Thursday, September 12, 2019

Why Do Elite Swimmers Recover Like This?

If you've watched elite swimmers in the pool you might well have noticed they often recover over the surface of the water and angle their hands back behind them like this:

In fact our freestyle animation Mr Smooth also does the same as he swims:

Ever wondered why and if you should try and do the same?

The reason elite swimmers do this (either consciously or unconsciously) is that they have been coached to swim using a classical high elbow arm recovery over the surface:

This certainly looks pretty but with the forearm becoming so vertical, they run the risk of the hand hitting the surface of the water as they swim (as if performing old-school finger-trail drill). The backward angle of the hand gives them a bit more clearance over the flat surface of the pool.

A high elbow recovery could be the right thing for you in the pool if your upper back and shoulders are flexible enough to achieve it. However in open water, where the water is much more disturbed, you run the risk of catching your hand on the surface, which would slow you down:

Far better in open water to user a slightly straighter arm recovery and bring the hand up and over more. This is why you see elite swimmers and triathletes swimming like this:

Even if you swim in a perfectly flat lake, the surface very quickly gets disturbed by other swimmers. In fact you can see this in both images above that the swimmers are moving through quite flat water but immediately around them it's turned to mush.

So, if you are a triathlete or open water swimmer, don't focus on developing a classical high elbow recovery because it will be a major hindrance when you are in open water. A loose relaxed high recovery is better, as we can see demonstrated by super-fish elite triathlete Richard Varga here:

[You can study Richard's stroke in full in the Swim Smooth Guru here (subscription required):]

Should you swim this way all the time? All year round? Yes you should! It's the right habit to get into and it works perfectly well for pool swimming. And, if you are a little tight in the upper back or shoulders you'll find it makes for a more relaxed recovery that is easier on the shoulders.

Here's Swim Smooth Coach Fiona Ford practising this with her London squad:

Swim Smooth!

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