Feel the water

Have you ever been told to do sculling drill in your swim sessions but don’t know why? Do you do the drill while wondering how waving your hands back and forth in front of your head, while trying not to sink and remembering to breathe will make you a better frontcrawl swimmer?  Have you been told it will help your feel for the water and blindly carried on doing the drill without actually knowing whether you are indeed ‘feeling’ the water or not?

Hopefully this article will demystify this drill and help you understand what it’s trying to achieve so that next time you go to the pool you know why you are doing it and can relate it to your full stroke, and develop that elusive feel for the water.

Sculling is used to develop the initial set up of the freestyle stroke – getting your hand and arm in the right position when you are at full extension in front of your head – which is required for you to then perform an effective catch. A good catch will allow you to ‘grab’ (feel) the water before pushing it back behind you, propelling you forwards through the water with power.  Without an effective catch on the water your hand and arm will slip through the water and you won’t get nearly as much forwards propulsion for each stroke.

So, how to scull properly….

  • Lying on your front in the water, head up, with a pull buoy if needed to take sinking legs out of the equation
  • Extend both arms out in front, palms facing down, with a slight bend at the elbow so your hands are turned in towards each other
  • Tilt your hand down towards the bottom of the pool – the key in this drill is to always have your fingertips below your wrist, below your elbow. This is the start position of your catch when swimming full stroke, get used to how this position feels so that you can get into this set up and initiate your catch as soon as possible at the start of every stroke.
  • Now push your hands apart, palms facing the sides of the pool, to just outside shoulder width, and back together again palms facing each other. You don’t need to bring your hands all the way together. Do this in a continuous motion.
  • Remember the move occurs from the elbows down to fingertips, minimise any shoulder movement – don’t start doing breaststroke!
  • Incorporate half a length scull into full stroke in your warm ups to work on your feel for the water in every session.

Some points to think about when sculling:

  • Fingers lower than wrist lower than elbow.
  • To keep your elbow high imagine you are reaching over a barrel with both arms.
  • Don’t worry about speed, so try not to kick and just feel the hands and forearms working.

If you have any other drills you do but don’t really know why let us know and we’ll clear things up for you!