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The Catch – How To Swim Front Crawl | Freestyle Swimming Technique


– Swimming fast is a combination of fitness and great technique. One is about physical hard work, the other slightly more mental. – Yeah you can spend hours plodding or thrashing up and down the pool per week doing thousands of metres and see very little
difference in your swim time. And that is a sure sign that you need to work on your technique. So what better place to start than at the front of the stroke. – So today we’re gonna be looking at the catch part of front crawl, and showing you how you can improve this vital part of the stroke. (upbeat music) – So we can break the front
crawl stroke into phases, we’ve got the catch, the pull, the exit, and then the recovery. So the first part of the stroke, when a hand first enters
the water is the catch, and that is our purchase on the water. Then we have the pull phase which is our main underwater
phase of the stroke and that gives us the propulsion, the exit is as it sounds. And then when our hand comes out and over past our head, that is the recovery. – Without a good catch, the rest of the stroke
is going to struggle. Getting ahold of the water
at the front of your stroke is vital for a strong pull. But let’s rewind a moment, what exactly is this part of the stroke that we keep talking about? It happens as your hand enters the water at the front of the stroke. When your movement changes
from moving forwards to pulling back and down under your body. The moment when your hand and forearm start to make this new
movement is the catch. In theory, you’re catching
this new body of water. Okay so you want your fingers together, but they need to be relaxed, you can’t force this part of the stroke. And as your hand goes in it
goes from being horizontal to your fingers then starting
to angle towards the bottom. You need to try to avoid
that long glide at the front, it is tempting, and it is
something that I used to do, but it’s not an efficient way of swimming, even though it does look quite pretty. Basically you want to catch that water as soon as you can, while still maintaining a smooth entry. – If we imagine our nose as a centre line, we want to make sure that we’re not crossing over that centre
line when we catch. Equally we want to make sure that we’re not going
outside of our shoulder. We should actually be aiming to catch in line with our shoulder. So if you are going too
far inside or outside, you’re essentially continually
counteracting yourself, and this ends up with that
kind of snaking motion down the pool, which is quite inefficient. – So the catch happens with
your palm and your forearm. So you’re gonna have a flex at
the elbow to keep that high. And actually a slight flex at the wrist will help maintain that
elbow position throughout. And a coach actually
explained it to me once as imagining there’s a set body of water that’s not moving, you’re getting hold of that water, and then you’re gonna
pull yourself through. And imagine if you didn’t get ahold of that in the first place, the rest of your stroke is
going to be pretty inefficient. And it’s an analogy that really helped me. – It’s one thing knowing what to do, it’s another thing being
able to execute it. So here are some drills to help
you get a good strong catch. – Okay let’s start with the front scull, which is probably the most popular of the catch drills as it isolates the catch with
a back and forth type motion. And for this you need to start
in a streamlined position with your arms out in front of you and you can kick if you want to, maybe use fins will help. Or a pool buoy to help with the buoyancy. Basically you’re trying
to isolate this movement so you can really focus on it. And with that in mind, you’re not going to be
going very fast at all. It’s not about speed,
it’s not about propulsion, it is purely about technique. A useful way to explain this is imagine you’re trying to form two mounds of sand out in front of you, so you’re just going to be sweeping gently over the top of
that slight downward angle of your hands. So if you are applying
the correct pressure downwards and backwards, you will start to move
forward but it will be slowly. – Now then, the single arm drill is a really good place to start putting the stroke back together. You want to leave the
spare arm out in front or down by your side, and then concentrate on one arm at a time with the emphasis on the catch. Now some people do find
this drill quite hard to do so if you need to you
can wear a set of fins just to help with the propulsion. Or you can even use a kickboard with the spare arm just to help with the buoyancy a little bit more. And whilst we’re talking about swim aids, a snorkel can be real useful here. So by having a snorkel on it means that you can keep your head in the water, you can keep your head still and really focus on that catch. Another really useful
swim aid is finger paddles which are essentially a smaller
version of these paddles, and what they do is
reinforce good technique and really show out bad form because what you find in
a set of finger paddles is your hand would slip out. Now if you don’t have
a set of finger paddles you can just use your normal paddles and basically just forget
about using that bottom strap just use the top strap and it will basically
do a very similar thing. – A drill I like that emphasises
the importance of the catch actually does so by
taking away part of it. It is fist swimming. So for this, you’re gonna swim 25 metres with a clenched fist, and then a second 25
metres with your palm open. And this should really emphasise
the importance of the catch and make you aware of
when you’re doing it well. This last drill is actually
more of an exercise, it’s a fun one to do in a group, especially if you’ve got
a coach on pool side. So get a few of you across the lanes all facing forwards in
a horizontal position so you’re sculling the water
and you’re kicking gently but you’re staying on the spot. And then as soon as the
coach blows the whistle you’ve gotta sprint to 10 metres. So it really emphasises first few strokes and the catch of them. And it’s also an exercise you can practise perfectly well on your own as well. – Now it might seem slow and frustrating focusing on such a small
part of the stroke, but start, as you mean to go on, by sorting and getting a good catch hopefully the rest of
the stroke will follow. – Yeah and this is the
star of our swim week, so there’s going to be a lot
more swimming videos coming. Keep an eye out for those. If you wanna make sure that
you don’t miss any of them, just hit the globe to subscribe. And if you like the
look of these swim caps, you can find those in the shop. – Yep and if you’d like to see our video on swim toys that can help
to improve your technique, then just click down here.

