Our swimming clinic with the West Coast Masters!

Updated: Mar 18

Jarrad Lawford West Coast Masters Swimming Club Stroke Clinic

The Swimclan team recently had the privilege to pay a visit to the incredibly popular West Coast Masters Swimming Club at HBF Arena, Joondalup!

The club is renowned for its environment of fun, fitness and friendship where adults can swim under the guidance of experienced volunteer coaches.

Many of the members who train with the Masters also compete in open water swimming events, so Swimclan's Andrew Donaldson and Jarrad Lawford, decided to take a dip with the crew to provide useful technique and racing tips!

Five essential technique tips we provided

1. Replacing a straight arm underwater catch with a bent elbow

This is one of the most common technique errors we see among swimmers of all ages and skills. Even for mature swimmers who have trained with clubs for decades, it is still highly common to see a majority pulling with a straight arm catch underwater.

This places a huge amount of pressure on the shoulders with each catch and can be a common cause for bursitis, tendonitis and even shoulder dislocations among swimmers. It's also much weaker than a bent arm catch.

To help some members of the masters squad overcome this habit, elite swimmer Andy Donaldson showcased the correct bent elbow technique by demonstrating the 'long-dog' freestyle drill to initiate a stronger, bent elbow catch moving around the body. The arm should only straighten at the conclusion of each stroke once moving past the hips.

Bent Elbow Catch Andy Donaldson Swimming
Swimclan Director, Andy Donaldson, explaining the correct technique to a Masters swimmer

2. High elbow recovery out of water

Some swimmers demonstrate a straight arm recovery as it moves through the air and extends out in front of their body to begin the next underwater catch.

Yes, some swimmers prefer to have a straight arm recovery and this is often seen in sprinters. However, having a high, relaxed and bent elbow during your recovery enables a better hand entry into the water and allows a quicker initiation of the underwater catch.

The drill that we demonstrated to counteract a straight arm recovery was 'fingertip drag' freestyle. This is similar to regular freestyle, but with your fingertips dragging across the surface of the water as your arm moves from your hips and extends out in front of you.

Not only does this drill help encourage a high elbow, it also helps swimmers relax their bent arm during the stroke recovery, which minimises the amount of energy wasted when tensing up during this stage of the stroke.

High elbows swimming Andrew Donaldson
Michael Phelps always had a high and relaxed elbow in freestyle, which Andy Donaldson demonstrated.

3. Avoid crossing arms over your central body line

If you can imagine a line running straight down the middle of your body from your head to your toes, you never want to cross your arm over this line at any point of your freestyle stroke. Whether this be upon hand entry or the underwater catch.

If your hand crosses over this line upon hand entry into the water, this will cause you to 'snake' down the pool and swim in a wonky line. It also places a larger amount of strain on your chest and shoulders, which can lead to injuries over time.

When your arm crosses this line under your body during the underwater catch phase, you will lose out on stroke efficiency and pull water into your torso as you swim. This spoils the hydrodynamics of your body moving through the water, slashes the amount of litres you're catching with each stroke and places more pressure on your shoulder joint.

One drill that is ideal for practicing this motion is single arm freestyle (with or without a kick board). The key focus of this drill is slowing the arms down and practicing moving the arm around the body and into the bent elbow position away from the central body line.

The central body line your arms should avoid crossing in freestyle

4. Exhaling underwater before breathing

One easy to way to avoid becoming breathless in swimming is to exhale underwater before breathing.

The Swimclan team asked if any members of the Masters squad were out of breath or fatigued after swimming short sprints. At least a dozen hands went up and on closer inspection underwater, these swimmers held their breath rather than exhaling.