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Problem: Straight-Arm Stroking

Top row: Problem swimmer. Bottom row: US elite distance swimmer Erik Vendt.


Erik Vendt: From start to end of stroke, his elbow is never very far from the surface. He gets hold of the water very early in his stroke with his hand and forearm, and pulls his body past that spot. Looking at the video, I see his hand and forearm in many, many frames. That means that he is holding a spot in the water while he moves forward (towards the camera). In contrast, straight-arm swimmers only shows their hand and arm for a few frames around the middle of the storke.

When you are straight-arm stroking:

  • On the first half of your stroke, you are pressing down on the water, pushing your body up (not forward).
  • When your arm gets vertical in the water, for that instant, you are applying pressure in the right direction (perpendicular to your direction of travel).
  • On the second half of your stroke, you pushing up towards the surface, pulling your body down in the water (not forward).
  • You are making that large circular motion using your shoulder muscles.

Here is a sequence showing how an expert swimmer (Erik Vendt) looksfrom the start of the catch to the end of the stroke:


His left elbow is never very far from the surface. Compared to the newer swimmers, he spends way more of his time pulling his body forward, not pushing it up or down in the water.

Other things to notice:

  • His right hand is almost fully extended before he begins the pull with his left hand.
  • His eyes are looking straight down at the bottom of the pool - not forward.
  • His head is deep in the water.
  • His kick is not extending very far out of the shadow of his body.
  • His shoulders do not rotate very much (but on shots from the side you will see that his hips rotate to almost 90°).


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