How To Hold Your Hands When Swimming

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Take a quick look at this video loop that a swimmer sent it to us for feedback:

Notice how Travis is holding his hands very loosely - almost limply in fact. Unfortunately when you do this you lose your attachment with the water, seriously damaging your catch. You can also see how it is adding a lot of drag as the water hits the back of his hand and fingers.

When you swim you shouldn't hold your hands limply or cup your hands (as was commonly taught in decades gone by). The best swimmers in the world lightly hold their hands flat like paddles:

2x Australian 10km Champion Rhys Mainstone

Don't do this forcibly or rigidly, the hand should be held flat with a light 'tone' to it - similar to if you were extending your hand to shake someone else's.

Try adding a small bend at the wrist to create a little shape at the front of the stroke as we can see Rhys doing above and Pro Triathlete Guy Crawford doing below. This helps you engage with the water in the right way and press it backwards:

Of course like anything you don't want to over-do it! :

Fingers Together Or Apart?

A very common related question is whether you should hold the fingers together or apart:

For the answer to that, read our full blog post on the subject. The answer might surprise you:

Of course, to give your catch and propulsion the full Swim Smooth treatment, you need our Catch Masterclass Program, available on DVD and in the Coaching System Webapp.

Swim Smooth!


Jonas said...

Important point here. I think there is an inconsistency between this post and your previous post "Fingers together or apart": there you said that it's OK to hold the fingers slightly apart when you hand enters the water, as Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe do, as long as you hold the fingers together when initiating the catch and during the pull and push phases. Here instead you seem to say that it's better to hold the fingers together right from the entry. So, please, what position of the fingers you recommend when the hand enters the water? Thanks.

Unknown said...

I love you guys because you always give me something to think about for my next swim. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

About the video at the top: do you guys just take any video to critique, or does one have to be some sort of subscriber?



Shorty said...

Awesum post on the hand entry. Certainly given me a timely reminder and something to work on over the winter break.

Adam Young said...

Hi Jonas, definitely aim for fingers together - although it is OK to have them very slightly apart it's so easy to overdo it and spread them too wide. If you do spread them slightly naturally and get it right then that's obviously fine but very few people do this naturally.

You're very welcome Anne and Shorty!


Adam Young said...

Hi P, we're looking at adding a new Swim Smooth service to do this but at the moment we just do it on an informal basis when we have free time.



Luke said...

hi adam,

just a follow up from the last blog: THANKS for your feedback; I think I underperform in open water mainly for 2 reasons
- 100% diesel engine (always loose the fast guys in the first 200m...sometimes I can bridge again later)
- difficulties with orientation; my vision is not the best to start with...add in foggy goggles, splash, stress, chaos (any recommendations for high quality goggles?)

looking at my specific case - would you recommend the agility and/or freestyle paddles to help me with my stroke (freestyle against crossover; agility for smoother catch&better finish)?


Adam Young said...

Hi Luke,

Go Zoggs or HUUB goggles, both are great.

Yeah I would tend towards the Agilities for you to improve the feel of your catch. Address the crossover with side kicking type drills:

Do you think the single sided breathing and crossover are causing you to drift to one side in open water? That only need to happen once for you to lose a pack....



Anonymous said...

Hi Jonas,

I want to say thank you for this informative post on swimming technique. Your use of visuals and clear information made it easy to understand.

I’ve found the use of Finis Agility paddles helpful in finding “what works for me”, especially when it comes to thumb and wrist position. I'll check out the link you offered Luke regarding the use of agilities.

Also, I had trouble navigating your website for relevant posts and would like to suggest the use of keywords (listed on the homepage) to improve the webpages’ navigation. Let me know what you think.



Adam Young said...

Hi Kristen, sorry which website are you referring to? Cheers! Adam

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