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High elbow in each stroke

After talking about high elbow technique in freestyle yesterday, I went back to underwater video from the Sydney Olympics, looking for similar technique applied to other strokes. Swimmers varied a lot. If you are looking for something, you can find it.

Free – Many sprinters do not have a high elbow catch. Gary Hall and Amy VanDyken have a straight arm windmill pull. It looks very wooden, like there is no feel for the water, just a rapid turnover with very rigid arms.

Back – Very similar to free. Lenny Krazelburg´s elbow stays at about the level of the top of his head until his hand pulls back to the same point – the top of his head. His forearm is fully perpendicular into the catch when it gets to the top of his head. It is a high elbow catch, with the note that the body rolls the arm about 10 inches under the water before the catch begins.

Fly – This is two handed freestyle. Some Olympians have a very pronounced high elbow catch. A high elbow is even more popular in fly than in freestyle, from my review of Olympic videos. Misty Hyman, Inga DeBruin, Michael Klein all have a high elbow catch in which the elbows stay at the surface until the forearm has caught the water at about a 45 degree angle. Then the whole arm starts pulling down and back. Fly and Breast are two "bouncy" strokes since the swimmer has to bounce out of the water to breath, so there needs to be more downward pull to lift the head. Jenny Thompson does not have a high elbow catch.

Breast – Megan Quan has a high elbow catch. Breastroker elbows stay at the surface while the hands reach down for the catch. Breast has much more sweeping out movement than other strokes. The pull is used to lift the body to provide a better platform from which to launch the kick, as well as for forward propulsion.

So, a high elbow catch can be applied to all strokes, and freestylers are perhaps the last to "catch" on.

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