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In this clip, watch Karlyn’s elbows. Notice that she initiates the catch – here -- by bending the elbow.
Here it is again. She LIFTS the elbow…to start the catch.
Karlyn likes to keep her elbows high – near the surface of the water. She sometimes imagines she is swimming in a very shallow pool – or over a coral reef. She lifts the elbows to keep from scraping her fingers on the coral.
Here’s a drill that will help you work on a high-elbow catch. Karlyn calls it Single-Arm Kickboard drill, and she learned it from triathlon coach and author Marc Evans.
Place one arm on the middle of a kickboard, and use the other arm to pull. Any kickboard will work, but a smaller and lighter board will put less strain on your shoulders.
Karlyn likes this drill because she can watch her pull from start to finish. As she keeps the elbow high, notice how the arm automatically bends early to create the catch.
In these next clips, watch Karlyn’s hands and forearms.
Notice that the palm, wrist, and forearm work as one unit. We’ll freeze it – here – and you can see that there’s no bend at the wrist.
When Karlyn swims, she imagines there’s a metal plate in each arm, and it runs from the center of the palm to about three inches above the wrist. This metal plate does not bend. And your wrist should not bend.
Let’s slow it down again. Notice how Karlyn transfers power to the pull along this plate. She catches and pulls not just with her hand…but with the entire surface, from fingertips to elbow.
This may make your stroke feel mechanical or crab-like. And you can see why Karlyn’s friends call her “Spider.”
But this stroke – with a high-elbow catch and a straight wrist on the pull -- gives Karlyn tremendous lift, power, and acceleration.
Here’s a drill you can use to work on this key focus point.
Doggy Dig is modified dog paddle, with small quick pulls that start just past the chin and end at the chest. The hand and wrist are firm with no “break” in the fingers or wrist.
The goal is to emphasize a straight wrist, and to learn where to apply power in the pull.
Swimmers always ask, “What kind of a pull pattern should I use?” In this clip, you can see the pattern that works best for Karlyn. It’s the same pattern you would use to paddle a surfboard.
Let’s slow it down. The fingertips point to the bottom, not sideways in either direction, and never over the centerline.
As the arm sweeps past the torso, the shoulder accommodates the pull and shifts back. Notice that there’s no internal rotation at the shoulders.
Finish the pull by drawing your hand toward your hip, and only slightly under your body. As the hand moves toward the hip, the hip should roll slightly away.
Let’s watch that again. The hand moves in a straight line toward the hip. It’s the body that shifts, not the hand.
Notice that Karlyn’s shoulders are quiet. The rotation is in her torso and hips.
And notice again how similar this looks to paddling a surfboard.