Technique Tip #5: Hand Entry
Your hand should enter the water about a forearm's length in front of you and directly in front of your shoulders. It is a common mistake to enter the water with your hand too far in front or too close to your head. It is also very common for your hand to enter too narrow, so that it crosses over to the other side of your body. Keep your fingertips facing forward (don't enter the water thumb or pinky first) with a slight spread to your fingers (not tightly closed or widely spread). Lastly, upon hand entry, don't point your fingers upwards to the surface of the water, point them slightly angled toward the bottom of the pool.
Make sure your hand doesn't reach toward the surface after hand entry, it should point slightly downward to set yourself up for a high elbow catch
A few useful drills/videos to help you practice hand entry are: salute drill and preventing the crossover
Technique Tip #6: The Pull
Your pull should direct the water straight back towards your feet and your finger tips point down toward the bottom of the pool (forget what you learned about an S-pull). A common mistake is to let your arm cross the center line of your body (especially when you breathe). Another common mistake is to pull the water too deep with a straight arm, so bend your arm at the elbow so that your hand passes about a forearm's depth beneath your body.
Technique Tip #7: The Recovery
There are some swimmers that prefer a shoulder driven/straight arm recovery stroke and others that prefer a elbow driven/bend arm recovery stroke. This video shows some various recovery styles. How do you know what's best for you? Typically, swimmers with a higher stroke rate prefer a straight arm recovery and swimmers with a slower stroke rate do better with a bent arm recovery. Also, swimmers with less mobility in their shoulders would benefit from an elbow driven recovery (yet, I commonly see the opposite which leads to injury). Key points are that the elbow should be higher than the finger tips during recovery.
If you have shoulder problems and want to switch to a elbow driven recovery, a few drills to try are: finger tip drag drill/zipper drill, salute drill, slow motion recovery
Technique Tip #8: The High Elbow Catch
This is the most difficult skill to grasp in freestyle and I recommend perfecting all the other aspects of your stroke before attempting to work on this.
1. Practice the high elbow catch in the mirror
2. Practice with swim tubing
3. Practice on the side of the pool deck
4. In water high elbow catch drills (best with fins, snorkel and less desirable is a pull buoy)
5. Picture yourself swimming over a ladder that is parallel to the surface of the water and using your high elbow technique to pull yourself over top of it.
The next part of my swim technique posts will be an open water skills specific post. Stay tuned!