Swim tips #3

Swim Tip #3 – Relax your hands.

The latest in a series of swim tips from Nelson coach Lionel Padial

The picture above says it all…. here we have the most successful swimmer that has ever lived swimming at speed and as you can see, his fingers are open!

Surely he would go faster with his fingers together and his hands slightly cupped? It seems not. Despite a number of very strong arguments and opinions against this, the world’s best swimmers instinctively know that they swim better with their fingers a little apart and hands relatively relaxed.

In my opinion the professionals know. They have more feel for the water than any scientist and are taught by the world’s best coaches; surely between them they have it right.

With all the swimmers I have ever worked with from beginners to elite I have never come across one who prefers to keep their hands closed / cupped once they have tried relaxing them.

A few years back double Olympic gold medalist Danyon Loader spoke at a Saturday morning swim session I was coaching. He left us with a few gems to think about, one of which was to catch the water as if you were holding on to a ball or a buoy and then to use your whole body to get past that ball/buoy.

In my experience when swimmers relax their hands a little they begin to let go of their neck and shoulder tension. Once those three areas have eased off instead of feeling their own body tension they begin to feel the very medium they are working with!


  • The next time you swim try letting go of any tension in your hands, this will improve your feel for the water.
  • Aim to swim with your fingers slightly apart but above all go with what feels comfortable to you … even Mr. Phelps above has his own “signature” way of doing it.
  • Imagine sliding your hand over the top of a buoy and holding gently on to it as you move past using your whole body.
  • Once you have hold of the buoy in your mind’s eye focus your energy more on spearing a hole in the water with the other hand / side of your body.

Technique is universal, style is individual. 

Swim strong, swim with form,


Oneflow Freestyle workshop dates in January ‘15


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