This is one of the first drills we posted, way back in July 2003. We’re revisiting this because sculling NEVER goes out of style. Also, next week, we’ll show you a great athlete doing this drill, just much better. 🙂
Learning the proper way to swim breaststroke means understanding just a bit about the pull. For years, I’ve watched people yank their hands backward to secure a GREAT BIG, then get STUCK there because they have sooo far to go to recover the hands. The resistance they create destroys the positive benefits of the pull. They get a little bit farther down the pool, but with a tremendous amount of effort.
WHY DO IT:
Learning the feel of sculling will not only help your breaststroke but also help EVERYTHING you do in the pool. For breaststroke-specific reasons, the front scull will show you the exact movement your hands should do during the outsweep of the pull. Rather than forcing the hands out, youï¿½ll learn to work with the water.
HOW TO DO IT:
There are many ways to practice your sculling. The Endless Pool is fantastic for this. If you don’t have an Endless Pool handy, then a stretch cord tied to one end of the pool is also a great tool. FINALLY, if you don’t have an Endless Pool or a stretch cord, then you can do it the old-fashioned way – just go back and forth in a pool.
One thing you should do, to really isolate this move, is use a pull buoy. With a pull buoy, you don’t have to think about keeping your feet up. Also, if you want to really turn this into a workout, put on some hand paddles. When you put on your paddles, make sure there is no wrist strap. This way, if you try to pull, the paddles may simply fall off during the recovery.
1. Lie flat on the surface of the water, allowing the pull buoy to bring up your hips.
2. Simply ‘sweep’ your hands out to the side, then back in – kind of like a windshield wiper. Think about cutting the side of your hand through the water, rather than PULLING on the water.
3. As you slice your hands sideways through the water, pitch them slightly to always be gently pushing the water back.
4. Focus on what your head and body are doing. As you sweep your hands back and forth, see if you’re bouncing up and down. If so, you’re trying too hard, and pushing DOWN on the water. Stay as stable as possible.
5. When it’s time to breathe, simply lift your head quickly and grab a breath. Put your head back down, and continue.
6. You’ll be using your wrists a lot in this drill. Remember to pitch the hand at the wrist inward and outward rather than just pushing your arm back and forth.
Put on some paddles and see what the extra surface area does for the amount of effort required. You’ll find that this feels great! It’s the feeling you want to achieve when you take them off. Increase the surface area when you take the paddles off by making sure your fingers are pointed DOWN toward the bottom, and not just out to the side.
The fine points of this drill are dependent on FOCUS. Think about staying stable, and not bouncing. Feel what your upper arm is doing or NOT doing. The idea is to use mostly the forearm and wrist for the outsweep. The upper arm will move a little, the forearm will move a little more, the wrist still more. If your shoulders are getting sore, you’re probably using too much of your arm. Your forearms should be what gets sore or tired.
This drill is all about isolating a simply move. Start slowly, and really FEEL what the hands are doing. See how slowly you can move your hands but still move forward. As you gain mastery of the sculling action, start to go faster and faster. This can also help to develop great hand speed.