Reach Through, Not Over, the Water

Effective swim coaches are have a plethora of analogies at their disposal. Drawing from the “dry world” can be an excellent way to communicate a technique in the pool. “Pretend you’re a pig roasting on a spit,” helps a swimmer perfect a body roll while maintaining a stable head position; “Imagine you’re swimming through a tube,” helps prevent a high arm recovery… and so on.

But probably my favorite analogy is to imagine a ladder running 1-2ft underneath the water. Your hand should enter the water in front of your face, with a high elbow. Then reach through the water to the farthest rung of the ladder you can reach. That means rotating onto your side to grab a rung further up the ladder. Notice that I said to reach through the water for the furthest rung and not over. This is important. It’s much easier to catch the water if you reach through the water because you bring less air into the water that when reaching over. By slicing through the water air pockets are minimizes, but when you each over and slap the water with a straight arm, you create one big air pocket.

Try it. The next time you swim, reach over the water and look how many bubbles you see ahead of you. Now slide your hand in with a high elbow and reach forward, through the water. You should see fewer bubbles.

The ladder analogy helps the swimmer experiment with hand entry and reach. If you try this, also experiment with the velocity with which you enter the water. Many coaches encourage a rather vigorous entry and reach to help with body roll, i.e. to gain an extra rung on the ladder.

Let me know what you think of this visual. And if you have a favorite analogy, share it below.

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