How Doggy Paddle can Help Your Front Crawl

If you have watched a great swimmer in the water swimming front crawl you will have noticed how quickly and easily they complete each length, swimming long distances with apparently little effort. How do they do that? One of the secrets is the way in which they pull through with their arm stroke under the water, almost like doggy paddle. Check out double Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Adlington in action:

Notice how, as Rebecca’s hand and arm pass beneath her head, her elbow is bent to around 110 degrees – biomechanically this is about the perfect angle to have. A Swim Smooth Coach can film you swimming and measure this precisely but, naturally, this is tricky to measure when you’re swimming on your own. So how can you tell without a coach and a camera to let you know?

One key way to get this pulling technique correct is to think about where your hand is in relation to your shoulder. You are aiming to bring your hand back through the water with the hand passing directly under the elbow.

Avoid pulling too wide

Or crossing the centre line under the body

Both place stress on your shoulder and will cause you to snake through the water rather than cutting a straight line.

A great drill to think about developing this pulling technique under the shoulder is Doggy Paddle. This is perhaps the oldest drill in the swimming world but it’s a great one for developing your stroke technique! We are going to do a slightly longer version of it than kids doggy-paddle, pulling all the way through to the hip:


As you can see you will need a Pull Buoy – the float between our model’s legs – to do this drill. When you’re doing it, think about bending the elbow and pulling through directly under the shoulder.

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