Why Do we Teach Freestyle With a Bent Elbow?

29 March 2016

A question that parents ask quite frequently is, why do we teach freestyle with a bent elbow and not a straight arm? You will quickly recognise a State Swim Swimmer by their beautiful high elbow action.

We teach this technique for a number of reasons.  From a mechanical perspective a high elbow recovery:

  • creates less drag
  • muscle effort is decreased
  • using a straight arm can impact the shoulder and cause pain

At State Swim, we are confident that the correct technique for mastering freestyle is with a bent elbow action. We don’t want to be teaching any swimmer a straight-arm recovery, which we feel, is technically incorrect and have them form a bad habit. Even though a young child may not be able to master bent elbows straight away they are always taught and demonstrated the correct technique.

To do a straight arm recovery the body needs to rotate backwards enough to unlock the shoulder joint, with many swimmers not having the shoulders to be able to do this well. This extra body rotation needs to be repeated over and over again, requiring swimmers to have greater core strength.  This technique may have its place with professional swimmers such as pool sprinters or swimmers with a faster stroke rate but it does not have a place in the State Swim program.

A swimmer with a bent elbow technique is beautiful to watch. A bent elbow action allows the hand to arrive in time to begin the next stroke providing forward momentum. If the hand and arm come forward and slam into the water you loose momentum in the form of drag. A bent elbow technique also has less impact on the body, is easier to perform and works for swimmers with any stroke rate.

For more information about why we teach strokes in a particular way please speak to one of our on deck Supervisors who will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Kind Regards

Christian Urry

Managing Director


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