On the freestyle recovery, you often hear from coaches (like me) to bend your elbows on recovery. Swimmers may wonder why bending elbows is recommended so often. While there are swimmers, like legendary World Record holder Janet Evans, who have perfected the straight arm or “windmill” recovery, this is not a technique that works for many swimmers, especially in the longer, open water distances. There is of course no “one size fits all”, as many swimmers will have different degrees of how high their elbows are on recovery. However, the high or bent elbow recovery will help most people get more out of their stroke in the long run.
Taken from the Zoomers.net website, “The very best arm stroke recovery is one which allows the hand to arrive in time to begin the next stroke but also allows the arm to slow almost to a complete stop just before the hand enters the water.”
Bending the elbow allows you to do this. If the hand and arm come forward and slam into the water, you lose momentum in the form of drag, and your arm fails to move you forward.
To get used to the bent or high elbow recovery, practice the Finger Tip Drag drill. Swim freestyle but drag your fingertips across the top of the water on each arm recovery out of the water.