5 Parts to the Triathlon Swim Stroke by Coach Kristie

There are 5 parts to the triathlon swim stroke known as the front crawl and/or freestyle stroke.

They are:

  • Entry
  • Reach
  • Catch
  • Pull
  • Recovery


The entry is the point where the hand enters the water in front of the shoulder.  Wrist should be relaxed, hand flat, fingertips facing down with the thumb slightly downward.  Think of your hand as a paddle.

If you hold your arm up and relax your wrist, your hand will naturally fall into proper position.  Spread your fingers, your hand is now your paddle.


Once the hand is in and under the water, the arm will extend out from the body.  Think of the fingertips putting a hole in the water that the hand, forearm, and elbow will follow through.  The head is kept still keeping the neck in line with the spine.


Once the hand has reached forward as far as possible, the hand will grab a pocket of water thus calling it the “catch”.  The hand will catch the water as the wrist flexes (bends downward) slightly and the palm rotates outward. Both moves of the wrist and palm are small moves.  You don’t want to over exaggerate the moves thus losing the amount of water that can be caught.


The “pull” part is what moves you forward through the water.  Pull back your arm toward your hip in a straight line.  The arm will move in an “S” shape in the water but in a straight line with the body due to the body’s rotation.  Keep the elbow higher than the wrist and pull the hand all the way back to the thigh.


The recovery is when the arm exits the water.  The elbow is high with the body rotating from the hip.  The elbow will point up to the sky the arm in the shape of a triangle.  The body will rotate and be on its side in recovery.

It is important to know this terminology for your training.  Your coach may use these terms as you are learning how to become more mechanically efficient and develop proper body position.

As always if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Coach Kristie


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