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Go Faster and Farther By Understanding The Pull

Hope you had another great week of life and swimming and you’re looking forward to a great weekend!

This week, I’ve got a great question that I’ve received from several individuals.

Understanding the answer is critical because it will ensure you’re focus is on the right key skills for improving your pull.

Question- What’s the correct way to pull, with an ‘S-shape’ or straight back?

It’s a pretty contentious topic, one that’s been discussed since the 60s when Doc Counsilman started filming swimmers underwater.

As a coach and a student of the sport, it’s taken me a long time to figure out.

I’ve talked to all the experts, watched a lot of video, and have done a lot of experimentation.

Just as importantly, I’ve had to find solutions that consistently help athletes improve their pull.

As a result of all that experience, I’ve come up with a commonsense answer that is in line with the experience of coaches, the experience of swimmers, and lines up with the scientific research.

The short answer is…both.

Not a very satisfying answer!

Now, here’s a more practical answer that will require a little more explanation.

Your hand WILL move in an S-shaped pattern when you pull.

However, your INTENTION should be to pull straight back.

‘Straight back’ is not what’s going to happen, but that’s what you should try to do.

Watch this video where I show you how to set up the stroke.

When you, re-position the arm, the elbow is going to pop out to the side.

Because your hand is connected to your elbow(!), the hand is going to move out to the side as well.

Then when you pull straight back, the elbow is going to squeeze back into the body, just like if you were doing a pull-up.

It moves back and in at the same time.

Again, because the hand is connected to the elbow, when the elbow come back in, so does the hand.

That typically moves the hand under the body.

Now, when the body naturally rolls at the end of the pull, the hand is going to naturally slide back out to the side to allow for the recovery.

During the entire pull, the hand goes out, then back in, and then back out.

This happens NATURALLY because of the structure of the joints.

You’re not TRYING to do it.

The goal is to pull straight back, and the hand will move back and forth a bit as a result.

That’s much different than trying to move the hand side to side like an S.

The S-shape pattern is a description of what it LOOKS like.

The straight back is a description is what have to DO to make it happen.

That’s a key point in all sports- focus on what you have to do get the result rather than what it looks like.

Trying to match what it looks like without understanding why it’s happening is not a great strategy.

Check out the sequence below and follow the yellow paddle.

He’s trying to pull straight back, and to set up the stroke, the ELBOW is going to move out.

Then it’s naturally going to come back in when trying to pull BACK.

Then it will slide back out with the rotation of the body.

There’s your S, even though his goal is straight back.

Short Version:)

1. Your goal is to pull straight back

2. It’s okay if your hands move back and forth a bit. It’s natural!

Keep working your pull and stay focused on pulling straight back.

Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you take your swimming to the next level:

1. If you’re looking for do-it-yourself solutions to improve your swimming, check out my resources Freestyle Made Simple and Addressing Adult-Onset Swimming.

2. If you want a more personalized learning experience, we can work together to analyze your stroke or develop a technical training plan.

Exit the water...


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