The way you are finishing your underwater pull in freestyle effects your stroke rhythm. It can either break your rhythm or let it run smoothly. It may seem logical to push your hand as far back as possible to get a really long stroke, however this is not always the best way to swim.
Finish your underwater pull at around the top of your thigh – from here pull your hand out of the water in a forward motion while you bring your arm back over in front for the recovery.
A common misconception is that it is good to push your hand all the way back to get maximum distance and even flick water out the back in doing so. This makes it harder to get the arm back over for the recovery, causing a small delay in your stroke which causes you to sink. In freestyle, we need the momentum to be moving forward all the time or else we sink and slow down. Sinking and slowing down each stroke not only does the obvious, but also forces you to have to start your underwater stroke from a dead position which makes it harder on your arms to pull your dead weight forward. Instead, if we have the momentum moving forward it is easier to keep this moving forward than starting from scratch each stroke.
When swimming freestyle focus your awareness on where you finish your underwater pull. If you find yourself flicking water out the back then you are going too far back. Use your thumbs to feel when your hand gets to your thigh and as soon as you feel it, pull your hand out. A great way to see what you are doing is to get someone to film you either close up above the water or under the water or ideally both. You will then be able to see exactly what you are doing with your hand as you finish and will be able to make the required changes.
Carl is head coach at Swim360 Coach, a former Olympian and national champion freestyler. Carl now uses his skills and passion for coaching and competing in the open water.