So, once we have achieved the catch, our hand and forearm is in a near-to-vertical position. Then we apply pressure to the palm of the hand, pulling and then pushing to create forward motion to our body.
How fast we do the pull/push depends on how fast we want to move through the water. And we continue the push until our thumb reaches our thigh. Our body is already rolled by this stage and then we just lift our arm and hand out of the water vertically to commence the recovery all over again.
It is important to hold the hand perpendicular to the direction we are heading in. Try to imagine a smiley face or a koala stamp on your palm; we then pull and push the koala directly back along the line of our body. Anything other than a perpendicular hand position will allow water to slip to the side and not propel you forward as well as it should. It is also important to maintain your fingers-down hand position. Old fashioned teaching methods encouraged a type of S-bend movement starting with a thumb-down entry and then with the fingers pointed to the side of the pool and underneath the body – don’t do that as it is just biomechanically inefficient and will eventually cause a shoulder injury.
And now you are swimming freestyle efficiently. What you do with it now is up to you – swim faster, swim longer, or both, or just swim leisurely knowing that you are swimming efficiently. From time to time in future issues, I will discuss some more advanced aspects of the freestyle stroke including ‘asynchronous timing’ (which I call ‘forward quadrant stroking’ – not as hard as you might imagine).
To see how all of the things we have been discussing are put together, see the YouTube clip of Jono Van Hazel, Perth-based former Olympian, who has ‘the smoothest swimming technique in the world’: https://youtu.be/s3HhNlysFDs.