Freestyle Technique – Anchoring Your Arm in the water

Freestyle Technique – Anchoring Your Arm in the water

Hi and welcome to this video log with me
Wayne from swimming cycling Well this video was brought about
by a question asked by a viewer of another video of mine on early vertical
forearm. The question went “I’ve always heard about anchoring your arm in the
water but I’ve never understood what it meant” now when I get a question like
that I think might apply to a lot of people I try and make a vlog out of it
so I said great question I’ll make a vlog and that’s what this vlog is all about.
Anchoring your arm in the water, what does it mean? When we’re running we have the floor to actually run off of. Effectively we anchor our foot on the
floor and run off of it and there’s various parts to that running stride but
that’s what we do. When we’re in the water we don’t have the luxury of having
something that’s actually solid to hold on to, so we have to make sure we can
actually hold on to something before we can actually move ourselves through the
water, because if we just slip our arm through it then we’re gonna go nowhere,
or we’re not gonna be very efficient and that’s the whole point of trying to swim
fast in any stroke that we’re doing. So, anchoring your arm in the water is all
about developing power that can actually move you in the direction you want. Now
in this it’s very similar to cycling. I’m going to show you how you develop power in cycling and from that we’ll then go on to swimming and related to that. Now
when we’re producing power in cycling the producing power in circles that’s slightly
different to swimming but we still want to produce power in the right direction. If I stop my pedals with my foot at the top, if you think about it if I push
forward now in that direction I’m actually producing
power at the wrong place, and if you do it yourself you’ll find that you
actually are using the tiny muscles around the knee as opposed to the quads
and the huge muscles of glutes, which is what you want to use. Now the quads and
the glutes start to be used at this point here, where you start getting
really good power. Maximum power is achieved at about this point here and
then we dissipate power until the bottom, when we try and off weight and
recover our leg till we come to the top and then over again. So we’re trying to
minimize the loss of power from the bottom of the stroke all the way through
to where we can get power again on the next cycle which is there. Now the other
leg is doing exactly the same so we’re not just one legged we’re two legged and
there’s where I’m gonna get power there’s what I’m going to hit about my
maximum power and there I’m going to lose power and after recover. Which, if
you think about it, is exactly the same in swimming we don’t want to grab the
power too early here because we’ll be pushing in the wrong direction we want
to grab the power when we have it most and then accelerate that power to its
maximum and then dissipate it and recover. So just like cycling we want to
develop an anchor so that we can really concentrate our force in the right
direction. And that anchor in swimming is done
with the arm hand and forearm and here we go. As this swimmer comes to the
surface she develops that anchor right there and that means she’s going to
produce force in the right direction which is backwards, because we want to
actually move forward. Slightly different to cycling because we actually want our
force to increase all the way through our stroke, so we’re accelerating our
hand all the way because water unlike air actually loses power if you
decelerate. So we actually want to increase power all the way. But it’s
exactly the same as before in that that is the anchor point
and if you think of cycling we effectively were going round in a circle
and then developing no power and then we were developing a recovery and that’s
exactly the same as in cycling. We can look at it a different way though. Now
I’ve drawn a circle around this swimmer and she is actually in the anchor point, that point where you actually do develop power. If I draw a line from her
shoulder you can see that approximates to that peddled point where you actually
get power, because we’re going to drive through to about that position and then
we’re going to release and we’re going to recover for the rest of the stroke.
So that’s exactly the same as in peddling around in circles, except we’re
doing it in a prone position. So if I clear that you’ll see she comes through
and then she’s going to recover. If we take that back, anything before that
point, if she drives the hand down, if she applies power now, she would actually be
applying power in the wrong direction. You can see she doesn’t apply power,
she actually gracefully gets into that anchor point and then she’s ready to
apply power in the right direction. So we need to develop power and we need that
power to be deep to be developed from right the way through the stroke.
Unlike in cycling we don’t really develop power half way through or
two-thirds of the way through the pedal cycle and then offload.
There’s no peak, we want the peak to be right at the back of the stroke if we
can possibly help it. Because as soon as we slow down we start slipping the water
and we actually create extra drag. So you want that arm to accelerate all the way
through the stroke then come out and recover. So it’s very similar to cycling
but not quite the same. That’s the theory of developing power which is
slightly different to anchoring. What you’re trying to do with anchoring is
you’re trying to hold your arm in the water in a particular position, so we’ll
be holding our there whilst we do another thing and
that is dragging our body past that point. So you anchor your arm and draw your body forward. That really is the theory,
so effectively we don’t want our arm to move backwards relative to the pool, we
want our arm only to move backwards relative to our body and our body to
move over our arm. So if you look at this girl here and and look at the the tiles
on the wall, her arm actually moves back very little. So while her body moves
forward about 3 feet her arm moves back only about 8 inches. So she’s effectively
anchored her arm in the water and is using the water to drag her body forward.
Remember we haven’t got any ground to actually hold herself forward on, we’ve
got a halt our self forward on something and the perfect thing is to anchor our
hand and then drag our body over that point. Hopefully that explains
why, instead of thinking of the arm moving backwards through the water
you’re actually looking at yourself holding a place and moving your body
passed that point and that’s hugely important because, if all you were doing
was moving your hand backwards in the water the body actually wouldn’t go
forward at all. So you have to develop that anchor, which is that good catch
position, so that you can drive backwards and haul your body over that point. So
the anchor is hugely important. Probably the second most common fault I see in
freestyle swimmers, apart from lifting the head to breathe, is developing power too
quickly when their arm gets in the water. If you develop power too quickly
you’ve lost your anchor, you haven’t anchored your hand – and what tends to
happen is you anchor it down there and that has just half the length of your
stroke. Now obviously that becomes inefficient and also because you’re down
here you haven’t got the leverage that you have if you started there and drove
all the way. Very much like peddling if we start peddling, or developing force, at
the top of that stroke, remember if you put that on the side if you need to
rotate it 90 degrees – at the top of that stroke,
we actually are developing force in the wrong direction and you always want to
develop force in the right direction to minimize the use of your muscles and
maximize your energy usage. Hopefully once you understand the concept of
anchoring your arm and then moving your body over that point, you will actually
be much further on in gaining a very good freestyle stroke. You’ll also start
thinking about “hang on a second I don’t want to create force there,
I want to slowly get into that anchoring point and then once I’m anchored then I
can move my body forward”. Hugely important but missed by a huge number of swimmers. OK hopefully that’s helped you if you have any questions please
list them below I’ll always get around to them, again like with this video if I
think one of them can be of interest to a huge number of people I’ll do a
separate vlog about that one. Well thanks very much for watching. Enjoy your
training beware of the cold don’t take any risks
you don’t have to. Thanks very much, I’ll see you next week.

