Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

How can I avoid crossing my arms at the start of my stroke?

Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

I have been told that I cross over my arms at the front of my stroke. Why is this a problem and how can I best rectify it?
Ian Pashley

I have had several swimmers come to me with a cross-over at the front of the stroke. Luckily it is an easy problem to rectify.

It is detrimental to your stroke as entering directly on your centre line puts a lot of pressure across your shoulder joint, which can, in time, lead to rotator cuff problems.

Directly after the entry you should be aiming to get directly into the catch position (the underwater phase of your stroke). The catch is most efficient when the arm is slightly wider than the shoulder, with fingertips down while bending at the elbow. This is why it is better to enter in-line or a fraction wider than the shoulder to assist you in starting the catch as soon as possible.

One way to rectify a cross-over is to think that I’ve taken you to my home county of Cornwall and we are surfing. When paddling a long board you would always enter at the front wider than your centre line – to stop you from hitting the surf board. Another way is to imagine you are entering the water at 10 to 2 on a clock face; this should lead to a perfect hand entry. Ask a friend to watch you and give you feedback as often people feel as if they are swimming really wide but are actually still in front of the centre line. I hope this helps.

“Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm intoit.Iamso fortunate to have found these new outlets for that enthusiasm.”

Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Cassie now coaches and is a frequent commentator at open water events.


Email your questions to: with the subject ‘Coach Cassie’

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