USA SWIMMING LINKS
The Importance of Recovery
January 25, 2013By Jonathan Sorocki of Gateway Swimmers
In every stroke, there are 3 phases. We begin with the catch, wherein a swimmer places his hand into the water and sets to begin the pull. A controlled motion offers better entry and less splash. Thus, the swimmer must maintain adequate rgidity in the arm with his shoulder muscles. The pull begins after the swimmer has set his hand and is performed with a maximum amount of effort. Muscles used during the pull can include the deltoids, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, and triceps depending on the stroke. A strong finish for free, back, and fly requires the triceps to straighten the arm entirely. The recovery phase begins after the stroke is finished.
What you should have noted from above is that both the catch and pull require the swimmer to exert some controlled and intensive motions from muscles. The recovery, however, should be relaxed with as minimal effort as possible. Too often, young swimmers try to bring their arms around quicker and expend energy doing so. In some cases, the wrong route is taken for recovery which can lead to higher stress and torque on the shoulder joint.
A good recovery will allow the swimmer's muscles to recoup and relax while another muscle group controls the motion. In the case of freestyle, the shoulder muscles should rotate the arm around as opposed to a swinging motion or straight arm recovery. With the hand located below the elbow and close to the body, the torque generated by the arm's weight is reduced significantly. In backstroke, swinging the arm to the side and towards the head generates a downward push as well as a rotational moment about the shoulder joint. Imagine using a crowbar to pry open a door. That's the same type of force generated when the arm is not brought straight out and on top of the shoulder.
So while it may seem easier or faster at first to bring the arm around any which way, it is more energy efficient and less stressful to relax the arm and follow correct recovery motions.