The Catch - How To Swim Front Crawl

Swimming fast is a combination of fitness and great technique. One is about physical hard work, the other slightly more mental. Yeah you can spend hours plodding or thrashing up and down the pool per week doing thousands of metres and see very little difference in your swim time.

And that is a sure sign that you need to work on your technique. So what better place to start than at the front of the stroke.

So today we're gonna be looking at the catch part of front crawl, and showing you how you can improve this vital part of the stroke.

(Upbeat music) so we can break the front crawl stroke into phases, we've got the catch, the pull, the exit, and then the recovery. So the first part of the stroke, when a hand first enters the water is the catch, and that is our purchase on the water.

Then we have the pull phase which is our main underwater phase of the stroke and that gives us the propulsion, the exit is as it sounds.

And then when our hand comes out and over past our head, that is the recovery. Without a good catch, the rest of the stroke is going to struggle. Getting ahold of the water at the front of your stroke is vital for a strong pull.

But let's rewind a moment, what exactly is this part of the stroke that we keep talking about? It happens as your hand enters the water at the front of the stroke.

When your movement changes from moving forwards to pulling back and down under your body. The moment when your hand and forearm start to make this new movement is the catch. In theory, you're catching this new body of water.

Okay so you want your fingers together, but they need to be relaxed, you can't force this part of the stroke. And as your hand goes in it goes from being horizontal to your fingers then starting to angle towards the bottom.

You need to try to avoid that long glide at the front, it is tempting, and it is something that I used to do, but it's not an efficient way of swimming, even though it does look quite pretty.

Basically you want to catch that water as soon as you can, while still maintaining a smooth entry. If we imagine our nose as a centre line, we want to make sure that we're not crossing over that centre line when we catch.

Equally we want to make sure that we're not going outside of our shoulder. We should actually be aiming to catch in line with our shoulder. So if you are going too far inside or outside, you're essentially continually counteracting yourself, and this ends up with that kind of snaking motion down the pool, which is quite inefficient.

So the catch happens with your palm and your forearm. So you're gonna have a flex at the elbow to keep that high. And actually a slight flex at the wrist will help maintain that elbow position throughout.

And a coach actually explained it to me once as imagining there's a set body of water that's not moving, you're getting hold of that water, and then you're gonna pull yourself through.

And imagine if you didn't get ahold of that in the first place, the rest of your stroke is going to be pretty inefficient. And it's an analogy that really helped me. It's one thing knowing what to do, it's another thing being able to execute it.

So here are some drills to help you get a good strong catch. Okay let's start with the front scull, which is probably the most popular of the catch drills as it isolates the catch with a back and forth type motion.

And for this you need to start in a streamlined position with your arms out in front of you and you can kick if you want to, maybe use fins will help.

Or a pool buoy to help with the buoyancy. Basically you're trying to isolate this movement so you can really focus on it. And with that in mind, you're not going to be going very fast at all.

It's not about speed, it's not about propulsion, it is purely about technique. A useful way to explain this is imagine you're trying to form two mounds of sand out in front of you, so you're just going to be sweeping gently over the top of that slight downward angle of your hands.

So if you are applying the correct pressure downwards and backwards, you will start to move forward but it will be slowly. Now then, the single arm drill is a really good place to start putting the stroke back together.

You want to leave the spare arm out in front or down by your side, and then concentrate on one arm at a time with the emphasis on the catch.

Now some people do find this drill quite hard to do so if you need to you can wear a set of fins just to help with the propulsion.

Or you can even use a kickboard with the spare arm just to help with the buoyancy a little bit more. And whilst we're talking about swim aids, a snorkel can be real useful here.

So by having a snorkel on it means that you can keep your head in the water, you can keep your head still and really focus on that catch.

Another really useful swim aid is finger paddles which are essentially a smaller version of these paddles, and what they do is reinforce good technique and really show out bad form because what you find in a set of finger paddles is your hand would slip out.

Now if you don't have a set of finger paddles you can just use your normal paddles and basically just forget about using that bottom strap just use the top strap and it will basically do a very similar thing.

A drill I like that emphasises the importance of the catch actually does so by taking away part of it. It is fist swimming. So for this, you're gonna swim 25 metres with a clenched fist, and then a second 25 metres with your palm open.

And this should really emphasise the importance of the catch and make you aware of when you're doing it well. This last drill is actually more of an exercise, it's a fun one to do in a group, especially if you've got a coach on pool side.

So get a few of you across the lanes all facing forwards in a horizontal position so you're sculling the water and you're kicking gently but you're staying on the spot.

And then as soon as the coach blows the whistle you've gotta sprint to 10 metres. So it really emphasises first few strokes and the catch of them. And it's also an exercise you can practise perfectly well on your own as well.

Now it might seem slow and frustrating focusing on such a small part of the stroke, but start, as you mean to go on, by sorting and getting a good catch hopefully the rest of the stroke will follow.

Yeah and this is the star of our swim week, so there's going to be a lot more swimming videos coming. Keep an eye out for those.

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