By performing the Catch Up drill a coach and swimmer can focus on body rotation, the pull & recovery phase of the arm stroke, the breathing and overall coordination of a freestyle stroke by breaking it down into half cycles. As all stokes start by building from the body position, it makes sense for us to start there.
This drill can be used to focus on rotation during a stroke cycle. As the pull is initiated, the hand & arm catch the water before moving into the mid-point of the stroke – here the arm is at a right angle to the body and the forearm is at a right angle to the upper arm, with fingers pointing down/palm back towards the direction of the feet. It’s just past this point where the body can begin to rotate as the torso, hips and legs turning up to 90 degrees (whilst the hand presses back towards the exit of the pull phase, past the hips). The swimmer should have a fully extended reach from one arm to the other. As the arm recovers back to the starting position, the body rotates back to horizontal.
Catch up is a very versatile drill. For working on each arm pull at a time a swimmer can really concentrate on each phase of the action. For example, if you wanted to work on the catch of your stroke and develop an early vertical forearm (EVF) for more efficiency, then catch up would prove highly useful with it being performed in half stroke cycles (one are at a time).
This drill can be extremely useful to those who struggle breathing to both sides (bilaterally). This is a common fault/issue that is seen in budding triathletes and by applying this drill which slows down the stroke rate it can help a swimmer to develop a stroke that is evenly balanced on both side – if you are able to rotate well enough to both sides then adding in a breath (whether that be through trickle breathing or explosive breathing)
Essentially, catch up is full stroke front crawl but simply slowing down the arm cycles; this means that you can easily progress into full stroke from here by adding in a continuous arm action where one arm doesn’t ‘catch up’ to the other. When performed well enough this drill can build a strong freestyle and is one of the most commonly used practices amongst teachers & coaches.