The Sinking Hand Visualisation

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Here's a quick stroke technique tip which will help you improve your catch and propulsion.

As the hand enters and extends forwards underwater in front of your head, think about it sinking downwards slightly as you reach forwards. Here's Rebecca Adlington in action doing just that, notice how the hand gets deeper under the surface:

There should be very little force on the water, you're not aiming to press on it, just let it drift downwards with a gentle sinking action. Press down hard and you will lift your front end and sink your legs.

After sinking into this lower position seamlessly start to bend the elbow and press the water backwards - "the catch" :

Remember not to pause once fully extended - keep the lead hand in constant motion: entering the water, extending (and sinking slightly), bending at the elbow and catching. All joined together in one fluid motion.

It's not an easy skill but that light sinking action could be the thing you are missing in your catch technique so give it a go the next time you swim.

Why do this? Many swimmers think they should keep the hand near the surface as they extend but this doesn't account for the fact your body is rotating and so the shoulder is getting deeper in the water. Keep the hand at the same height and you will drop the elbow beneath the hand which will harm your catch and propulsion:

Also see our Michael Phelps visualisation video here:

A key Swim Smooth drill to complement the hand sinking visualisation is our Scull #1 drill, available on our DVDs and in the Swim Smooth Guru here:

You can also study all of Rebecca Adlington's amazing stroke technique using our unique footage in the Swim Smooth Guru (subscription required):

Swim Smooth!


Tom said...

Thanks for the blog. I love the Swim Smooth philosophy and improved my swimming technique greatly thanks to it. However, I've never really 'understood' this part of the stroke. So I understand you should gently let the hand sink, not pushing down too much. I understand that pushing down would even generate more of an upward force, rather than a propelling force. But since the freestyle stroke is all about continous propulsion (applying force parallel to the water line), why not 'skip' this part of the stroke. So, upon entry of the hand in the water, directly move/point it down deeper in the water (towards the position shown in the third photo) and once the arm is streched, bend your wirst and directly start to apply force to the back.

Obviously, I'm missing something here. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

- Tomas

Unknown said...

Can you address the motion of the shoulder during the catch and pull phases? It seems like your book and this blog is always talking about tipping the wrist and bending the elbow, but nothing on the shoulder. I assume there has to be some rotation of the shoulder to achieve a efficient catch and pull.

Jonas said...

Tom, I think what Swim Smooth means is to sink down the hand as it extends forward. What you suggest does not take into account that the hand has to extend forward after the point of entry. You cannot pull the water backwards right after hand entry.

Great post here from Swim Smooth.

Tom said...

Thanks. I was more thinking of: instead of extending the arm level and then moving it down. Directly extending the arm at an angle with respect to the water surface, down towards the same end position as shown in the third photo. Thus skipping the moving down part...

Anonymous said...

Tom, then I think you and Swim Smooth mean exactly the same. This is what Swim Smooth says: " ... entering the water, extending (and sinking slightly),..." So it is not extending first and then sinking down: it is extending not horizontally but in a slightly downward angle: that's what you say !


Adam Young said...

Hi Tomas - yes you can spear deeper and start the catch sooner - in fact this is what Swingers tend to do as it results in a faster stroke rate. The smooths of the world tend to enter that bit higher and then sink to a slower position as the body rotates.



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