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Thread: open/closed handed freestyle??

  1. #1
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    open/closed handed freestyle??

    Hi all.

    Do we have to OPEN or CLOSE our fingers when are swimming freestyle, I mean in catch n pull stage?

    May I ask why?

    Thank you very much.

  2. #2
    Very Active Member newmastersswimmer's Avatar
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    I personally keep my fingers closed (as in I don't leave much of a gap between my fingers).....and the reasoning behind this is based on trying to catch as much water as possible during the first part of each stroke (i.e. just after the entry). If your fingers are spread apart too much it would seem (at least to me that is?) that you would end up slipping too much during the catch phase of the stroke....i.e. too much water would end up slipping through your fingers....and hence you wouldn't grab as much water as when your fingers are closed....(i.e. next to one another).

    Hopefully that makes sense?


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    Very Active Member scyfreestyler's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with Jim in theory but I have heard that it makes little to no difference in practice. I think there was some actual research done on this topic...perhaps a USMS'er will know about it and share.

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    I don't know if it's obvious. For example, everyone always assumed ski jumpers should keep their skis together in the air, then someone realized the V technique with the skis spread wide actually allowed jumpers to travel farther.

    How does this apply to swimming? I think conventional wisdom would suggest keeping the fingers together would be better because water wouldn't be able to slip through. However, spreading the fingers somewhat might actually increase the effective surface area--just like wearing paddles does.

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    I don't have any research to back this up, but I've been told to keep my fingers less than a finger-width apart. Whatever you do, don't tense up your hand too much - you don't want to waste energy trying to force your hands into the 'perfect' position.

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    I've seen many different finger positions used with some success. Natalie Coughlin broke the American record for 100m Free in 2004 with her fingers spread WIDE. I've concluded that it's one of those things about our swimming that's negotiable, but we should try to do two things:
    1) spread the hand - no cupping
    2) keep the hand relatively relaxed.

    Just for fun, hold out one of your hands and press your fingers lightly together. Don't squeeze hard at all. Then release even that light squeeze and let your fingers just "be" where they are. Which would you rather do for an hour?
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    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    This subject is nothing new, have as little tension in the hands as possible, don't press the thumb against the index finger, don't cup the hand, don't hold the fingers tight against each other. The university of Wisconcin (I'm a Canadian the spelling may be wrong) ran tests in 1950 with a flat mechanical hand with the fingers in different positons the result it makes no difference,
    Keep it simple George Park
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    Very Active Member LindsayNB's Avatar
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    I can't cite a source but I have read that all that matters is the cross sectional area of the hand, the spread of the fingers does not affect the area so it does not effect the propulsion.

    Along these lines it is interesting to consider the cross sectional area during sculling motions. If you rotate your wrist to 45 degrees you can see that spreading the fingers a bit does increase the cross sectional area as you can spread them a bit before beginning to see between them.

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    Thank you all.

    furthermore, will open-handed also reduce 'bubble' in entry and lead you to solid water??

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    Originally posted by geochuck
    This subject is nothing new, have as little tension in the hands as possible, don't press the thumb against the index finger, don't cup the hand, don't hold the fingers tight against each other. The university of Wisconcin (I'm a Canadian the spelling may be wrong) ran tests in 1950 with a flat mechanical hand with the fingers in different positons the result it makes no difference,
    I agree. In Swimming Fastest, I think he recommends entering your fingers slightly open. By nature my fingers are slightly spread. I'm finding as i get older, arthritis makes it really hard to hold my fingers together. I woudl think that the most ocmfortable or nature way would be the best.

  11. #11
    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by LindsayNB
    I can't cite a source but I have read that all that matters is the cross sectional area of the hand, the spread of the fingers does not affect the area so it does not effect the propulsion.
    Do you mean the cross-sectional area of the hand as viewed from the side or as viewed looking at the palm? In the latter case I think it does change, at least effectively, when the fingers are spread. Sort of like a skydiver. To slow down they go into a spread eagle position. Their arms and legs are still exactly the same size as they were before, but by spreading them they are creating more air resistance.

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    Very Active Member stussy96's Avatar
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    All I can say:

    Do NOT cup the hand.
    Do NOT squeeze and force your fingers together.
    Do NOT swim with your fingers apart like a frog. You do not have webbed fingers. If you do...that's interesting.

    DO keep your hands relaxed.
    DO keep your fingers together and straight, but in a comfortable position. Your "paddle" goes from your fingertips to your elbow, so the straighter you an keep all of that, the better.

