December 7, 2010
OH FINGERS, TO BE TOGETHER OR
NOT TOGETHER? THAT IS THE QUESTION!
(From ASCA Newsletter Issue 8 2010)
The hand shape and positioning of the fingers continues to come up as a subject of interest and some confusion. I have listened to teachers, coaches, parents and swimmers all coming up with different views over the years. Views expressed like “Cup the hand to hold the water,” “fingers together for more power,” “fingers apart less force.” Most recently this subject came up at a Swimming Coaches clinic that I attended.
As early as the 1960’s “Doc” Counsilman, at one of the early American Swimming Coaches Association Clinics, referred to studies testing various hand positions in the water from closed fist, to open hand (fingers spread). This has stuck with me over the years and I have continuously emphasized the “relaxed” hand with the fingers slightly apart. The majority of the new, younger swimmers that I have observed adopt the relaxed hand naturally.
My curiosity on this subject, just to see if I have been missing something new, I googled “Hand position, in swimming.” The results were quite interesting. The most recent one from the Journal of Biomechanics entitled: “The Optimum Finger Spacing in Human Swimming,” printed last year by Alberto Minetti, Georgios Machtsiras, and Jonathan C. Masters. I would encourage the curious to take a look at this article. The research is very well doen. The article includes graphs and photos. Disadvantages of the hand with ‘closed’ fingers is discussed. In the concluding paragraph, the authors state “It is fortunate that the (absolute) optimum spacing appears to correspond to the “natural” resting posture of fingers.”