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Freestyle - Practice the Catch

Posted by Glenn Mills on Nov 18, 2008 01:28PM

One of the most important aspects of freestyle is sometimes the toughest one to get right.  Taking your time to really feel the catch is a very smart idea.



Why Do It:
Slowing down, and putting all your attention on how you connect with the water out front, helps you identify what's meant by a high-elbow catch.

How to Do It:
This drill combines a two focal points from two Go Swim DVDs: "Position 11" from the Steve Haufler DVD, and "Angles" from the Kara Lynn Joyce DVD.  If you'd like to see these points in more detail, we encourage you to pick up those videos.
1.  Start by pushing off the wall in "Position 11" (both arms outstretched directly in front of your shoulders).
2.  Next, take a pull with one arm, and return to "Position 11."
3.  As you take this pull, keep in your mind the vision of Kara Lynn Joyce initiating her pull and keeping her elbow very near the surface.
4.  The goal is to keep your arm, from shoulder to elbow, as still as possible...
5.  ...while the front of your arm, your "paddle" from the elbow to fingers, points to the bottom and creates a great pulling surface.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
If you're having a tough time feeling the high-elbow catch, put on a pair of fins to give your some momentum.   Kick gently, and allow your hand to fall into the catch position, rather than trying to pull yourself forward.  Take your time and relax.  To really get the feeling, you can't force this.  You should also feel the muscles in your back and side engage just a bit better as well.

Download the HD version of this drill for your own personal use.






Archived Comments

Responded Nov 18, 2008 07:56PM

nice drill. my question is: are you in a fully relaxed muscle mode when you bring your forearm from the horizontal to the vertical position? or do you start muscle flexing early? isn't there any quality propultion in forcing your way to the verical forearm position?

Responded Nov 18, 2008 08:39PM

Great drill. I have been using it for a couple years now and it helps me find and feel a proper catch position every time :). A little modification I like to exaggerate the movement is to pause for a second when my forearm is perfectly vertical and then just sweep my arm back to an extended position. That way helped me to isolate the "catch" and try to get it as early as possible.

Good demonstrations! Girl not as perfect though.
I like how you mention to let the hand "fall" into the catch without trying to pull yourself forward so much.

Responded Nov 19, 2008 01:46AM

Certainly a worthwhile drill, I introduced it today - a few days after a clinic Glenn gave. Another way of thinking about it (that worked for me) is to imagine pushing your elbow in the direction you want to go. Glenn mentioned this while we were watching the "Angles" video.

Thanks again for some great tips

Responded Nov 19, 2008 01:41PM

aboled... sure there's production in setting up the forearm, but typically, if you focus on that, then a bit too much effort goes into the push down. This drill is mainly to awaken the swimmer to the setting up the catch, and the catch being the MOST important part of the pull. Hope that makes sense.

Responded Nov 19, 2008 04:27PM

I tried this drill...and I have a question. I can set up the catch really easy and fast if I do this drill which is done in a flat position....but when I try to set up the catch in the extended position (that is when I am on my side)...the feeling is very different as well as the setup of the catch. Am I doing the drill correctly?

Responded Nov 19, 2008 05:07PM

Kinda hard to know if you're doing it correctly by the description. Maybe upload some video somewhere.

Responded Nov 20, 2008 12:58AM

Thanks Glenn. Its a very hard move to perfect anyways. Tomas: my experience is that you cant do the High Elbow Catch unless you are in a flat position. So, when you are on your side, at that moment in time, you can't start your high elbow catch until your body comes back to the flat position or near the flat position when your other arm is at or near the end of its recovery. So, your first arm has to wait a little:-).

Responded Nov 20, 2008 03:28AM

Aboled...thank you very much, really VERY much...it makes a lot of sense. I guess it is another reason to focus more on the kick...so it can give you that extra glide before one starts the pull.
Thanks again,

Responded Nov 20, 2008 07:52AM

You're welcome Tomas. You're right, the kick makes it smoother. Then again, some swimmers with only 2-beat kicks swim smooth. I don't know how, but they just do!!

Responded Nov 20, 2008 05:52PM

nice drill
but may this drill make the swimmer can't but his arm in the point above the head
is that right?

Responded Nov 20, 2008 06:58PM

That was a good point about being rotated and getting a vertical forearm catch. I only really understand how I do it by watching it on video as I change it.

Responded Jan 01, 2009 11:31PM

I can do it no prob at all - its good drill after one arm drill

Responded Jan 02, 2009 03:48PM

My dad likes the way it helps you to think about the details........

Responded Jan 10, 2009 05:05PM

glenn, when talking about getting the "catch" right, does it matter how your hand enters the water? Thumb first or ring finger first? I seem to have better look going what FEELS like ring finger first...which is probably correcting a flaw from something else, but it seems to lead to a better catch...does it really matter though?

Thanks!
John

Responded Jan 12, 2009 12:07PM

I think it's a personal thing. Some people will roll the hand in pinky or ring finger first, others flat, and I've seen a few pretty high level swimmers enter with the back of their hand (go figure), but it's all about what happens next. For me to really get the catch right (or close), I have to focus on not which finger enters first, but rather, the direction of the hand as it enters. I try to think about Scott Tucker, and actually try to turn the fingers IN toward the center of my body... this helps get my elbow up. So, for me, it has nothing to do with which finger at all.

So... I guess that means... nope... it doesn't really matter (for me). For you, specific adjustments may have to be made, focusing on which finger... that may be YOU'RE trick, or trait as the case may be. We all have to find what works for us. Thanks John.

Responded Jan 12, 2009 04:26PM

Glenn,
Thanks for the feedback. That's what I had thought but wanted to get the opinion of a more knowledable person.
I have tried the Tucker trick. Feels weird, which isn't a bad thing, may have to try it some more.
Thanks again for your feedback.

Responded Jan 22, 2009 06:45AM

I think the amount of body roll could affect hand entry as well. When I try to roll more, my hand enters diagonally with thumb or index finger first.
One comment about the catch, I think practice in dry land can help significantly to get early vertical catch right and make it a habit. It does put a lot of pressure on shoulders but I guess it pays off at the end with better speed!

Responded Jan 28, 2009 04:59PM

On the issue of initiating the catch from a rotated versus flat position; I think it really depends on shoulder flexibility and strength. If you watch some of the greats (including Joyce and Schoeman in their videos but also Thorpe, Hackett, etc.), you'll see that they initiate the catch before rotation so they are partially anchored on the downroll, but have the forearm in optimal position when they are flat . So there is some propulsion on the downroll, whereas in this drill you are anchored only on the uproll. Interestingly, I find Schoeman's elbow to be the lowest among the aforementioned, which puts less strain on the shoulder (good) but moves the anchor back (not good).

Responded May 30, 2009 09:49PM

Saw those swimmers who enter water, there are very few bubbles - mine has bubbles so how I changed it to fewer or no bubbles?

Responded Oct 01, 2011 06:40AM

Glenn, I'm having trouble "wrapping my head around" point 4 "keep your arm, from shoulder to elbow, as still as possible". What am I missing here?

Responded Oct 01, 2011 09:31AM

Hank, my take on iy would be that, in effect, you want to use your fingertips to forearm to 'Vault' the body past the hand. If your arm moves too much you are slipping the water and you are not getting as long a stroke as possible. So, keeping the top of the arm as parrallel to the water surface and not dropping the elbow at all helps to facillitate this.


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