Developing The Serape Effect with Carl Reader

The podcast that helps you improve your swimming, love the water and live a better life.


Carl joins us again on the podcast. His background is in Functional Movement and in this episode, he shares some interesting aspects of the Serape Effect.

01:34 Carl’s experience with Serape Effect
03:13 Brenton’s Interpretation of Serape Effect
04:24 Carl’s Take on Serape Effect
06:04 Exercises
08:58 Understanding and Starting Serape
10:29 Building the Coordination
11:24 Serape Effect on Freestyle
13:50 Going for the Feel
15:12 Handbrakes to Serape Effect
19:50 Helping People Through Functional Movement
26:20 Core Principles
28:10 Body Awareness
29:29 Tuning into the Feeling Side

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Brenton: Welcome to the Effortless Swimming Podcast. This is episode number 134. I’ve got a guest from a previous episode, episode number 123, Carl Reader from South Africa. Carl, welcome to the podcast.

Carl Reader: Thanks, Brenton. Thanks for having me back again.

Brenton: It’s my pleasure.

Brenton: I did a video recently on the serape effect, which is a way to increase the power through part of your stroke using some primary muscles through the trunk. I sent an email out about it. You replied about some exercises and ways that you’ve used to develop the ability to use that serape effect with clients. That’s primarily what I want to talk about today.

Brenton: Your background’s obviously in functional movement and exercises physiology. You’re the main man when it comes to this kind of stuff. I’d love to get your take and your experience on developing this serape effect in swimmers and how people can use some dry land exercises to do it.

Brenton: We might start off with what’s your experience with this kind of movement in athletes, whether it be swimming or other sports?

Carl Reader: Well you know, as you said, it’s actually a highly functional movement. What we’ve found in the past, and just through the training, and the whole philosophy is was you’re generating power from one part of the body. Like if you were doing arm wrestling you would just use your arm. If you’re going to do golf you just swing the arm as hard as you can. Where now we’re getting to that position where we’re realizing that it’s so connected, it’s a kinetic chain. We’ve really been on this thing of when you use the whole body.

Carl Reader: If you can imagine like … I hate to bring this always to the forefront but if you watch often men punch, you’ll see that they wind up their whole body. If you watch a women often punch, you’ll see … Obviously, they’ve been trained to punch but it’s a natural thing, they just use their arm, they don’t generate that power unless they’ve been taught to do that. I don’t know why that is but it’s not discrimination but you’ll see that difference very clearly. I’ve got a five-year-old boy and you say, “Throw the ball.” He winds up the whole body where the little girls throw it along just using their arm.

Carl Reader: That’s where we’re moving towards is getting that whole body to twist and generate power as opposed to just getting a single joint to generate power.

Brenton: I guess we should probably talk a little bit more about what the serape effect is before we go into it in too much detail but I might give my take first in swimming. Then maybe your take overall, from all the different sports that you do.

Brenton: Basically one of the ways that you can generate more power through the stroke is when you’re … Basically in freestyle you’re reaching forward and extending with one arm out in front. You want your opposite hip to be lifted up. You’re basically lengthening the muscles through your hips, through your midsection, through your core, all the way up to the ribs. As they’re lengthening you’ll start the catch, and the kick, and you’ll start to rotate to the other side. It’s this contraction and shortening of the muscles that give this snapback effect to get this drive forwards to the other side.

Brenton: It’s really that flow and that nice rhythm that you see really good swimmers have. It’s how you can basically just take a lot of the effort out of trying to muscle your way through the stroke with your arms. You can really use your trunk and your whole body to generate speed and propulsion.

Brenton: That’s my take on it from a freestyle or a swimming perspective. What about you? How was my interpretation of it?

Carl Reader: No, that’s a good interpretation. I think you … With the turning of the hips you bring in … You start the flow of movement. You start it. You get that … Your power up. You almost prime the core system. It’s important for the distance. Understand you’ve got different systems in the body. That system as your doing … As you start to turn that hip and drop it down the other side, like you mentioned, it just primes all the lats, and the serratus, interior, and all the muscles that you use to actually do that catch and pull. It just makes it much more effective and powerful, as opposed to just keeping that still and then just pulling the arm down, which is only the end of the chain of the movement. You having to really generate as much power as you can through your shoulders, as opposed to all the power you’ve lost by priming that system.

