Freestyle Hand Entry
Just because your hand isn't 'pulling' the water doesn't mean that what you do with it doesn't matter. The way the hand enters the water is extremely important. In fact it is one of the most important parts of your stroke. Why? Because if you don't begin your stroke right, the rest of your pull will be inefficient and cause you to swim slow. Read below to see how this happens, practice the tips we provide, and begin to make your stroke faster and easier!
Where. The hand should enter the water in line with the shoulder and out in front of the swimmer far enough to be almost fully extended, but not too far to prohibit a small amount of forward hand glide under the surface of the water.
How. The hand should enter with the thumb down towards the water and the palm facing outwards and downwards at an approximate angle of 45 degrees. At the same time, fingers should be pointing forward and downward towards the water. Elbows should go in after the hands and forearms.
Forearms should be kept loose, as this is the time when they are getting their rest. To keep them flexed when they are out of the water will only make them tired more quickly.
Swimmers should try to make the wrist, forearm and elbow enter the water through the 'hole' created by the hand. Doing so reduces resistance/drag. If your entry creates little-to-no splash, then you probably did it right. Cannonball-like splash is bad. It is kind of like a diver. When she goes in straight and her entire body goes through the hole created by her hands, there is no splash. When she belly flops or doesn't go in straight she makes a big splash.
A splash is usually caused by air getting pushed below the water's surface. When pulling, air is bad, water is good. To get the most out of your pull, your arms and hands need to be pushing against water and not air. Air is less dense and creates less lift/propulsion when pushed against. That is why it is so important to enter the water correctly with your hands. Because if you don't, your hands will slip through the water without driving your body forward.
This is the same reason why a slight glide forward underwater by your hands right after entry is good. Doing this helps to rid the air trapped next to your hand and helps make the pull more efficient. The glide also can provide the body with some very good lift to raise it up out of the water, if done correctly.
The Catch. Right after the hand briefly glides forward, a short forward and sideways pressing movement of the hand will occur. In essence, your hand will actually scull outwards while your arm is fully extended. The hand will actually go slightly outside the line of your body. This is the 'catch' or 'press'. This is a vital stage in the stroke because it sets the hand, gives you a 'feel for the water', and preps it for the upcoming pull. Get all the air out from around the hand and nail the catch, and you will be pulling as efficiently as possible!
Many swimmers will catch only by pressing the hand downward. This is not as good as pressing/sculling the hand downwards and outwards. By going down and out you will maximize the possible distance of your stroke, which helps your distance per stroke.
As with many of our tips, we strongly encourage you to watch good swimmers to see how their hands enter the water. Try to mimic the styles used by them and you will pick it up quickly. Also, check out the other Archives for tips on how to do other parts of your stroke.