Archives for posts with tag: high-elbow catch

What did you notice about the pace of the 100s and 50s you did last week?  I know some of you noticed that you ended up swimming the 100s quite a bit faster than your target 1500m race pace, and they felt relatively relaxed as you focused on the saving something for the hard efforts on the 50s.  If you didn’t notice this then don’t worry – we will do some similar efforts in the future to give you another chance to try and find that easy-speed!

This week is a much steadier session and a chance to think again about your high-elbow catch as well as some aerobic swims.  It will also be a 1 hour session again for the 8am session to give the Juniors time for the final set of time trials this Spring.  We will be doing some of the Chloe Sutton drills by counting 1-2-3 to really give yourselves time to think about the high-elbow catch position.  Look at the two drills starting at 6 minutes into the Chloe Sutton video if you want a reminder!

See you Saturday,


Photo by Ali Abdul Rahman on Unsplash



Thank you for all working hard for Chrissie while I was away last week.  She has given you all a glowing report!  Chrissie has kindly offered to help with some more coaching in the coming weeks, when not coaching the juniors, so I will bring the video camera along for the next few weeks for anyone that wants to see what their stroke looks like above and below the water.  We will use the end part of both sessions for the videoing so please speak to Chrissie or myself if you would like to see yourself and get some analysis.  There won’t be time to do more than a few of you each week but I will do my best to get all of those filmed over the next few weeks that want to be.

We will be starting time trials again at the end of November and running them every two months on the last Saturday of November, January and March to allow you to track your progress over the Winter.  The November time trial is a great way to set a baseline for measuring any changes in technique and fitness that you make over the Winter.  I know many of you don’t like time trials but why not set yourself the challenge of trying to learn to enjoy them a bit more by practising getting better at them this Winter?!

In the session this week I’d like everyone to think about the start of the pull with a high-elbow catch so we will be doing some different drills to help you work on this.  The drills will go as follows:

  • Double-arm pull
    • Use a pull buoy and look straight down at the bottom of the pool
    • Do a double-arm breaststroke pull finishing with your arms by your hips, recovering underwater
    • Focus on getting your forearms vertical (in the Early Vertical Forearm (EVF) position), with your elbows still pointing forwards, before you put any power into the pull
  • Sideline kicking with quarter pull
    • Same as sideline kick but doing the first quarter of the pull with your lead arm
    • Recover the pulling arm underwater, as you would for puppy paddle or doggy paddle drill
    • Swim it slowly without pressing hard – you are not generating propulsion just practising keeping your elbow above your hand and getting ready to catch
  • Reverse doggy paddle
    • Like normal doggy paddle but starting and finishing each stroke with both arms at your sides (like reverse catch-up)
    • Let your shoulders rotate as you would on normal front crawl and breathe to the side
    • Focus on keeping your elbow nice and high at the start and throughout the pull
  • Full stroke
    • Keep the high-elbow catch you have just been practising
    • Do the catch slowly – don’t start pressing hard until your forearm is pointing to the bottom of the pool so you only push the water backwards

 There’s a video also here of me explaining these new drills if you need it.

See you Saturday!

I will be away this week and Chrissie has very kindly offered to coach the second session while I am away.  We will be following a similar structure to the last couple of weeks with a pull set followed by a technique set and finishing with a mainly aerobic-based main set.

The technique set is moving beyond the sideline kick from the last two weeks into both Unco and Reverse Catch-up.  This means there is more to think about with both arms and legs moving at the same time.  The focus is the same, though, and I’d like you to think about high-elbow catch and pushing straight backwards (no cross-over under your body) as you use your strong core-driven rotation to finish each stroke.

The main set includes a little bit of kick and faster-paced swimming alongside the majority of steady-paced work.  Use the kick to focus on a strong core-driven kick from your buttocks.  For the faster-paced sections focus on getting a maximum speed for minimum effort (which you will get by keeping your high-elbow catch and strong core-driven rotation).

Have a good session and see you next week!


This week with will be continuing with the same theme of high-elbow and rotation from your core.  We will be doing similar drills – sideline kicking and Unco – as well as a mix of pull and swim sets.  So please focus your efforts in all of the sets on a good technique, as follows:

  • In the pull set take advantage of the slower arm speed and higher resistance of swimming with paddles to focus on levering yourself past a fixed point in the water using your core.
  • In technique subset focus on the basics of high-elbow catch and rotation.
  • In the main set focus on maintaining the benefits of your good technique on every repetition throughout the set as you being to tire.

We will also be doing a bit more kick in this session and all the sessions building up to Christmas.  Kick is good for working on your core fitness so focus on really kicking with straight legs from your glutes and core.

See you tomorrow!


This week we have the pool for 3 hours so will be doing two 1.5 hour sessions from 7am till 8:30am and 8:30am till 10am.  We will be doing a long set of 100s in both sessions giving you the opportunity in each session to do 5km in lane 1, 4.5km in lane 2, 4km in lane 3 and 3.5km in lane 4.  Or why not double up for a really monster set of distance training!?

Three things I’d like you to do tomorrow, please:

  1. Bring a drink and appropriate nutrition for the length of set you are planning to tackle.
  2. Focus on efficiency in your stroke and good technique – especially maintaining the high elbow catch – when you are starting to fatigue.
  3. Enjoy both the personal challenge and sharing it with everyone else in your lane, too.

