Many months ago, we posted a DOTW about the late release in freestyle, now we’ll talk about the other side of the equation. You can play with these two drills like you’d play with the gears on your bike. Consider these to be more about cadence than power.
Knowing the different release points in freestyle can help you in many ways, especially if you’re a triathlete or distance freestyler. An early release lets you "save" the arms — something that can come in handy in a long swim. You do, however, need to compensate for an early release by accentuating your body rotation. The shorter you make the push-back on your stroke, the more you must rely on the consistency of rhythm and body rotation to keep you going.
I find it’s a good idea to play with both the extended release, and the early release. Try to alternate by lengths of swimming, or even from stroke to stroke. You want to keep your swimming interesting, and this will keep you searching. Somewhere between these two points, you’re going to find the PERFECT release point for YOU.
Why Do It:
Don’t depend solely on power and the push of the finish to keep you moving in freestyle. Learn to relax the back part of the stroke, and rotate to the other side. You may find this method is great to keep you moving with almost no effort at all.
How To Do It:
1. While swimming freestyle, start to feel where your hand naturally exits the water. For a marker, you could even point your thumb to your thigh and sweep it against your thigh as it passes. This will give you a good idea how far back your hand releases.
2. Begin moving your hand closer to the base of your suit with each stroke.
3. Think about finishing the stroke by lifting the elbow out, rather than pushing the hand all the way back.
4. Keep playing with varying positions until you find one that feels "almost" natural. It should still be a bit uncomfortable, or feel like you’re slipping through the water in the back. While all of this is going on, NEVER shorten up the stroke in the front. Place all your focus on shortening up the back.
5. Repeat over and over and over again.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
One thing you’ll notice with swimming is that it’s TOUGH to change speeds. Try adding this drill in the middle of a length, or a swim, to speed up your rhythm, then gradually add back a bit of length to the finish with each stroke while maintaining the same stroke rate. Using this drill is a good way to react to a competitor’s moves without overdoing the panic powering that occurs.
The best way to get better is to keep searching for new ways to swim. Alternating this drill with the extended release starts to identify the RANGE in which you can swim freestyle.