As mentioned in the previous module, how your hand enters the water is important. The path it takes as it enters the water will determine how well you are able to reach, glide and catch the water. And, by now, you understand the importance of these aspects of your stroke.

There are two common errors, when it comes to hand entry:

  1. reaching over the water before you enter and..
  2. reaching across the body after you enter

Both compromise the upfront swimming we discussed in earlier modules.

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Beginner swimmers often reach as far as they can over the water. In the worst cases, the swimmer has fully-extended their arm before their hand enters the water. This is a bad practice, for two reasons…

First, reaching over the water drags large amounts of air into the water as the arm transitions from air to water. This creates turbulent water and makes it all but impossible for the hand to anchor into stable water. (See Figure 9.) 

Second, because the swimmer has already extended their arm, they have no choice but to continue pulling straight down as soon as the hand enters the water. In other words, it’s impossible to reach and glide with the lead hand when the swimmer reaches over the water.

Reaching Across the Body

Another common flaw during the hand-entry phase is reaching across the body. This often happens when the swimmer swings their arms low and wide during the recovery. The hand continues to follow this path and, ultimately, ends up on the opposite side of the body line. (We’ll talk more about this in the Arm Recovery section.)

To get the maximum leverage during the catch and pull, swimmers must anchor their hands in stable water on the same side of the body line. The right hand needs to anchor and pull on the right side, and the left on the left. Crossing over the body line results in inefficiencies and often causes swimmers to “snake” through the water.

So, what’s the correct technique?

For the most effective hand entry, swimmers must think about reaching through the water by “spearing” the water with their fingertips. With a bent elbow, the hand should enter in front of the shoulder and reach forward. By doing this, the swimmer can glide with their lead hand and find stable water to “catch.”

As you glide and reach, you’ll become comfortable enough to let your hips roll slightly. This is an advanced skill, but it should come naturally as you reach and your stroke becomes longer.

One of the best ways to practice good hand entry is to use a snorkel. By doing so, you can keep an eye on your hands, making sure that they are reaching forward and not across your body.

You can also keep an eye on the amount of bubbles present during your hand entry. If you are doing it correctly, you will literally see bubbles leave your hand and arm as you reach and glide.

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How to Practice Hand Entry

You’ll learn several drills to help practice the correct hand entry. They often require tapping your head or pausing before entry, to help emphasize entering with a bent arm.

One of the best ways to practice good hand entry is to use a snorkel. By doing so, you can keep watch your hands without needing to turn your head to breathe. You can see if your hands are reaching forward and not across your body. Many pools have a line on the bottom of the pool. This can provide a good visual cue. Swim along the line and make sure that you don’t reach across it.

By wearing a snorkel, you can also keep an eye on the amount of bubbles present during your hand entry. If you are doing it correctly, you will literally see the bubbles that appear on entry leave your hand and arm as you reach and glide.