Owner and Founder Mile High Multisport www.milehighmultisport.com
During the off season we are faced with many choices on how to make improvements so that we are better prepared for the next season. Now is the perfect time of year to focus on improving your swim stroke. Over the years I have conducted many swim lessons and although I have seen many flaws, improper hand entry is one of the most common errors I see. If the hand doesn’t enter the water properly, you have significantly reduced your chances of catching the water up front.
Your hand should enter the water at the 11 and 1 o’clock position on a clock (imagine a railroad track in which the tracks run through your shoulders and alongside your body). The hand will enter the water somewhere between your elbow and rest. Finger tips enter the water first, followed by the wrist and elbow. It is important that you maintain the finger tip, wrist, elbow alignment throughout the entry and the front part of your stroke. Imagine a steel rod which extends from elbow to finger tips. The wrist does not flex.
The hand should enter through an imaginary mail slot, finger tips, wrist and elbow and the elbow should never drop below the wrist or finger tips. The hand sets up somewhere between 4-6 inches below the surface of the water. Since it is hard to gauge this in the water think about your hand setting up under your shoulder. The trajectory of the hand is forward. Think about running the hand along the imaginary rail road track.
A good drill to practice proper hand alignment is the pause drill. In this drill, the entry hand pauses about 3 inches before the surface of the water. As you pause, ask yourself, is my hand in the proper alignment (elbow above wrist and finger tip). The lead hand should still be up front. Once you pause the lead hand enters the water at the same time the stroke hand begins to pull.
When doing drills, I would encourage you to wear fins as they act as training wheels in the water. Once you have perfected the time of this then you can take the fins off until you have mastered the drill again. This drill is one of my favorite drills as it promotes property hand entry and front quadrant swimming.
Pete Alfino is the owner and founder of Mile High Multisport. He is a level II USAT coach and master certified Slowtwitch coach. He has been coaching in the state of Colorado since 2004.