Home Outdoor Sports FAQS Fishing Golf swimming Skiing and Skating Cycling Climbing Other Outdoor Sports Camping
Swimming Technique  Outdoor sports > Swimming > Swimming Technique > How to Master Arm Coordination in the Water

How to Master Arm Coordination in the Water

2016/7/21 10:44:09

Learning how to move is one of the first important things that you master during your early developmental years. Whether crawling, walking, running or riding a bike, you develop a "movement philosophy" regarding the best way to move your body around efficiently. This makes the techniques involved in running and biking second nature. As an adult, you don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about why you're able to run or bike faster, you just move your legs faster.

When it comes to swimming, people often assume that they can apply this same movement philosophy to their stroke, only to find that merely moving faster doesn't have the same effect in the water as it does on land. This is because swimming requires a slightly different philosophy than running or biking, and also explains why out of shape swimmers tend to swim as fast, if not faster than, athletes from other backgrounds and higher fitness levels.

The major difference between running, biking and swimming is in the application of leverage. In running and biking you're constantly in contact with the ground, so you can leverage your body forward against that position. This means that you can keep the turnover of your legs fairly high and still be constantly pushing forward.

More: 7 Steps to Successful Swimming

In swimming, you don't have contact with the ground so you have no leverage other than what you can create with your stroke. If you only focus on moving your arms as quickly as possible, you'll likely veer towards using a "windmill" type stroke.

A windmill stroking movement looks just like it sounds—the swimmers arms move around in a circular pattern at a high rate of speed. This movement tends to make it difficult for swimmers to articulate their arms into positions that best create leverage against the water.

This stroke style also throws swimmers' hips off balance, requires more energy than other stroking styles, and can lead to repetitive motion injuries in the shoulders and elbows.

An easy way to tell if you're using a windmill stroke is to swim a fast-paced 50, paying attention to how you coordinate your arms to one another. If you find that your arms don't move in a coordinated way, you're probably using a windmill stroke.

More: 4 Swimming Drills to Perfect Your Stroke

Coordinated Freestyle

The best alternative to a windmill stroke is forward coordinated freestyle. The goal with this stroke is to coordinate your arm movements so that your recovering arm is entering the water as your stroking arm moves into a vertical position in front of your shoulder. This requires the swimmer to briefly pause their arm movement as it extends forward to properly coordinate each stroke.

The biggest benefit of this style of stroke is that it conserves energy and creates a better foundation for you to leverage yourself forward through the water.

The best way to practice this is with the pausing catch up drill, and by using one of the best (and cheapest) swimming tools—a capped half-inch PVC pipe cut to the length of your shoulders. The idea behind this drill is two fold: first, the PVC will give you tactile feedback to ensure that you "catch up," and second, the pause during the catch up will let you feel what it's like to hold your arm in a front extension for a longer period of time.

To do the drill, start in "Superman" position with both arms extended forward, holding the PVC pipe. Stroke with one arm while your opposite arm remains extended forward holding the pipe. When your arm returns, hold the pipe with both hands for around two seconds before starting your next stroke.

More: How Swimmers Can Improve Body Position in the Water

Practice Set

Focus: Forward Extension and Arm Coordination

Tools: PVC pipe cut to the length of your shoulders; you can also use a kickboard

Set: 8x50 Freestyle, moderate pace. On the odd 50s, do the pausing catch up with PVC. On the even 50s practice your forward coordinated freestyle. End with 100 yards, forward coordinated freestyle at a moderate pace.

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't it bad for me to swim the catch up drill because I would never do it in a race?

Not at all! Using this drill allows you to focus on one thing at a time, making it easier to learn more complex movements.

What if I want to make it harder?

Try the same drill without the PVC pipe. If you want to make it really hard, try it with a pull buoy and the PVC pipe.

How can I tell if I'm doing it right?

The best way to tell if you are doing it right is to get a video analysis of your stroking mechanics. You can also ask a swim coach or swim buddy to watch you.

More: Is Swim Stroke Analysis Right for You?

  1. Prev:
  2. Next:
Related Articles
Men Vs. Women In Endurance Sports
11 One-Hour Medley Swim Workouts
Q&A With Olympic Swimmer Rebecca Soni
The Diet Detective: Must-Know Summer Health Tips
4 Tips For a Faster Freestyle Swim
6 Sets to Build Swimming Endurance
3 Drills to Fix Your Swimming Stroke and Eliminate Drag
How to Fine-Tune your Swimming Technique
Practice Ocean Safety
More Great Links

Bring the Surfboard, the Body Will Follow

The waves were flat at Ocean Beach, but Brian Bennett paddled out anyway. For Bennett, a surfer

10 Ways to Fight Boredom While Lap Swimming

You wake up early and head to the pool, intent on cranking out 3,000 yards for the day. In a 25

The YMCA’s Fight Against Preventable Drownings

The idea of a childs death is disturbing in itself, but the statistical reality of youth drownings i

Contact management E-mail : [email protected]

Copyright © 2005-2016 Outdoor sports All Rights Reserved