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Swim Coach's Corner

Swim Tip

Presented by Nick Baker, Camp Director
Nike Peak Performance Summer Swim Camp in June Chicago, IL

Peak Performance Swim Camp Tip: Two Styles Of Freestyle

Peak Performance Swim Camp Freestyle Kick

There seems to be a great deal of confusion these days regarding the freestyle pull. Some coaches believe that a straight-arm pull is best, while others believe a bent-arm pull following a curved pathway is best. Before deciding upon what pull is best, swimmers should understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

A deep catch pull is one term being used to describe the newly popular straight-arm pull. A high elbow “S” pull is a common term used to describe the traditional bent-arm pull.

A deep catch pull produces greater thrust than a high elbow “S” pull, but at a cost. It’s significantly more challenging, placing greater stress on the shoulders. Many 50 freestylers compete using this style.

The high elbow “S” pull, on the other hand, produces less thrust, demands less energy, and is easier on the shoulders. Swimmers competing in distances longer than a 50 typically choose this style.

To perform the deep catch pull, swimmers must keep three key words in mind: path, pitch, and pressure. Path refers to the direction of the pull, that is directly downward toward the bottom of the pool and backward past the hip. Pitch refers to the position of the palm, that remains fixed in the direction of the pull. Pressure refers to building maximum pressure from the start of the pull to the finish.

To perform the high elbow “S” pull, swimmers enter the arms forward of the shoulder, fingertips first or with the palm rotated slightly outward. Once the arm achieves a fully extended position, the hand, and forearm transition into the catch phase to establish a hold or grip on the water. From here the hand and forearm follow a multidirectional pathway. First in toward the centerline, then back toward the feet, and then out past the hip. Upon full arm extension, the elbow bends and the recovery phase begins. To add greater thrust, the hand and forearm accelerate from the start of the pull to the finish.

In my research, I discovered that Michael Phelps experimented with both styles and in the end chose a style that resembled the high elbow “S” pull.

Learn more from Coach Baker at one of his Peak Performance Swim Camps, located at various locations across the United States and abroad.

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