Learn the correct freestyle hand position

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 12 June '18 0
You are reading: Learn the correct freestyle hand position

Improve the position of your fingers during the underwater stage of your stroke. Try our exercises!

How many times have you been told, “close your fingers, otherwise you won’t catch the water”?

When you swim you have to think of your hands as paddles. The larger and more compact the surface area of your hand, the greater the pulling force will be through the water. Sure, your stroke doesn’t all depend on hand position, but it certainly plays an important role in the efficiency of your stroke.

In order to help you to understand how the position of your fingers can vary the efficiency of the stroke, try these following exercises. Swim 25 yds freestyle using the various techniques described below, trying to keep track of the number of strokes needed for each length:

– 25 yds with a closed fists

– 25 yds with your fingers completely spread out 

– 25 yds with closed fingers

– 25 yds leaving small gaps between your fingers and your hand slightly cupped

Which lengths did you take the least amount of strokes? If you swam your 25 yads according to the instructions that we gave you, the last lap, the one where your fingers were slightly spread, should be the one where you took less strokes. This is because your hand takes up a larger amount of surface area compared to the other three during the push and pull.

To improve the position of the fingers during the underwater phase of your stroke, try these two exercises:

Finger Paddles: this is a great tool because it reduces pressure on your shoulders allowing you to concentrate on the catch, traction and pull.

To improve your freestyle stroke, wear the Finger Paddles and try the “Zip-Up Freestyle technique”. Start by reaching your arms out together in front of you, starting your stroke with just one arm, paying attention to the traction and push phase. At this point, when your arm is stretched out beside your body, direct your attention to the recovery, remembering to keep a high elbow, imagining it being a zipper closing the stroke you now have in front of you again.



With your body in a horizontal position and your arms stretched out in front of you, you should make a circular motion with your hands moving only your wrist and upper arm. Put simply, as if to wave in the water. Keep your body flat, trying to reduce the friction with the water. You can even use a snorkel. Your legs should stay immobile, but until you feel comfortable feel free to use them or to use a pull buoy as support.


Finally, if you want to improve your hand position further, film yourself underwater while changing the position of your fingers and take notice of how it feels. You’ll see that with constant practice you’ll considerably improve the position of your fingers and thereby improving the efficiency of your stroke.


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arena coaches

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