Practice Set for Catch and Hold


Choose 2 or 3 of the cues above to work with today.

For each cue, work through these activities, as far as you can go successfully. Take one cue and work through the list. Then take the next cue and work through the list again, and so on.

Do one set of repeats for the left side and then one set for the right side.


Practice Set

Intro to Freestyle Advanced

Once you have established the foundation of the freestyle stroke in Freestyle Fundamentals, you are ready to build the skills for more effective whole body propulsion upon it in Freestyle Advanced. In his course you’ll learn how to form a more effective catch to get a better grip on the water, then to connect this to the power of the torso rotation, and smoothly transfer force from the catch-side of the body into the streamline-side of the body. You’ll learn how to connect the action of the legs to support and enhance the torso rotation, to complete the whole body propulsive system.

In addition, you’ll learn how to start using basic forms of metrics – stroke counting and tempo – to begin training in a logical, measurable way toward a specific skill or achievement goal.

Preview of the Catch and Hold

It is commonly believed that the underwater stroke – the arms pulling on the water – is the main action of the freestyle stroke; hence, the old name for this was the ‘crawl stroke’ after all. What the arm does underwater is important, but it only has its intended effect if that action is coordinated with what the rest of the body is doing. In fact, the catch is not the main action, but a supporting action. The main action of the stroke is channeling force into the streamline position so that your body slides forward, and does so most efficiently.

Like getting traction under your shoe, you are aiming to get a solid grip on the water in order to rotate around that point and lever the streamline side of the body forward. It is not about pushing water back, but about sliding the body forward – a seemingly small, but profoundly important difference in how your body directs its energy.


Preview of the 2-Beat Press

And, once you have learned the skill of creating balance in the body (keeping it parallel to the surface) using the entire body as frame, you’ll not need to use the legs for lots of kicking to hold the rear of the body up at the surface. The legs take on new roles: first (as you’ve learned in the Freestyle Fundamentals course), the legs are an extension of the torso, a long fuselage that holds its shape firmly; second,  the legs can move in a way that coordinates with and enhances the power generated by the torso rotation.

Your work on these two skills – the catch and the leg action – have been waiting until the fundamental skills are in place so that these each can support what those fundamental skills are intended to achieve in your swimming. The stronger you are with those fundamental skills the easier it will be to work on these advanced skills and get the effect from them that you seek.


Preview of Synchronization

Now that you have all the main features of the foundation and propulsion in place, it is time to connect the moving parts into a finely synchronized whole. In this lesson you will practice connecting and timing the entry action, the catch action, the torso rotation and the leg action. Synchronization offers the most satisfying discoveries and improvements in the smooth efficient flow of force through the body, resulting in more acceleration on each stroke.


Preview of Basic Metrics

As you continue work on the catch, the legs and synchronization, you’ll be able to measure your progress in more nuanced ways than just seeing if you are ‘swimming faster’. Your stroke count – the number of strokes it takes you to get across the pool, is an important indicator of your skillfulness and efficiency. There is an optimal stroke count that you’ll be ultimately aiming for, and over the weeks, months and years ahead, you’re developing skills and fitness will bring you into that optimal zone. And, as musicians train with a metronome to hold a steady beat, at tempo appropriate to the type of music they are playing, your skill and efficiency in movement will improve greatly when you add the use of a swim metronome to your training activities. This will provoke great refinements and automation of your movements – you’ll build great neural fitness.

Intro to 2-Beat Leg Press

A Different Way To Use The Legs

You might be expecting us to describe how to ‘kick’, but instead we’d like to show you a different way to view the role of the legs in freestyle.

Here are some of our observations…

  • The rapid fluttering most people are doing is doing more to hold the lower part of the body up, near the surface, than moving the body forward.
  • Most people think kicking is necessary or at least helping them move forward better, when it is not.
  • Most people do not have the big feet, flexible ankles and hips, good kick mechanics and muscle tone to make kicking worthwhile, even when they do a lot of kicking sets to try to make it better.
  • Flutter kicking might possibly assist with very short distance racing (if you have the features noted above), but arguably is not a good use of energy for distance and recreational swimming.

We propose a better way to use the legs…

Once you have connected the legs to the torso frame and have learned to establish balance in the body in the fundamental skills, the legs no longer need to kick to hold the lower body up. The flow of water under a straight, unified bodyline will take care of most of that.

With the legs freed from lifting the lower body, we propose these roles for them instead…

  • Their primary role is to remain an extension of the torso frame (the fuselage), enabling more lift with the flow of water underneath, and less drag with a longer (straighter) bodyline.
  • They are placed into a ‘counter-balance’ position in coordination with the streamline side of the body to increase stability in that asymmetric streamline position.
  • In this counter-balanced position they are poised to press and assist the torso in its rotation by adding leverage.
  • Only a single press of one leg is needed as the torso turns.

