Catch and Pull

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  • Sculling is a very valuable drill to help develop your ‘feel for the water’ – how it feels to position and time the catch and pull stroke movements correctly
  • Scull #1 is the most important of all the scull drills and should be practiced the most, since it replicates the initial catch phase when you first apply pressure to the water
  • Many swimmers press downwards, sideways or forwards in this position, or even cheat trying to do breastroke!
  • Don’t be put off if you struggle at first, this simply highlights an area of weakness in your stroke and that you will greatly benefit from improving your catch and feel for the water

Key Points

  • Always use a pull buoy to isolate your arms and prevent you from gaining any leg kick propulsion
  • Push off, bring your head out of the water and scull with both arms left and right symmetrically
  • Scull slightly wider than your shoulders, bringing your hands a few inches apart in front of you
  • Slightly change the angle of your hand so you’re leading the scull with your palms, keeping a constant pressure on the water with your hands and forearms
  • Keep your fingertips lower than your wrist and wrist lower than your elbow at all times
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Doggy Paddle

Otherwise known as ‘long dog’ in some parts of the world, this version is swum with more rotation than traditional children’s doggy paddle.

  • It’s a powerful drill for developing your catch and ‘feel for the water’ as it forces you to develop a bent elbow catch
  • If you struggle with the drill, its likely you’re in the habit of catching the water with a straight arm
  • It also helps you develop good rhythm and timing 
  • It enables you to focus on keeping the hand in line with the shoulder rather than sweeping out or crossing under the body 

Key Points

  • Use a pull buoy to prevent your legs from kicking
  • Perform alternate strokes pulling back to the hip
  • Keeping your arms underwater for the recovery forwards, in whichever way feels natural, but fingertips first 
  • Extend your hands in line with the shoulder
  • Tip the wrist then exaggerate bending your elbow as you emphasise ‘reaching over the barrel’
  • Keep the lead hand constantly in motion, either extending forwards in front of the shoulder, tipping over and catching the water or pulling backwards, no pausing!
  • Repeat the mantra:

Reach and roll!


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  • Correcting your stroke problems while breathing: pressing down, pulling through wide, catching early or late
  • Improving the alignment of your catch as you breathe
  • Preventing the lead hand crossing over the centre line when breathing

Key Points

  • Kick on side with fins and a Finis Freestyler paddle on the lead arm only
  • Tune into your alignment of the lead hand and your posture, pulling your shoulder blades together and back
  • Continuously exhale, rotate your head to breathe in keeping one eye in the water
  • Transition into full stroke breathing every 4 strokes to keep breathing away from the paddle
  • Rotate the body away from the lead arm as you stretch forwards and catch
  • Feel the extra support and provided by the paddle
  • Tune into any feedback from the paddle- whether you’re crossing over or dropping that hand before you’ve finished taking a breath
  • Repeat on the other side
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PB and Paddles

  • Isolate the arms and improve hand entry, catch mechanics and core control
  • Also improves arm strength with the increased surface area and resistance of the paddle

Key Points

  • Using a pull buoy, swim without kicking using your arms for propulsion
  • Wear either the Finis Freestyler or Agility paddles
  • Focus on strecthing through your core and rotating the hips in line with the shoulders
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Back of Stroke

Key Points

  • Concentrate your efforts on simply pressing water back behind you with the palm of your hand
  • Combined with good rotation, this pull through will lead to an efficient long stroke technique, but one that is not overly long
  • Don’t try to lock your elbow straight as you exit the water risking elbow injury- keep it bent about 150°
  • You might find as you rotate your middle finger will exit the water first naturally