[three_fourth_last]Katie Ledecky smashed the women’s 400m freestyle world record last week in a time of 3:58.86. Here’s our top 5 freestyle technique takeaways from the swim.

1. Don’t Hang Around (While Breathing)

Kate Ledecky breathing

This image shows Ledecky after taking a breath. She’s gets her breath quickly and returns her face back down right away. Her lead arm supports her while breathing which helps her get a better catch with that arm. In our work with triathletes and Master’s swimmers we see about 10% of athletes pulling through too early while breathing which means they miss the early part of their catch.

2. High Elbow Recovery Past Head

Kate Ledecky World Record 400m Freestyle

Ledecky keeps a high elbow just past her head during the recovery. This ensures she enters with her fingertips first, followed by her wrist then elbow. It also helps her use her the bigger muscles in her back and shoulder to bring her arm over in the recovery (rather than just her deltoids like we often see with athletes that recover with a low elbow).

3. Head Stays Low When Breathing

Kate Ledecky Breathing

This image shows the highest point at which Ledecky brings her mouth above the surface. She rotates her head to the lowest point at which she can get a breath which allows her to keep one goggle in the water (split vision). Swimmers will often rotate their head all the way out of the water which causes their elbow to drop and hip to push out to the side. This results in a poor catch and increased drag on the body.

4. Perfect Alignment

kate ledecky pull and entry

Ledecky enters in front of her ear each time, holds the extension inline with her shoulder and then pulls through following the outside line of her body. This not only puts her in the most streamlined position possible during each stroke but it helps drive her forward as she doesn’t come across her body or go out wide when pulling (which we see in about 60% of athletes before we begin working with them).

5. Hand Always Angled Down From Forearm During Pull

Kate Ledecky Pull Freestyle

In every part of her catch and pull, Ledecky maintains a forward hand position where she angles her hand slightly down from her forearm. This helps her hold more water with each stroke and allows her to ‘anchor’ herself during the catch phase and drive her body past her hand. It’s common for beginners to drop their wrist when extending forward.

In our email newsletter we regularly share freestyle tips to help swimmers and triathletes unlock their own swim speed.

Watch the full video below (select a slower play speed to watch it in slow motion):