Try This Exercise: Top, Middle Or Bottom?

If you live in the UK you might remember the TV game-show Strike It Lucky with Michael Barrymore:

In the show, players had to select the top, middle or bottom screen to move forwards. Get a question wrong and they hit a "hot spot" (where they would lose all the cash they had won).

Let's try a little game with your own swimming to do with how you enter and extend forwards at the front of the stroke. We'll call it "Top Middle or Bottom".

Anyone will get something from this exercise but it's especially effective for Kicktastics or Overgliders, who tend to show their palms forwards at the front of the stroke:

This is bad technique as it adds a braking effect and it harms your catch on the water that follows. You will feel quite a lot of pressure on the palm of your hand (you might mistake this for a good catch) but it will slow you down dramatically and kill any rhythm in your stroke.

Instead we should be entering and extending in this position with the elbow slightly higher than the wrist and the wrist slightly higher than the fingertips:

To help you develop this position, put on a pair of fins and paddles (Finis Freestyler paddles are perfect for this) and swim 50m of freestyle, running through the "Top Middle and Bottom" positions.

For about 10-15 strokes, deliberately bring the hand high as you extend forwards:

Then for another 10-15 strokes move to a middle position:

And then for another 10-15 strokes deliberately extend a little low (the bottom position):

Too high and you hit a "hot spot" which adds drag and kills your stroke rhythm.

Too low and your hand instantly dives downwards to the bottom - another hot-spot.

But get in the right position in the middle ground and you develop a smooth rhythm and good propulsion. No hot-spot!

Is this position lower than you might expect? It is for many swimmers. Transfer this good extension into your normal freestyle and you will instantly be faster through the water for the same effort, moving smoothly and continuously from one stroke to the next.

Also see our classic blog post: Don't Start Too Near The Surface

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Alex said...

Paul thanks for this post. This is exactly were I am right now. I am trying not to over-glide palm up, but I was yet to realise I was hitting another hot-spot lower down.

Thank you also for the Swim Smooth Guru site I already feel I have improved markedly in the three session I have done so far. There is so much content and such a clear path to further improvement I am really excited!

I admit to hesitating with signing up to Swim Smooth with so many options out there including swim coaches, On Speedo and Total Immersion - each of which I have tried. I hit a plateau without even realising it. I stumbled upon you fantastic Swim Smooth book, reading it and by watching the fantastic tutorials on your site, I discovered your incredible swim type system. Reading about the swim types was like a moment of epiphany. I am clearly an over-glider and the tutorials and content you have produced for that swim type could have been produced specifically for me! It is genius thank you. Now I must try not to over-think and get swimming...

Jonas said...

Hello Paul and Adam, in the middle position, which you say is the correct one, I see that, when the arm is extended, the elbow is lower than the wrist, which you say is not good. What do you think? Thank you.

Adam Young said...

Hi Alex, good to hear from you and thanks for the nice feedback - great to hear Swim Smooth is making a real difference to your swimming (physically and mentally!).

Hi Jonas, yes so the guy in the footage is doing the drill for the first time, so he's not perfect yet. We probably should have pointed that out in the post. But it's a large improvement over his original stroke in the first clip we're sure you'll agree!



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