I was introduced recently to a new drill for helping to improve your catch and hand position in Freestyle. It doesn't really have a name or at least not one I can find in any documentation so I'm calling it the "dip and reset" drill. The idea behind this drill is that it works on your hand entry into the water at the top of your catch. It helps you maintain a high elbow throughout your entry and gives you the isolated movement to truly feel how a solid catch should be. It focuses on the correct sequence of movements that your hand and arm should go through when entering the water in order to execute the most efficient pull that will maximize your propulsion in the water.
To do this drill, you will need some additional equipment. Using a pair of fins will help give you enough kicking power to maintain a proper body position throughout the movement. I tried it without fins but wasn't able to fully execute the movements in this drill. I found I was spending more time focusing my effort on powering through my kick than the movement of my shoulder and body position. So I definitely recommend that you use fins or zoomers for getting the most out of this drill.
Step 1: Positioning
To start this drill, you'll be swimming with your body at a 45˚ angle meaning one shoulder up high towards the sky and one shoulder low. This should be your natural position Just like you would swimming normal Freestyle. Make sure that you keep your head down looking at the bottom of the body to provide yourself with the best alignment and body position to properly execute on this drill.
One arm will remain at your side as not to hinder the rest of your body's movement. If you find this difficult, bring your non-motion arm out in front, but make sure when you do the motion of the catch that you extend through your static arm like you would in catch-up Freestyle drill. When your arm is up in the recovery position treat this as your opportunity to also get a breath.
Step 2: Entry
Your arm on the side of your high shoulder will be positioned high in the air as if you are in the recovery phase of your stroke. Then using your shoulder, not your arm, drive your hand forward towards the catch. The motion of moving your hand forward shouldn't be lazy. You should drive forward with force making sure that you have a solid catch at your entry point. This should cause your body to rotate. Remember for this drill, you are not driving the motion with your arm. The movement and acceleration into the catch is driven by your shoulder and body movement. Your arm in this case will stay static in the recovery position.
Drive forward with your shoulder to dip your hand into the water like you would in your catch. Make sure that your fingertips are entering first and that your hand is following. Hold this position for a count of 2 - 3 seconds. During this entry and hold, you should feel the water on the palm of your hand. If it feels wobbly or if you don't feel the water, then you're entry wasn't flat or you dropped your shoulder.
Step 3: Reset
The final motion of this drill is to rotate your body and shoulder back up to your 45˚ angle. Bring your arm back into the recovery position. Reset your body and repeat.
I found when doing this drill it was more efficient to continue using one arm only per 25 meters. Then switch and repeat the movement with your other arm.
To demonstrate this drill, Italian sprinter Luca Dotto has a video on youtube showing the fluent motion and proper hand entry that you should be utilizing.
This drill is highly effective in teaching swimmers how to properly catch and hold the water. There are far too many swimmers who miss out on this crucial part of their stroke. That initial catch of water can really help you utilize your maximize efficiency and propulsion in your stroke.
A side note, I just wanted to remind all your avid swimmers that we recently launched our new swag store. If you love swimming and want to show off your pride for the sport, head over to the swag page and get one of our new shirt designs.