• Swim technique – Hand Entry

    Why is your hand entry important

    A correct hand entry is important in setting up your hand, arm and shoulder for the catch phase of your arm stroke. A hand entry that is poorly positioned will result in a weak catch and pull and a hand that does not enter fingertips first will create unwanted resistance.

    The perfect stroke – hand entry!

    Your hand should enter the water fingertips first and in line with your shoulder. Entry should be approximately 20-30 cm in front of your head with an angle of entry of about 45 degrees. Fingertips enter the water first, followed by your wrist, elbow and shoulder. Hand entry is followed by the extension of the arm under the water and body roll. The entry should be clean, so that you see no bubbles as your hand enters the water. The palm of your hand should be facing to the bottom of the pool. Imagine lifting yourself out of the pool. You would place the palms of the hands on the pool side, shoulder width apart and press down to lift yourself up. This is a strong movement that is consistent with the motion of the arms during an effective swim stroke and this is why your hand entry should be in line with your shoulders.

    What can go wrong – hand entry!

    Crossing the midline

    The entry is not in line with your shoulder but enters across an imaginary line running through the midline of your head and the body.   Any action or movement at the front of the stroke that crosses this midline will require a reaction by the hips and legs at the back of the stroke. This will result in you “snaking” (the appearance of wiggling from side to side) through the water. An efficient swimmer swims through the smallest hole that the body can make. A “snaking” body will be a wide body and so will not be streamlined.

    Too wide

    Hand entry is wide outside the line of your shoulders. This can lead to a weak and ineffective wide pull as well as a wide finish. A wide pull also puts additional strain on your shoulder.   Imagine lifting yourself out of the pool if you place your hands wide outside of your shoulders – it would be difficult and would hurt!


    Overreaching is when your hand and arm overstretch before entry so that your elbow or arm enters the water first rather than the fingertips. This adds resistance, as the whole arm enters the water first, rather than fingertips, wrist, elbow as if through a keyhole. Overreaching often leads to a dropped elbow during the catch and pull phase and a “braking” hand position with the fingertips pointing upwards. You cannot perform a good catch from this position.

    Too close to head

    If you enter the water very close to your head you are often spearing your hand down low into the water rather than extending the hand forward 2-3 inches from the surface.  You will not be able to perform a good catch and pull phase from this starting position.

    How to get there – hand entry!

    Use the following drills to correct your hand entry:

    Head up swimming

    Swimming with a snorkel

    Catch up

    Zip up

    Finger trail

    Head touch

    Single arm swimming