Stop your legs sinking in the swim
How to improve your arm recovery in front crawl

Front crawl: how to improve your arm recovery technique

Returning your arms to the front of your swim stroke has a huge effect on your swim efficiency. Robin Brew has the tips and drills to revitalise your arm recovery in front crawl

Your arm recovery adds a great deal to the momentum and rhythm of your stroke, and drills that train you to position your elbows and hands correctly will improve your arm recovery and maximise your forward propulsion, in some cases drastically reducing swim times.

Arm recovery is often overlooked by athletes trying to refine their stroke, probably because it takes place out of the water, but it’s a primary component of the front-crawl stroke. In addition to the obvious – namely, returning your arm to the water – your arm recovery performs numerous essential functions:

1. It stabilises and balances your stroke.

2. It adds forward momentum.

3. It assists the streamlining of your hand entry.

Head-up stroke

Keeping your head up positively limits body rotation, while increasing feel at the front of the stroke… 

This is a simple and effective drill to ensure that your arm recovery isn’t too high due to excessive body rotation. It also ensures that the pressure you apply in the catch position of the leading arm is maintained. It’s also good for gaining a feel for the water at the front of the stroke, and also transferring momentum from the back to the front of the stroke via your arms. It helps greatly if you allow your hands to catch up slightly at the front the stroke because there’s a tendency to sink if your leading hand moves away too fast.

4. The speed of the recovery helps to control the timing of your breathing.

5. The speed of the recovery helps to co-ordinate the timing and synchronisation of both arms.

One of the key aims of the arm recovery is to use as little energy as possible. That makes sense as it’s not physically moving you any further forward in the water. So you should try to relax all unnecessary shoulder, arm and hand muscles, almost lifting your arm out of the water as if the elbow was attached to a puppet string.

Like each and everyone of the technical features of the swim, afford a small amount of time to concentrate on this aspect of your stroke and you’ll soon notice some pretty hefty results.

Recovery essentials

Remember these key points when you undertake recovery drills

 Only begin your arm recovery once you’ve fully completed the push phase.

There should be no delay between the push phase and your arm recovery; it should be executed in one rhythmical, continuous movement.

Initiate your arm recovery by lifting your elbow in an upward and outward motion.

Rotate your core slightly upwards towards the recovering side to assist the recovery movement.

From a bird’s-eye view, your shoulders and hips should be aligned as your body rotates.

Maintain your leg kick to provide better balance.

The recovery phase is when you should inhale air.

Extend your leading arm to add stability, balance and streamlining when you make the initial recovery movement.

Your elbow leads the movement of your recovering arm around your body.

Keep your hand below your elbow throughout the recovery.

Use the forward and outward movement of your elbow to drive your hand forward.

Keep your body rotated until your stroking hand passes through the catch position and is about to begin the push phase.

Return your head to the centre line after breathing and keep it still.

In the final part of the recovery phase, roll your body to switch your weight from the stroking side to the side that’s about to finish recovering and begin stroking. This helps you transfer momentum onto your leading arm in
preparation for the next stroke.

Extend your hand below the water’s surface in a streamlined position to repeat the supporting role of stability and balance for the opposite arm.

Click here for 3 drills that will help you improve your arm recovery


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