Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

Why does swimming with arms wider apart help in open water?

Why is swimming with arms slightly wider apart meant to help in open water?
Charlotte Simon

Swimming with your arms slightly wider apart is better not just for open water, but also for pool swimming and also general shoulder health. The optimum distance your hands should be is roughly ‘10 to two’, if your centre point (the point directly in the middle of your head pointing forward in the direction you’re swimming ) is 12 o’clock.

This means that your hands should enter the water in line or just ever so slightly outside of your shoulders.

The  main reason for doing this is that your body is stronger at applying pressure when your arms are slightly wider than your shoulders. A way to prove this is to think how do you naturally push yourself over a high wall when getting out of the swimming pool if you don’t rest your elbows on the poolside? You would always place your hands slightly wider than shoulders, elbows high and push down to lift yourself out of the water; you would never place hands in front of your body and try to push straight up. The same principle allows you to apply more pressure in the catch phase of your stroke.

It is particularly useful in open water as it allows you to have a sturdier base when swimming against or into waves while rotating from the hips, thus allowing you to continue straight, rather than being pushed about.

“Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm into it. I am so 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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