Freestyle Recovery: Swing Forward, Relaxed and Wide
By Russell Mark//National Team High Performance Consultant
The freestyle arm recovery is the most visually recognizable motion in swimming, and is therefore one of the aspects that is most often coached. The recovery itself doesn’t create forward movement, but a good recovery is important because it largely determines where your hands enter the water and provides incredible support for the motion of the arm that is pulling underwater.
Throw the hand forward into the entry so that it enters the water in line with the shoulder.
The recovery should be relaxed. Not a stiff, rigid, mechanical movement. Let the hand and wrist lead the way.
To be relaxed and forward, the recovery should swing wide. The hand should always be wider than the elbow.
This recovery is preferred over the 'Fingertip drag - zipper drill (with the thumb dragging along the side of the body)', which has been a common way to teach a high elbow recovery. The drill does not reflect what the recovery position actually looks like. In addition, the narrow hand forces the shoulder into a stressful, possible injury-risk position because the upper arm (from shoulder to elbow) is in an unnatural position behind the plane of the back.
Some swimmers and coaches have been choosing to have a more open recovery, with the hand swinging higher in the air. This does not require more rotation, but rather just allowing the hand more freedom to swing freely. Just let it fly. This recovery (and ensuing entry) can be more dynamic because it can be less restrictive and rigid, but the focus should still be on rotating forward (not down).
USA Swimming, High Performance Manager, Russell Mark did a film study of the freestyle pull. Check out his illustrations and comments.
Great example of propulsion created through patience. Clearly, the left arm has finished it's more powerful push phase and is up, out of the water. Yet Nathan Adrian waits for his total forward inertia to reduce to a level equal to the less powerful catch phase of the pull.
Avoid pulling before the push is complete. Riding the glide, catch-up like, is an efficient way to swim and train.
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