The High Elbows of Good Swimmers (Guppy Week 4)

This week’s workouts are published. As we enter Week-4 of the Guppy Challenge, in partnership with FORM goggles, a couple of things to note.

First, we have our thread up on the Reader Forum where we analyze the techniques of our fellow Slowtwitchers. There’s a couple of posts up there now, where folks ask to have their swim strokes analyzed. If you read through there you’ll get a sense of the replies you’ll get if you choose to have your stroke dissected.

Before you go over there, look at the images in this article. This is pro triathlete Skye Moench and you can see one truth very clearly demonstrated: Her elbow is bent during her pull phase. “Yeah, so what?” you might ask. Now you can go look at the forum thread. If you watch each of the videos users posted, there is much to like about the techniques of both users.

But each of our users’ videos feature pretty straight arms under the water. Imagine a riverboat’s paddle wheel. This is what our readers are doing. But if you look at that paddle wheel – go look it up – you won’t see half the wheel in the water. Only a small portion is in the water, because only at the very bottom of that paddle wheel are the paddles pushing straight back. It works on a riverboat because there are many paddles on that wheel. There are only 2 “paddles” on your “wheel.”

Therefore, you need to make the most efficient use of that “paddle” and because your pulling surface only addresses the water twice during a full swim cycle you need to pull as much water as you can during your pull phase. For this reason, I recommend you look at the videos in that thread, to see what efficient and inefficient looks like. Just look at the series of images of Skye and you can see that she extends with her hand close to the surface, then keeps her elbow high while forming a pulling surface from the shoulder to the fingertip. Then she pulls straight back. Not down, not in S pattern. Grip it and rip it.

All the drills – 6k Switch, Catch up – and swimming with paddles and buoys, and even kicking, are designed to optimize body position, and to pull as much water as you can.

[PHOTOs: Eric Wynn, Slowtwitch Media House]