Brenton: Yeah. The way I normally explain this at clinics is when … Lets say you’ve got a baseball. You’re asked to throw it as far as you possibly can. Do it without rotating your hips and your shoulders or you can just use your arm, so there’s no rotation through the body. See how far you get it. Then, once you’re allowed to open up through your hips and your upper body, you’re going to get that ball so much further. You think of someone pitching a baseball. It’s that effect. That’s the serape effect in action.

Carl Reader: Exactly. We have that in the golf swing as well but as you said baseball. All pretty much ball sports, throwing, it’s used. We’ll touch on exercises that the guys can do and do in the gym as well because it’s something that’s … I often see incorrect placements of the position on the land that actually goes counterbalances to serape effect.

Brenton: Yeah, right.

Brenton: Lets get into some of that. Where should we start? Maybe some of the exercises that people can do to start to develop this in their movements.

Carl Reader: I mean, there’s so many but one of them is even just boxing. If you were to have punching gloves on and you were punching a bag you wouldn’t just punch just with your arms, you would be using your whole body. If you can picture that.

Carl Reader: Then the other thing is things like lap pullbacks. Not lap pulldowns in the gym where you’re sitting down but where you actually have the cable in front of you and you’re pulling. I’ll do some videos for you like last time and share that with the guys but just basically where you are standing in front of the machine and then pulling the arm back, if you can imagine, so like pulling it all the way back behind you.

Carl Reader: I’ll go into some of the technique stuff now because it’s really important is a lot of the positions that people stand, they stand with their feet in line with one another. They’ll stand square to the machine. You’ve got no balance on the sideways plain but if someone was to come and push you forwards or backwards you wouldn’t have that stability. Your not in a good position and then what happens is you stand in what they call a split leg position, where you have your left leg in front of your right leg. Very often many of the guys who are doing this in the gym their legs are too split. Now you have front and back support but now you don’t have the lateral support.

Carl Reader: One of the major players that are working in the body there are your obliques, your side rotational muscles and your abdominals. If there’s any sort of instability in balance then that seems to be a major handbrake for you to actually generate power. That correct in the position is important. The correct position is to stand slightly splits and just about shoulder width apart. I’ll document that in the video and just show people the correct position because that plays a major part of getting the abs and the whole system to work properly.

Brenton: Yeah. I like that.

Brenton: One of the things that I do in clinics with people, one of the final drills we do, it’s almost like a single arm freestyle drill with a slight variation to it but when they’re doing this drill one of the things we have to adjust for most people is we’ve got to get them to actually reach forwards first. Reaching forwards with their arm before they start pulling. Open up through that opposite hip, so rotating the hips. That’s getting that lengthening of the muscles and getting on the side a bit because if they don’t get that reach forward with the hand and lifting up through the opposite hip they’re not going to get that serape effect. Once they do make that change you see their stroke just … Or their distance per stroke increase massively because of it.

Brenton: Then I think doing this stuff on land is a really good way to get this stuff happening in the water a lot better.

Carl Reader: Absolutely.

Brenton: Is that the first thing that you’d start with? Is the position of people?

Carl Reader: No. Well I think getting them to really understand because we’re talking about athletes here but the majority, a lot of the listeners, may not be athletes. It’s actually doing where you’re teaching them a single … Swinging your arms. Even just walking where you’re not just swinging the arms, where you’ve got the whole body moving. Then you go into these punches, where you sort of horizontal punches out in front of you. Left arm back, right arm punching forward. Then teaching them to bring their hips as well, to move the whole body, like we’re talking about with the hips.

Carl Reader: The same with doing a shoulder press. When you take a shoulder press exercise and you take lightweights. As they’re punching up into the air actually the whole hip moves to the left. As the right arm goes up, as if you’re doing a reach in swimming, your left hip should be turning to the left-hand side as well, it should be opening up. That’s quite a good exercise to also to do with the swimmers to get them used to this idea of, “I’m not just reaching my arm out. The whole body is moving.”

