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Freestyle Swimming Technique - Straight or Bent Arms

Which Is The Better Freestyle Swimming Technique

The debate over whether to teach Freestyle Swimming Technique using straight arms or start teaching new swimming students freestyle bent arm action from the beginning has always been controversial and will probably rage on forever.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

I recently read an article in a swimming magazine about the superiority of teaching bent arm action from the beginning of a student learning how to swim and I was most perplexed.

Basically, the premise was that by teaching the correct arm action from the very beginning you can expect that a new swimmer will develop good habits that will stand them in good stead throughout their swimming life.

A Good Sounding Argument

It was a good sounding argument but I was perplexed because there was no discussion on how you overcome new swimmers inability to finish their stroke thus getting minimal or no propulsion; there was no discussion on how you teach bent arm to a young child whose motor development is such complex action is beyond them; there is was no discussion on how long it will take to teach bent arm action as compared to straight arm action.
Image of Freestyle Swimming Techniques Straight Arms

Straight Arms Effect

Therein lies my tension with bent arm action purists, they tend to skimp over the hard bits.

Now don't get me wrong, despite what you think you may have read in this blog I am not a "teach straight arm purist". As a lifeguard, I am a keen observer of all sort of teaching techniques and teaching methods and of one thing I am absolutely convinced "most everything works". That is most everything works given time, patients and persistence. So can you teach a student using only bent arm action? Absolutely! But why wouldn't you want to do what works best for the student?
Image of Freestyle Swimming Technique Bent Arms

Bent Arms Effect

To my way of thinking if you are going to be a swim teacher then teach don't just impose a system.

I am a self-confessed mixer when it comes to teaching Freestyle swimming technique(aka front crawl).

An Effective Freestyle Quickly

My objective is to teach an effective version of freestyle as quickly as possible. Within that objective I have two goals:
  1. ) To teach stroke completion so that the student will have sufficient propulsion to move throughout the water with some kind of efficiency.
  2. ) To make sure that the students arm return contributes to the above efficiency.
Given that there is no question in my mind that a straight arm action is the easiest to learn and teach but that a bent arm action results, in the long run, in a better hand entry (link); it seems to me that one has to mix it up.

My method is simple: teach straight arm freestyle swimming action so that you have a strong finishing stroke but only do minimal correction of the arm out of the water. Most new swim students bend their arm when it leaves the water anyway so there is no much to fix later on when you want them to learn bent arm action.

Simple really!


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