You’re about to read the most important post in our “How To Get Faster In Freestyle” series. This is part 2 of 3 in our series:
- Part 1 – How to Kick Faster in Freestyle
- Part 2 [You Are Here] – How to Pull Faster In Freestyle (for beginners and intermediates)
- Part 3 – How To Get Faster In The Water (On 3 Swims a Week)
Here’s a quick video we did on this topic:
In freestyle, there aren’t many things that will help to “level the playing field”. For the most part, those with a swimming background have a big advantage over those who don’t.
But let’s not forget something really important here: Your goal is not to win the swim. Your goal is not even to necessarily go faster (although that will be a by-product of the techniques you will learn with Tri Swim Coach :)).
Your goal is likely a faster race. Perhaps for you, this starts with improving your swim. Well if there is a short-cut in swimming it’s this: the high elbow pull.
Now there IS some controversy, and confusion out there about pulling with your elbows high in the water.
Studies have even shown that a straight-arm pull may even be faster!
So why would we teach high elbows?
This study’s conclusion was that pulling with a straight arm is faster than with a bent elbow. Well, this statement really depends on 1) the distance of the race, and 2) the individual swimmer. For example, someone training for a 100 meter freestyle sprint can potentially get more out of straight arms.
But for someone training for a 1500m swim, it’s a different story.
Take for example, Sun Yang, the current 1500m world record holder. This is what his pull looks like underwater:
And when you consider that you are doing a triathlon, and that you have a bike and run after your swim, it makes a lot of sense to copy what a swimmer like Yang is doing rather than a sprint freestyler.
Here are the 4 steps to developing a high elbow pull:
1. Start with arm recovery. Extend your arm straight as it enters the water. Try not to go towards the middle or too far to the outside.
2. Bend the elbow by pointing your hand towards the pool bottom.
3. Pull back as if you are using a paddle, or pulling around a barrel. This means no reaching in, or reaching too far out.
4. Keep your elbows high on the recovery. Practice dragging your fingertips across the surface of the water to get this.
Incorporating the high elbow pull and making it a habit will take some time. At first, you will have to keep reminding yourself of the 4 steps. But as you practice, you will start to “feel the power”, and this can become your “secret weapon” to save your swimming energy and have a better race!
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