Arm And Hand Drills
When performing drills to help with the path of the arms a central snorkel is a great tool. It will temporarily eliminate any issues with breathing allowing a more focused opportunity to watch the movements the hands and arms are making. Without the head turning to breathe we are more likely to perform more accurate hand pathways under the body. The idea here is to send water back towards the feet rather than down to the bottom of the pool. It is in the arm pull and related swim equipment that we have the most options to be creative within this area.
Try sculling with swim mitts that deaden the feel in the water, but when these removed leave the hands making a great connection with the water. Also useful is swimming with tennis balls to ensure we really are swimming with a clenched fist. Single paddles can be used to highlight the differences in pull speed and patterns.
1. Fist Drill: Swim a half-length with the right hand fist clenched and then the other half with the left hand fingers wide. Swap mid pool and return to full stroke front crawl for a 50m block. Make use of the forearm while the hand size/shape is diminished. Try to maintain similar levels of propulsion despite the discrepancies in hand shape/size.
2. Single paddle drill: Swim blocks of 50m with a single paddle starting with 50m with the right hand normal and left hand with a paddle. Then swap for the second 50m to left hand normal and right hand with a paddle. On the third 50m swim with both paddles and on the final 50m of the set swim with no paddles for full stroke front crawl sensation.
3. Advanced single arm drill: Start out with fins but try without once comfortable with the mechanics of the drill. This can easily be combined with full stroke to make it easier if working without fins. Try three single arm cycles with the left arm, followed by three full stroke front crawl cycles into three single arm right and so on. The momentum of the full stroke will carry you through the drill negating the fin absence.
Points to remember when performing the above:
• Unused arm is to trail by the side with the head perfectly still except when breathing.
• Breathe to the non-pulling side once composed and balanced.
• Commence the catch phase after the head returns to a balanced forward position.
• Focus on the main pull of the body over the hand.
• Feel the final acceleration phase of the hand reaching down to the thighs and exit to start the recovery.
All of these points can be made harder using a pull buoy or easier with fins, and more concentrated with a central snorkel and more accurate with a tennis ball when a clenched fist is needed. Speed is not the objective here, accuracy is. You do not need to rush these drills. You are looking to allow the over exaggerated movement to be absorbed, the reduced pathway/movement to be compensated for and built into the full stroke. This final point is important and why the swim drills mentioned always involve a full stroke front crawl component. Most of these drills can easily be integrated into warm-ups and subsets to refine technique ahead of a big main set. They can also form a technical main set.
Example Technical Main Set For Hand Strength Routine: Try 12x100m front crawl with 30 seconds rest between each 100m. For odd swims use fins and remove them for evens. Feel the hands getting bigger as you progress until you feel like you have invisible paddles on for the full stroke. Then perform the following 12 times:
25m Fists: Try to minimise the hands slipping through the water by keeping the forearm vertical.
25m Pointing: Point the index finger down to the bottom of the pool (preferably the black line if safe to do so), remain firm at the wrist and bent at the elbow.
25m Okay position: With the index finger and thumb lightly touching. 25m Fingers Slightly Open: With fingers 2-3mm apart feel a strong front crawl that should feel like you have invisible paddles on.
This last length will feel magnificently strong having worked harder with part of the stroke missing. Ultimately we are looking for the body to adapt when performing these drills and enhance the swimming position having ‘made up’ for the fact that part of the stroke was diminished or restricted. As the body compensates we can look forward to enhanced feel in the water when returning to full stroke front crawl.