Straight Arm Recovery

Are you traditional or a swinger?

The traditional - high elbow recovery 

The traditional - high elbow recovery 

When you read many online perspectives around arm recovery the most common discussion is around the straight arm recovery vs the high elbow recovery. 

In my experience of working and seeing many age group swimmers try to implement a straight arm recovery, what they think they are doing in their action, actually looks more like a ‘haymaker’ or a swinging arm from a brawling boxer – which won’t make you many friends in the lane you are swimming in.   

So if you are going to practice a straight arm recovery then make sure your arm movement is always moving forward not swinging from outside in.

The straight arm recovery

The straight arm recovery

The traditional high elbow recovery may not have as higher turnover but will more likely set up most swimmers for a better catch.

Either method that you are working on I do believe the key similarities is to

  1. create a high shoulder position
  2. enhances body rotation
  3. reduces the frontal drag component compared to a flat shoulder position. 




Key points to the straight arm Recovery

  • Encourages a higher shoulder position - reducing the frontal drag component
  • Control the entry as you still need to enter with the fingers rather than a ‘slapping hand’
  • Control the arm movement at the back end of the stroke as you need to be careful that the arm movement is not right over your back as the head will get in the way to rotate cleanly through to the entry. If this happens then I'd often see the shoulder drop and the effect of the straight arm recovery is greatly reduced. 
  • Try and lead from the exit at the back of the stroke through to the entry with your first two fingers next to the thumb - NOT the side of the forearm or little finger.
  • The straight arm action is 'out of the water' NOT 'under the water' if you have a straight arm under the water you will create a large amount of drag and will generally create a scooping movement - learn more

Common Faults

Swimmers often think they are achieving an effective straight arm recovery but they are often pulling the arm too far over their back creating a lack of balance (lead arm drops at the catch position) 


Swimmers are flying their arm low across the water therefore not achieving the height required for a better entry and catch or are they reducing the frontal drag component with a higher shoulder position.