Freestyle Stroke Swimming Mistakes - Putting on the Brakes

This freestyle stroke article is the first one of a series that will describe common mistakes in one's swimming technique. The mistake this article focuses on is called Putting on the Brakes.

Once you have learned how to swim the freestyle stroke and have attained a certain level of proficiency in it, there can still be room for improvement in your swim stroke. Most likely swimming mistakes have crept into your technique that you aren't aware of.

Most of the time a good swim instructor will spot these mistakes instantly. But if you are teaching yourself how to swim or if you are trying to improve your technique on your own, it can be useful to get educated about the mistakes you might be doing unconsciously so that you can correct them.

Putting on the Brakes

Putting on the brakes is a mistake that occurs when the arm extends forward underwater at the end of the recovery in the freestyle stroke.

Normally your recovering hand enters the water in front of the head with a slight downward angle, before it sweeps forward parallel to the water surface in a straight line. Your arm simply follows behind through the hole opened in the water by the hand until your arm is completely extended.

Now it often happens that swimmers sweep their hand forward in an arc rather than a straight line. The hand is first angled down when entering the water, then is brought parallel to the water surface midway through the underwater recovery, and finally is angled up when the arm is completely extended, just before the active phase of the arm stroke starts.

As a consequence the swimmer pushes water forward at the end of the recovery, which slows him/her down.

Fixing Your Swimming Technique

This is one of the cases where swim paddles can be useful in improving one's swimming technique. The pressure of the water against the paddle will make you more aware of the angle used while recovering your hand. In fact, it is much more difficult to recover your hand forward underwater wearing a swim paddle unless it is parallel to the water surface.

So it can be useful to swim a few lengths of freestyle wearing swim paddles every workout if you are prone to this mistake. Over time the awareness of the angle of your hand during the underwater recovery phase will improve and allow you to correct this mistake.

Pay attention to not overuse swim paddles during your swim workouts however as this can lead to swimmer's shoulder.

Good luck!

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