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How to Improve the Pull Phase for Front Crawl

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

The pull phase starts from the point where your forearm is in line with your shoulders to your waist. In the pull phase, it is important to have good arm and hand path alignment, such that your hand and palm track and point backwards in the swim stroke.

What you're looking to try and create is a triangle with the side of your body, and arm bent to 90 degrees in the pull phase. This will ensure that your arm and elbow don't collapse inward (winging as we call it) or pull too wide or cross over or towards the midline of your body.

This will ensure that the largest volume of water possible (which you caught in the catch phase) is transferred backwards to propel you forward with maximum efficiency and effectiveness!! If you only do one swim drill this week, do this....!! Long doggie paddle

How One arm at a time, from the top of the stroke, bend your arm into an early vertical forearm, with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, and hand tracking from shoulder to hip joint, slightly under your body with fins on.

Why It helps you to understand and see what your arms are doing in slow motion. Your hands should track in a virtual straight line in front of your shoulder joint with a high and wide elbow position, down the rail of your body, and finish with your arm straight and hand by your thigh.

This front crawl drill will help you to improve your catch and the volume of water you pull through and past yourself. Learn how to do this, and you'll identify a 90-degree elbow bend in the catch

Long doggie paddle swim drill This is how you increase your awareness of your front crawl in the underwater phases! Doggie paddle is an excellent swim drill to do, and you should do this all in slow motion to achieve the greatest benefit! Your muscles will learn much better on a neuro-muscular level how to move, and by doing it slower, you'll be able to maintain perfect technique


  • Enhanced feel for the water

  • Catch phase mechanics

  • Achieving an early vertical forearm

  • Gliding for a better entry and no bubbles

  • A stronger more controlled push phase

Try this...

One arm at a time, underwater, and from the top of the stroke, bend your arm into an early vertical forearm. Do this with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, and your hand tracking from your shoulder to the hip joint slightly under your body. To recover, reverse this motion by sliding your palm up and into towards your body, and extending forwards, twisting your hand palm down into the glide as your recover under your trunk. Finally, reach into the glide so that your hips rotate a bit.

Repeat on the other side.

You do this in 2 ways:

  1. When Reaching - reach firmly and very straight to cut water around you cleanly

  2. When Recovering - slowly slide your hand back to the front to avoid any major drag. Keep your palm facing toward your body and close. The head stays looking down and simply rotates to breathe. Also the recovering arm almost catches up to the front hand before you pull with the other hand

This drill aims to teach you an awareness of streamlining and how to cut drag out of the equation.

Try and do this with fins as:


4 x 50m. 25 long dog paddle, 25m normal front crawl.

10 seconds rest.

Want to book a swim consultation with Nick De Meyer.


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