I just had an unbelievable breakthrough in my swimming. I finally understand what “high elbow” means, and more importantly why. Knowing why gives you the motivation to keep trying to do it. It also gives you cues to think about while you are working on your technique. If someone tells you to keep your elbow high but not why it is hard to keep it up for the long haul.
So the deal is you have two competing choices, power and drag. Obviously drag is bad and power is good. But if you have to trade them off then you have to compare. In the video he doesn’t say this but it seems pretty obvious to me, if you have bigger biceps and shoulder then you will weight power lower and drag higher. And if you have flippers for hands then you will weight power higher and drag lower. (This was the root of my problem in thinking that swimming with the hand paddle things taught you the best technique but it alters the equation in favor of the deeper pull. Not good!) All of this is on a scale mind you and there has to be some testing, so you try the technique after warming up in the pool and carefully time it and see if it works better for you. It did for me.
There are two things that I have always done since my coach a couple of years ago taught me this. First I do not cross my hands over in front of my head and then try to pull with each arm staying on its own side. Second, in trying to do the high elbow thing I sort of modified this a bit over time to bend my elbow and run my hand down my middle as if I were trying to push down on the edge of the pool while climbing out of the water. It made sense to me that I wanted more of the pull moving me forward rather than if my hand is further out it will tend to want to twist my body. As it turns out I was wrong and I do want it to twist my body, but not because I want my body to twist.
I do it because I want to keep my shoulder as much out of the water as possible and my elbow close to the surface. This reduces the forward drag created and lets you swim faster with less effort. The only downside is that my muscles are not as developed that I need for that slightly different motion. But that is ok there is still plenty of time before my first race to get them in shape.
This video is worth its weight in gold. (How much does a bunch of megabytes weigh anyway? 😉