Part II: Power of the Pinky Finger

Last week, we touched on why it’s important to engage your Pinky Finger during the Freestyle Pull. I would recommend reading Part I before Part II, as you will have a better understanding of this application.

This week, I’d like to dive deeper into this subject and specifically focus on why properly engaging your pinky and ring fingers during the Freestyle Pull–actually makes your Freestyle Pull stronger.

Let’s do a test. Stand up and put both of your hands at your side (you really only need to do this test with one hand—so if you’re holding a phone or tablet, put your hand without any device relaxed at your side). Perform a variation of the “Ping Pong drill” —make a fist with your thumb, pointer, and middle finger and do a light squeeze. Where do you feel any sensation and/or muscle contraction?

Now, try making a fist with your ring and pinky fingers (while relaxing the other three fingers)—where do you feel any sensation and/or muscle contraction?

If you performed this “test” correctly, you should have felt the first variation (with three fingers) contracting muscles on the front side of your body–specifically your bicep and chest muscles. In second variation (with two fingers), you should have felt a contraction of muscles more so on the back side of your body–specifically your triceps and lat muscles.

What just happened?

Without going into some hardcore anatomical terms, you just felt the difference between engaging a muscular chain that connects through the front of your body versus the back side of your body. When you performed the second variation, you engaged a system called the Posterior Oblique Subsystem (POS). The POS engages two main muscles in your body: the respective Latissimus Dorsi (of the side you flexed) and opposing Gluteus Maximus (the muscles that make up your bum).

What does the POS have to do with the Freestyle Pull?

The POS engages the corresponding lat and tricep muscles of the side you chose to contract. The contracted tricep is connected (fascially) to your pinky via the Ulnar Perosteum (and the Ulnar nerve). As shown in the second variation test, recruitment of your lat and tricep muscles is engaged when the pinky and ring finger are activated. Lightbulb, yet?

In conclusion, if you chose to not properly engage your pinky and ring finger during your Freestyle Pull: maybe you enter with your thumb, lead the pull with your elbow, or pull using your first three fingers—you are actually making your pull weaker. In order to fully recruit all the muscles in the POS system, the pinky and ring finger need to be flexed and slightly cupped backwards during the Freestyle Pull.

Stay tuned for Part III on how the pinky affects a swimmer’s kick strength and rhythm.

Abbie Fish

[CLICK HERE] to read Part III of this series!

4 Responses

  1. Thank YOU, Abby,
    You are offering us lots of usefull details.

    Shouldn’t the hand and fingers be rigidly straight (aiming at the far wall) upon entry and extension and THEN slightly cup the hand and fingers upon initiating the high elbow/vertical forearm motion backwards?

    Can you show us a close up picture of the ideal hand and fingers slightly cupped and bent backwards upon initiating the high elbow/vertical forearm motion backwards?

    Also, which brand of hand paddles already have the correct shape of the hand and fingers built into the shape of their paddles? I like the ones
    with a nice big hole at the center of the palm (for good “feel for the water”)

    1. Hey Chuck,

      Great questions! First of all, the fingers should always be slightly loose in order to increase the total surface area of the palm without gaining too much resistance because of holes. You can pull more water this way. I’ve got a recent Instagram video about this, lemme link it for you:

      As for paddles, I like the same type you do! I recommend the A3 Performance version. You can use the code SwimLikeA.Fish for 15% off.

      You can also read this extra blog post to help you determine WHEN your swimmers are ready for differentiation in their paddles:

      Hope this helps!

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