The best way to improve your feel for the water is with sculling – simple hand movements to move yourself forward…

One of the reasons some people manage to make swimming look so effortless is that they have a great ‘feel’ for the water. Feel is your ability to grip the water and to use that hold to propel yourself forward. Develop your feel and you’ll reap the rewards through faster freestyle. The best way to improve your feel is with sculling – simple hand movements to move yourself forward. Do these three drills at the beginning of a session to help set up your stroke for the remainder of your training time. Do the first drill – the mid scull – for 25m followed by 25m of normal swimming to get used to the extra feel you’ll have. Follow the same pattern for the second and third drills (opposite page) and then repeat the process as required.


Sculling - The Front ScullThe Front Scull

The front scull helps you get a strong ‘catch’ – the start of the stroke after your hand enters the water. Extend your arms out in front of you with a slight bend at the elbows. Your fingertips should be pointing forward and slightly downward, with your hands inline with your forearms (no limp wrists). Move your hands in the same sideways movement that you use for the mid-scull drill (see left). You are aiming to feel the maximum amount of resistance possible on your hands and forearms throughout the movement.

Sculling - The Back ScullThe Back Scull

The back scull helps you make the most of the propulsion at the end of your stroke. Keep your elbows parallel to the sides of your body and move your hands from below your waist out past your hips and back again in a waving motion. Aim to keep an even level of resistance on your hands and forearms at all times. Don’t lose that grip on the water.


Kick minimally to keep your legs high in the water. You can grip a pull buoy (float) between your legs or kick gently with fins if you’re struggling to keep your legs up.

Upper arms

Your upper arms should point straight out to the sides and stay still.


Keep your head in your normal swimming position, looking down and slightly forward. If you have a snorkel, use that, because it will enable you to maintain your swimming position without having to move your head in order to breathe.


Hold your hands inline with your forearms and sweep them first outwards about 20-25cm and then back in again – each of them in a slightly figure of eight movement. You are looking for maximum resistance on your palms and forearms and an even pressure throughout the movement. Get it right and it’ll feel like you’re moving your hands through custard.


Keep your elbows high and fixed. They’re the pivot points for your movement.