Your pull-through is a crucial part of swimming freestyle, and separates pro level swimmers from the others. Pro’s really know how to maximise the pull-through and push a lot of water back quickly. The pull-through is made up of the pull and the push. It starts after the catch is finished.
The pull-through is the crux of the matter! Everything rests upon what happens here in this sacred space that is the pull-through. The rest of the stroke can look like a dog’s breakfast, but it is here where swimming music is made and world records broken.
It is the ‘easiest’ part of the stroke really because all we have to do now is pull and push hard. The hard work, to get our hands in the right position has been done already. Now it’s time to accelerate our hands backwards. Accelerate? What might we mean by that? Well what me mean, is that from the catch to the push out and exit of the hand, we want the hand to speed up.
It is important to learn how to pull through quickly from the catch position to the finish of the stroke. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck using the dreaded “mono-speed”, hand, which is when the swimmer’s hand speed does not change from catch to finish. The “mono-speed” phenomenon is typical of adult-learned swimmers, so first comes awareness then comes corrective action.
It might be the easiest part of the stroke technically but as adult-learned swimmers our brains are not always on board with what we want to do and so this part of freestyle swimming is more about re-training the brain to speed up than asking it to learn a new movement or coordinative skill.
Sculling is a very effective way to train hand tension, hand speed and strength in the tri-ceps. This will give us a handle on the hand acceleration aspect of the stroke. You will see the front, mid and back scull being used a lot in the SWODs to help train the brain and muscles accordingly as it improves your feel for the water.
If you have the time and inclination there are a couple of land based activities that will really help improve this aspect of your swimming. Tri-cep dips and push-ups. Make sure with both that the shoulder blades are pulled back and that the elbows stay as close to the body as possible.
Feedback on this part of the stroke is very easy and can be answered with one question. Do you feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger when you get out of the pool? If so, with tour lats and tri-ceps pumped up and aflame, then you know your pull-through is spot-on.
May the hand speed be with you.