The arm action can be broken down into five parts, each of which has its own specific requirements…
1 Hand entry
Fingertips or thumb enter the water first.
Hand enters between your head and shoulder.
Hand extends (glides) forward after entry.
2 Down sweep
Hand presses down and sweeps outwards.
Hand sculls to catch water as arm approaches full extension.
Hand sweeps down as elbow begins to flex (keep elbow high).
3 In sweep
Hand continues to accelerate.
Bend at your elbow increases.
Hand accelerates as it passes under your shoulder.
Hand pushes through to thigh.
Elbow is relaxed while lifted.
Little finger exits the water first.
Drill 1: Fist swimming
This drill promotes your feel for the water.
Keep your fists clenched as you swim for a set distance (for example 12.5m). It should feel as if your hands are slipping through the water.
Unclench your fist once you reach the distance and continue to swim front crawl. You should feel a difference in the water pressure around your hand.
This feeling should give you a better idea about the movement your hand makes as it pulls through and catches hold of the water.
Drill 2: Paddle swimming
Swimming with paddles promotes a greater feel for the water when used with fist swimming, and it also helps you develop a more powerful pull phase.
Using the hand or finger paddles effectively will increase the surface area of your hands. This creates resistance when you try to pull them back through the water.
Continue swimming as soon as possible after taking the paddles off so your hands feel the different resistance against the water.
Caution: Using paddles puts increased stress on your shoulders and, if used excessively or without good technique, could lead to injury.
Drill 3: Doggy paddle
Not only does this drill lengthen your stroke, it also ingrains an ‘S’-shaped pull to your underwater arm action.
Extend your arms out in front of you as you swim on your front with head up.
Keep your left arm in front, as you pull your right arm back and down towards your hip. Try to feel the water and scull as you perform the underwater catch action of front crawl.
Return your right arm to its starting position while keeping your arms and shoulder submerged under the water.
Repeat the action with your left arm.
Remember to roll your hips with each pull.
Continue reading our guide to key swim drills ( leg mechanics 2/4)