FINIS Tip Of The Week: Freestyle Catch Hand Extension

Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore 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), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s tip series is focused on the all-important freestyle catch. Arguably the most important part of any freestyle, developing and maintaining an efficient freestyle catch is crucial for swimmers at any ability level.

Last week we looked at the very first phase of having a good catch, the hand entry, and this week we will give you some tips to make sure the hand is extending forward correctly.

Setting Up The Catch…

Again, this may seem like a simple step, but making sure you are extending through your stroke in the right way will go a long way in setting up a powerful stroke. You want to make sure you are finding the right balance between extending each stroke long but not over-reaching. Extend too far and the elbow and wrist will tend to drop through the actual pull phase of the stroke. Don’t extend far enough, and the stroke won’t grab enough water and will be inefficient.

Underwater recovery with a snorkel is a great drill to focus on extending long in front with each pull. Because it isolates only the underwater phase of the stroke, swimmers can see when they may be dropping their elbow at the start of their stroke or feel when they are over-reaching.

Timing Rotation…

You also want to think about how the extension of your stroke is working with your rotation. If the rotation is not there your stroke will not be as long, setting you up to miss a more powerful pull. Additionally, this will create a disruption in the rhythm and tempo and your stroke that will get more pronounced the more fatigued you get, making the stroke more difficult and inefficient.

A good trick is to think about having an imaginary string tied around your wrist that is attached to your hip; as soon as that arm starts extending forward, the hip drops to rotate in unison. Also, any rotation drill that involves one arm in front (6 kick switch, 3-6-3 DPS, single arm free, etc.) is a good opportunity to remind your swimmers to sync their rotation with the extension of their stroke.

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

    You mean underwater extension with a “Finis” snorkel. You guys invented them, right??? 🙂 Great tips — thanks.

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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