See you tomorrow,



Well done for all of your efforts over the last two weeks.  You have completed two of probably our most intense sessions, on some very tight turnarounds, with the Ratchet Set and Post-Easter Swim.  We are going to take it a bit easier this week to give you a chance to think about the high-elbow catch.  Simon shared with me a video of a great underwater shot of one of the world’s leading 1,500m swimmers demonstrating this and you can see it here.

To help practice this we will be doing some more of the drills Chloe Sutton demonstrated that I posted a few weeks ago with special emphasis on counting 1 – reach, 2 – hinge, 3 – push with each stroke.  If you need a reminder please see my previous post on this.

See you Saturday!



Well done for all of your efforts at the time trials last week.  This week we will go back to some steadier-paced swimming, with time to focus again on your technique, together with some pursuit swims to add a bit of speed and racing tactics at the end.

We will start with some aerobic-paced 150s this week, half of them pull with paddles, and I’d like you to use this to focus on the high-elbow catch that we worked on a few weeks ago.  Please watch Chloe Sutton’s excellent video on this if you need a reminder.  Then we will be doing a short technique subset to focus on increasing your stroke rate, with some golf stroke, where I’d like you to focus on quick breathing as we again have been practising recently.  And to finish off we will do some pursuit swims for a bit of fun and fast-pace practise.  Try and mix it up a bit this week and try some different tactics.  Remember, you don’t have to wait until the “live” 50 to go fast if you want to get away from the swimmer behind, so long as you’re not being held up by the swimmer in front!

Also, I’ve been contacted by TYR, the swimsuit manufacturer, with some free samples of a really interesting new spray-based Lycra swim suit they’ve developed that was used with great success in the Rio Olympics.  It is FINA approved and helped swimmers achieve some of the incredible times many of you will have watched.  Drop me an email if you want to try it out this week for some extra speed in the pursuit swims and I will bring some samples along.  You can find more details about on this website.

See you Saturday!


Well done for all your efforts last week on the USRPT 50s, which is probably the most intense session we have done so far this year.  We will be doing some more of these again soon as I think they are a great session for increasing the speed that you can comfortably maintain.  However, this week we are going to slow it down with some steadier-paced swimming to give you more chance to think about technique.

As you know, I love to particularly focus on the high-elbow catch as it is the area of our stroke most of us can gain the most benefit by improving.  And there is a great video by Chloe Sutton, a US ex-Olympian, that has a great demonstration of this together with some drills we haven’t done before.  It is a 9-minute video and I highly recommend watching all of it.  But if you just want to know the drills we’re doing this week look at the two drills starting at 6 minutes into the video – stabilised single-arm and catch-up with a pause.

See you Saturday and I look forward to watching some beautiful high-elbow catches both in the technique subset and also continued into the main set!


Well done for all of your efforts last week in the prime number set.  It was a tough set, especially for lanes 2 and 3, so well done for sticking with it.  Also, well done for coping with the change of lanes.  It can be a little disorienting to have to cope with a different size of lane and turn the opposite way round but it is good practice to mix it up as well as allowing Doug and myself to have a different look at your stroke.

For those of you that follow 220 Triathlon on Twitter you may have seen their tweet this week about Dave Scott’s top tips for improving your triathlon swimming.  It is not a new article, and I have written about it before, but I still like it and I think it is always good to be reminded every once in a while about the basics.  I especially like the comments about keeping your hand entry a little bit wider and the visualisation of the eyeball in your elbow to help you remember to keep your elbows high underwater.  The high cadence drills of head-up frontcrawl and straight-arm recovery are good for practising exactly these and we will be doing them again this week.

The main set this week will be some steady-paced 150s with some 200 pursuit swims to inject some speed at the end of the session.  Please do use the opportunity on the steadier-paced swims to think about that nice high elbow (try Dave Scott’s eyeball visualisation) and also trying to keep that going when you increase your stroke rate on the faster swims.

See you Saturday,


Now the triathlon season is over for most of us it is a great opportunity to think about improving your stroke as we start Winter training.  Although most of us can improve on many different aspects of our stroke the one improvement that most of us will gain the most benefit from is improving the underwater pull.  And the key to doing that is getting the high-elbow catch, or early-vertical forearm as many people call it.  If you want to see a great example you can watch some of this slow motion video of Ian Thorpe.

So how do we all do swim with a high-elbow better?  This week we will be doing some side-line kicking to help practice the body position for keeping a high elbow even when swimming on your side, so please focus on:

  • Keeping your head looking down and slightly forward when not breathing and checking that your hand is below your elbow.
  • Keeping your palm facing downwards towards the bottom of the pool and when you pull
    • Start the pull slowly and not putting any pressure on the water until your forearm is vertical in the water with your hand pointing down to the bottom of the pool
    • Press the water straight backwards once you start applying the pressure and trying to keep pushing straight to the end of your stroke

And please, please, please take your time when doing drills.  Take extra rest if you need it.  The most important thing is doing the drills well and feeling as relaxed as possible.  Since most drills we do are best done while breathing as little as possible you will need to be rested and relaxed before you start each of the drills.

See you Saturday,


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