This week I have a guest blog for how to perfect your swim through the catch & pull by Lizzy Bullock. Enjoy these great training tips!
There are two main goals shared by all competitive freestyle swimmers: to propel your body through the water as quickly as possible and to do so with greater efficiency. Working with a knowledgeable swim coach will help you realize the inefficiencies in your stroke and perfect head and body alignment, assist with breath technique, and maximize the output of your kick. But, one of the most important things that any freestyle swimmer can do for their stroke, is to perfect the catch and pull.
What exactly is ‘catch and pull’?
The ‘pull’ portion of the catch and pull is fairly obvious. It’s important for athletes to pull against the water’s resistance in order to propel forward. Imagine that the pool is filled with a dense or sticky substance, like honey. In such an environment, the importance of ‘pulling’ your body through the water becomes obvious.
On the other hand, the ‘catch’ often appears a little more confusing. On the most basic level, when swimmers refer to their catch, they are talking about the way that their hand and arm enter the water. Because the catch is less familiar than other aspects of a stroke, swimmers tend to forget that a sub-par catch will reverberate through their stroke. A good catch doesn’t mean incurring a lot of stress on the shoulders. And reaching out as far as possible won’t necessarily achieve an efficient catch either. While a bad catch will leave you with bad form (and result in a bad pull), a good catch will cut through the water easily and allow you to max out your pull.
To perfect your freestyle’s catch and pull, start by examining your hand’s entry into the water. Like most alignment issues in swimming, it all begins with the fingertips. For an efficient catch and pull, your fingertips should enter the water, angled slightly downward, with your middle finger pointing the way to the far end of the pool. This will help keep your elbow high and put you in perfect stroke positioning. Keep in mind that your hand should enter the water aligned with the shoulder and should never cross your head line. This will interfere with your elbow height and spinal alignment.
Lengthen The Body
With your hand in the water, focus on lengthening your reach for maximum distance. By rotating your body from the hip and stretching forward with a bent elbow (about 45-90 degrees), you’re setting up for a strong pull. With each subsequent pull, focus on your body’s side muscles stretching. The stretch should be felt in your obliques, or even in the deeper postural muscle, quadratus lumborum.
Bend The Forearm
Once the arm is fully extended, flex your hand downward at the wrist and follow with the forearm. By tilting your fingertips towards the bottom of the pool and lowering just your forearm into the water, your elbow will remain high, thus increasing your stroke’s efficiency.
Pull/Press The Water
With the arm in pulling position, visualize your arm pushing water back behind your body. As your arm moves down and around your body, your wrist will naturally return to a position even with the plane of your forearm. This will put you in position for your recovery and next stroke arm stroke.
While the whole process might sound arduous, perfecting your catch and pull is easily managed with a little practice and concentration. Start by pinpointing your freestyle’s flaws. Once you’ve mastered the catch and the pull on each side (you can rest the other arm on a kickboard while you do this), begin putting everything together for a single seamless motion.
Lizzy lives and works in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida. She operates a local swim school, specializing in all stages of stroke development. Lizzy has worked successfully with hundreds of students including infants, children with disabilities, adults mastering stroke technique, and non-swimming adults. Lizzy also works as a Director at AquaGear Swim Shop.