Secret Tip: How to position your hands underwater

A lot of times we take things for granted such as how my hands are held underwater. In this video, Gary Sr. explains how to position your hands underwater. Is there a way to do it or do we just do what comes naturally to us? A lot of beginners are taught they should cup the hand with closed fingers or to ‘scoop ice cream’. Is this the most efficient way to pull? How do you hold your hands underwater? Learn the most efficient way to hold your hands underwater as Gary Hall Sr. demonstrates how a small change in the position of the hand will drastically effect results. He not only shows how to position your hands, but why. How do we change habits we have developed over the years? The science behind the water molecules that we pull against could make you want to alter your hand position.

14 Responses to Secret Tip: How to position your hands underwater

  1. Jordan Witmer

    I feel like such an idiot that I’ve never thought of testing the “openess” of my hand while sculling.  So simple!

  2. Nico Messer

    What a great and quick tip! Part of getting the right hand position, as of fast swimming, is to stay relaxed.

  3. Greatneckhomes

    effect is the wrong word it is AFFECT


    • Chris

      We are becoming an illiterate nation.

  4. Greatneckhomes

    ANYWAY—GREAT TIP…  also if you want to test this in AIR feel the wind against your hand while driving—stick your hand outside window—but make sure another car does not think you are turning…

  5. Tom

    One of the things I noticed about Gary Sr.’s hands in some of his videos, like the 3 types of freestyle technique, is that his thumbs are spread out from the rest of his hand.  I don’t know if that is on purpose or a less than ideal habit (that we all have).  I assume that the physics are the same, and that the thumb should be close (but not tight) to the rest of the hand.  Opinions?

    • Nico Messer

      Tom, you are most certainly pointing out something that is a less than ideal habit for many swimmers. The position for the thumb you mention would of course be ideal. But in this case I don’t think it makes that big of a difference…then again 0.01 could win a race. Most swimmers probably have bigger problems to worry about than their thumb…swimming is a sport of details and this thumb position is one but there are things that are more significant.

  6. Johnstone Macpherson-Stewart

    There is some confusion here though Dr Hall may well be correct in recommending the hand position he does. In explaining the comparative flows with respect to the hand in each of three positions, the assumption is clearly made that the overall direction of flow is perpendicular to the palm, and that consequently with fully spread fingers that flow goes between them with a resultant loss of purchase. The underwater illustration of his thesis then shows a swimmer sculling using the different hand positions, during which the overall directions of flow are far closer to being across the palm than to being perpendicular to it. The bottom line is that we simply do not know the exact nature of the flow around the hand not the least because it is constantly changing. Therefore given the complexity of the flow patterns involved, the sense that we should try to feel  what gives us the best contact with the water may indeed be the best way forward despite the confusion.

  7. Joe Herzog

    I read about this some years ago. I believe a similar study was done by Stanford University, if my memory serves me. I’ve been using the “slightly spread” hand for years, as a serious recreational swimmer and I find my stroke is noticeably improved.

  8. Julie Neal

    This is what I have been teaching for years thanks to Allan Kopel who has written an article on this very subject.  He told me to discover the ideal hand position/curvature place your hands on your thighs; then, with your fingers slightly apart and with your thumbs out. This hand position will maximize your hold on the water. Thank you Dr. Hall for reminding us that hand position is an important detail in setting up all strokes! I wonder sometimes if coaches overlook this detail.  I had a nationally ranked Sr. swimmer join my group for a few days while on break and I noticed his hands were scooped shaped. I remarked on his hands and suggested trying  the tip I just mentioned. 

  9. Mel Vernon

    I read Dr. Counsilman’s book when I was 16 in 1975, and failed the Water Safety
    Instructor course because I disagreed with the instructor who thought
    the fingers of the hand should be held tightly together when pulling, the support for his position was the analogy that a spoon holds more
    water than a fork. I wish I could have show him this video.

  10. andrew webber

    Flow around the hand probably is hard to measure, but what would be the point? During the propulsive phase, the hand travels forward a small amount. Getting a feel for hand and forearm purchase on the water is far more useful.

  11. Scott

    The only problem with fingers slightly open is that the fingers are not strong enough to hold it open. Try ripping your hand through the water with open fingers; your fingers will shake and ripple in the water. This shows that the force from your arm muscles are causing your fingers to move, which means less water is moving. Open fingers may be advantageous for distance swimmers, but it can hinder sprinters. The thumb, however, is much stronger. Opening it up can move a little more water mainly because of the extra webbing it has.

  12. j gibbs

    Try a “spock” hand. Two sets of two fingers with thumb nearby. Adds strength and stability, eliminates wobble. A clever practice is an infinity lap pool, hold your hands out trying to maximize drag. Or simply sweep your hands underwater to feel for maximum drag (means pulling most water).

    Takes some time to develop tye habit/shape, but my favorite.


Add a Comment