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Freestyle Arm Recovery


For distance and open water swimming, the high elbow recovery - the example on the left - is preferred. It keeps your hands closer to your body, and directs the weight and energy of the recovering arm forward. This means that you will be less likely to bump other swimmers. If you do hit chop, you will punch right through it. If you use a flatter recovery in open water (middle example below), you may hit the chop or another swimmer to the side, and your balance, timing, and direction can be disrupted.

Three Styles of Freestyle Arm Recovery

Eric Shanteau - High Elbow Recovery

Leading with a shoulder shrug and the elbow, he picks up the weight of the recovering arm and drops it forward. That weight is never very far from his center of mass, and it moves mostly forward, in the direction of travel. Of the three types of recovery illustrated here, this one should disrupt the swimmer's balance and aquatic line the least.

Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen - Bent Elbow Recovery

Similar to the high elbow recovery, but the hand swings wider in an arc to the side, and usually lower to the surface. This is a faster way to get your hand forward because you engage the larger pectoral muscles using this pattern. But distance swimmers beware: without strong core stability to counteract the lateral force of the arm swinging an an arc, this type of recovery can cause your lower body to wobble from side to side.

Scott Tucker - Straight Arm Recovery

This recovery is the least popular, but it can be very effective for both sprinters and distance swimmers. The hand and arm at the high point of the recovery represent more potential energy than the other techniques - because more weight is falling from a greater height. But, if your front-to-back stability is not good, this may sink your hips and legs with every stroke, and your upper body may dive deep as the arm enters. So this only works for people who can perform the movement pattern comfortably without sinking the hips when lifting the arm, or driving the upper body deep as the arm drives forward.

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