The best swim drills to improve the catch

The catch is the initiation of your pull. This is where you “catch the water”, and start to pull yourself forward. In this article, we are going to talk about swim drills to improve your catch. But first, a couple of words describing what we are talking about when we are talking about the catch.

6 steps to becoming a faster and more efficient swimmer

We have chosen to sort the freestyle stroke into six separate segments. In all featured articles, you will both be able to read about that part of the stroke and watch our videos on different swim drills that will improve your skillset in that area.

  • The Catch – The part of your stroke from when your hand enters the water, up until you are able to start pulling yourself forward.
  • The Pull – This part starts where the catch ends, and continues until the hand exits the water.
  • The Recovery – It is the part of the stroke that occurs above the surface.
  • The Kick – Kicking in swimming is not the biggest power output, but, it is crucial for water position and reducing frontal drag.
  • The Rotation – The way you rock your body from side to side to create your optimal streamlined position and best power output.
  • The Head position – How you hold your head, and where you look will greatly impact your position in the water.

Doing drills from these six areas will improve your swimming. 

The initiation of the catch

Start by bending your wrist, pointing your fingertips slightly downward. Palmar flexion of the wrist will start your arm movement towards a high elbow catch since you will “stack” your joints on top of each other. i.e fingertips under the wrist, wrist under elbow and elbow beneath your shoulder. 

How to do the catch in freestyle swimming,

Hand entry

Your hand should enter the water in line with your shoulder, fingers-tips first. You should aim for the fingers towards the end of the pool.


Reaching your hand forward, the palm of your hand should face downwards. This is done with good body rotation for you to reach as far as possible without losing balance.


With your arm fully extended, start by tipping your hand downwards from the wrist, then your elbow.

Three great drills to improve your catch!

Here are three swim drills you can do to improve your entry and catch. Mix them into your warm-up, or do 4*25 meters in the middle of your set. I personally like to do drills in the middle, when I’m a bit tired. That gives me a good feel for when I do it right.

Catch up

How To:
Place your arms in front of you, with your hands shoulder-width apart.
Do one stroke and recovery, while your other arm is leading you, resting forward.
Don’t exaggerate the kick.

Focus on:
Your elbow of the leading arm should be as close to the surface as possible (within your range of motion). Don’t let it sink towards the bottom.

Good for:
Your direction.
Shoulder strength.
Timing of your stroke.
Get a feel for the catch.

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Throwing net

How to:
Imagine that you are holding a fishing net in your hand that you shall throw in front of you.
Accelerate throughout the recovery, so that you and it are explosive.

Focus on:
Having your strength coming from your back and extending throughout the recovery. Your strength comes from our big muscles in your torso, and the acceleration of the arm will give it more power.

Good for:
A more powerful stroke.
Entering with speed and to directly commit to the catch.

Analyze your breathing, body rotation, body position, arm movements both above and below the water, and your kick. With our individualized feedback and drills, you will develop your swimming. Sign up today!

Splash drill

This drill is great to practice if you are playing water polo, but since you are on this channel. I’m guessing you are more of a swimmer. Then it is also a good drill, both for the fun of it. But also for getting a feel for your hand entry.

How to:
When your hand is entering the water, turn your palm facing forward instead of back towards you.
The rest of the stroke should be carried out as normal.

Focus on:
Keeping your palm facing forward.

Good for:
Getting a good feeling for where to enter the water.
Shoulder mobility and strength.
Splashing your buddies!

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The next step in your training

Swim drills are great. If you are looking for inspiration on how to incorporate them into your training, then joining our global digital tribe – the TOT endurance club – is something for you!

As a member you will get:

  • A weekly training program (swim, bike, run, row)
  • Exclusive content via the member group on Facebook
  • 10% discount on any of our regular training programs

Join us today!

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