Once the elbow has locked at the end of your entry into the water, it is time to initiate your 'Catch'. The catch is the moment when your lead arm transitions from slicing through the water in the direction of travel, to catching a new body of water - ready to be pulled beneath your body. The phase is extremely short, the shortest of the 5 phases - but without doubt the most critical. If you fail to effectively set up your catch, you will fail to effectively propel your body through the water during the pull phase.


Despite being so critical to the freestyle stroke, it is an extremely simple movement to perform. To set up the catch, simply flex at the elbow, so that the palm of your hand and forearm are now moving towards a more vertical position - known as an Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). Your elbow should now be outside of your shoulder, pointing towards the side-wall. 


  • Elbow flexing, pointing outwards towards side-wall

  • High Elbow

  • Wrist below elbow

  • Hand below wrist​

In the video below, you will find some useful drills for developing the catch phase of your stroke.

  • Front Scull (0:38)

  • Doggy Paddle (1:56)

  • Water Polo (3:45)