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Freestyle Technique: Avoid the Out Sweep

Freestyle Technique: Avoid the Out Sweep

How a swimmer initiates the freestyle pulling motion, setting up for the catch, is vitally important. Once the motion begins, there is no turning back. If the pulling motion is wrong, the chances are good that the error in technique will repeatedly occur with every stroke taken. One typical example of this freestyle technique error is the out sweep

The out sweep occurs when the swimmer starts the pull by initiating the catch with an outward motion of the hand. I often see the out sweep happen either with one hand or with both hands, but most commonly occurs with the hand opposite the breath side. The swimmer uses the out sweeping motion of the hand to gain leverage for the head to turn for the breath. The out sweep is particularly common among young girls.

There are three problems with the out sweep of the hand:

  1. By moving the single hand outward, that outward force results in the body moving in the opposite direction (action/reaction..Newton’s third law of motion). The out sweep causes a slight zig-zagging motion of the swimmer.
  2. Once the hand and arm begin to move outside of the line of the motion of the swimmer, the drag starts to increase immediately and significantly.
  3. When the hand is outside of the pulling elbow, rather than inside, the propulsion decreases.

There isn’t as much pulling power outside the elbow as there is inside the elbow. It is as if the swimmer is trying to use the hands and arms like they are oars, rather than ….well arms. 

The best way I have found to correct this out sweep error in technique is by using the ISO paddles manufactured by Finis. This is not how the paddles are being marketed, but who cares? If they correct this problem, then I am okay with that. The key is to wear them correctly – yellow paddle on the left hand and gray paddle on the right hand (remember by the mnemonic yellow has an L in it and gray has an R in it). The swimmer should place the middle finger through the little slot on the top of the paddle and squeeze the fingers and thumb together on the top side. Forget about the other holes in the paddles. You don’t need them. The little flange on the side makes it difficult (not impossible) for the swimmer to out sweep with the hands.

This week in our Race Club webisode, you will see some of our age group swimmers who have a bad out sweeping habit correct the problem immediately by using the ISO paddles. If you are an out sweeper, we hope that you will rid yourself of that bad technique and develop a faster freestyle by using these Finis products.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.


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