Glenn Chapman

88 Comments

  1. What is your favourite drill for front crawl technique? Let us know in the comments below 👇

  2. fist swimming over front sculling over dog swimming!
    good swim week topic 🙂 i'm looking for tips how to increase the speed/power during the pull end phase 🙂

  3. Oooh, great topic. Almost as great as Mark's epic bike sock tan lines @ 2:45.

  4. Definitely guilty of over-extending the glide as well, and I'm working on that. I also recently became aware of a hitch in my catch immediately after taking a breath. During the glide my elbow drops, putting on the brakes. Then in the catch my hand is rotated maybe 30 degrees, causing me to lose the water on the pull. Still working out the root cause, but probably has to do with breathing technique more than anything. Needless to say, plenty of opportunities for improvement in this pool…

  5. Doesn't the research now suggest that fingers should be slightly open for a better pull?

  6. I've never seen more natural presenter than Heather! Like omg, is she even real. Goals.

  7. good video, good presenters, pretty complicated topic …
    swim technique should always begin with body position … a ‘good catch’ if body position is not hydrodynamic [streamlined in water] simply means pulling a larger surfaced area object [athletes body] through the water … which will always be more ineficient than pulling a more streamlined athletes body through the water … these ‘drills’ ‘work’ because presenters body position is good.

  8. Loving your video, keep it up just one question, whats the best way to warmup before a triathlon ( roller, exercices, or other)?

  9. You forgot to mention to keep your elbow high which is the most important part of the catch.

  10. please, make a purple, pink or orange swim cap, the water is dark in the lakes out here so its adviced to have something visible on to avoid boats!

  11. Thank you I needed this ! I just started swim training seriously, aiming for my first 70.3 in a year … possibly a few aquathons in between 😁

  12. Great video guys really simple, easy to follow and well explained. looking forward to the others.

  13. Excellent Video! Thank you soo much! Keep up the great work!

  14. If your looking for a video idea, maybe a video on training through injury. Obviously you are not doctors but as athletes, I am sure there are some trade secrets. Maybe a list of what to do and what not to do. I am currently a peroneal tendonitis sufferer and any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    I think Mark and Heather are fantastic presenters of the old school natural British TV style and think the content here is fantastic!

  15. Paddles are good for hand entry and strength training but not the catch

  16. thanks for the swim tips! keep em coming? PS can you guys sell a GTN speedo?? 🙂

  17. A forward glide is not official? I really don’t a damn about “official.”

  18. Nope, you need to watch the vids produced by the world champs, they dont do it like that 🤪🤪🤪

  19. This is a crock of shit. The propulsion comes from the legs. Look at any motor boat, it's engine is in the rear driven by a propeller. Look at a 🦈, it's engine is it's huge tail fin in the rear of it's body. All power is generated by the tail, propeller, legs. Period.. stop putting so much emphasis on this catch bullshit. Build rock solid legs from stair training, weights, squats.etc.. then kick like hell and dip your head down towards the bottom of the pool, hold a tight core, breathe from one side of your mouth, and use long powerful strokes fluidly through the water. This catch thing is a joke. I swim fast as hell, and it's mainly from my legs.