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About the Author: John Markowski


  1. Thank you – just like you promised! Now watching 100m Olympic swim in slow motion – it looks like anchoring works even for sprinters… and I thought they only pedal like crazy.
    It makes perfect sense to increase power till the end of the stroke – like a crankshaft moving fastest near top dead center to keep piston's speed constant.
    I wish I watched this a few years ago.

  2. I am working on getting back into shape, and I would love to compete in a Sprint triathlon next year. Your training videos are outstanding and so informative. Please keep them coming I am a big fan!!!

  3. I get the concept, but how do we implement it? I mean, how do we push the rest of the body forward while keeping the catching arm "stationary", as against pushing the catching arm backwards?

  4. This is one of the most difficult concepts of swimming and needs months of practice to become natural.

  5. Well, this brings, to my mind anyway, which is correct, the hips drive the shoulder rotation, or the shoulders drive the hip rotation? It seems the majority favor the hips driving the shoulders. In every single slow motion freestyle clip, no doubt that the pull arm engages first, then the hips rotate, then the recover arm follows through, which to me, implies that the shoulders drive the hips. For sure, there is 'spiral' energy as my martial arts instructors have called it where energy is transferred from one end of the body to the other. To generate greater rotational energy, you need an anchor. With feet on ground movements, think Bruce Lee's 1 inch punch, you start that rotational energy at the feet, it goes through the hips, and out through the shoulders and arms. With swimming, since you don't have anything solid to anchor to, your shoulders and arms, when you start the pull, this gives you a leverage point. You have no real leverage point from the feet and hips. This is the only explanation I can think of that tells why the first kick in the 3/6 beat kick is the strongest. It is because it is at the long end of that spiral motion. The hips are the pivot point or maybe fulcrum, not the anchor.

  6. What about the mass times acceleration force of the recovering hand which is directed forward on the hand entry. Seems like a meaningful amount of momentum in the right direction.

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