Training Module: Fixing non-position 11 free arms

Critical Issue with Free Arms

One of the most common problems that swimmers face when learning freestyle is not using their free arms correctly. At a recent audit of Level 3 swimmers doing freestyle swimming not a single one was reaching forward in position 11. Instead I saw a disturbing amount of freestyle swimming with arms dangling at the swimmer’s hips.

Swimming Freestyle with the arms dangling near the hips creates drag, disrupts the timing, and should not be done.

The arms should be extending forward into position with every stroke, and if they pause, should briefly pause reaching foward above the shoulder instead of pausing down by the hips.

What is Position 11

Position 11 is where swimmers extend both arms above their shoulders, and when laying face down in the water looks like both arms are reaching forward at the surface. Position 11 is named after the shape of the number 11 that the arms form. Position 11 helps swimmers to reduce drag, maintain balance, and prepare for the next stroke. Swimmers should begin and end every single freestyle stroke in position 11.

Focus on three things:

1) Look Down when not breathing
2) Keep arms straight
3) Stay on the surface

Arms are over the head with elbows straight, hands stacked over shoulders. Kick freestyle kick with face down. To breathe, lift head up quickly. Avoid sculling or doggie paddle to breathe.

3 things to make Position 11 Easier:

1) Breathe Quickly, more often
2) When you breathe, kick faster
3) Keep Body straight

How can you correct dragging hip arms?

Dragging hip arms are when swimmers drop their arms to their hips or sides instead of keeping them in position 11. This causes the swimmers to lose speed, stability, and rhythm.

To correct this problem, instructors should constantly reinforce position 11 swimming with every attempt.

If you see a swimmer doing freestyle, or breaststroke, or fly and they are not pausing in position 11, then they are learning wrong. You should show them your arms with both arms above your head and demonstrate what it should look like. You should also use drills such as one-arm freestyle, catch-up freestyle, or Position 11 for 5 Kicks, then 1 arm stroke to help them practice position 11.

You can also do these drills in the video called “Catch-up drill.” When you swim you leave one hand in position 11, and the other hand must “catch up” to it before the next arm can begin or initiate the next stroke.

YouTube player

Repeat after me

A good way to help swimmers remember position 11 is to use a simple chant or rhyme that they can repeat while swimming. For example, you can say:

  • “One-one, position 11”
  • “Reach and glide, arms side by side”
  • “Up and over, like a four-Position 11 knower”

You can also use visual cues such as pool noodles, kickboards, or flags to help force their arms in position 11. The more you emphasize position 11, the more likely the swimmers will adopt it as a habit and improve their freestyle technique.

Here are some potential drills to correct the probelm.

3x SL + Position 11 for 5 kicks + 1 FR

Streamline with freestyle kick. At the surface transition from streamline to position 11. Continue kicking for 5 kicks in position 11.

Continue kicking and do one arm stroke of freestyle. Leave other arm in position 11 place.

FR Drill: 5 Kicks in Position 11 + 1 FR

Stay in position 11 for 5 flutter kicks.

Do 1 freestyle stroke with a single arm, leaving the other arm in position 11.

Keep kicking throughout the whole time.

Only count kicks when back in position 11 with both arms.

Breathe during an arm stroke.

If you see dangling arms at the hips, SAY SOMETHING!

This requires constant reinforcement and alignment between us, the swim instructors and coaches, and the swimmers.

Better swimming.
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