A Closer Look at Zane Grothe’s Freestyle

Last month at the Winter Nationals, Zane Grothe broke two American records in the 500 and 1650 freestyle: 4:07.2 and 14:18.2. Not a bad weekend! As I watched the video of his swims several times, there were three things about his freestyle technique that he does exceptionally well and that really stand out to me.

  1. Zane buries the head under water after the breath.

I understand Zane majored in Aeronautical Engineering, which by definition makes him smart. At some point in his classes they must have taught him that submarines go much faster under water than on the surface. Zane has figured out that eliminating surface drag in his freestyle at the surge point is a good thing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has a low drag coefficient body shape to go along with getting underwater.

  1. Zane throws the hands hard to the water at the end of the freestyle recovery.

He does this not only with the right arm, coming off of the breath stroke to his right, but also with the non-breath sided left arm. Accelerating his hand hard to the water adds important kinetic energy to the strong pulling arm and kick behind, increasing his propulsion; what we at The Race Club call coupling energy. The fast hand to the water recovery also forces the body to rotate quickly at this pivotal point in the pulling motion, another important coupling motion.

  1. Zane sustains a strong 6 beat kick

The kicking speed is the baseline speed of a swimmer and Zane has a pretty high baseline speed. Those that can sustain the steady propulsive six beat kick are swimming in a river down stream. Those that cannot, are swimming in a lake. I’d rather be in the river going downstream.

It is not that Zane is the only swimmer using these three important techniques. It is just that he did them better than the other swimmers on that particular weekend. In fact, he regularly executes them all really well and as a result, swims exceptionally fast.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

6 Responses to A Closer Look at Zane Grothe’s Freestyle

  1. David R. McIntyre

    It is so reassuring to know that Gary Hall Sr.M.D. is, first of all, a Scientist. This Mentality, developed when he was very young, has carried throughout his life in developing a Critical Thinking approach to any subject… including swimming technique. If he was not successful at The Race Club.. he would now be the head coach at any University.

  2. Lee

    Like to see a video of his freestyle

  3. Mariette Oelofse

    Dear Gary,

    Thank you for the review on, Zane Grothe’s swim at Winter Nationals
    I am a physiotherapist (physical therapist) from South Africa, a master swimmer and passionate about swimming!
    After three weeks of holiday I had to drag myself to the pool this morning to join my training group. It turned out to be one of the best sessions ever, because I’ve tried the coupling technique with the head-dip after each breath and got the feeling!!! I had a secret weapon in the water this morning!
    At first, I felt like a confused swimmer, as I tried to figure it out, but then started to chime in my head… “couple, couple (breath), dig (dig in ..), couple, couple, dig” etc. It worked!  It was smooth – sailing through the water and I gave my training partners a tough time!
    Thank you for all the interesting posts!


  4. Scott

    My daughter is 13 she is having trouble with pills on every strokes. Her hands seems to slice right through the water. On her freestyle she doesn’t have the glide after her hand enters the water on the recovery. What can she do to help improve her catch? Thank you.


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