In last issue’s article I focused on the catch. A good catch leads to an effective pull, so now is probably a good time to look at the three important pull phases. Your pull can lead to the biggest improvement in your stroke.
Phase 1 Downward
During the first phase, the hand enters the water in line with the shoulder. The hand must be relaxed and flat. Your fingers must be together with your thumb out and your shoulder must be above your elbow, your elbow must be above your hand and your wrist above your fingertips. This sets up a good catch and will result in an effective pull. As your hand pulls the water down, make sure you don’t pull too far down. It will affect how much power you generate.
Phase 2 Insweep
From the catch to the insweep at the midpoint of the body, you must pull deep with a bend in the elbow. During this phase you must sweep into the midpoint of your body, just under your belly button.
Phase 3 Backward
During this phase you must pull from your body’s centreline to well below your hip. It’s important not to push water up into the air at the back end of your stroke. The water must be pushed towards your feet. Keep in mind the timing of your stroke, when your left hand enters the water your right hand must be between phase one and two.
DRILLS FOR PULLING
With both hands extended, sculling can be used for the first phase of the pull. Scoop the water with your hands while moving them outward and downward.
2. Dog paddle
This drill can be used for the second and third phase. While kicking, do small dog paddle movements with your hands. Focus on forward movement.
3. Breaststroke pull
The front end of the freestyle pull and a breaststroke pull are similar. While kicking (free kick) do five or six breaststroke pulls without lifting your shoulders or head out the water. Then lift your head out the water and breathe while you continue to kick.
4. Single arm pulling
This drill can work all three phases of your pull. Starting with both arms extended, pull with one arm while your non-stroking arm remains extended.
Originally published in the September/October 2013 issue 61.