High-Elbow Recovery Focus
Most endurance swimmers favor a high-elbow recovery, which allows them
to bring the weight of the recovering hand and forearm directly forward.
Alternative recovery styles can be very effective at higher speeds, but
are more difficult to master, are less efficient for endurance swimming,
and can create problems in open water:
- With a low-elbow recovery, if the hand catches on a wave before it
re-enters the water, not only is its momentum is lost, but the impact
jars the swimmer's body off of its aquatic line. With a high-elbow recovery,
if the hand hits the water early, the hand and arm are headed more closely
in the right direction (straight ahead) and the aquatic line can be
much more easily maintained.
- With a low-elbow recovery, or with a low, straight-arm recovery that
keeps the hand closer to the surface, the hand swings in a wide arc
and is more likely to make contact with other swimmers, again disrupting
momentum, timing and flow.
- With a straight-arm recovery, the swimmer applies more energy via
the smaller muscles of the shoulder, lifting the hand higher in the
air, and energy is lost when the arm splashes into the water as its
weight is directed more downward than forward on entry.
Technique Focus Points
- Lead with the elbow. On the recovery phase of the stroke, focus
on the elbow rather than the hand.
- Relax the forearm and hand. Tension in the forearm and hand
during during this phase robs energy.
- Bring it forward. Put the momentum of your recovering arm to
work for you by directing it forward (rather than in a large arc).
- Enter wide. Enter your hands at 10 and 2 o'clock, and drive
them directly forward. If you enter your hands too close your centerline,
you will have to scull out to the side to get your catch, wasting time
What to Watch For
- Keep your elbow in front of your chest. Keep your elbow in
front of your body plane (not over your side or behind your back). That
way, your upper arm rotates nicely in the shoulder socket. When your
elbow is on your side or behind your back, your upper arm is being levered
out of your shoulder socket.
- Don't cross the centerline. Have somebody watch you swim head-on
from the pool deck. After entry, if your hands are crossing in front
of your centerline, it is a good bet that you are swinging your arm
in too much of an arc (rather than dropping it forward) during the recovery,
or that you are entering your hand too close to your head.
Recovery Focus Workouts
- Video Clips - Arms: Look at
the recovery motion illustrated in the Fingertip Drag Drill, and also
notice how Michael Phelps uses a high-elbow recovery and drops his hands
forward while performing the Catch-Up Drill.
- Video Clips - All Around
Good Swimming: Watch the Fran Crippen trailer and notice what his
arms look like out of the water.
- Also watch Mr Smooth.
Return to Workout Directory.