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Catch & Pull

The Catch

Before you start worrying about the catch and pull, make sure you can perform a proper arm stroke setup, which includes everything that you do after completing a stroke to get that same arm into position to perform another stroke. If you don't get a clean setup - as in the top photo to the left - it's very difficult to perform an effective catch and pull.

Let's be clear about what you have to accomplish with the catch and pull: you need to grab hold of a spot in the water - that's called the catch, and then somehow move your body past that spot - that's called the pull.

It makes sense to get the catch as far out in front of your body as possible, because then you should be able to get the maximum distance with each stroke. In most cases, especially for endurance swimmers, longer strokes are better. If you are a sprinter, or a shorter swimmer or have restricted shoulder mobility, then you will need to learn how to take shorter strokes (more quickly) to reach your optimal speed.

In the "early vertical forearm" catch sequence to the left, notice that the swimmer begins a rotational kick with her right leg just as she starts the catch with her right arm.

By the end of this sequence, the swimmer has her hand and forearm in the catch position, her body is beginning to rotate onto the left side, and she is ready to begin the pull. Unseen (out of the water) at this point, her recovering hand is passing her head.

The Pull

The pull is not just about power, because your hand and forearm need to provide traction. Your hand and forearm function like the blade of a paddle: you place your paddle in the water, hold it still, and lever your body past that paddle.

Pressing too hard will push your hand through the water, and that is like spinning your tires on a slippery surface - most of the energy is wasted.

Similarly, sculling your hand this way or that will also make your paddle slip. In the past, an "S" shaped pull was recommended, because it was mistakenly assumed that a longer pull path produced more propulsion. It doesn't - and you are more likely to injure youself trying to do that.

For some people it is helpful to focus on using the core to press the body past the anchored hand and forearm.

The catch and pull are illustrated viewed from the font, below.

Note: These video frames are from a great DVD for illustrating efficient freestyle technique: Go Swim Freestyle with Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen from Go Swim Productions LLC.

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