Fitter And Faster Swim Drill Of The Week: Underwater Recovery

Welcome to the “Swim Drill of the Week” sponsored by The Fitter and Faster Swim Tour presented by Swimoutlet.com. 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 Underwater Recovery for freestyle. As the name suggests, underwater recovery is freestyle without the traditional above water, high elbow recovery. Rather, swimmers will move through the pull phase of their stroke before sliding their arms back in front of their bodies. This allows athletes to focus on finding a high elbow catch that maintains contact with the water all the way through the pull.

Pushing off the wall, swimmers will initiate their breakout stroke for freestyle as they normally would. However, rather than recovering on top of the water, swimmers will slide their arms back in front of their bodies with each pull. The focus should be on a high elbow catch that has them grabbing water as early as they can in the stroke. The tempo and rhythm of the pulls should be similar to full stroke freestyle. Once the pull phase in completed, instead of recovering over the water the arm returns to the front, when the opposite arm initiates the next pull.

When performing this drill, it is helpful to start with a snorkel so your athletes can focus exclusively on their underwater pull and not break their body position to get a breath. It is common to see athletes struggle with the rhythm of this drill when they first begin. They are obviously used to bringing their arms out of the water after every pull, so restricting that movement forces them to move through the water in a slightly different way, hopefully revealing something about their efficiency. While the focus of the drill is on developing a technically sound and powerful catch and pull, making the underwater transition back to the front can also be useful for developing core control, stable body position, and a general awareness of resistance in the water. Happy swimming!

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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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