The 4 Phases Of The Freestyle Swim Stroke

  • By Julia Polloreno
  • Published Aug 4, 2014
  • Updated May 6, 2016 at 6:50 PM UTC
Pro Matty Reed demonstrates the "pull" phase of the swim stroke. Photo: Nils Nilsen

2. Pull: The action of moving the arm through the water as it follows the length of your body.

What you’re doing wrong: Dropping the elbow

The objective of the pull phase is to move you forward through the water. A high elbow helps maximize the pull and an efficient forward motion. “Between the ‘high elbow’ versus deeper pull theories, I lean toward the higher elbow (combined with a great body roll) to get the most benefit out of the stroke,” Cleaver says.

The fix: Think of having a Swiss exercise ball underneath you. “If athletes approach the range of motion as if their arm is moving over a Swiss ball, then they will effectively be getting a high-enough elbow and using the full arm to move their body forward in the water,” says Cleaver. You can make your pull even stronger by incorporating strength work into your dry-land workouts. Stretch cords are a useful tool—you can replicate the stroke phases and isolate areas of focus using stretch cords.

“You can also work on the acceleration of your arm underwater, always feeling like there is tension from the water against your hand and arm. You could have a great technique but it might be lacking power if you are not moving over that Swiss ball with enough force.”

RELATED: Fear Not The Swim

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FILED UNDER: Getting Started / Swim / Training

Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno is the editor at large of Triathlete magazine. A Stanford University graduate with an award-winning track record in publishing, Polloreno is a two-time Ironman finisher and has been a competitive triathlete for more than a decade.

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