In teaching freestyle, especially the ‘high elbow’ part of the pull, we sometimes tell swimmers to lead with their fingers pointed down. This is to encourage the hand to drop below the elbow, and to help the swimmer create a pulling surface or "ledge" with the hand.
There’s a danger, however, in asking for the fingers to point down. Younger and more inexperienced swimmers will sometimes take this advice too literally. They will sometimes point the fingers SO sharply that they create a 90-degree angle between forearm and hand. This "broken wrist" actually causes you to lose connection with the water.
Creating a proper line with the arm from fingertips to elbow gives the swimmer the most leverage to create a powerful pull.
Why Do It:
By creating a large surface area with the hand, wrist, and forearm, you’ll develop a more powerful pull. This should make your swimming easier…or faster.
How To Do It:
1. As you extend your arm forward in freestyle, feel the connection along your hand, wrist, and forearm. If you focus on reaching far forward on the extension, you’ll realize that this puts everything — hand, wrist, and forearm — in a very nice line.
2. When you initiate the pull, angle the front of the arm down, but don’t allow the wrist to
pivot, or angle away from the forearm (this is the broken wrist).
3. Within reason (which means do your best), keep the line between your fingers and elbows as straight as possible during the pull.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
This past week at the ASCA convention, we met many people. One in particular showed such a passion for this sport that he has begun inventing tools to help swimmers. The final quick clip of video shows the paddle that Brian Bolster has invented for this particular aspect of freestyle. This paddle locks the hand and wrist into a straight line, and shows the proper line in which to pull. In other words, it FORCES the hand, wrist, and forearm to work as a single unit. For those swimmers who really like to use their wrists, the discomfort felt when using a tool like this shows the tendency of leading too much with the fingers. I’m going to continue playing with this paddle for a few weeks before I write a full review, but for this particular aspect of freestyle, I like it.
For those of you not lucky enough to pick up a pair of those paddles last week, sculling is a wonderful way to begin learning how to turn your entire forearm, from fingers to elbows into a single unit, and develop a strong, powerful pull. Of course, always while swimming freestyle, make sure that when it’s time to initiate the pull, you don’t feel your fingers piercing downward in the water. This would be a sure sign that you’re breaking your wrist just a bit too much.