Perfecting Your Freestyle Catch

Posted admin Training

Time for more of everyone’s favorite swimming topic, the catch! I know, I know, I talk about this WAY too much. But that is because it is one of the main parts of your freestyle that propels you through the water. It ups your efficiency, and helps you maintain your balance as you move through the water. Not to mention, doing the catch wrong/improperly can cause injury to your shoulder joint and surrounding areas. So, pretty important and almost worth beating a dead horse over, huh?


Today I wanted to talk about elbow position AFTER your hand enters the water. We always focus on keeping your elbow forward and outward during the recovery of the stroke (I don’t like to use the word “up” in this sense as it tends to lend people to thinking they need to actually pull their elbows behind their back – which is NOT what we want) in order to properly be setup for the catch. But I often forget to touch base on how you want your elbow after your hand as entered the water. I realized after swimming a ton this week that the time during my stroke that I let my elbow fall was under the water, not above.

After your hand has entered the water, make sure you KEEP FOCUSING on keeping your elbow forward and outward. This position keeps your shoulder joint from taking the brunt of the force when you pull through the water. It also allows you to create and maintain a paddle from your fingertips to your elbow for you to push back against the water with. If your elbow falls, you lose this paddle entirely. Your arm will basically slip through the water as your hand is left to try to be the paddle all by it’s little old self. Not very powerful when you think of what you could be using instead.


This movement I’m asking you to think about might seem small. And don’t get me wrong, it is! It’s a very small part of your overall stroke. But the impact it has on everything else is huge. In the image above, the correct position is on the right. And the incorrect position is on the left. Can you see the difference in the elbow position? On the left, with the elbow fallen. I haven’t created a paddle and I only have my hand to help me push back against the water. But on the right the elbow is forward and outward, keeping the shoulder safe and making the paddle from the fingertips to the elbow, giving you more power in the water.

Coach Lissa, Tri Swim Coach