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Freestyle Recovery: Swing Forward, Relaxed and Wide

7/21/2014

by Russell Mark//National Team High Performance Consultant

The freestyle arm recovery should be a controlled and relaxed throw of the hand, whether you want to have a classic high elbow recovery or a recovery that is more open (see both in the video below).



The freestyle arm recovery is the most visually recognizable motion in swimming, and is therefore one of the aspects that is most often coached.  The recovery itself doesn’t create forward movement, but a good recovery is important because it largely determines where your hands enter the water and provides incredible support for the motion of the arm that is pulling underwater.

  1. Throw the hand forward into the entry so that it enters in line with the shoulder.  The hand and arm extends in line with the shoulder as well.
  2. The recovery should be relaxed.  Not a stiff, rigid, mechanical movement.  Let the hand and wrist lead the way.
  3. To be relaxed and forward, the recovery should swing wide.  The hand should always be wider than the elbow.  Watch the video below of elite 200 freestylers.  You will see how wide their hands are, and how the hands shoot forward with the fingertips and hands leading the motion soon after the hand exits the water.  

Fingertip drag zipper drill (with the thumb dragging along the side of the body) has been a common way to teach a high elbow recovery.  With the video, you can see that it does not reflect what the recovery position actually looks like.  In addition, the narrow hand forces the shoulder into a stressful, possible injury-risk position because the upper arm (from shoulder to elbow) is in an unnatural position behind the plane of the back.

Some swimmers and coaches have been choosing to have a more open recovery, with the hand swinging higher in the air.  This does not require more rotation, but rather just allowing the hand more freedom to swing freely.  Just let it fly.  This recovery (and ensuing entry) can be more dynamic because it can be less restrictive and rigid, but the focus should still be on rotating forward (not down).