Monthly Archives: April 2012

Total Immersion: Where Should the Hand Leave the Water at the End of a Stroke?

In the Total Immersion forums, a user asked about where should hand leave the water for recovery. I thought it would be useful to repost my response here:
Regarding when/where the hand release should happen, I think you should think of it this way:
1. In general, the longer the hand is in the water (and assuming it is moving, hopefully straight back!), then it is still contributing to forward motion. This is good. Therefore, your goal is to have as long a stroke length in the water as possible, as traced by your hand.
2. Having said 1., it is very dependent on tempo and your ability to move your hand underwater faster, which involves strength and endurance.
So in order to move your hand through water which is a much heavier medium than air, it will require more strength – to do that over time requires endurance of your arm muscles.
Faster tempos thus give you less time to travel that distance from catch to where you’d want to exit the hand out of the water (and you still have to move the hand back forward in recovery).
NOTE: It is possible that if you move your hand TOO fast, then it may slip and you are not gaining the most benefit of the stroke back but in actuality wasting energy moving your hand back as fast as possible, but not maximizing your potential forward energy given that your hand is slipping and not gripping water as well as when it is moving slower.
3. Given your fitness and skill level at a moment in time, you may be able to swim at a faster tempo BUT in order to keep up with the tempo you have no choice but to exit the hand sooner, which may mean that you exiting at your waist or even above. Attempting to lengthen your stroke length underwater of your hand may be difficult to impossible to maintain because your strength and endurance may not be high enough. Thus you have no choice but to exit sooner.
4. You can also play with speeding up the arm forward after it exits the water to help you lengthen the stroke portion underwater. But you may reach an upper limit of how fast you can move your arm forward given your current fitness and skill level.
5. During a race, you may find that you want to sprint but simply cannot get a faster tempo without exiting sooner. This will also vary based on your fatigue level which will change during race conditions.
BTW, play with faster tempos and where you exit the hand; you may find that even though you are shortening your underwater stroke length, your overall speed is still going up, when compared to attempting to keep the same stroke length. This is evidence that some other part of your stroke is falling apart a bit as you try to speed up AND also try to maintain stroke length.
For example, a little while ago, I was playing with this and faster tempos and found that when I exited sooner, I had a bit more time to execute a better spear + 2 beat kick and got more speed. When I was rushed due to a longer stroke length, it became messier and I was actually more slower overall! So this is yet another thing to work on….!
Train to lengthen the underwater stroke portion via the same methods prescribed by TI – proceed measurably and slowly, increasing your tempo bit by bit over time. Use the tempo trainer religiously!