• Swim technique – the recovery phase

    Why is your recovery important

    The recovery describes the phase of the stroke above the water. It is called the recovery phase because this it should allow the muscles that have been activated during the underwater phases to recover. The recovery should be the most relaxed part of your stroke but be aware that this is not the most important part of the stroke.

    The perfect stroke – recovery!

    There are generally two ways to move your arm during the recovery phase – with a bent arm or a straight arm. As long as your recovery phase is not unbalancing and wildly swinging it does not matter a great deal which type you naturally have. Here we focus on the bent arm recovery because this is classically what most swimmers tend to do.

    The bent arm recovery takes less time and energy for long distance swimmers where efficiency is important. It takes less time and energy to move a short lever (bent elbow recovery) than a long lever (straight arm recovery). However, there are many great swimmers that use a straight arm recovery and indeed in open water swimming in choppy conditions a straight arm can sometimes be useful.

    Classically, your elbow should be first out of the water followed by your wrist and fingers. Your wrist and fingertips should remain relaxed and below the elbow, knuckles facing forward through the recovery phase which is led by the elbow. Once the elbow is level with the head, the forearm, wrist and fingers come forward in preparation for hand entry in line with your shoulder.

    A bent arm recovery is better for adult swimmers to learn as a straight arm recovery requires greater levels of shoulder flexibility and for adult learners this can be challenging.

    How to get there – recovery!

    Use the following drills to improve your recovery phase:

    Finger trail

    Zip up

    Single arm swimming

    Head touch

    What can go wrong – recovery!

    Swinging wide

    The swimmer brings the hand out of the water first at the start of the recovery phase and the hand swings out to the side. The arm remains straight while the hand is brought around to the front of the swimmer. The hand can catch the water as the swimmer becomes tired creating more resistance. Very often, a wide swinging recovery results in a poor hand entry.