How do I rectify a thumb-first hand entry?

Cassie At Bude Sea Pool

Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

Many moons ago I was taught a thumb-first hand entry. I now know this is wrong but I am finding it hard to rectify. Any tips?
Sharon Green

Coach Cassie says:
Join the thumb-first club! I too was taught to swim with a thumb-first entry – and it was a contributing factor to my ongoing shoulder injury and early retirement from swimming. I am glad to hear you are trying to change this as a finger first entry is both more efficient as you are in the best position to ‘catch’ the water in the propulsive phase and it also relieves a lot of unnecessary tension on the bicep head tendon.

The way I coach this is to imagine your hand is a letter and the water is a letterbox – you are aiming to slide your three middle fingertips into the water first, this assists in flattening the hand and stopping the thumb from entering first. There are paddles that can give you feedback on whether your entry is correct (see the article ‘Fine tune your catch’ in the training section of

Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Cassie now coaches and is a commentator at open water events. @cassiepatten

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

01 Cover April

Issue 37 April 2020

  • The Vicar of Dipping: Spirituality, connectedness and the instant hit of wild swimming with the Reverend Kate Bottley
  • Swimming to Recovery: How open water swimming helped Simon Harmer recover from losing both his legs in Afghanistan
  • Adventures in Winter Swimming: What happened when Olympian Keri-anne Payne tried cold water swimming?
  • The Return of the Fish Hawk: Swimming and nature
  • How to Swim Faster: Training ideas to pick up your pace

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