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Step 2/5 to drastically improve your swimming stroke and speed

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Step 2) Increase your pulling power!

Yellow lines indicate a 'vertical forearm' catch and pull through

Here's a catch fault I see in my Video Analysis sessions all the time - a straight arm pull through. I've drawn yellow lines on the picture to indicate how the arm should be positioned in the water, to maximise your arm propulsion. This is what us swimming geeks call a vertical forearm, which creates a larger surface area pushing the water backwards and engages your strong back muscles instead of your weak shoulder muscles. Pressing the water down with a straight arm pull through can raise up the front end and push down the back end, exacerbating sinky legs, poor body position and drag, slowing you down.

It’s so easy to think ‘I must improve my catch’, but how do you actually do it!?....

Using fins, kick on your side, allowing as much body rotation as feels comfortable on your shoulder for you to perform the drill. If you have particularly stiff upper back/shoulders or chest you may not be able to reach this extreme range of movement, but that's totally fine, just do what your body allows!

Keeping your upper arm and elbow high and wider than your shoulder, bend at the elbow, tipping the forearm and hand into a vertical position and recover the arm underwater. Do a few repetitions then go into freestyle focussing your attention on bending the forearm like this as you swim, breathing minimally so you can watch what you're doing.

Paddles can be used to both tune up your technique AND increase the surface area that you are pushing backwards, thereby increasing resistance and increasing your strength. Don't worry, you're not going to end up looking like a body builder, just pull the water with more power! The larger the paddle the greater the force required and hence pulling power created.

Try speed sets of half a length at pace into easy freestyle to the end, or long distance sets of 200-400m at a time with pull and paddles. Please take care if you've ever suffered from shoulder injuries and use a small size paddle.

Don’t forget to look out for more of my swimming tips next week! Drop me an email if you think of something you would really like me to focus on.

Happy swimming!!

Annie will be coaching five sessions on improving your swimming stroke and speed starting with 'Improving your drag' on Tuesday 1st October at 8.45pm. Available for £15 PAYG or £60 for all five sessions. Early booking here recommended!

Have a look at our Freestyle Improver Courses (October courses now FULL, November courses open).

Book a private Video Analysis by calling Annie on 07429830696 or emailing

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