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High Elbow Recovery, Yes or No?

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

How many times have you struggled with this one? The coach tells you that your elbow should be nice and high on the recovery phase as the relaxed arm trails through, ever so elegantly. Sadly when you swim, it resembles a right hook swing from someone in a drunken fight! So how do you master that recovery and does it really matter?

Here's some key points to consider:

1. As you get older, you don't have the same mobility. Children have a huge amount of shoulder mobility, which makes movements such as high elbow recovery very easy. As an adult, no matter how much stretching you do, this will be very difficult (less so for ladies, more so for men).

2. If you're flat in the water, a high elbow recovery is impossible. Lie face down on the floor with your shoulders square, now try to mimic a high elbow recovery without the chest leaving the floor... it's impossible. Now roll onto your left side and mimic a right arm recovery... it's simple. Unless you are super flexible, a flat position will prevent high elbow recovery.

3. Swimming is an 'aesthetic sport'. We judge swimmers based on what they look like in the water and sometimes we place more emphasis on what they look like, rather than how fast they swim. We often watch graceful swimmers and comment on how smooth an efficient they look, but it's important to remember that it's all about how fast you swim and not how good you look.

4. Based on the above (point 3), a relaxed high elbow recovery looks awesome but it's important not to get too bogged down trying to replicate something which may not make you faster at all (although you will look better).

5. Coaches on poolside will often comment on high elbow recovery and one of the reasons for this is it's one of the few things they can actually see. Much of the swim stroke is below the water so one of the most obvious bits of technique we can see when coaching is the recovery. For this reason, it often gets more attention than other (more critical) parts of the stroke.

6. Trying to focus on a high elbow recovery can lead to a lot of tension. It can require a lot of force to lift the elbow into a high position and the stroke can look very 'mechanical'. It's important to relax and let the arms 'flow' a little.

7. When swimming open water and wearing a wetsuit, the force and energy required to lift your elbow into a higher position is even greater due to the resistance of the neoprene. For that reason when swimming open water, you should always relax the arm and focus more on a 'swing' recovery, rather than trying to force a 'high elbow' recovery.

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