Setting up your swim stroke for an explosive pull

Matt Kredich, Head Swimming Coach at the University of Tennessee

Matt Kredich, Head Swimming Coach at the University of Tennessee

Matt Kredich, Head Swimming Coach at the University of Tennessee, explains how to set up your stroke for an explosive pull to gain more power in your swimming. Matt often relies on the Vasa Trainer, equipped with the forearm cuffs he innovated, to teach swimmers how to feel this in the water.  

Matt first started using Vasa Trainers in 1991 while assisting Richard Quick at Stanford, and he has been using them ever since. He likes the utility of Vasa Trainers and Vasa SwimErgs because it goes beyond swim-specific strength & force production.  He uses these tools to teach 3 important swim technique concepts to his swimmers: high elbow catch, proper pull pattern and efficient body posture. One of the most valuable assets of coaching with Vasa Trainers is the ability to isolate positions, teach concepts and communicate in the moment with the athlete while on deck, which are difficult to do while they are in the pool.

Matt Kredich at ASCA 2011

Below is a transcription of the video recorded at his presentation from the 2011 ASCA World Clinic in San Diego, CA.


“So Jeff [athlete demonstrating] is in the position we want.  The elbows are underneath the shoulder somewhat, fingertips are pointed down, and that creates a great angle on the water.   Now his lats are really stretched and if you hold a swimmer in this position, if you let them stretch in that position for a while, I really believe they’re going to learn something.

They’re going to learn how to relax. The Vasa Trainer, through use of gravity, is creating some pressure on the forearm and that’s what’s stretching them forward. I think that when the best swimmers enter the water, they let the water stretch them forward. They find a way to let the pressure of the water, through a balancing of forces, stretch them forward and really load up the lats, load up the abs connected to the hip and gets them ready for an explosive pull.

So let’s have Jeff start to pull up a little bit. One of the teaching cues we use is to always make sure your finger tips are pointed down (toward bottom of pool or floor).   We want this angle from the elbow to the fingertips to be perpendicular to the flow of the water.  So water’s flowing this way and we want the elbow to fingertips as a whole to be perpendicular the entire way through.

Jeff’s in a great position here, and at this point in the stroke is where some of our swimmers get into trouble. When swimmers start thinking exclusively about pressure on the hand, then the hand starts really leading at this point.  The problem is that puts a lot of pressure on the small muscles in the rotator cuff, it disengages the lats a little bit, and we’ve also created this angle that’s driving the swimmer down when they’re actually trying to rotate up this way, and I think it’s counterproductive. So we ask our swimmers to stay strong at this point, and really start focusing on leading with the elbow.  I hesitate to say it, but we want them to drop the elbow a little bit, we want them to drop it back here [see video] because it’s not only strong but look at this angle that he’s got. He’s keeping this angle, putting a tremendous amount of surface area on the water, all the way back through what Dr. Prinz yesterday described as what should be the most propulsive part of the pull.  It’s the most propulsive part of the pull because we can keep that angle on the water right all the way through here. But you don’t have to give it up at this point [in the stroke]. If you’re continuing to keep your elbow down a little bit and keeping this angle and all the surface area in the water, then it looks really different; we’re not trying to push the water up, we’re trying to push the water back. And this [Vasa Trainer] is a great tool for teaching swimmers how to finish the freestyle stroke, because what we’re actually trying to do is lift the elbow at the end and keep some pressure on the forearm, keep the fingertips down and essentially roll that pressure right off the fingertips, and it’s always that.”


Matt Kredich is in his 12th season as head coach at the University of Tennessee and his fifth year as coach of the combined men’s and women’s swimming and diving program. Here is a link to his bio Matt Kredich, Head Swimming Coach at the University of Tennessee

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