Coley Stickels, a 14x NCAA All-American, trains the swimmer to quickly pivot from the roll and breath to a flat position to initiate the high elbow catch and deliver a powerful pull stroke. The drill begins with a push from the wall with the pulling arm in front and the body on its side for 8 flutter kicks.
As the hand moves into the high elbow position for the catch, the body rolls to a flat position in the water, thrusting the hip and shoulders down while keeping the elbow close to the surface with the recovery arm trailing behind the body. Repeat, keeping the pulling arm under water while recovering to the forward position.
Former USA National Team member, Coley Stickels, feels that most drills soon become stale to the swimmer and lose their effect. In order to keep swimmers’ interest, coach Stickels presents the “Retraction Drill” which teaches the proper motion to initiate the high elbow catch position while using paddles, a snorkel and fins.
In this drill, the paddles are not put on but held in an overgrip position with the hands gripping the leading edge of the paddles. Pushing off from the wall, the catch arm is extended in front with the recovery arm overhead with the elbow bent. The pulling arm then pulls through the high elbow catch and stops while the recovery arm taps the water at its entry point and then both arms retract to their starting position without pulling through a full stroke. This is followed by a full stroke and then repeated on the other side.
Coley Stickels provides a refreshing training exercise with stretch cords. This drill builds shoulder, lat and upper arm/tricep strength by imitating a swimming stroke with resistance. The drill is done at quick speed and for 8 to 12 reps.
The athlete grips the stretch cord handles and backs off to put tension on the cord. Then the athlete bends to align the upper body until parallel to the cords with the arms extended fully forward. The drill starts when the arms are twice swept backward between the legs and then twice swept backward with the hands outside the legs.
Coley Stickels has coached National Age Group record holders and Olympic Trials finalists and in this segment, he presents 5 key ideas that need to be understood and reinforced if the swimmer is to improve his or her freestyle performance.
The first key is the need for a high elbow catch with the elbow out in front of the head. 2nd, he explains that underwater video of top swimmers show they move their hand under the body so that their thumb moves by their belly button and then pushes into the outsweep. 3rd, Stickels demonstrates how the distance swimmer enters the hand near the head and sways the arm outward while the sprinter’s entering arm and hand resemble a claw. 4th, he demonstrates the need for a quick breath and return to a flat position before the recovery hand enters the water with the breath taken in an air-pocket and a long high neck. 5th, Stickels explains that distance freestylers utilize considerable body roll in their stroke while sprinters stay fairly flat in the water.