Carl Reader: Then, obviously, if you were going to do the pulldown to correct some of the effects for swimming you’d stand under a cable, like a lap pulldown machine and get them to pull down but not just pull down with their arm. But pull down and twist their hips at the same time.

Brenton: Yeah, nice.

Brenton: Would you be using these more to train the full movement? Getting all these muscles to work together, especially in the beginning obviously, but is it more about getting the muscles to work together rather than trying to strengthen that movement or is it a combination of both?

Carl Reader: It’s a bit of a combination but I think to start off with you’ve got to build a coordination. You’ve got to get the guys feeling, “What does it actually feel like?” I think your analogy of throwing the ball is also great. They can actually feel like you don’t need to go and strengthen hectic muscles to throw the ball. You can actually see the effects straightaway by turning the body. Just getting them to feel like, “Well if I put in a 10 K weights, and I use my arm, and then I use my body I can feel that. It feels much lighter and more efficient.”

Carl Reader: You don’t want the movement … That’s what we’re training. You don’t want the movement to be disconnected, which we see a lot in golfers. They try, and flip their hips, and all. Then they lose their connection with their arm and then all … You’ll have your swimmers directing their thoughts towards their hips and they’ll forget to pull. You know?

Brenton: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Brenton: I find it’s … It can take a little while to develop that. Especially if they haven’t currently got that in their stroke that coordination it’s going to be pretty awkward for two or three weeks at least but they’ll probably find, over the course of a couple of weeks, they start to get it more and more. They notice when they get it. They feel like, “All right man, that was good. I could feel that flow coming into the stroke.”

Brenton: What I find with freestyle that can help with people. The progression, in a way, that they can go through is, first of all, you want to make sure that you’re reaching out enough, and you’re rotating your torso, and your hips correctly. Generally, it’s going to be about 40, 45 degrees through your shoulders, rotation side to side. The hips will be about 30, 35, roughly that. A bit less than the shoulders. Now if they’re in that position then they’ve got a good chance of having that serape effect come into play but what can help them in freestyle is to really make use of it you want to get your catch, the downwards tipping of the hand or the fingertips, get that to sync up with the downwards kick of your leg on the same side. That’s going to help initiate that rotation to the other side.

Brenton: If you can get the correct rotation, you can get the catch and the downwards kick to sync up, then it’s going to make everything a whole lot easier. I find that they’re two things that you need to have in place to get the effect of it. Otherwise, you’re … It’s going to be hard to do.

Carl Reader: Yeah. No, and I think like you said, if you try … Sometimes teaching it step-by-step can be confusing because we tend to think … A lot of people are so over analytical, their mind gets stuck on … If you tell someone to throw the ball. Then you said, “Well before you throw gently rotate your hips to 30 degrees. Now rotate” … It’s like you know, if you just said, “Just throw the ball.” Then they go, “Oh well, okay. You want me to do this.” Then you go, “Yes.” Then they get the movement.

Carl Reader: I mean, that’s where your coaching, you can see straight away this is actually confusing the person. It’s funny because it’s such a natural movement. It’s just that we’ve been so programmed, by the fitness industry, to isolate movements. I think that’s why we’re trying to get back to functionality again.

Brenton: Yeah. Yeah.

Brenton: It kind of goes along with well just overthinking things in general but as soon as you’re thinking too hard about a movement you’re going to lose the timing of it. Well I think it’s some of these movements you might want to do slowly, like with some of our catch drills and so on, you want to do them slowly so you know that you’re in the right position and you can make sure that you’re there but then when it comes to actually bringing that into your normal stroke you want to back off some of the thinking side of your brain and go a bit more for feel. Especially for this serape effect. You will feel when it’s happening. If you can just try and replicate that feel as often as you can, as opposed to thinking really hard at trying to do it, you’re going to be so much better off going for that feeling side of things.

Carl Reader: Well I mean if you surf or you do any sports that require those coordination you’ll find when you get into that zone … Not in the zone. That feeling. You’re not trying hardest. For surfing you’re letting the wave drive you. If it’s golf it feels like an effortless shot, you’re not forcing it.

