Training Tip of the Week: DPS – High Elbow Catch

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every month with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip is centered around Distance Per Stroke (DPS). This is a term that is thrown around a lot in swimming, and for good reason. The greater your distance per stroke, the more efficient you are moving through the water, which ultimately makes for faster swimming.

This week, we are going to focus on another key elements of distance per stroke: the high elbow catch in freestyle! You can read last week’s tip related to distance per stroke, front end extension, by clicking here.

Finding The Position…

Similar to “DPS,” a “high elbow catch” is a term that is thrown around a lot, which can sometimes have it fall on deaf ears. It is always helpful to revisit this position in drill work regularly throughout the year (particularly at the beginning of every season!).

Some great drills that work on finding the correct position of the freestyle catch include slide drill, underwater recovery, and single arm free. All of these drills isolate the pull pattern and force your swimmers to examine how they are initiating their catch.

Connecting The Catch…

It is easy to find the catch position when you are moving slowly, but the real truck is to translate that position into full stroke, normal swimming. That involves maintaining a high elbow catch while maintaining all the other elements of a successful stroke.

Great drills that focus on the catch position while still mimicking full stroke swimming includes: straight arm free, tarzan drill, and closed fist swimming. These are all more slightly complicated drills that will help your swimmers feel the high catch position translate into their normal stroke.

Adding Power….

The catch is essential for getting any power out of your stroke. Adding paddles to any of the above drills (like straight arm free with paddles) is a great way to add some strength building into these drills and remind your athletes how to apply pressure from the very beginning of their pull. Happy swimming!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar

    !970 in Fort Lauderdale, I first heard the great Jack Nelson speak about DPS.

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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