Sculls

Sculls (hand movements used to propel the body) are the most essential part to synchronized swimming. Commonly used sculls include support scull, standard scull, torpedo scull, split-arm scull, barrel scull, and paddle scull. The support scull is used most often to support the body while a swimmer is performing upside down. Support scull is performed by holding the upper arms against the sides of the body and the lower arms at 90-degree angles to the body. The lower arms are then moved back and forth while maintaining the right angle. The resulting pressure against the hands allows the swimmer to hold their legs above water while swimming. Other sculls used in training include propeller and reverse propeller.

 

Eggbeater

The "eggbeater kick" is another important skill of synchronized swimming. It is a form of treading water that allows for stability and height above the water while leaving the hands free to perform strokes. An average eggbeater height is usually around chest level. Using the eggbeater, swimmers can also perform "boosts", where they use their legs to momentarily propel themselves out of the water to their hips or higher. "Eggbeater" is also a common movement found in water polo as well as the "pop-up" movement. Eggbeating for a considerable period is also referred to as an "aquabob" and is used to build propulsion under water prior to a boost or pop-up.

Lifts

 
A member of the Japanese team is thrown up in the air during the team's free routine at the 2013 French Open.

A lift is when members of the team use their feet and legs to propel their teammates relatively high out of the water. They are quite common in routines of older age groups.

Parts of a successful lift

There are three parts to every lift in synchronized swimming: The top (or "flyer"), the base, and the pushers.

  • The Flyer is usually the smallest member of the team. Flyers must be agile and flexible, with a preferable gymnastics background if they are jumping off the lift.
  • The Base tends to be relatively small. She should have good leg strength and a solid core (when performing a platform lift, a strong core is essential).
  • The Pushers are usually the bigger, stronger members of the team and should be evenly spaced around the lift.

Types of lifts

  • The Platform Lift oldest form. In a platform, the base lays out in a back layout position underwater. The top sets in a squatting position on her torso and stands once the lift reaches the surface. The remaining teammates use eggbeater to hold the platform and the top out of the water.
  • The Stack Lift is a more modern version of the platform. The base sets up in a squatting position a few feet underwater, with the pushers holding her legs and feet. The top then climbs onto the shoulders of the base. As the lift rises, pushers extend their arms while the base and top extend their legs to achieve maximum height. A common addition to a stack lift is a rotation while it descends.
  • Throw Liftis set up exactly like a stack lift. However, when the lift reaches its full height, the "flyer" on top of the lift will jump off of her teammate's shoulders, usually performing some sort of acrobatic movement or position. This is a very difficult lift and should only be attempted by experienced swimmers.

Positions

 
Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen of China perform during the duet technical routine at the 2013 French Open.

There are hundreds of different regular positions that can be used to create seemingly infinite combinations. These are a few basic and commonly used ones:

  • Back Layout: The most basic position. The body floats, completely straight and rigid, face-up on the surface while sculling under the hips.
  • Front Layout: Much like a Back Layout, the only difference is that the swimmer is on his/her stomach, sculling by his/her chest, and not breathing.
  • Sailboat/Bent Knee: Similar to the back layout, but one knee is bent with the toe touching the inside of the other leg, which remains parallel to the surface.
  • Ballet Leg: Beginning in a back layout, one leg is extended and held perpendicular to the body, while the other is held parallel to the surface of the water.
  • Flamingo: Similar to ballet leg position where bottom leg is pulled into the chest so that the shin of the bottom leg is touching the knee of the vertical leg.
  • Vertical: Achieved by holding the body completely straight upside down and perpendicular to the surface usually with both legs entirely out of water.
  • Crane: While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other is dropped parallel to the surface, making a 90-degree angle or "L" shape.
  • Bent Knee: While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other leg bends so that its toe is touching the knee of the vertical leg.
  • Split position: With the body vertical, one leg is stretched forward along the surface and the other extended back along the surface.
  • Knight: The body is in a surface arch position, where the legs are flat on the surface, and the body is arched so that the head is vertically in line with the hips. One leg is lifted, creating a vertical line perpendicular to the surface.
  • Side Fishtail: Side fishtail is a position similar to a crane. One leg remains vertical, while the other is extended out to the side parallel to the water, creating a side "Y" position.
  • side "Y": – this is used in catalina (13-15 provincial and national, junior and senior level)

Tub: Both legs are pulled up to the chest. 

Routine

Routines are composed of "hybrids" (leg movements) and arm or stroke sections. They often incorporate lifts or throws, an impressive move in which a group of swimmers lift or throw another swimmer out of the water. Swimmers are synchronized both to each other and to the music. During a routine swimmers can never use the bottom of the pool for support, but rather depend on sculling motions with the arms, and eggbeater kick to keep afloat. After the performance, the swimmers are judged and scored on their performance based on technical merit and artistic impression. Technical skill, patterns, expression, and synchronization are all critical to achieving a high score.

Technical vs. free routines

Depending on the competition level, swimmers will perform a "technical" routine with predetermined elements that must be performed in a specific order. The technical routine acts as a replacement for the figure event, and is usually used only in senior and collegiate level meets. In addition to the technical routine, the swimmers will perform a longer "free" routine, which has no requirements and is a chance for the swimmers to get creative and innovative with their choreography.

Length of routines

The type of routine and competition level determines the length of routines. Routines typically last two and a half to five minutes long, the shortest being solos, with length added as the number of swimmers are increased (duets, trios, teams, and combos). Age and skill level are other important factors in determining the required routine length.

Scoring

Routines are scored on a scale of 100, with points for both artistic impression and technical merit. The artistic mark is worth 50% of the total and the technical mark is worth 50%.

Preparation

 
Eye makeup of the Japanese synchronized swimmer Yumi Adachi.

When performing routines in competition and practice, competitors wear a rubber noseclip to keep water from entering their nose when submerged. Some swimmers wear ear-plugs to keep the water out of their ears. Hair is worn in a bun and flavorless gelatin, Knox, is applied to keep hair in place; a decorative headpiece is bobby-pinned to the bun. Occasionally, swimmers wear custom-made swimming caps in place of their hair in buns.

Competitors wear custom swimsuits and headpieces, usually elaborately decorated with bright fabric and sequins to reflect the music to which they are swimming. The costume and music are not judged (but marks will be taken off if the headpiece falls off any swimmer while she is swimming the routine) but factor into the overall performance and "artistic impression." Heavy eye makeup is often worn to help portray the emotions involved with the routine; it helps to accentuate the eyes of each swimmer. (This makeup style is often the center of criticism and ridicule. Some argue that it shows a lack of taste and minimizes the athleticism of the sport. Other artistic sports, such as gymnastics and ice skating, do not employ the same makeup practices.)

Underwater speakers ensure that swimmers can hear the music and aid their ability to synchronize with each other. Routines are prepared and set to counts in the music, to further ensure synchronization. Coaches use underwater speakers to communicate with the swimmers during practice. Goggles, though worn during practice, are not permitted during routine competition.


Figures

A standard meet begins with the swimmers doing "figures", which are positions performed individually without music. All swimmers must compete wearing the standard black swimsuit and white swimcap, as well as goggles and a noseclip. Figures are performed in front of a panel of 5 judges who score individual swimmers from 1 to 10 (10 being the best). After the figure competition, the routines begin.