Carl Reader: I always tell my clients, “When you watch professionals it looks effortless and that’s because it is effortless. They’re not expending a lot of energy. Unless it’s weight building or they’re having to do some sort of … Like a rugby physical task.”

Carl Reader: But I also want to touch, Brenton if we can go there, is some of the roadblocks, or not roadblocks, handbrakes to the serape effect. I’m not sure if your listeners would be interested in that?

Brenton: Yeah. That’d be great. Lets get into it.

Carl Reader: You mentioned the overthinking. We know that the right side of the brain is the analytical side … Sorry, the left side of the brain is the analytical side. What happens is that when people are trying too hard to try to improve a technique it primes the right hand side nervous system. They actually avoid left side so your whole left side’s compromised. You’ll find that they’re pulling too hard on the right side and the left side’s not getting … You may even find, in swimming, that they can turn their head easy to the right but not to the left. That also may be a postural thing or just not a coordination thing but you’ll find that they tend to get tight on the right hand side and that effects the whole left hand side. That’s quite an interesting thing because you want both sides to be working pretty efficient.

Carl Reader: You’ll find, we talked about this before as well, but you’ve got asymmetries in the body. That can be postural, it can just be many things. Their daily works, maybe they got one leg longer than the other. There’s a lot of things going on there but you want that serape effect to be maybe 55, 45. You don’t want to have 70% on the right side and 30% on the left hand side. Especially if you really want to improve your technique and be competitive.

Brenton: Looking at that so there’s issues functionally and with my ability, with a lot of people that will restrict their ability to put this into place and put this in evenly on both sides. Is that what you’re saying?

Carl Reader: That’s what I’m say. Yes. You’ll find some people say, “I’m just so much easier to do on my right hand side and so much harder to do on my left hand side,” or, “I feel so like … I don’t feel like I can coordinate or get the right muscles working.” That’s part of what I do with my guys is saying, “Well okay, lets just find out where those handbrakes are because even though your technique might be right, if the muscles are not firing you’re not going to feel that effect.”

Carl Reader: Back pain’s another one. Tight hamstrings. These are things that can really lockup and stop that serape effect happening because remember your hamstrings play a big role in knee and hip rotation. It’s just trying to piece together the puzzle and find out why they’re not getting that movement. Hip flexors. I know you are aware of those. Those can really lock out the serape effect because that’s where they start so we need to look at, how can we release those hip flexors? Also, rotation is such a big part of the serape, like you said, just rotate your body. Any rotational, so the hip rotation and what I find is your upper back is where your rotation generally takes place in the body, in the back. If it’s tight through that middle thoracic spine you really find that serape effect’s greatly diminished.

Brenton: Oh completely.

Brenton: There’s two things I want to touch on there. The first one is that thoracic mobility. I’ve found this when I’ve traveled a lot or been driving a lot and also just carrying the kids around. My thoracics are about 50% down on what they would normally be if I’m feeling good and flexible. It’s just, I can’t recover as easy. I can’t rotate as easily in the stroke. I think that’s absolutely key, especially for swimming. I know a lot of physios who have worked with the Australian Swim Team and top level swimmers. It is one of the primary things that they look at, is that thoracic mobility. I mean, most of those guys are fine but especially among the people who are just swimming recreationally it’s a big one.

Brenton: That hip flexor mobility as well. With the stroke, when we look at people kicking, a lot of the times they can’t lift their leg up enough in the up kick to where the thigh always stays below the hip line. Basically they’re creating drag on their thighs because they can’t lift their leg up high enough. Starting from the glutes and then using the hammies a bit as well because they’re so tight there.

Brenton: I think if you can have decent thoracic mobility, decent hip flex mobility it just frees you up to do a lot more in the stroke and get this serape effect happening. I know that’s a big chunk of what you do with people, where you are, and also online. The functional movement screening.

Brenton: Can you go into a bit of detail with, I guess, the process that you go through with people to analyze where they’re at with their functional movement? Then the way that you go about helping them make those changes that they need to?

