Swimming blog - CATCH Swimming speed starts with the catch

This might be the most important thing you read this week. You wonder why your shoulder hurts or you’re not as fast as the others in your lane. You chalk it up to a lack of fitness or flexibility, when in fact it could be just one thing: the catch.

Your catch starts after the hand enters the water and the hand has extended forward fully. Once the hand starts to move downwards, you are in the catch.

Why catch?
The catch positions the hand in the water correctly for a good pull-through and thus engages the bigger muscles of the back and chest in pulling the water and so in effect bypass the use of the shoulder completely. Most shoulder injuries in swimming occur where the swimmer pushes down in the water with little or no elbow bend. This pushing down on the water places pressure on the shoulder and does not promote forward propulsion. Two extremely good reasons to pay attention to this part of your stroke. 

Action is re-action 
The famous axiom of Newton’s third law and the main focus of a good catch. We want the hand to catch and push the water backwards to maximise forward propulsion. That is why a good catch will quickly get the hand into a backwards facing position, allowing any pushing to result in forward speed. 

How to catch?
We get the hand in the catch position with what is known as a high elbow. Learn to drop the hand and keep the elbow relatively high in the water after the hand enters the water. This will result in the hand moving quickly from the horizontal to the vertical plane. It is the hand that starts the pulling and not the elbow. Visualise, as with a pull-up, that the body is being pulled over the hand and not that the hand is moving backwards. 

When talking about the catch, swimmers often talk about a high elbow. It sounds very simple, but it has a different meaning than what you might think. It is not just your elbow being close to the surface. When you bend your elbow during the catch, you can draw an imaginary line from your fingertips to your shoulder. When your elbow is above this line you have a high elbow catch. This means you have propulsion with your forearm!
The hinge drill is a perfect drill to practise this. Check it out in our video library for more info on how to do this correctly.

The hinged movement should feel light. It feels light because the palm of the hand is now facing backwards and moving at almost the same speed as the body of water it is in. This light feeling is the true mark of a good catch. It is counter intuitive and feels strange. The light feeling will also help to naturally increase your stroke rate and push the water backwards with more force.  

The catch may be the hardest element of freestyle swimming, but always a worthwhile investment to prevent injury and maximise propulsion. Give our Efficiency Course a go to improve your catch and swimming speed!


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