Swimming - What is the best arm recovery technique?

Swimming has to be one of the most technical sports you could learn and a lot of coaches will have opinions on what works best for swimmers. If you are one of those people that just follow one persons theory then you can stop reading now but for a number of swimmers that are open minded or don't have a coach to advise on the best solution for them, then maybe give this a try to help you work out what works best for your arm recovery.  

Training Session

This session is going to focus on two parts of the stroke and will help you to work out the best recovery technique to help with your swimming.

The main aspects are 

  1. Body rotation 
  2. Arm recovery 

Body Rotation
The body rotation is important as it helps the swimmer comfortably move the arm through the recovery. It is also has important under the water but this isn't the purpose of this discussion. 

Think of body rotation like bowling a cricket ball or even just throwing a ball - it is much easier to have your hips turned (body rotation) to freely move the shoulder/ arm forward to throw or bowl the ball. 

Arm Recovery
The recovery technique (arm out of the water) helps set up a good strong entry and catch especially in the final 1/3 of the stroke.  This high high shoulder position will also help decrease drag - compared to the shoulder being square and acting like a bulldozer against the water.

How do you go about implementing the arm recovery correctly? This is the task for this session.  

The Swim Session

200 Warm Up
4x50m as 10:1 Drill for 25m/ Swim 25m -Rest 10-15sec between each 50m
This is to set up the body rotation requirements ready for the arm recovery technique. 

Discovery of best Arm Recovery Technique
USE FINS & a PIPE (or kick board) Rest 10-15sec

8x25m alternating
- 25m Zipper Drill
- first 6 strokes zipper then swim
Fingers must touch your body through the recovery to your underarm then keep high elbow into the entry
100m Easy Swim focus on Arm Recovery
8x25m alternating 25m Finger Trickle Drill
- first 6 strokes finger trickle then swim
Fingers drag along the water surface through the recovery - this is controlled by high elbowhttps://www.boostcoaching.co.nz/zipper-drill/
100m Easy Swim Focus on Arm Recovery
8x25m Straight Arm Recovery - remember you are looking for height with this but don't make this too rough - still control movement - make sure it is high not swinging wide
4-8x100m Easy Swim focus on the arm recovery and what works best for you. Keep thinking about balanced body position. You can drill the first 6 strokes of every 25m or 50m to help keep you connected with the technique.


Key points to the session 

There are some key things to focus on

  1. You must finish the stroke before you worry about the arm recovery
    • When you finish the stroke this needs to be where you hip was before the BR (body rotation)
    • A lot of swimmers when thinking about recovery barely execute their stroke under the water and swim with very short arm strokes making it hard to execute arm recovery as there is little to no body rotation. 
  2. You can not finish the stroke over your back - you will not have very good body position or balance and will most likely push down on the water with the lead arm and also scissor kick to compensate for this lack of balance
  3. You must have BR in order to complete arm recovery easily with a high shoulder position
  4. Elbow leads recovery not the hand
    • Try not to hurry the hand to the front of the stroke again let the rolling arm movement control the time of the entry which ever technique you choose to use.

How do we work out what is best?

Choose Finger Trickle Drill - If you finish your stroke over your back . This wider arm recovery drill is better as long as you stop the stroke at the hip rather than in the final push phase of the stroke pushing water over your back.  

Choose Zipper Drill - If you have a low arm recovery where your hand leads the recovery and just clears the water.  You just have to remember to POP your elbow up when you finish the stroke rather than picking than throwing the hand forward with a low elbow.  

Choose Straight Arm Recovery- If you get very little rotation and shoulder height with your swimming. Straight arm recovery can also help speed up the arm recovery movement so if you have a slow recovery then this could be the right choice for you. 

I will often see people using a combination of techniques and you'll see this when looking at open water swimmers and triathletes.  Often one arm (the dominant breathing) side will be a straight arm and the opposite arm more of a traditional high elbow movement. 

Coaches Note

My perspective on swimming is to firstly look at how a swimmer is positioned in the water and then working through a hierarchy of stroke correction drills to assist the development of the swimmer.  For instance the discussion today around arm recovery may require some other stroke correction help in order to set up the arm recovery technique. If you would like some specific help with your swimming then consider coming in for a 1:1 Swim Lesson or bring in a friend for a 2:1 Swim Lesson and if you want to see the full story consider a Swim Stroke Analysis for an overview of your current swimming.