Friday, May 01, 2015

Is Fingertrail Drill Doing You More Harm Than Good?

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Fingertrail or Thumb-Drag drill is an exercise where you deliberately swim dragging the fingertips across the surface of the water close to the body:

#add animation loop here of fingertail#

You've probably tried it yourself (or even done it to death). It's an extremely widespread drill that is used to encourage you to use a high-elbow arm recovery over the surface of the water.

Despite finger-trail being one of the most common swim drills in the world, at Swim Smooth we very rarely ask a swimmer to perform it as in most cases we observe its impact on a swimmer to be negative rather than positive.

As we discussed in this blog post on arm recovery, a very high tight elbow arm recovery simply does not work if you don't already have great upper body flexibility (like most adults). It places stress on the shoulder and can easily cause you to snake your body as you work against your flexibility to get into the position.

#will find better picture# Trying for too extreme a high elbow will leave your arm recovery feeling very awkward.

A slightly more open arm recovery (with the arm recovering high over the surface of the water) is much better suited to most adults and helps them swim with better stroke rhythm (which can only be a good thing):

You're not looking to go completely straight with the arm but just open up the angle at the elbow slightly. It might feel strange at first but you will immediately feel much more relaxed through the shoulders. Think about coming easily up and over as you recovery your arm forwards.

What to do instead? A good alternative to finger-trail is our Broken Arrow drill as it helps loosen off stiff shoulders and develop a good upper body posture for swimming:

To perform Broken Arrow drill use a pair of fins. Slowly lift the hand to a vertical position and hold it there for a second, before bending at the elbow (breaking the arrow) and spearing forwards into the water and onto the other side. See our full Broken Arrow instruction in the Swim Smooth Coaching System here:

If you are using finger-trail to promote a nice clean hand entry into the water then we suggest you use our Shoulder-Tap drill instead. This is another nice drill to loosen off your shoulders:

Swim Smooth!

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