Freestyle Pulling Motion: The Out Sweep

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Freestyle Pulling Motion: The Out Sweep

The out sweep of the pulling hand in freestyle is one of five common pulling mistakes we find at The Race Club. In most cases, the out sweep occurs at the beginning of the catch during the lift phase.

Once the hand begins to move outward, instead of downward, the entire arm deviates from the swimmer’s line of motion and causes a substantial increase in frontal drag. At this point, there is no turning back. The damage is done.

In addition, with the out sweep of the hand the swimmer puts the arm in a biomechanically weaker and unfavorable position for strong propulsion.

The out sweep of the left hand leads to a greater lateral force (red curve in top right graph) and lower propulsive force (red curve in bottom graph)

We often find the early out sweep of the hand occurring in young female freestylers, particularly with the arm opposite of the breathing side. This error in technique may be a result of the swimmer trying to achieve a high elbow pulling motion or in aiding  the body rotation for the breath.

With Olympic freestyle Artyom Machekin, his out sweep occurs later in the pulling motion. He uses considerably more out sweep with the right hand than he does with his left, occurring just before his in sweep.

Olympic freestyle Artyom Machekin uses an out sweeping motion of the right hand (white curve in top right graph) causing an increase in lateral force and a loss of propulsion (white curve in graph below).

 Compared to his normal Sprint freestyle technique, Artyom loses .058 m/s with the out sweep, resulting in a 3% loss of his overall velocity. In a 22 second 50 meter freestyle sprint, with about 18 seconds of actual swimming, this error in technique would cause him to be one meter farther behind than with his normal sprint technique.

Whether the out sweep occurs at the beginning of the pulling motion, or later in the pulling motion, all swimmers should try to avoid the out sweeping motion of the hand during the freestyle pull.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

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