Carl Reader: Well it’s just starting off with their biggest problem. They’ll say to me that their hip flexors are tight, or they don’t know why they can’t generate power, or for their chronic shoulder problem. Then we just generally look at what exercises they’re doing. I’ll often just look at their technique. They say, “Well Carl I’m doing squats, I’m doing this and I’m doing the lap pulldowns like you said.” Then I’ll have a look at them and say, “Well your feet are in the wrong position. Your knees aren’t soft. It’s quite clear your thoracic spine is very stiff and you’re trying to generate power from your arm. There’s no mobility going through the thoracic core,” the upper back for those who aren’t familiar with the medical term. Really just guiding them through that.

Carl Reader: Also, I do a lot with the mind and the body. Like I say to them, “Are you trying hard here?” They say, “I’m a perfectionist. I got to get this right.” You hear, especially with professional athletes, “I’ve got to get this right. I’ve got to get this right.” I just try to, like you say, go back to feeling. Suddenly they’ll say, “But now my whole body feels so much looser. What have you done?” I say, “I haven’t done anything. I’ll I’ve done is point to you where the roadblock is or where the handbrake is.”

Carl Reader: Often with the hip flexors is it’s quite an emotional muscle. This is why we’re finding a lot of people, besides just sitting for long days in cars and chairs, it’s more than that. Is that we find the emotional link quite powerful. I say to my clients, “Are you doing hip flexor stretches?” “Oh I’ve been stretching my hip flexors for years.” I say, “Well how’s it going?” They say, “Oh it’s making a difference but it’s not really making a difference.” I say, “Okay. Well we need to look at … We’ve got to look at your posture. We also got to look at the mind side of things as well.” I think sports psychology and things, it’s a major player.

Carl Reader: I cover all those topics. I don’t go into too much into psychoanalysis but I just try to point to them the very common things that go through people’s minds that can lock them up.

Brenton: Yeah, you’re talking my language. One of the things that I like to get an understanding of is, what are some of the beliefs that people have about swimming and about their swimming? We see that a lot of the faults or the issues that will come out in their technique is because of these beliefs that they have about what they need to do in the stroke. Also just their general approach mentally to their swimming. For example, sometimes people … One big one, for example, is the recovery. When the arm’s coming over the top of the water people have been told, “You need a high elbow recovery. Get a high elbow recovery.” They see that as you need to bring your hand close to your body, get the elbow up nice and high. It just throws their whole body out of whack. Especially if they’re tight through that thoracic movement.

Brenton: It’s like, number one no … Well you don’t want a low or a dropped elbow recovery but just be open with that recovery. Get that hand out wide. Give yourself some freedom to move. That’s going to free you up. That is going to have this domino effect with the rest of the stroke. So things like that.

Brenton: Also with the catch. As people are moving the catch phase of the stroke, we talk about that as the setup phase. Don’t worry about the power there it’s all about get yourself in a good position, then you can start to build up the power. Just getting them to relax there. Again, that can be one of those things that is a handbrake for them.

Brenton: In terms of mindset it’s like some people put so much pressure on themselves to swim fast, or to improve that they end up thinking too much, or trying to hard and not allowing themselves to go with the flow and feel the stroke. Swimming is so much of a feeling sport that being up in their head too much will often stop them from improving their swimming.

Brenton: Yeah. I think we’re on the same page with that sort of thing.

Carl Reader: Yeah.

Brenton: Was that something that you’ve always coached or was it something that you saw as you were working with people more and more?

Carl Reader: I think it’s something … I mean I love my sports. It’s something I’ve experienced in my own body. I’ve really seen the effects of just working on the mind, the thoughts. Just working with … I’ve been in the medical biz now for over 18 years, just working with patients and people who are just a recurrent ITB bands, and their recurrent hamstring problems, recurrent … It just seems like we’re putting a plaster on the … We’re getting into this, what we call myofascial stretches now. We’re trying everything. It seems like we’ve got a shotgun approach. I know that sounds a bit controversial but we’re trying so many things to get people right and there are definitely results but I mean often we’re not getting to the simple things. Like you say, trying too hard. We’d rather stretch the hamstring … I mean, the hip flexor like till we really get it to burn or we just … Whatever we do but we don’t realize a simple thought of just changing … Just take the foot off the gas with the trying too hard and you’ll improve like 15% just like that. You know?

