We said it showed "Michelle dropping her wrist whilst breathing", you said "no, she's dropping her elbow". This is an interesting point of perspective and well worth devoting this week's blog to discussing - it could make a big improvement to your swimming.
Here's a zoom of Michelle's forearm and hand:
We can see clearly there by looking at the line between forearm and hand that the wrist angle is good. However, relative to the water, her wrist is dropped and the palm facing forwards.
The problem with the position Michelle's reached there is twofold. With the elbow lower than the wrist it's going to be hard to get a good catch on the water as she's going to have to commence the next movement by pushing the water downwards rather than pressing it backwards. Also, with her palm facing forwards she's creating drag and again it's hard to press the water backwards from there. Instead, she should be in a nice strong catch setup position, as demonstrated by Mr Smooth here:
The key points to this position are that the finger tips are lower than the wrist and the wrist is lower than the elbow. If you can achieve this position you'll generate more propulsion for a given effort and automatically reduce any deadspots in your stroke.
The question we'd like to ask is: What came first? Did the dropped elbow cause the wrist to drop? Or did the hand position drop the elbow? Against convention, we'd argue the latter. As humans we have good awareness (technical term: proprioception) of our hands and so we naturally coordinate and lead the stroke with them. Our awareness of the arms themselves is much lower and so they tend to naturally follow the hand position. By focusing on correcting the hand - tipping the wrist downwards into the position shown by Mr Smooth - Michelle's forearm will automatically raise into a higher elbow position.
For this reason, within Swim Smooth we often talk in terms of wrist positions and like our swimmers to use a slightly tipped wrist if possible. It's an example of our cause and effect methodology that runs through all our coaching. Focus on the thing at the cause of the problem - in this case wrist position - and the rest will click into place. This approach is a much faster and less frustrating way to correct your stroke!
Coaches, try this yourself: If you have a swimmer who drops their elbows on their extension forwards, instead of telling them to keep their elbows high, ask them to focus on tipping their wrist into a slightly cocked position and possibly adopt a slightly deeper hand position too (not right at the surface). It will feel alien to them at first but from the pool deck you'll see the improvement right away. Don't forget to compensate for the distortion of the water in your observations!