The freestyle catch is the most important part of the arm pull, if not the entire stroke. It's the part of the stroke that separates the good swimmers from the great. Having the ideal high elbow catch can set you apart from the crowd and unlock incredible power in your freestyle. In this video I break down the what, why, and how of achieving the ideal high elbow catch.
In This Video:
The 5 Parts of the Freestyle Arm Pull:
1. Entry - hand drives forward into the water.
2. Catch - elbow bends, forearm becomes vertical.
3. Power Phase - arm presses through the water.
4. Finish - Hand exits.
5. Recovery - Arm travels out of the water back overhead.
The 3 Objectives of the Freestyle Arm Pull:
1. Direct water back and your energy forward.
2. Maximize the surface area of your pull.
3. Utilize bigger and stronger muscles.
1. Alternating Hinge - Isolate the hinge motion that happens in the elbow during the catch by starting in superman position and simply bending your elbow to achieve a vertical forearm.
2. Stabilized One Arm Freestyle - With one hand on a kick board to help stabilize the body, pull with the other arm pausing in the catch position. Feel the hinge motion and then feel your paddle press back into the water.
3. Catchup - Both hands start in superman, then one arm completes one full stroke, with a pause in the catch position, before returning to superman. Then the other arm begins to pull. This allows you to focus on one arm at a time and feel supported while working on finding the high elbow catch.
4. Holding Paddles Against Forearms - Instead of using a strap to keep your paddle on, try grabbing the bottom of the paddle so that you can focus on pressing into the water with your forearm and not just your hand. Swim regular freestyle or try any of the drills listed above with this bottom paddle grip to emphasize the importance of a vertical forearm in the high elbow catch.
Good luck! I hope this video helps you swim faster! Remember to keep your elbows high, but your dreams even higher!
Check out my other blogs on Open Water Sighting, Kicking, Rotation, and Breathing.
The freestyle side breath is one of the most challenging and complex parts of the stroke. I travel around the country working with swimmers of every different age and ability level. It is very rare that I ever see anybody who has proper breathing. Most people slow down significantly when they breathe. If you haven't worked on it before, especially the timing, you probably aren't doing it right.
In the following video I go over proper breathing technique as well as the correct timing of how the breath fits into your stroke.
One of the most important parts of freestyle is maximizing the power of your rotation. It ties your stroke together creating a strong connection that allows your body to work together. However, since the rotation is such a huge source of power, many people think that more rotation means more power and they end up over-rotating to the point that it throws off the balance in the stroke. Instead of focusing on rotating more, work to increase the connection and power behind the rotation in order to swim fast.
In the following video, I walk you through a progression of drills to learn where the rotation should come from, how to control it, and how to add power. Practice these drills and you'll begin to understand and feel how your stroke comes together. Enjoy!
1. Rotisserie - focusing on rotating around your center axis and from the core.
2. Prone Kick and Rotate - Controlling the rotation while kicking
3. Hip Connector Drill - Connecting the rotation to the catch
4. Stabilized One Arm - Adding in an arm pull while feeling supported
5. One Arm with Rotation - Controlled rotation to both sides while using one arm
6. Power Rotation with Kickboard - Add power by using resistance
Swimming isn't the most glamorous sport. Half the time, between caps and the water messing up our mascara, we look like bald raccoons! Over the years, I learned some ways to protect my skin and ensure that I look good when I'm dry!
1. Coconut Oil
I am constantly bathing in pool chemicals. So, to protect my hair and skin from getting dry and brittle, I take a small amount of the Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and coat my hair and skin in a thin layer. This helps prevent the chemicals from penetrating and leaves my hair feeling soft and healthy.
Ever since I moved to the amazing state of Colorado, I’ve realized how important it is to keep my skin moisturized...I can tell the difference when I let my skin get too dry. I use CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF in the morning and their PM lotion at night on my face. On my body I use the CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion to keep my skin protected and moisturized. Don’t forget to moisturize your lips too with a lip balm! I love BurtsBees!
