Pull More Water
A goal of every swimmer should be to constantly refine their technique to become more efficient in the water. We’ve discussed how you can lengthen your Freestyle stroke by extending the hand entry. Another opportunity to improve your Freestyle efficiency is during the primary propulsion phase of the arm pull.
The ‘catch’ phase, which begins immediately after the hand and arm have been extended out front, provides the main thrust forward from the upper-body. A significant portion of this force is lost if the elbow drops during the arm motion. Dropping the elbow reflects a ‘straight-arm’ stroke, and unless the swimmer engages their larger lat and tricep muscles, he or she will tend to slip through this initial catch phase. It takes a lot more effort to maintain a straight-arm type of stroke over longer distances.
Keeping the elbow high elongates your stroke by activating the catch earlier in the pulling phase. The hand and forearm grab the water for a longer period during each arm cycle.
Establishing a high-elbow catch can be challenging especially after years of using a straight-arm catch. As this GoSwim video recommends, try to keep your elbow above your hand at all times during the stroke.
- Ball your hands into fists and swim freestyle, focusing on your high-elbow. Fist drill will help you feel the water on your forearm more easily and will make you more aware of your elbow position. PT Paddles can also be used in a similar context. Keep that elbow high!
Visual cues are great, but I always like to go back to tactile cues when possible. The Forearm Fulcrum is specifically designed to promote an “Early Vertical Forearm” during freestyle. The Forearm Fulcrum helps the swimmer create a blade from their finger tip to the elbow by keeping the wrist straight and preventing the swimmer from dropping the elbow.