Arm and hand actions for sculling – essential skills for all swimmers

Sculling drills may be used to develop a ‘feeling’ of moving effectively through the water. These drills are designed to emphasize four key stroke components:

  • body position;
  • core body strength;
  • kicking skills;
  • hand speed.

The sequence of sculling drills is ideally performed immediately following a series of basic Pilates core stability or Swiss ball exercises. The sculling sequence builds upon the principle of trunk stability initiated during the land-based exercises. Swimmers must maintain a strong, stable body position during the execution of drills, kicking exercises and sculling.

Core body strength drill

This drill involves rotating the body on land to develop strength and control within the body. The swimmer lies prone (on stomach) with the arms outstretched, then rotates onto back (supine position), pausing on the side before rotating fully. The rotation is the reversed, again with a pause on the side before the rotation is completed.

Introductory drills

Horizontal front skull – flat wrist

With arms extended with body in prone position, and head out of water, the legs gently kick alternately (flutter) to stabilize horizontal body position. Hands and arms with a flat wrist, the palms facing downwards. The body remains in the same position in the water.

Horizontal front scull – flat wrist. Note hips and heels at surface level.

Horizontal front scull – wrist up

In the same position as for the flat wrist drill, the hands fingers drop down but the wrists are up. Using this sculling technique, the body moves forwards in the water.

Horizontal front scull – wrist up with fingers pointing down, swimmer moves forwards.

Horizontal front scull wrist down

In the same position as for the flat wrist drill, the wrists angle down and the hands fingers point up in the water, causing the body to move backwards.

Horizontal front scull – wrist down (backscull), with fingers pointing up, swimmer moves forwards.

Horizontal front scull – with maximum kick

In the same position as for the wrist-down-fingers-up, the swimmer kicks powerfully but sculls fast, wrist down, to prevent forwards movement.

Horizontal front scull – with maximum kick

Roll left and right – and right-left combinations

The body rotates in the water, with the legs gently kicking and the arms outstretched and sculling. The swimmer rotates from front to back and the returns. Rotations to both sides can be combined as a rotation drill.

Roll left hand and right – and right-left combination.

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Front somersault -with scull

The swimmer adopts prone sculling position with arms out in front and sculls before rotating forwards. Sculling continues after the rotation.

The swimmer may also practice this drill by pulling one arm at a time back first. They practice on both arms, alternating a different one pulling first.

Back somersault – with scull

The swimmer adopts the same position as for the ‘front somersault – with scull’ drill but rotates backwards. Again, the swimmer continues culling after rotations.

Intermediate-level drills

Knees out of water

The swimmer adopts a tuck position on the back with the head out of the water and vigorously sculls on to the sides to maintain body position.

Knees drawn to the chest and the arms pushing against the water – hands are relaxed and sculling.

Knees out of water – left 360 degrees

The swimmer adopts the same position as for the ‘knees out of water’ drill but angles hands to face the right and rotates to the left. The opposite hand to the direction of travel angles to create the rotations. The body travels in a clockwise direction.

Knees out of water – right 360 degrees

The swimmer adopts the same position as for the ‘knees out of water’ drill but angles the hand to face the left and rotates to the right. The body travels in an anticlockwise direction.

Flat body position – right 360 degrees

The body rests flat in the water (supine) and is quite still as the left hand creates the rotations to the right.

Flat body position – left 360 degrees

The body rests flat on the water (supine) and is quite still as the right hand creates the rotation to the left.

Body rotating on the long axis – note relaxed head position.

Vertical kick – straight arm scull

The body is vertical in the water and the swimmer flutter kicks to maintain position. The arms gradually rise above the head to an outstretched position and the scull to maintain body position. The flutter kick is faster as the arms rise out the water.

Reverse vertical kick – arms extended scull

The swimmer is upside down in the water and the arms extend towards the bottom of the pool. The feed are kept very still to maintain the inverted position. The arms then scull vigorously at the side to maintain this difficult position. It is also important to control breathing (exhalation) in this position.

Scull fly turn

The swimmer sculls out in front in a prone position, kicking gently, and then turns as if hitting the wall for the fly turn. The swimmer continues sculling after the turn.

Scull breast turn

The same drill as the ‘scull fly turn’ but the swimmer angles arm behind the head during the turn which is a recommended technique. The swimmer continues sculling after the turn.

Advanced-level drills

Advanced drills include a series of turns to improve turning technique and sculling efficiency.

Scull fly/back turn

Body start in prone position with arms sculling in front. The body turns from front to back and the sculling continues with arms extended.

Back/breast turn

The body is in supine position with the left hand and arm above the head and right hand at the side. The swimmer rotates from back to front, with one hand forwards from the body. After the turn the arms continue sculling and the body is outstretched.

Fly/breast turn

The swimmer starts sculling with arms outstretched and then turns. Arms continue to scull out in front of the body.

Breast/breast turn

The swimmer sculls in front of the body and the performs the breaststroke turn. Sculling continues with outstretched arms.

Fly/fly turn

Same routine as for the ‘breast/breast turn’.

Vertical fly kick

The swimmer adopts a vertical position and starts the dolphin kick. As the swimmer stabilizes the position, the arms rise out of the water to an outstretched position and re-enter the water. Then the arms scull at the side.

Fly kick on side

The swimmer dolphin kick on the side. One arm is extended in front of the head, sculling, and the other arm is by the side. The swimmer then turns onto the opposite side to repeat the drill (left and right sides).

2-4-6 freestyle

The swimmer completes two freestyle arms before rotating forwards and continuing the stroke. The swimmer turns after two, four and then six strokes. After the drill is completed the swimmer sculls. This drill can be repeated after the first sequence is finished.

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Reference AUSTSWIM

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