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by Susan Ingraham

February 14, 2010

Do you find yourself constantly trying to get your athletes to understand that they can be stronger underwater? Many swimmers don’t understand to press their hands against the water rather than pulling the hands through the water. This set and special notes will help reinforce the concept of pressing, not pulling. There are two objectives of this workout:

1. To gain a stronger hold underneath the water

2. To develop a feel for the power that can be generated throughout the pull phase in Freestyle.

Warm-up drill

Finger-tip drag: 8 x 25 @ :15 rest

• Arm is relaxed as the fingers literally drag along the surface of the water

• The elbow is higher than the wrist, which is above the hand

• Hands enter the water in line with the shoulder, not in front of the head

• Focus on high elbow recovery above the water

Coaches note:

Watch swimmers’ hands under the water. It’s very common that they “break” their wrists.

Catch-up: 8 x 25 @ :15 rest

• Apply the same feeling of high elbows below the water

• Start by extending both arms directly out in front, “Superman style”

• Bend one arm at the elbow (not the wrist) with fingertips pointing to the bottom of the pool

• Press against the water with the palm of the hand past the hip

• The extended arm has a relaxed elbow above the height of the hand and in line with the shoulders

• The lead hand should be about six inches under the surface of the water


4 x 25 Swim freestyle @ :50

1. Count each recovery stroke; one per each arm pull

2. Reduce the stroke count by 2; using the drill from above, find the catch under water

3. Reduce the stroke count by 1 more; extend the reach in front by 2 inches, then press the hand against the water and pull through

4. Reduce the stroke count by 1 more (again); roll the torso enough that the armpit faces the bottom of the pool

Coaches note:

Providing a measurable goal is more helpful than merely saying, “Roll more.”

Main set

9 x 200 @ :20 rest

1. Distance per stroke (DPS); swim each 25, within every 200, using the same stroke count achieved in #2 from the pre-set

2. Swim; apply the catch to the swim

3. Pull; use paddles and press hard against the water throughout this phase of the stroke

Repeat rotation three times

Cool down

Coaches note:

Your swimmers should feel a “burn” in their triceps and lats. These aches are the body getting stronger—remind them of this. However, also remind your athletes that they should not feel strain in the shoulders. Swimming backstroke will help to stretch out the upper body and arms. Make sure you are getting input from your swimmers as to where they can feel the work being done. If there is a feeling of sinking, simply pick up the tempo of the strokes.

This set is tough, but will benefit your swimmers by reinforcing the “press” and helping your athletes get a feel for the water.