Catch up drill & correcting a cross over #SwimTechTues

Drills are a fundamental part of swim training. Because water is so thick, we have to constantly work on our form and technique to ensure we are travelling as efficiently as we can. Drills can be incorporated alongside full stroke as part of steady aerobic sets, as parts of warm ups and cool downs or even as part of a recovery from harder swims. They make you stay on point with your stroke (provided you’re focusing on making those habits stick!), there is NO reason not to do them!

One of the most common issues within athletes’ strokes that I see is a cross over pull – i.e. hands coming across under the body and causing the body to snake around. This tends to happen for one of 3 reasons:

  1. Core not being engaged – this either means that the hips will be low or that the shoulders are doing all the work. Either way you lose a lot of control and as a result, power!
  2. Hands swinging round the sides – as we have mentioned before, a straight arm recovery isn’t a problem. But if your arms come out and round the sides rather than up and over, then where you put your hands in becomes much more variable or out of control.
  3. Extending from the shoulder and allowing the hand to cross over the centre line – if you can keep a straight line between your hip, shoulder and hand, things will stay a lot more controlled, minimising lateral movement.

Catch up is a great drill to sort out all of these problems. By always having a hand out in front of your head it helps engage your core and keeping your posture super strong. Because you have to focus on good rotation (otherwise its difficult to get your hands out of the water) your arms will recover higher and enter more in line. And because you have the opposite hand in front you can’t cross over the centre line on entry.


Why Do It:

Doing the catch up drill has many different benefits to it:

1) Improves length of stroke.

2) Helps maintain posture and core rigidity.

3) Focus on engaging pressure on the water on your hands and forearms right at the very front of your stroke.

4) Making sure that you’re pull is symmetrical, balanced.

How To Do It:

1. Start with a standard streamline push off, and  keep your thumbs together.

2. Take a stroke with your right arm, keeping your left arm out in front of you.

3. As your right hand recovers stretch it forward to meet your left hand out in front.

4. Repeat with the left hand, and continue.

Catch up Drill Cross over

Catch up Drill

How To Do It Really Well: 

If you swim the catch up drill slowly, you can think through each of the focus points of the drill. By making sure you meet thumb to thumb at the front end, you can get the maximum out of your stroke length. This doesn’t mean that when you swim you have to have a glide (though for some that works!), but you’ll be able to travel a bit further per stroke, and gain better leverage. Also by having both arms stretched out in front, you pull your core and glutes in tight, which will minimise drag and help your body flow through the water better. As you pull each time, you can focus on really feeling the pressure of the water on your hands and forearms; as we have discussed before, this is what will help you move forwards. And finally, if you keep your head still then you can watch your hands come through under your nose, and replicate the same action on both sides. If you really want to make sure you keep your head still, you can always invest in a front mounted snorkel. This isn’t a complete necessity though!


Cross Over the Centerline/Wide Entry

Swim a length where you deliberately let your hands cross the centerline. Did you wiggle? Did you notice a loss of power…or that crossing over took more effort? Now swim a length where you enter the hands wide – outside the shoulders. What do you notice?

If you have trouble entering wide, swim half a length of “water polo” freestyle, with your head out of the water. You can see exactly where your hands are entering, and can keep the entry outside the shoulders.

After half a length with your head out, put your head in and keep swimming, but with the hands entering just outside the shoulders. Notice how the wider entry sets you up for a high-elbow catch, and helps you put the power at the front part of your stroke.


Take your time with this – as with any drill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Feel The Water – Sculling #SwimTechTues

Feel The Water – Sculling #SwimTechTues

Watch the great swimmers’ hands, and you’ll see how soft they are when they swim. They’re always searching to find that constant connection with the water. The way to improve this is using a technique or drill called sculling. Sculling provides the building blocks to all four swim strokes, and teaches us to feel pressure against the water on our hands and forearms. If you have this connection or pressure on the water, you will go forward – the more pressure you exert, the quicker you will go. However if you don’t “feel” the water, you won’t go anywhere! Sculling helps us build in this “feel”.

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Sculling doesn’t have to be perfect, but it teaches us to generate force in the right direction.[/clickandtweet]


Why Do It:

Sculling in all directions helps you develop a better feel for the water. Strapless sculling, or using paddles that have limited connection to the hands, helps you feel the press of the scull, while still focusing on having the palms turned in the correct direction.

How to Do It:

1. Start with you feet behind you, on your back.
2. Start to scull with your fingertips facing UP. If you do this right, you should move backward.
3. Now simply turn the fingertips DOWN. If you do this right, you should move forward, toward the feet.
4. Remember: This isn’t pulling. Don’t sweep your hands around like this swimmer is doing.
5. Sweep back and forth with the hands while keeping the shoulders and elbows as still as possible.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

Remain completely still with everything except the lower arm. Keep the body steady, the arms, the head… remain like a rock except for the lower arms and hands. If you have to kick to keep the feet up, sometimes a pull buoy can help further isolate what you’re focusing on.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can go for more stroke specific points – entry point (out in front, full extension, some people refer to this as catch point), mid point (with your elbows forward and wide, forearms pointing down) and exit point (similar to the drill above but lying on your front, working on finishing your stroke).


Entry point scull, midpoint scull, exit point scull


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Remember, if you feel like you could do with some help getting some control of the water, you can always book in for a 121 swim or video swim analysis below.