3. Remove the Chlorine
The only product that is scientifically proven to break the bond of chlorine is SwimSpray. It’s a simple product that actually works. Without it, I feel like I’m carrying around the odor and weight of the pool chemicals all day. My hair feels flat and my skin feels tight. So I spray SwimSpray on my skin and hair after every practice, before I shower. My skin can breathe, no chlorine smell, and my hair feels softer. I’ve tried all the fancy chlorine shampoos, but SwimSpray is simply better.
“Water is the essence of moisture. Moisture is the essence of beauty”-- Even though this quote by Derek Zealander in the movie Zoolander, is supposed to be a joke, water really is important in a beauty routine! Moisturizing your skin isn’t just putting on lotion; you have to hydrate your skin from the inside out. Drink as much water as possible and watch the color of your urine. The lighter, the better.
A gentle exfoliation once a week can clear away dead skin and dirt that gets stuck in your pores. I usually exfoliate on Sundays since I know I don’t swim that day and my skin can recover. The key word here is GENTLE. You don’t want to scrub your skin raw. I mix a half cup of sugar with a half cup of coconut oil to scrub not only my face, but also the rest of my body.
With my beauty routine to take care of my skin and hair, you don’t need any fancy chemicals. Just the stuff that works.
Distance swimmers often write off the kick. I see so many swimmers who will explain to me that the simply don't kick when they're swimming in order to conserve energy. Others will try to kick bigger in order to have more power. The goal should be to find an efficient kick that will keep your body connected and high in the water. In the following video, I go over kicking techniques and rhythm to improve your technique as well as rhythm in your distance freestyle stroke.
It’s that time of year again! It’s the time for frozen hair, steaming pools, and kids wrapped up in parkas. The winter swim season is a time of high intensity training and conditioning. While most kids are relaxing and eating Christmas cookies, swimmers are going through their toughest training of the year and eating even more Christmas cookies! It can be difficult to decide what presents to get the swimmer in your life, so here are my 5 recommendations:
1. Swim Like a Champion DVD Series
Imagine having an Olympian talk you through what they think about in their stroke and what drills they do to fine-tune their technique. With the Swim Like a Champion DVD Series, you can have 8! Not only are these 8 Olympians the best at their events, but they are also 8 of the best instructors who can articulate their thoughts and movements for a swimmers mind. I still think it’s amazing to watch Matt Grevers talk about his backstroke and then watch him swim from under water. I highly recommend this DVD for every swimmer who wants to improve their technique.
Order yours at FitterandFaster.com/DVD
2. Virtual Video Analysis to Improve Your Technique!
3. Swim Clinics with Fitter and Faster Swim Tour
5. A Stroke Analysis Session at SwimLabs
One of the frustrations with improving in swimming is that coaches have to stand on the deck and they never (or rarely) get to see what happens underwater. The best you can do with getting underwater footage is running along the side with an underwater camera, which gives you blurry and shaky results. Swimming at SwimLabs is an amazing experience where you swim in a flume surrounded by cameras while a coach works with you one-on-one to go over underwater and above water footage. You then get to take the video back to your training to show your coach and implement the adjustments into your practice. Not only is it really helpful, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s an experience that your swimmer will treasure.
SwimLabs has many locations around the country and more opening all the time
Visit SwimLabs.com to find your closest location!
Everything listed here is a product of a company that I have chosen to partner with. I don’t partner with every company that comes along; I make sure that I fully believe in the entire vision before choosing to be a part of it. I hope you can enjoy all of these as much as I have! Thanks for reading and keep swimming fast!
A huge element in open water swimming is navigation. In order to see where you're going, you have to be able to sight properly. Poor sighting can lead to improper body position or even neck injuries. In the following video, I discuss the 3 ways that one can sight in open water while maintaining speed and efficiency.
Over the course of my swimming career, I was able to work with some legendary coaches and athletes. The best sports scientists in the world would analyze my stroke and help me to fine tune each movement to be as efficient as possible. Now that I’m retired, I have dedicated myself to sharing what I learned with as many other swimmers and triathletes as possible.