  20. My hands (alternative) stays on the water a bit more during the pull phase and it just destroys the coordination and posture..What to do??

  21. I found this very useful, thank you. Great presenting skills and some very practical suggestions of things I can now try.

  22. I basically kinda imagine myself swimming in a pool of slime, me trying break free from all that stickiness 😆

  23. If your pull is about 9 inches inside your entry (under your belly then sweeping back to hips), you're wasting energy that should direct you forward.

  24. i learn to swim front crawl 1 hours straight and i did it with 1 go. now i want to learn how to swim faster and it's seem i couldn't go faster.

  25. Owesome video, it is helping me a lot improving my technique. Specially usefull the underwater images, Thanks!!!

  26. But isn't it more efficient to stretch your front arm above water, and submerge it only already extended? Air is less dense than water, so you won't be slowing yourself while doing forward motion with your arm.

  27. Say your video editor I loved the glare and cink sound 😉 also with good timing with the "catch".

  28. There's a german/austrian youtuber, a pianist who looks a lot like you, could be your brother.

  29. listen i can swim on the back super fast because then i can breath but if not how the fuck do you breath in the water?

  30. I'm learning this so the lifeguard doesn't think I'm drowning whenever I'm trying to swim.

  31. GTN good 👍🏻 very good job 👏. I like it and I love you both guys ✌🏻❤️. You are really helping me 😇

  32. Namaste and thank you to both of you. I find your videos helpful. I am 35 yrs old and learning.. It's too hard for me to take out my mouth to breathe. Hopefully, I will learn. I just can't figure out what I am doing it wrongly. A day, I will learn for sure. Thank you guys :*

  33. Hi it is Lucinda please come to stoksley North Yorkshire swimming pool at 7.30 pm and teach me in the swimming pool how to do the front crawl please

  34. I'm a beginner and i literally don't know what to do next after standing in the water so can I please get some tips?

  35. I dont get it . should we twist the wrist downwards when entering the hand in water?

  36. Thank you! My newly messed up catch and pull is wrecking my shoulders. All the details help

  37. Before the catch and after the over water recovery actually there first is the entry phase when moving the hand in the water or the short glide whatever you want to call it.
    Also this is not a very good catch example as the elbow sinks way too low towards the bottom of the pool in stead of being high and bend for an efficient backwards pull.
    I doubt if you already have spend hours of hours in the pool this kind of demonstrated low relative straight elbow catch will make your freestyle swim go faster.
    Last during his one arm drill his hips drops down way low to the bottom of the pool too a lot in stead of being in an elavated efficient horizontal streamline position. disappointed.
    It is reasonable to expect a lot better quality of this channel : the Global Triathlon Network.

  38. Appreciate these drills, simple explanations. Swimming requires such precise technique.

  39. Why do you interrupt your move between 1:34 & 1:35, when your arm stop pulling and start pushing ? This is the moment when you are moving your hand from outside (left) to inside (center) and also doing a rotation of your wrist and show us that your thumb is apart :-(. Nice fingernail. This move don't provide any thrust, instead you must be slowly accelerate all the time.
    Between 2:44 & 2:45 you show us the inside of your palm instead of having it perpendicular like at 2:45 just before to exit. Do you want to say hello ?
    I have seen that many time in the swimming pool. People don't handle well the pull/push transition, some stop, other make strange moves with the hand, other even contort them-self like to crawl with the all body and the knee that come below the body.
    Be careful, you are doing slow motion videos, everything is visible

  40. While doing the crawl I turn my head to the left side to inhale. Can I just lift my head straight to breathe in

  41. Quick question: how do you do a head-up front crawl with proper technique?

  42. 1:52 why not to long glide at the front ?Examples are showing arm stretching in front of body while the other arm trying to push water

  43. فيديو يشرح بالتفصيل ضربات اليدين في السباحة الحرة و طرق تعلم التكنيك الصحيح رائع و عملي

  44. I thought a good glide was supposed to be much more efficient? Every other thing I’ve read/watched has made it clear to practise gliding for long enough!

  45. sorry but it is so comlicate. it is better you dont mess them all. just keep make simple

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