Is a high elbow catch helpful to sprint speed and making a longer stroke length?

My observations and experience say “YES”.

Today, this was my focus for 4km in the sea.

I swam 73 minutes, starting at 9:30 at the Konyaaltı Creek area. It was sunny, but not quite warm because of the gentle breeze that started onshore and switched to offshore during my swim. The water was 23 C and clear. With the cooler water and the absense of the crowds bigger schools of fish were returning to the shore area- it was fun to swim above them, and I like to think they enjoyed swimming with me also.

I swam 6x

  • 250-stroke whole-stroke, but focused solely on carefully imprinting the beginning of my catch with a high-elbow position
  • 100-stroke fist (my Fistgloves broke a while back and I don’t think I will bother to replace them- can’t switch them out during OW swimming anyway! It’s easy enough to just hold a fist.)
  • 250-stroke 5k race pace SR, with high-elbow catch

I did each cycle along a stretch of beach with known landmarks on each end of my course and I had a rough idea of how many strokes I took for that stretch (buoy line to pier is about 600 strokes, roughly 12 minutes), so I fit one cycle per stretch.

The imprinting work was really good. The position felt more natural and I held it strong and consistently. The race pace work was strong, quiet, and fast. I think I have finally found and held that elusive ‘high-elbow’ swing rhythm I first experienced a few months ago when I first discovered this elbow thing, but could not hold onto.

The air was cool enough that I was getting chilled on the slower work, but I felt ok during the race-pace work. In the end I was almost shivering involuntarily when I got out. 23 C is about my comfortable limit for a 60 min swim without heat-production dominating my training focus.

I think the high-elbow catch position (not EXTREME vertical forearm, mind you, but pronounced) is one of the keys to my breakthrough in my 100m sprint work. I am breaking into more suitable sprint Stroke Rates (below .90) but below .98 I have been losing SL like a leaky bucket. I think improvement on the beginning of my catch, which can only be achieved through a higher elbow (making the forearm get vertical as early as possible to hold more water) will be a major key to getting more distance in each stroke while holding my better SR marks. My stroke felt more aggressive and longer, yet even SMOOTHER as I progressed today.


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