Have you ever gone to the pool to see competitive swimmers laying in the water, sweeping their arms side to side, slowly moving forward? If you think this looks odd, you are not alone. However, the swimmers are not doing this interesting drill by accident; they are practicing what is known as sculling. Sculling is a sweeping motion of the hands and forearms that essentially helps a swimmer develop a better “feel for the water”.
Why Swimmers Scull
As mentioned above, sculling is a drill. The sweeping of the hands and forearms side to side teaches a swimmer to feel the pressure of the water. When swimming any stroke (Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly, and Breaststroke), the swimmer always uses their arms in a propulsive manner. Being able to create pressure on their arms allows them to pull through the water, one stroke at a time. The more effectively a swimmer pulls, the faster they will swim.
Learning how to adjust your hands and forearms as a swimmer is essential to optimize your pull. Taking advantage of as much surface area of your arms is necessary to reach this goal. Sculling is a great way to practice creating that pressure in a balanced position that can be applied in full to any of the four competitive strokes.
Here are five tips to help you scull more effectively:
- Sweeping motion: sculling is always done as a lateral, sweeping motion, meaning you are never pulling your hand towards your body.
- Bend: make sure to “bend” your elbows as you scull, using your elbows as your fulcrum point. Locking your elbows will put unnecessary pressure on your shoulders, and can lead to discomfort/injury.
- Keep it small: the sweeping movements should be relatively small, simulating where you would like to catch the water for a particular stroke. Making the movements too large may lead the the pressure created at the start of the scull to greatly diminish by the end of the sweep.
- Mix it up: you can change the depth of your hands, the speed of the scull, the position of your body, and the position of your hands when practicing sculling. Some combinations are very challenging, so don’t be afraid to experiment and push yourself!
- Apply it to the stroke: after practicing your sculling, move onto the full stroke of whichever stroke scull you were working on. The point of the scull is to improve the catch and pull of a particular stroke, so make sure you always transition to the whole stroke after the drill!
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