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Freestyle - Shoulder Catch

Posted by Glenn Mills on Dec 08, 2009 09:06AM

Developing an early catch in freestyle is extremely important for all swimmers, but it's just not easy for all swimmers.  This drill, which asks you to keep your shoulder against your cheek during the catch, may help you develop a better feel for the catch.    

Why Do It:
Obviously, why to catch the water early in freestyle isn't a question, but why do this drill?  By developing a focal point, or even a bit of timing as to what starts first in the freestyle catch, you can take some time to actually build your pull.

How to Do It:
1.  This simple drill starts with slow, smooth freestyle.  To really feel what's going on with this, it's best to plan on not breathing for a bit.  Using a snorkel and pull buoy will help you focus on what you're trying to do. 
2.  Start by swimming freestyle, making sure that you're reaching complete extension with each arm.  You should be extending so much that you'll feel your shoulder come into contact with the side of your face or cheek.
3.  From this position, the drill is simple... all you have to do is start your pull prior to allowing your shoulder to break contact with your cheek.
4.  The order of the catch can be, Hand - Forearm - Shoulder.  While this isn't the perfect definition of the freestyle pull, it will give you something to think about, and a simple process to get your hand and forearm in a more vertical position to initiate the pull.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
When you initiate the catch with the hand, you may feel your shoulder driving UP into your cheek.  This hand down, shoulder up, movement is not to be avoided in this drill.  It will help you get your entire arm into a better position to connect with the water.  While ultimately you don't want your shoulder popping up when you swim, this drill is about the arm, from the hand to the forearm.  The shoulder against the cheek at the moment of "catch" just gives you something else to think about.






Archived Comments

Responded Dec 08, 2009 08:03PM

this is a very nice and smart drill. I realy like it. This was actualy the first drill my coach gave to me when I last year started swimming again after a break of almost 20 years. It's a kind of funny to see this one here now. Glenn, thanks for that.

Responded Dec 09, 2009 01:51PM

Thanks for the drill Glenn!

Men, don't forget to shave (face) prior to this drill, razor stubble from your face will scratch up your shoulders.

Responded Dec 09, 2009 02:21PM

But that's the secret Steve. Not shaving gives you that reminder that you're doing it right! ;)

Responded Dec 09, 2009 03:06PM

Sorry, I can't hear those video so what you saying about this drill Glenn? its like shoulder roll over each arm - its was called shoulder catch?

Responded Dec 09, 2009 03:10PM

The text that appears below the video is the text that Glenn uses for the voiceover for the video.

Responded Dec 09, 2009 04:04PM

Thanks Barbara

Responded Aug 20, 2012 07:16PM

At the beginning of this video she doesn't perform rotations of body. Can this drill cause an injury without rotations?

I was trying to do catches like these and I felt pain in joints of my shoulders. I suppose rotations can avoid this problem.

Responded Aug 20, 2012 08:49PM

At the beginning, she was swimming the way she swims. She's actually a sprinter with not a lot of rotation. Not all drills are made for all people, if you hurt when you do something, probably shouldn't do it.

Keep searching for the drills and focal points that make the most sense for you. Thanks.

Responded Aug 21, 2012 03:58PM

My coach told me to avoid contact of the shoulder with cheek or face and insisted that shoulder contact with ear is the way to go. Does this make sense? I don't know why she told me so.

Responded Aug 21, 2012 04:01PM

Is it because she didn't take into account body rotation?

Responded Aug 22, 2012 01:30PM

You will have to ask your coach this question. I am curious too.

Responded Aug 22, 2012 05:28PM

@steve: I will see her in mid-September. Anyway I changed different coaches in my area and I can tell you that none of them teached me body rotation. This is something I had to learn by myself. Only one coach insisted on shoulder-upperbody rotation telling me that the lowerbody has to be parallel to the water surface: is it old-school swimming? During my solitary workouts I usually perform a lot of drills for proper body rotation and streamline (sidekick drill, 10-10 kick drill, 3-3-3 drill, both free and back) Yesterday for example I did a 25x4 for each drill in both strokes, plus a 25x4 after each drill, for putting it all together in a normal stroke. I presume that this could be the reason why she told me that shoulder/ear contact is the way to prefer over shoulder/cheek contact. If you don't rotate your body enough in trying to touch the shoulder with your cheek you would risk to cross the midline section with your extended arm. Isn't it?

Responded Aug 22, 2012 06:00PM

There is no one way, and this picture gives you just a bit of insight to rotation, or lack of rotation:

http://www.goswim.tv/entries/6635/swimming-pic-of-the-week---sticks.html

Responded Aug 24, 2012 04:25PM

I try to keep rotation of my (imaginary) sticks the same as one unit. I'm not fast at all, but I'm making PB's at 46 years old. Two reasons why I rotate hips and shoulders the same (keep in mind it's just a theory and I am at no level of performance, nor do I posses the knowledge to give advice on swimming efficiently):

1) The spine itself is unable rotate axially more than a couple degree's. If I try, it rotates in other ways (like a corkscrew - lol) then I pop out of streamline due to my shoulder, ribcage, and hip positions. Then my kick also creates drag, particularly the 1st and 4th kick of a 6-beat (apex of each rotation).

Rotating entire body equally (hips/shoulders) helps me maintain a solid unit that travels through a tighter tunnel of water.

2) Keeping everything together during rotation provides more structural support and power

Responded Aug 24, 2012 04:34PM

This is why there is no ONE answer for everyone. If you watch the video associated with that picture, you'll a variety of styles. The sticks don't always rotate together, but for you, because of other issues, they probably should. For other swimmers... they probably shouldn't. The only way to reach this answer is a lot of work with your coach, and experimentation.


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