Your arm recovery adds a great deal to the momentum and rhythm of your stroke, and drills that train you to position your elbows and hands correctly will improve your arm recovery and maximise your forward propulsion, in some cases drastically reducing swim times.


Arm recovery is often overlooked by athletes trying to refine their stroke, probably because it takes place out of the water, but it’s a primary component of the front-crawl stroke. In addition to the obvious – namely, returning your arm to the water – your arm recovery performs numerous essential functions:

1. It stabilises and balances your stroke.

2. It adds forward momentum.

3. It assists the streamlining of your hand entry.

Head-up stroke

Keeping your head up positively limits body rotation, while increasing feel at the front of the stroke… 

This is a simple and effective drill to ensure that your arm recovery isn’t too high due to excessive body rotation. It also ensures that the pressure you apply in the catch position of the leading arm is maintained. It’s also good for gaining a feel for the water at the front of the stroke, and also transferring momentum from the back to the front of the stroke via your arms. It helps greatly if you allow your hands to catch up slightly at the front the stroke because there’s a tendency to sink if your leading hand moves away too fast.

4. The speed of the recovery helps to control the timing of your breathing.

5. The speed of the recovery helps to co-ordinate the timing and synchronisation of both arms.

One of the key aims of the arm recovery is to use as little energy as possible. That makes sense as it’s not physically moving you any further forward in the water. So you should try to relax all unnecessary shoulder, arm and hand muscles, almost lifting your arm out of the water as if the elbow was attached to a puppet string.

Like each and everyone of the technical features of the swim, afford a small amount of time to concentrate on this aspect of your stroke and you’ll soon notice some pretty hefty results.

Recovery essentials

Remember these key points when you undertake recovery drills