The legs coordinate with the movement of the upper body while minimizing motion which would increase turbulence and drag around the body. This minimalist approach to propulsion saves enormous energy and lowers the rate of fatigue during intense swimming efforts.


Different Kicks For Different Purposes

First, you may appreciate a view of the 2-beat leg press in action. [insert link to Mat demo]

The flutter kick is meant to provide linear thrust; it is meant to push backward on the water to push the body forward. In contrast, the 2-beat leg action is meant to provide rotational thrust – the press is meant to push downward on the water to lever that side of the torso upward, rotating around the spine. The two kinds of leg action have quite different purposes. If you lay with a kickboard in the water and flutter, it will move you forward, more or less. If you use a 2-beat press pattern you will notice that it does not push you forward; it rocks the body from side to side instead.

The decision to use a flutter kick or a 2-beat press is a matter of trade-offs. In the flutter kick the leg action must be disconnected from the torso action in order to produce linear (rearward) thrust that is added to the torso rotation and the pulling action of the arms. But those are two separate actions in separated sections of the body. The body is divided at the waist so that the lower part (legs and pelvis) can move in a way that serves the kick and the upper part (arms and shoulders) can move in a way that serves the arm strokes. And, even for those with suitable physique and good kick technique, flutter kicking takes a lot more energy for a modest increase in thrust. It may be worth the expense for experienced short distance pool swimmers, and it might be tactical to use it at the very last meters of a longer race, but it is a questionable expense for long distance swimmers, especially those who are not set up with good kicking features, fitness and technique for it.


Why A Leg ‘Press’?

More recently we’ve begun to use the term ‘press’ instead of ‘kick’ to emphasize the intent of the leg motion – we’re not kicking the water like kicking a ball. One leg is pressing downward to enable the torso to more easily rotate in the opposite direction – a basic lever. On that downward press, the lower part of the leg is seeking water resistance against itself (to have something to press against) and the rate of the press is meant to be proportional to the rate at which the torso is rotating. A swift kick would be much faster than the torso is turning and thus the wave of force it sends into the body would pass through before the torso can make use of it. A slower press against sufficient water resistance allows the leg to stay engaged over a longer period of time, allowing more force to be transferred into the torso.

This slower press and downward direction makes the 2-beat action more suitable for rotational thrust and makes it less suitable for linear thrust. A small rapid flutter kick is more suitable for linear thrust and less suitable for rotational thrust.


Why A ‘2-Beat’?

We recommend and teach (in this course) a ‘2-beat’ leg press, which indicates that there is one single action of the legs for each torso rotation, or 2 presses of the legs for the two torso rotations per stroke cycle, hence the ‘2-beat’ name. Any other movement of the legs than this would be increasing turbulence, and working against the stability of the torso in streamline position. Any other movements are not only unnecessary they are costly.

A flutter kick is where there is 4 or 6 beats per stroke cycle. (Note that there are different ways to make a flutter kick and they are not equal in their cost and effect.) A flutter kick could be used, if done skillfully, but those who can do that tend to be swimmers from an early age where their bodies were able to develop the features that make for an effective kick. It is rare to see later-onset swimmers develop a useful flutter kick, but it is possible. There could be reasons to develop a good flutter kick and we would be glad to help one learn how. But in this course, we teach a 2-Beat Leg Press as a core skill for swimmers seeking efficiency skills. It becomes an excellent foundation for learning an efficient flutter kick later on.

Lesson for Catch and Hold

Skills for Catch and Hold

In this lesson you will work through a series of drills to help you:

  • Build better catch shape to generate more resistant force
  • Empower the catch/hold with the torso rotation, so that the torso muscles do more of the work
  • Improve the catch pathway – straight back so the body slides straight forward
  • Improve the smooth, steady sense of pressure through the whole motion

The cues below will help you create and improve these three features in your catch action.

Drills for Catch and Hold

Cues for Catch and Hold

  • Set the catch (or ‘gather inward’)
  • Hand stays on track with the shoulder
  • Elbow slide out and upward to make shape of arm
  • Touch the ball with entire forearm and palm
  • Hold the ball and rotate body past it
  • Press the ball straight toward the hip – hips rolls out of the way at last moment
  • Press the ball straight toward the toes – send the ball of water under hip and leg
  • Press the ball steadily
  • Catch hand and extending hand move (on their tracks) exactly opposite to each other, at approximately the same rate of speed
  • Hesitate ever so slightly after ‘Set The Catch’ in order to Load The Torso
  • Pull with hip (not with shoulder)

The entry and extending arm is the main actor, while the catch arm is the supporting actor. Set a good catch and then focus upon transferring force across the body, forward, into your best Streamline Position. The better your Entry, Extension and Streamline, the farther you will slide forward on each stroke!