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  • Gary

    September 23, 2021 at 10:49 AM

    Hi Katherine,

    It is a great question. The air bubbles behind the hand definitely cause some loss of propulsion from the pulling hands. It has been observed by many coaches that more talented swimmers seem to gather fewer air bubbles behind the hands than less than talented swimmers. That goes all the way back to my coach, Doc Counsilman, who may have been the first to note the difference.

    Here is my two cents on the issue. The air bubbles are probably over-rated in significance. First, the most important function of the hand is to generate propulsion. That does not happen until the hand is about one foot in front of the shoulder and moving backward in the water. By that time, most of the air bubbles have dissipated so they do not hinder the propulsion.

    Second, I have not found a particularly good technique to reduce the air bubbles on the swimmer’s hands. It likely has to do with the proprioception of the swimmer’s hands/fingers, possibly most related to the Ulnar nerve (ring and pinkie). The worst thing a coach can do is to slow the hand down at entry, hoping to avoid those air bubbles. That results in less coupling, which is more important than reducing air bubbles. Besides, I have not found that an aggressive hand/arm entry necessarily cause more air bubbles.

    Finally, everyone, including Caeleb Dressel, gets air bubbles behind the hand. The slower the stroke rate (hip driven or hybrid) and the longer the hand is held in front, the more time the air bubbles have time to leave before initiating propulsion. Therefore, we find the cleanest hands (no air bubbles) on the hip driven and hybrid freestylers.

    Hope this helps.

    Gary Sr.