Fitter And Faster Swim Drill Of The Week: Straight Arm Recovery Freestyle

Welcome to the “Swim Drill of the Week” sponsored by The Fitter and Faster Swim Tour presented by Swimming World will be bringing you a drill, concept, or tip that you can 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), Drill Of The Week excerpts are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s drill is Straight Arm Recovery Freestyle. As the name suggests, straight arm recovery freestyle is freestyle without the traditional high elbow recovery. Instead, swimmers will substitute a straight arm recovery with the goal of getting maximum reach in their stroke while also learning to use their core and legs as a stabilizing force through that reach.

Pushing off of the wall, swimmers will breakout as they normally do and swim with a straight arm recovery. Working to get the longest reach with each stroke, once contact with the water is made the challenge is to find their “hold” on the water as quickly as possible and transition into the pull phase of their arm stroke. In this version of the drill, swimmers will have a normal, high elbow catch under the water during the pull phase of their stroke.

The point of the straight arm recovery is to prevent your swimmers from rotating from their just shoulders. Instead, they are forced to get their reach by utilizing their side body muscles. Not only does this engage their core muscles along their trunk, but it also teaches them to use their kick as a stabilizer and rotate from their hips. While the rotation in this drill will not be as exaggerated as in other freestyle drills, the point of the drill is to find high hips and solid full body engagement through a slightly unnatural movement. By doing this, once your athletes return to their traditional full stroke they will be more cued in to their body position and how they are using their core and legs to maintain that during their stroke.

Adding a snorkel to this drill is helpful, as it will let your athletes focus on their core and whole body engagement and not worry about their breathing. Fins may also be used with beginners to help them understand how to engage their legs during the drill. 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.

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Author: James Sica

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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