Although high elbows during the recovery phase of the stroke are not totally necessary, it is an important element when learning to swim better freestyle. This allows you to learn the proper entry spot of the hand in the water. Below is a progression of drills that you can do to improve your high elbow recovery, setting you up for an efficient entry and pull:
1. Shark Fin Drill
In this drill, start on your side with one arm out front 8-10 inches deep, palm down, arm inline with the shoulder. Lift the elbow of the top arm to the ceiling keeping the forearm and hand relaxed. Keep lifting the elbow up until the hand is relaxed right next to your shoulder/chest area with your knuckles pointing forward. Hold it here for a couple of kicks and then relax the arm and bring it back to the side. Do this a couple of times on one side and then switch arms.
2. Shark Fin Touch
This drill allows you to work on balance, high elbows, and point of entry. Start on one side with the arm out front 8-10 inches deep in line with the shoulder. Lift the top arm up at the elbow keeping the forearm and hand relaxed. This will make the shark fin. Pause here for a couple of kicks, then swing the forearm forward and touch the water with your finger tips only where you would enter. Then go back to shark fin and then back down by your side and breathe.
3. Stop Stop Switch Drill
Stop 1: Kicking on the side with one arm out front, 8-10inches deep, palm down, in-line with the shoulder and breathe.
Stop 2: Lift top arm's elbow up to the ceiling so the hand is parallel to the chest/shoulder and make a shark fin and pause.
Switch: Swing the forearm forward and enter the water finger tips first take the stroke and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Catch Up With Finger Tip Drag
Start on your stomach with your arms shoulder with a part. Start your pull with one arm while leaving the other arm in front of you. As your elbow leaves the water to start the recovery, drag your fingers tips in the water next to your body. Once your recovery arm enters the water pause for a brief second and then repeat with the other arm. This will help you get your elbows nice and high.
Next time you are at the pool give these drills a try and see what you think. All of these drills will not only help you with your recovery but they will work your balance and body rotation as well!
Successful Swims Are Built With Endurance