  13. #13
    Very Active Member LindsayNB's Avatar
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    Originally posted by knelson
    Do you mean the cross-sectional area of the hand as viewed from the side or as viewed looking at the palm? In the latter case I think it does change, at least effectively, when the fingers are spread. Sort of like a skydiver. To slow down they go into a spread eagle position. Their arms and legs are still exactly the same size as they were before, but by spreading them they are creating more air resistance.
    I mean viewed looking at the palm. I know nothing about sky diving but my guess is that the spread eagle position has more to do with balance and control than how fast you fall, unless the sky diving suit acts as webbing. I would expect that a sky diver in a vertical position would fall faster due to the smaller profile but that your velocity would be the same if you were falling horizontally whether your limbs were out just enough to maximize your profile or spread eagled.

    I think form drag is strictly a function of profile and that this was verified by the aforementioned study.

    I suspect that the intuition that keeping your fingers together has the same basis as the intuition that cupping your hand will be effective and is based on the conception of the amount of water you are moving rather than the amount of drag is what is important. It might be instructive to think about holding your hand out, palm up, under a stream of falling sand. The sand will form a sort of cone/pyramid on your hand after which the following water will flow down the sides of the cone, water will do pretty much the same thing as you move your hand through it. Cupping your hand will result in a little more sand in your hand but that doesn't do you much good because you don't get your force by accelerating mass backward you get it from drag forces - which are reduced by the smaller profile of the cupped hand.

    I think

  14. #14
    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    Are we moving the hand through the water or are we using newtons third law? Are we actuaully pressing against that imaginary wall that is actually a wall of water?
    Last edited by geochuck; September 7th, 2006 at 10:16 AM.
    Keep it simple George Park
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    Evil Paul Smith

    Evil one..... read this string on hand and finger positions. You have been yelling at me for about a year about my thumb being spread out and extended too far from my index finger.

    It doesn't matter.

    I am right.......... you are wrong....... pay up.


    John Smith

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    Very Active Member Paul Smith's Avatar
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    Oh Contrar Mr. Smith.....

    I told you to stop dropping your thumbs to almost 90 degrees at hand entry.....a poor/lazy habit you picked up training on your own the last couple of years with opversize paddles and without my being around to yell to you......any chance that may play a part with your should problem thats emerged???!!

    Also.......I told you to keep your hand "relaxed" but to pull your thumb in rather than having it positioned like part of a big "L" as in LOSER!!

    And by the way......seems to have helped a bit considering your relay splits at worlds wouldn't you say.....so YOU pay up old man!

    PS: next year we're going to get you out of that late 70's, googles out breakout on starts/turns that you seem to take pleasure in!
    I crack myself up. It is jealousy. It is Boredom. I Did not accomplish enough when I was young, and I hate anybody faster/younger than me.

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    1970s

    Evil One,

    I will never abandon my classic late 1970s Ray Bussardesque Tennessee style head up pop up breakout on my start. That and my Compy goggles are the only remnants I have left in my life that represent stability.

    As for oversized paddles..... not me dude.... I wear the small red speedo paddles. You forget, Rich Saeger and I have size 10.5 feet and hands. YOU are the one that wears plane wings with your bouy.


    John Smith

  18. #18
    Very Active Member LindsayNB's Avatar
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    Originally posted by geochuck
    Are we moving the hand through the water or are we using newtons third law? Are we actuaully pressing against that imaginary wall that is actually a wall of water?
    It isn't an either/or situation, Newton's third law applies in all ordinary situations but if you don't move your hand through the water you don't generate any forces beyond normal water pressure which acts from all directions and cancels out.

    One the one hand you can try to feel like you are grabbing water and pulling yourself past it without your arm slipping/moving backward, and that can be useful for learning the motion, but in reality it is impossible, if you arm is not moving through the water it isn't generating any propulsion. Looking at it the other way, it is a basic property of fluids that if you apply force movement occurs.

  19. #19
    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    Debaitable Linsay

    How far does the hand move back. I have a hard time when examining videos of great swimmers seeing the hand moving through the water. What I do see is the hand enters and almost stays where it enters and the body moves past the hand. They are pushing on the wall of water???
    Keep it simple George Park
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  20. #20
    Very Active Member Paul Smith's Avatar
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    Chuck......you nailed it.

    Swimmers who try to "pull" their hands/arms thru the water can be spotted quickly......working way to hard and losing.

    Place the hand and move thru it is the "feel" that many struggle to find along with integrating the kick and core rotation. Done correctly there's virtually no sense of it being work.
    I crack myself up. It is jealousy. It is Boredom. I Did not accomplish enough when I was young, and I hate anybody faster/younger than me.

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