A couple months ago, I was driving around near my house when I saw a sign that said “Swim Lessons at SwimLabs”. The name SwimLabs rang a bell in my head because I had heard my Olympic Teammate, Kara Lynn Joyce, mention it. But I had never inquired further with her on what SwimLabs actually was! I decided to drop-in and what I found when I stepped inside blew my mind!
When I was 7 years old I got to swim in the flume at the Olympic Training Center. At this time in 1999, the flume was revolutionary to the science of swimming technique. It was a swimming treadmill with an adjustable current and cameras aimed to record each swimmer’s stroke. I still remember the experience to this day. I learned so much from being able to see my stroke from underwater with such quality and from such unique angles. I never thought I’d get another opportunity.
Imagine my surprise when I walked inside a facility with not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 4 pools set up almost exactly like the flume and available to everyone! SwimLabs has revolutionized swimming lessons by offering state of the art technology and brilliant, detail oriented coaches to help every swimmer perfect their technique. The best news is that SwimLabs is a franchise that has locations popping up in every corner of the United States. They’re growing rapidly as people realize that this type of training and technique work is invaluable to an athlete.
Here are 3 reasons why I think every swimmer and triathlete needs to visit a SwimLabs:
1. See your stroke from every angle in high quality.
You have to see your stroke underwater to really understand what you’re doing in your stroke and figure out what needs to change. You could try to put a camera underwater, but running up and down the side of the pool chasing a swimmer with a camera yields shaky and blurry results. Having a swimmer swim past the camera only gets a few frames that are actually usable. At SwimLabs, it’s a swimming treadmill! The swimmer and the cameras stay in one place, which allows for clear and stable video. We have 3 cameras aimed at the swimmer. One from the top looking down, one in front, and one that is movable. You get a full view of the stroke from every angle.
We also have mirrors on the bottom of the pool and in front so that the swimmers can see their stroke in real time and immediately make adjustments, even before we get our cameras on them.
Here's an example of a video from SwimLabs:
2. You get to take your videos home
Using Dartfish, we take the videos that we record during the lesson and upload them so that you can watch them anytime and anywhere. I will make notes on the video so that you remember what you need to work on. I also draw on the video to show angles and positioning to help you to understand the proper movement. You can watch them before each practice so that you’re continuously reminding yourself of what you need to work on and apply it.
3. Year round technique work
Lessons with detail oriented coaches and high tech equipment are available all year long. Continuously work on technique and schedule lessons regularly to stay on top of your stroke. You can acquire video over time as proof of your improvement! See the results as you go both on your film and in your times in competition.
It’s so rewarding to me to be able to see my swimmers improve even just over the course of a 30-minute lesson. Technique is so important in swimming and there really isn’t a better place to learn your proper form.
To schedule a lesson, click the button based on the location below, select private lessons and a coach.
Or Call: (303) 798-7946
Check out other SwimLabs locations and schedule a lesson with a trained coach!
Several years ago, a sport psychologist told me to go into my room and take down my goal times. My goals had become an unhealthy obsession that had blinded me to any progress and even limited my achievements. All of my attention was on the end result instead of creating a process to get there. I was setting a goal and setting my limitations. Throughout the past few years, I have rebuilt my process and created a better goal setting system that has allowed me to put a road map to success on my wall instead. It allowed me to reach higher levels of achievement and enjoy the process so much more. I want to challenge you to put a new system in place that allows for endless potential and constant growth! (I lay out this system in terms of swimming, but this process can be applied to anybody and anything.)
Goal setting is a practice nearly everyone does. However, it is not always the most efficient system for reaching your potential and it can have a limiting effect. Done incorrectly, you'll never be able to reach past your goal.
Setting goals can be like saying “I’m going to bake a cake” and then just working really hard to mix together ingredients without any idea of how to actually reach your goal. Without a recipe or plan, you’ll never get there.
