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For me, rotation affects everything about my stroke, and this is really true for the catch. In fact, I don’t know how to separate those two -- the rotation and the catch. One makes sense because of how I do the other.
In this clip you can see that I have a very shallow catch. I enter with the fingertips and the back of the hand. The hand enters, stays shallow, and then I rotate.
It’s not until my hip is deep that my hand turns and starts to catch.
Here it is again. The hand goes in and stays shallow. The hips rotate. The hand anchors. And then I throw my hips over. I’m throwing my hips as my hand is pulling.
The power for the pull comes from the rotation -- from getting the hip down, anchoring the hand, and then throwing the hips to the other side.
Part of the reason I’m able to have a shallow catch is because my rotation is so deep.
Instead of depending on my arms for power, I wait for the hips to engage and then use hip rotation as the main source of power.
When my hand enters the water, it makes kind of a sculling motion. If I was already on my side at this point, the sculling would be a bad thing. But because my hips rotate a slight fraction later, I use the scull to get my feel, and then I anchor and pull once my hips are rotated.
That’s what I mean about the rotation and the catch being related. Because my rotation is big and deep, I can have a shallow catch, and this is what works for me.
The sculling might be an unnecessary movement, but because my hips aren’t there yet -- because they’re not fully rotated -- my hand is just kind of holding out on top.
I’m waiting for the hips to engage... to engage the hand.
The catch starts right here... when I turn the hand from flat to on its side.
At this point I’m fully rotated. The hand is just a little bit outside the shoulder.
When I think about the pull, I think about this initial movement -- when everything starts to engage. It’s the front half of the pull where I try to get the most power.
My hand is anchored, my hips are set, and then everything happens together -- the hips turn and the hand begins to pull. I’m very much focused on the first half of the pull because that’s where I get all the power from my hips.
I swim with a slower tempo than most backstrokers but, for me, it’s better to have a slow, powerful tempo than one that’s fast and rushed.
In this clip you’ll notice that I have a shallow catch and a shallow pull. I’ve tried to do a deeper pull, but it’s never worked for me. The reason I’m able to keep it shallow is because of how deep my hips go in the water and how deep the rotation is.
I don’t try to think about a particular pull pattern. I focus mainly on keeping the elbow really high.
People talk about dropping the elbow on freestyle, but you can drop it in backstroke, too. The key is to keep the elbow high and to really power through that front half of the pull.
You’ll notice a downsweep in my pull, just before the exit, which is always thumb first to make it a clean exit. The downsweep is mostly a balance thing -- to compensate for the fact that my catch is so shallow up top.
Another thing to focus on is the wrist. You definitely have to keep that joint locked in all the way through the pull.
Just like you don’t want the elbows to drop, you don’t want the wrist to drop. If you’re not keeping the wrist and elbow high, you can lose your feel for the water when you pull.
Watching it again, the big thing to notice is how the rotation affects the catch. The hand entry is shallow... slight scull while I wait for the hips to engage... then anchor and power through the first half of the pull.