Swimming Propulsion

Propulsion, is the backward force we create against the water to move us forward. Propulsion defines our potential velocity provided we have mastered our body position. Optimally both the arms and legs are providing propulsion but will be strongly favored towards the arms. The arm should be maximizing the force in the backward direction by providing a large surface area to pull against with the large muscles of the body including pecks and lats. There are a couple common misconceptions:

  • The 'high' elbow should remain near the surface of the water.
  • My legs are strong so I should be a great kicker.
  • Pulling faster is always better. 

Kicking and pulling are difficult for very different reasons. Kicking is primarily difficult due the lack of flexibility in the legs, ankles and feet. While pulling is challenging due to water being an unnatural substance for people, the 'feeling' of the water comes with time. Putting it all together in an athletic movement requires great coordination and core stability. 




Pull - Catch

Arm 'slips' through the water; meaning the arm moves too fast with the elbow leading.

The catch occurs too late in the stroke, with the arm becoming vertical after the shoulder. 

The hand and forearm become vertical in front of the shoulder; with the lats engaging early. 

Pull - Powerphase

The palm and forearms face the bottom of the pool as the arm pulls through.  As the arm pulls back it starts to move away from the mid-line of the body.  The hand and forearm are vertical through the pull, with the pull under the body. 

Pull - Finish

The hand finishes well short of the hips.  The arm/hand is pulling outwards not backwards.  The arm/hand is pulling past the hips. 


The legs are primarily bending from the knee with the hip joint fairly stable; kicking outside of the shadow of the body.  The legs are fairly straight, keeping the legs within the shadow of the body; however the legs are very stiff. The kick is starting from the hip flexors and glutes; with a relaxed and flexible leg; allowing for backward force and limited drag. 

Athletic Movement

The legs, arms and body are uncoordinated.  The legs, arms and body are coordinated but lacking power through the trunk rotations.  The legs, arms and body are coordinated, generating power through the rotational/counter balancing movements.