Bent-Arm Freestyle Swim Guide


Bent arm freestyle is a swimming technique in which swimmers keep their elbows high and bent during the catch phase, keeping their arms bent as well during the recovery phase. If done correctly, it engages more muscles, putting less emphasis on the shoulders.

Even though it is fairly easy to learn, it can be a great addition to your swimming routine. This technique works great for those whose shoulders are not as flexible as they used to be, as well as for beginners who simply want to learn more. In this article, we will show you how to perform bent arm swimming. So, get your swim towel ready!

Why Choose Bent Arm Swimming?

A good catch is the most important part of freestyle swimming. If a swimmer focuses on extension and does not have proper shoulder flexibility, this may result in a poor catch. In this technique, the swimmer does not focus on extension, but rather keeps the elbow bent just as arms are entering the water. If a swimmer enters the water with bent arms, it means they can immediately focus on reaching a bent arm pull.

In addition to giving you a stronger pull, this swimming technique puts less stress on your shoulders. When combined with body rotation, bent arm swimming activates more muscles so there is not much pressure on the shoulders, lowering the risk of injury.

How to Do Bent Arm Freestyle

  1. Essentially, this technique is simple but it can be a bit difficult to perform. Make sure your swim cap fits comfortably and start swimming using your regular freestyle technique, but bend your arms when they enter the water.
  2. Never stretch your arm into or reach for full extension. Instead of doing that, relax your arms to make them bend naturally.
  3. Do not forget to maintain the position of your elbows near the surface as you bend your arms. If you drop your arms, your forearm can be pushed forward, causing you to you miss the catch.
  4. Try to keep your arms in this position as long as possible.

Additional Information

You may be wondering about the importance of extension and whether it is crucial to go as far as possible with one stroke so you can in turn move as far as possible. If you are strong and flexible enough to perform full extension, then this technique will probably not improve your swimming because you most likely do not have the problems it is supposed to address.

But, if you are an older swimmer yourself, it may be necessary to modify your approach and see what the most appropriate technique is. Sometimes fitting your body to the stroke does not work, and you should go the other way around. Because a good catch is crucial when it comes to swimming forward, doing the bent arm freestyle and lessening the focus on the extension may lead to more successful and comfortable swimming.

Learning this technique may take some time. It is important to learn how to do it properly, but do not forget to give yourself proper care by getting a swimmer’s shampoo. It will recover your hair from all those chemicals that can be found in pools. With time, you will be able to master bent arm freestyle swimming and get a stronger pull. Also, you will prevent shoulder injuries and ensure nothing stops you from improving your swimming.

Doing this technique provides great relief among older swimmers. But, it can be a great warm-up for competitive swimmers as well as younger swimmers. Add some bent arm extension into your regular warm-up routine for faster activation of shoulder muscles. This technique can make it easier to focus on a good catch as well. Getting a pair of swimming gloves can further improve your swimming.

Bent arm freestyle can also be beneficial to those swimmers who cannot get an early catch. Some even think that getting an early catch is impossible. The combination of an early catch and extension is not possible because of some shoulder flexibility issues. However, bent arm swimming will help you achieve an early catch easily. You just have to find out what works best for your body and then focus on the technique. Perhaps getting swimming headphones or swimming goggles can make you feel more comfortable in the water.

Bent-arm vs. Straight-arm Swimming


Swimmers of all ages focus on power and resistance. If their main focus is reaching full extension but they are having difficulties with it, they will most likely maintain the straight arm position. By doing this, they certainly miss the advantages of swimming with their arms bent. During the pull, the bent arm position is stronger than the straight arm position because it generates more power.

Let’s imagine you want to place your arms on the deck to lift yourself. Would you bend your elbows or keep the arms straight? Of course, it is nearly impossible to perform this movement with straight arms. The same comparison can be done with pulling.

It is less effective and much harder to pull with your arms straight than doing the same motion with your arms bent. However, some swimmers enjoy pulling with a straight arm because they want to feel like they are putting more strength into their performance. They like the motion because it feels hard on their bodies, but actually, it is not efficient enough.

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Bent arm swimming can be a great option in case you want to improve your beginner skills. Also, it works wonders for swimmers who do not have enough shoulder flexibility because it does not put a lot of pressure on the shoulders.

Learning this technique may take some time even though it is fairly easy to perform. But, once you master it you will get a stronger pull and prevent any unnecessary shoulder injuries. It is time to prepare your equipment and get your swim bag so you can feel the benefits of this swimming technique!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!