Brenton: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah.

Carl Reader: The other thing, which is important, is posture. We’ve talked about that before but is where … Also, can help the guys is getting the order of the exercises right. It’s trying to first prime the nervous system. That all starts by getting the spine to better alignment. You’re doing movements, maybe if you’ve got a hunched over posture you’re doing some gentle extensions in the right position and then you go into, what I talked about last time, the squats. The squats. I love the squats because it’s one of those things that’s like if your cellphone, although we’ve passed those times now, but in the olden days and your phone didn’t work you’d switch it off and then back on again. The squat does that with the spine. It just gets everything back into position quite quickly, if done correctly.

Carl Reader: Then from there you take them through mobility rotation exercises. Once the spine is in better alignment. A principle I have there is you always want to align vertically before you start aligning rotationally. If your spine is not vertically in a good position, too much flex forward or too extended, then your rotational components are compromised. It’s really just guiding the guys into that position saying, “We’re not going to get it perfect in one session but lets, before you start your gym session or land session lets just get your spine into a much better position so that you can then do those rotational exercises.”

Brenton: Yeah. That’s something I’ve come back to a lot, especially in the last six to 12 months as we’ve started to develop these core principles. Number one, you’ve got to be able to breath correctly and relax. If you haven’t got that then it doesn’t matter how good you are at the other things you’re probably going to get tired pretty quickly.

Brenton: Then the second thing is finding your balance. A big part of that is the posture, that you just mentioned. I’ve put a lot of focus into that with my own swimming but particularly the guys that I’ve been coaching. If you get your posture right, you get your breathing right, and you can relax you’re half way there because you’re just going to be able to apply so much more power, and just use the correct muscles, and be so much more effective with them.

Brenton: I think while it’s really … I guess it can be fun … Yeah. It can be more fun to work on some of the sexier aspects of the stroke, like the catch, and the pull, and all this other stuff, if you don’t have those key fundamental things in place then you’re really fighting a losing battle there. That’s why I think the stuff that’s functional and fundamental movements, that you have a big background in, I think that is the best place to start. Especially for people who may not have been doing a lot of exercise. They might have 10 years off or 15 years off and then just gotten into it now. Maybe, what, because their kids have grown up and they’ve got the time or if it’s just something that they’ve picked up because they want to get fit. Those that haven’t been moving or exercising continuously since they do it then it’s even more important because if you can’t move correctly then that’s when the injuries will come into play. It’s going to sit you out for a couple weeks, or a couple months, or even longer.

Carl Reader: Exactly.

Carl Reader: I think, like you said, also the … Something we see that’s amazing is body awareness. That just … You ask the average … Especially with the men, they just seem to be very disconnected to their body. I mean, obviously elite athletes are more in tune with their bodies but you ask them to lift up their arm and you say, “Do you feel anything.” They say, “Yeah a little bit.” Then you say, “Well how does your shoulder feel?” “Well actually it’s really, really sore.” I’m like, “I wonder why they didn’t tell me that in the first place,” or they can’t give you an idea of how high they’re lifting.

Carl Reader: I think, men in particular, are so goal driven that they just focus on the result and not paying any attention to the functional, the form or the movement. They’re just, as long as they can bash out three sets of 10 at an exercise then they’re happy it’s done, it’s a tick. I’m telling the guys, “Maybe just go even lighter. Really pay attention to what muscles do you feel working?” Often they’ll say to me online, they’ll say, “I never even thought about that. I’m going, “Well this is the whole point. I want you to be able to tell me, do you feel the glutes more than the hamstrings? Do you even feel their core?” They go, “Well not really. I feel like my quads are doing everything.” I say, “Well they are doing everything and that’s the problem.”

Carl Reader: Then you go, and you do your foam rolling, and all your treatments, and stuff but you actually got to pay attention. It’s very hard in the pool but you can also get the guys to … They can go, “Actually I do, I feel like my hammies are overworking in the pool.” Yeah.