By setting goals, we also can find ourselves falling into the trap of “if I achieve X, then I will be happy” which prevents us from creating a process that allows for growth and enjoyment throughout the whole journey.
The first step is to create goal levels:
Start with a dream goal and set this one really high! Even if you don’t totally believe that you could achieve it someday. For most, this will be to swim in the Olympics. For some, it could just be to be healthy and happy. Ask yourself why your swimming and what would be the ultimate achievement. Be sure not to limit yourself! You’re capable of more than you think.
Next, are long-term goals. Start to make a list of the goals that you’ll have to achieve in order to get to your dream goal. These are your stepping-stones to guide you along the way. For example, most people will follow along a path of Junior Olympics, Sectionals, Junior Nationals, Nationals, Olympic Trials, etc. or something similar. Also, the USA Swimming Motivational Times can be a great guide for age group swimmers.
Each long-term goal should have a list of short-term goals as progress markers. This includes time and technique goals that must be achieved at the next swim meet to get closer and closer to your long-term goals. These goals still take time and work to achieve and must be applied over time for mastery. Even the "training meets" where you're racing tired, talk to your coach about setting a creative goal . My favorite would be to try and negative split my 400 or hold a certain breathing pattern.
Micro-goals are my favorite and the type of goals that separate out the good from the great. These mini-goals allow you to get the most out of each day and practice by having 1-3 things that you’re focusing on in each set in practice. They can be splits, technique, diet, sleep, dryland, or mindset based goals so that you start each day with intention and end each day with a feeling that you got everything out of the day that you possibly could. Try to hold slightly faster times throughout a set than you might have been able to do last week or streamline off your walls a little bit farther. They don't have to be huge improvements; inch by inch, everything's a cinch!
By the time you’ve drawn this roadmap and really laid out the steps that you need to take to achieve that dream goal, it doesn’t seem so difficult any more. Your goals flow from one to the next and you have the opportunity to continuously move forward through each step. Your focus is on the progress and you can celebrate victories almost every day. This allows you to enjoy the journey and stay constantly motivated!
Each goal must follow the 3 P’s:
Powerful: Set your goals high! You’re capable of so much more than you think! Reach one notch higher than you normally would with everything from dream goals to micro goals. Start out a set or a race just a little bit faster than you think you can hold. You’ll surprise yourself often!
Personal: Keep your goals in your lane! Don’t base your goals off of what anybody else is doing. You can’t control them and you don’t know how they’re going to do. Stay focused on what you can control. It’s great to work off of other people in races to push you and be competitive, but focus on you.
Positive: Focus on what you want to achieve and not what you don’t want to achieve. If I tell you to focus on not false starting, what are you picturing? Your brain doesn’t pay any attention to the word “don’t” or “no” so you picture yourself false starting. Instead flip everything around to a positive and visualize yourself starting perfectly. When you’re at a barrier, instead of thinking “break 1:00”, think “go a :59”, etc.
Following these goal-setting steps will lead you to success. You’ll find yourself progressing through your roadmap without much resistance. So stop setting goals and create a goal system!
One of the best components to a dryland training program is training for power. Starts and turns are the two times during a race where a swimmer can produce the most force. Taking advantage of developing these two aspects of a race in dryland can give athletes an advantage, especially when sprinting.
We add power exercises to programs for many reasons. Basic power exercises can help improve coordination, increase neural drive and activation, as well as increase the rate at which you produce force.
When adding plyometrics to a dryland program here are general rules:
- Do your power exercises first
- Keep the ground contacts to no more than 25-30/session.
- Learn landing techniques first
- Execute movement slow to develop form
- Progress to rhythmic movement
- Increase speed
- Add External Load (Dumbbells, Weight Vest etc.)
Check out this basic Power Tri-Set for Dryland.
A1: Box Blasts 3x5ea
A2: 3 Way Ankle 3x3ea position
A3: Medicine Ball Toss 3x5ea
Chloe Sutton - Sharing my experience of 20 years of competitive swimming including 8 years on the National Team and 2 Olympic Games.