Catch Up Drill (Freestyle)

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In the above photo, Katie is just about to tap her recovering hand against her opposite hand, allowing it to “catch up” before she initiates the catch with the opposite arm and repeats the process on the other side.

Catch Up Drill is a swimming staple for many reasons. It allows the athlete to work on the timing of their breath, a good rotation, and a steady kick. It isolates each arm but allows newer athletes to balance their stroke with less difficulty than they’d have with the opposite arm glued to their side. Catch Up Drill can help correct a short hand entry by forcing the athlete to extend their recovering arm further in an effort to touch their opposite hand. Catch Up Drill may be done with Freestyle and Backstroke. Today we are going to focus on Freestyle.

To swim Catch Up Drill: Freestyle

  1. Push off the wall in a streamline and start your catch as you normally would. Leave the opposite hand fully extended, even during the recovery.
  2. Allow the recovering arm to “catch up” to the extended arm, touching hands before you begin the catch with the arm that was extended.
  3. Now, leave the opposite hand fully extended, even during the recovery.
  4. Allow the recovering arm to “catch up” to the extended arm, touching hands before you begin the catch with the arm that was extended.
  5. Repeat.

Things to think about:

  1. Focus on your breath: begin the breath with the start of the pull and end it as the arm recovers.  The head should not rotate independent from the body when breathing, but roll with the body.
  2. Try to rotate evenly on each side. Freestyle is not “flat,”  most of your time will be spent rotating from one side to the other.
  3. Try to accelerate your catch, picking up speed towards the finish.
  4. Think about your underwater work: you want to have a high elbow during the catch, and starting the catch from a fully extended position should make that easier for you to focus on.
  5. Try to keep a steady kick regardless of what arm is pulling or recovering. Does your kick have a hitch when you breath? Is it worse on one side than the other? Catch Up Drill can help you isolate such hitches and give you the opportunity to see what feels right on one side and try to mimic the feeling on the other side.
  6. It is okay to wear fins during the drill, but try not to rely on them.

Additional Info:

  1. You may do Catch Up Drill with a 1/2″ to 1″ PVC pipe cut to about shoulder width in length and transfer the PVC pipe from one hand to the other before initiating the catch.
  2. You may swim Catch Up Drill with a board. If you use a board, you can either hold the board at the end and switch it from hand to hand or place your extended hand on top of the board, allow the recovering hand to rest on top of the board, and then sliding the opposite hand to the side of the board and then below the board before beginning the catch.
  3. You may modify the drill to a 3/4 Catch Up Drill – which means that your fully extended hand begins the catch when the recovering arm is 3/4 of the way recovered. This is closer to a natural Freestyle.


Categories: Drills, Freestyle Drills

Tags: , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. I’m looking forward to testing out this drill. As a mostly self-taught swimmer, I have only learned in the last couple of months that freestyle is not flat. I’ve been trying to keep myself flat on top of the water to “minimise drag” which made sense in my mind. :/ I’m finding it difficult to let myself develop a rotation but I’m working on it!

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