Brenton: Well yeah. We had a camp in Hawaii back in March. A friend of mine, Annie [Joan 00:29:02], she’s a swim coach based in Boulder. She came out and did some coaching there. She took one of the open water sessions. I’m a guy, I’m probably guilty of focusing more on the technical details and not tuning into my hippy side as much, I guess, so to speak. Annie is very good at explaining the … Or using analogies and getting swimmers to think about things in a different way. Using stories and using cues to tune into how their feeling.

Brenton: One of the big things she spoke about there was the swimmer who’s having the most fun is winning. Just going, especially in open water, go out there and enjoy it. Just have fun out there and appreciate what an awesome place we were getting to swim. All this sort of stuff. Having that sort of mindset is going to be much better in the long run than going out there and just focusing on get from A to B as quick as you can. I mean, obviously there’s a balance to both but tuning into that feeling side can help a lot. I think swimming is one of those sports that it is all about feeling.

Carl Reader: Yeah. Like you say when you tune into that feeling side then your right brain kicks in. That’s more on the right hand side of the brain. Then you’re getting a really good balance because it is, it’s a balance you need. You can’t just be pulling hard on the right side and then inefficient on the left side. You want to try and get that balance. If there was some way we could strap electrodes to you while you were swimming and actually get an idea of the force generation from left versus right. The swimmer that gets that pretty much in that range, where it’s 45, 55, even 60, 40 I’d be happy with but you’ll see that often it’s more than that. It’s like 70% right hand side 30% left hand side. As they start to enjoy the swimming, that almost the nervous system naturally just goes into that balancing of the system.

Brenton: Yeah.

Brenton: Do you … With the athletes that you’ve worked with face-to-face or online, what’s been the general timeline for them to see a difference in their sport, in terms of their results, how they’re feeling? Is it weeks, is it months or does it differ depending on what those things that they need to work on are?

Carl Reader: When it comes to technique it can be straight away. If it’s a postural position, if it’s running we look at their analysis and we say, “Your foot’s in the wrong position,” or, “Your head’s not looking … You’re not looking the right direction … Or not direction. Position.” Then it can be straight away.

Carl Reader: When it comes to muscles it really can also be quite quick. From a postural point-of-view, long-term, you’re looking at least maybe three to six weeks before you really see that overall change through the muscles but the retraining of the pattern can be quite quick, like three weeks. Especially if they incorporate it in every area of their life. Even closing a sliding door at home or picking up something and then start to incorporate that serape effect just by doing things around … Then it becomes … It accelerates that. If they’re just doing it at gym once a week it takes longer, obviously.

Brenton: Yeah. I look at my three year old and just the way he squats to pick things up. It’s like perfect form. Then I try and do it. I’m way too tight through my hips, and through my achilles, and everything else but it’s yeah, just trying to do that stuff day-to-day is really beneficial.

Brenton: Thanks very much for joining me on the podcast. For any athletes who are listening to this and you might have some niggles in your shoulders, or your knees, or your hips, or you feel like you’re just very restricted in some of the movements that you do, I’d recommend going to … Well getting in contact with Carl.

Brenton: Where can people find you and what’s the best way to get in touch Carl?

Carl Reader: Yeah I have a website. It’s this African website. It’s That’s Carl with a C or they’re welcome to email me at [email protected]. That’s, obviously, Carl with a C again. I usually respond pretty quickly. Any questions they have about their training is most welcome.

Brenton: That’s awesome.

Brenton: With those videos we’ll put some of those on the website and link to your website as well.

Brenton: Thanks again Carl. It’s been great having you back on. I’m sure you’ll be back on again too. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Carl Reader: Most welcome Brenton. Thanks for having me.

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Amazing swimming and fitness podcast

Love, love, love listening to Brenton and his guests. Always learning something new to add to my swim sets with drills or training sets. Also very motivational guests with great tips to add to your fitness routine. I love the stories of the longer distant swims and what’s involved. I’m always smiling after listening to these podcasts!! Thank you so much !!!!



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Brenton and Mitch were great to work with at the clinic, Good to get video analysis to work on straight away, practice some new drills and go home knowing what you need to work on.

Alex McFadyen