For our program we’re coming off a big race weekend. We typically do a “no-legs” day for our AGers on Monday which means it’s pool time.  And after a harder weekend in we usually go to drills and lighter aerobic swimming and shorter repeats – think 100s and 200s.  For this week’s swim session, we have a series of 150s and 100s with emphasis on drill work that gets incorporated directly into full stroke swimming.  It’s purposeful and immediately translates from skill to application.

There are a handful of drills, I prefer for technique work.  The two we feature this week, focus on what some call “high early vertical forearm” or the “catch” portion of the stroke and developing a good feel for what that entails. The early catch allows a longer range of motion for the power phase of freestyle swimming that starts as soon as the forearm of the catching arm angles downward towards the bottom of the pool and extends to just past the hips.  The longer that line, the more opportunity for great power to be created and transferred to the recovery portion of the stroke.  The other components to power transfer are the high elbow position which allows the swimmer to use the stored tension between the delta in shoulder angle and hip angle as well as pulling velocity.  These drills allow the athlete to work on each aspect of power creation and transfer with the body and arms (less the kick here).  First, let’s get to the two featured drills and then on to the main set.

1. Single Arm Freestyle: There are several variations of this drill and all work on something a bit different from the inside (centerline of the body: shoulders/hips) but still allow focus on the outside (the levers: your arms). Of the three drills featured in this great video from GoSwim, I prefer the single arm drill with non-working arm at the side (second drill in the video). It allows the athlete to get an appropriate shoulder and hip rotation while focusing on an early catch and high elbow out front. Because the non-working arm is at the side, we recommend that weaker swimmers either use SIM Shorts and/or small fins when performing this drill.  This drill should be done with a very light kick.

2. Freestyle Swim with Fists: This one is pretty simple and like the single arm drill focuses on the same catch concepts.  The drill is freestyle swimming with clenched hands or fists.  Swimming with fists immediately eliminates a large portion of the surface area used for propulsion with the arms (your hands) and refocuses the athlete on the forearm which is the most useable platform for this drill.  By focusing on the forearm, the athlete must also focus on elbow position (high) to ensure they actually can catch water.  In the drill example in this video from GoSwim the narrator talks about maintaining stroke count.  Because we are focused on triathlon swimming – open water!!! – we are less concerned with stroke count, and more concerned about a nice forearm catch out front and high elbow coupled with a consistent up-tempo stroke rate (42-50 cycles per minute).  Like the single-arm drill, consider using SIM Shorts and/or small fins with this drill so that you can focus on the catch portion of the stroke and less on balance.  Like the Single Arm Freestyle drill, we want to have a lighter kick here, so we can emphasize the propulsion generated with the forearm and hip/shoulder rotation.

Before starting the below set, revisit the ground rules for warm up and possibly a pre-main set here.

Catch & Swim Set

4×150 @ 15″ RI as 25 Right Arm – 25 Left Arm – 100 free, steady

4×150 @ 15″ RI as 50 free with fists – 100 free, steady

8×100 @ 10″ RI, as descend 1-4, 5-8 to race effort – think each 100 in the set of four as easy – steady – build – race effort.

2000 meters or yards total