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The 4 Phases Of The Freestyle Swim Stroke

  • By Julia Polloreno
  • Published Aug 4, 2014
  • Updated Aug 4, 2014 at 2:55 PM UTC
Pro Matty Reed demonstrates the "exit" phase of the swim stroke. Photo: Nils Nilsen

3. Exit: The final pull of the hand/arm as it leaves the water, ideally just past the hip—and the most undermaximized phase of the entire stroke.

What you’re doing wrong: Bringing your arm out of the water too soon

Ninety percent of triathletes bring their arm out of the water to begin the recovery too early, estimates Cleaver. “You’re missing a key part of the stroke—the super powerful acceleration at the side of your body,” she says, likening it to the motion of a press-up you’d do on the wall to get out of the swimming pool. “As soon as I tell people they’re missing that, it’s like free time. Within two weeks they will have improved.”

Pro Matty Reed says it’s all in the flick of a wrist: “My coach always told me to try to flick the water out as your thumb is hitting your thigh on the way through,” he says. “A lot of people focus on the front part of the stroke and forget about the exit phase—it’s really important to do the whole pull from the front to the exit phase where you’re flicking the water out the back.”

The fix: Swimmers typically bring their arm out of the water by the hip, but Cleaver instructs her students to push even beyond the hip. “Your hand should touch your thigh, trying to reach for your knee. You can’t touch your knee, of course, but you should reach in that direction. Within three sessions people usually say, ‘Oh my gosh, that changed everything.’”

RELATED: Triathlon Swim Tips For All Levels

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FILED UNDER: Getting Started / Swim / Training

Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno

As Editor-in-Chief of Triathlete magazine, Polloreno oversees the monthly magazine’s content and production. 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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