to try your hands at synchronized swimming.

Synchronized Swimming

1. Learn to swim first

Before you try synchronized swimming, you should be quite familiar with the basic techniques of swimming, such as staying afloat and propelling yourself smoothly in water. This is essential because synchronized swimming requires you to move to greater depths, and you should be an expert swimmer to be confident enough to try it.

2. Work on your fitness

Swimming is all about flexibility and the art of maneuvering yourself skillfully in water. Synchronized swimming requires you to stay afloat in deep water for long hours, without touching the floor of the pool. This can be strenuous if one lacks the desired level of physical fitness. To work on your fitness levels, go for stretch exercises. Splits are a great way to improve on your flexibility, making it easier to move gracefully.

Synchronized Swimming

3. Choose the right gear

Just like any other sport, the right gear is essential for synchronized swimming as well. You should have nose plugs, a silicone cap, and goggles. Nose plugs help you hold your breath under water, and it is recommended that you choose professional quality nose clips for better effect.

4. Find a good coach

Since synchronized swimming involves a lot of techniques that you must get right, you must have a good coach to train you before you get started. To find one, just get in touch with your local synchronized swimming club.

After an afternoon of attempting synchronized swimming, you will have gained a whole new respect for the women who do complicated routines for five minutes at a time, not a hair out of place, not a chip in the manicure, and always, always a smile. So grab a swim cap, nose clip and a few friends, and see if you can hack it. Have fun!
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Published: November 14, 2013
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