Use these four exercises to prevent pauses and over-reaching in your front crawl stroke – you’ll save seconds in a few swimming training sessions…

Stop stopping your swim

FIST DRILL

When many of us learn to swim, we are taught to ‘glide’ at the front of the stroke. Long, graceful strokes are great if they’re performed correctly, but what some swimmers do is actually pause their front arm, causing the elbow to drop, and losing power in the stroke. Reaching forward and far is great, but try to speed up that turnover and eliminate that pause. Swimming front crawl with closed fists is a good start, as it forces you to shorten your stroke slightly, and to keep those arms turning over constantly. It should help you learn a better catch as you’re forced to use your forearm rather than your hand to pull through the water.

Stop stopping your swim

FINDING YOUR RHYTHM

You can make a big difference to your stroke rate just by changing the way you think about your rhythm and the mantras you use to keep yourself going. For example, if you’re focusing on “reach, reach” or “glide, glide” it’s easy to slow your stroke right down in pursuit of that extra length. Try a 1,2, breathe count in your head to get a rhythm going or, better still, employ a swimming metronome. These devices sit under your swimming cap and make a beeping sound, set to a tempo of your choice; a great way to help you speed up your turnover and get rid of those dead spots.

Stop stopping your swim

HEAD UP FRONT CRAWL

Not only is head up front crawl good for helping you learn to sight in open water, but it helps you prevent dead spots. For starters you can see what your hands and arms are doing, so there’s immediate feedback; but also, as with fist drill, it makes it harder to pause or glide too long at the front of your stroke. Use a high elbow throughout, taking care to keep it up during the recovery phase when you might be tempted to swing a straight arm out over the surface. This drill should also help you harness the big muscles in your back to power up your stroke.

Stop stopping your swim

FRONT CRAWL WITH BAND

Chucking yourself into the pool with your legs tied together is not for the faint hearted, but it is an old trick that helps you work harder with your upper body, giving you no choice but to keep your arms turning over and keep maximum power going through your stroke. Use an old inner tube looped round your ankles; you can have some movement, just make sure you can’t kick properly. If you feel nervous about doing this, just make sure your mates are looking out for you. An easier alternative, but one which requires greater self discipline, is to use a pull-buoy so you can focus on your arm action.

Liz Hufton

TEAM TALK: STARTING OUT

“One of the culprits behind beginners’ dead spots is catch-up drill, poorly executed. When you’re swimming catch-up, make sure you get the front arm moving as soon as your recovering hand touches the water – at no point should you be paused, gliding, with both arms held out straight in front of you. Keep those arms turning over!”

Liz Hufton, Editor

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