CrossFit Endurance Swimming: Hand Lead

By Chris Michelmore and Brian Nabeta

In Coaching, CrossFit Endurance, Exercises, Videos

January 12, 2011

Video Article

Join CrossFit Endurance swimming coaches Brian Nabeta and Chris Michelmore at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., as they apply their endurance specialty to swimming.

In this video, Michelmore and Nabeta continue drilling the athletes on swimming technique. Their focus today is on the leading hand. The athletes are instructed to swim with one arm forward, palm down.

“You’re trying to keep your body in a line,” Nabeta says.

“One shoulder stacked on top of the other shoulder, one hip stacked on top of the other hip,” Michelmore adds.

“It’s your body that’s doing the balance, not your extremities. Your kick is to move you forward. Your arms are to move you forward. They are not to balance you,” Michelmore clarifies.

4min 38sec

Additional reading: Pukie at the Pool by Roy Wallack and Brian Nabeta, published April 18, 2009.

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12 Comments on “CrossFit Endurance Swimming: Hand Lead ”


wrote …

Great video! I am incorporating my crossfit endurance into my training along with regular crossfit WOD or strength days. When working on my stroke would if be beneficial if I used flippers to get more of my stroke instead. Just looking for direction. I have a half-ironman in august and I need some direction. Thanks.


replied to comment from Aaron Varcasio

No flippers allow more push on ur kicks use what's called a Pull buoy it looks like this
This will allow u to focus on your pulls without having to worry about kicking to keep ur legs up. Us this for some laps then do it without and incorporate ur kicks and see the improvement in ur stroke.


replied to comment from Aaron Varcasio


The use of fins, zoomers, pull buoy, hand paddles, is all dependent on which part of your "stroke" you are working on.

When doing the drills from this specific video/article, I would say no fins or buoys; Because, in this drill you are training your body to stabilize with your hand at the "catch position" with a (perceived) over-kick. I say perceived because, well, that will be one's first perception - but, that ~6beat kick that you are using to do the drill, is what you should look toward doing all the time.

If and when you use a pull buoy - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take advantage of the 'feel' of having your hips high in the water (where we want them to be), and give extra attention to locking in your core and using your core/hips to drive rotation rather than your shoulders



replied to comment from Aaron Varcasio


I donĀ“t know if you ever heard of Total Immersion swimming.
The founder, Terry Laughlin wrote an article for the journal couple years ago, check that out.

TI has some pretty good instructional DVDs out on each stroke with many drills you can add to your swim practice.

It helped me a bunch, check it out and good luck with your half IM.



wrote …

Dave Lipson??? Nice!


wrote …

There are many different ways to tackle the balance of the body. I have 30+ swimmers in my group with 30 different types of body types and the most common flaw that they deal with is core balance. The lead arm or hand out in front allows for the body to be longer allowing your lunges to be the flotation device for your stroke in doing balance drills. Once you start to apply this to the freestyle stroke then it is the rotation of the body, the arm stroke, kick and breathing that allow your body to continue to more forward.

I start with balance with my group and then I attack the weakness of the legs. You do not have to be a GREAT kicker to be a good swimmer but you have to be a GOOD kicker. A balanced kick within the body rotation will allow your body to stay high on the water and keep you longer in the water and thus reduce the amount of strokes you take in each lap.

Aaron, if you would like some one to look at your freestyle please email me. My email address is on the crossfit endurance site.



wrote …

Brian- Totally agree with not having to be the best kicker. With my age groupers I focus a whole lot on balance and hip rotation first. Then we work making sure the catch is solid. We work on the kick, but body position & stroke mechanics are defiantly #1 when we're working on drills. Some of my best swimmers are actually 2 beat or 4 beat kickers. The kids that are good sprinters tend kick more (in my group).


wrote …

Horrible balance in the water and I tended to sink doing everything. I bought one of the Total Immersion swimming books by Laughlin(a friend who had the same problems and was getting into sprint triathlons put me up on this book)and the drills have changed everything. Swimming is still not as easy as the biking and running for me,but at least I can swim(slowly,granted)smewhat effortlessly distances that used to have me gasping and flailing. Don't practice frustration swimming!!!!!!!


wrote …

Alfred- thanks for the feedback. Our Swimmers excel at a greater speed because they have eyes that are watching and giving constructive feedback. As Crossfit turns to swimming with adults I find it interesting that it is the same issue that some CFers have in that they need to come in with an open mind to learn and check the ego at the door.

Michael- I think Chris and I could help you become a much more efficient swimmer with feedback. Swimming can be made easier than just reading a book. You are more than welcome to join us in our CFE Swim Trainers Course.


wrote …

Holy Cow, it works. I'm just back from the pool.

I had my doubts about this one, being a very negatively buoyant guy, but I suppose I'm improving my balance, since a week or two ago I discovered how much easier it is to roll and breathe in the 'hollow' position.

I think I know where you guys are headed, that improved position and improved rolling is going to get us across the pool in fewer strokes. I'm looking forward to the next installment. Thanks!


wrote …

Thomas, that's great news! Keep at it and keep us posted on your progress. It's fun when things with like they're supposed to ;)


wrote …

I am attending a swim based selection course in a 9 months, with no formal swim experience. I was thinking of attending a CF swim course. As opposed to just trying to apply the fundamentals here on my own, how beneficial do you think attending the course will be???

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