How to Do Split Arm Scull in Synchronized Swimming

Split arm scull is used for balancing and controlling travel in surface arch positions (or variations thereof).

In split arm scull, your arms aren’t positioned symmetrically like they are in other sculls. They’re, well, split and each arm has a separate job.

Here’s how it’s done:

Right Arm

The right arm’s job is to keep you from traveling foot-first, which is the tendency in a surface arch.

  1. Start in a surface arch position. Arch as much as your lower back and hips allow.
  2. Reach your right arm out in front of your body, palm facing you. Keep a little bend in your elbow.
  3. Scull similarly to reverse standard scull. Try to pull yourself towards the wall you’re facing.

Left Arm

The left arm’s duty is to keep you up at the surface of the water.

  1. Reach your left arm back as far under your hips and legs as possible.
  2. Bend your elbow, as much as 90-degrees. Bending more will help if you have limited back or shoulder flexibility.
  3. The palm of your left hand should always face the bottom. If it faces toward the wall in front, it will only cause you to travel foot-first (which your right hand is trying to prevent!).

Put It Together
  1. Both hands should scull at the same tempo and move in and out simultaneously.
  2. Make sure that each hand is creating water pressure.
  3. Make your scull work for you. You’ll know it’s right when you can hold your hips, legs and feet at the surface and stay in the position without traveling.

When to Use It

So exactly when should you use split arm scull? When you’re doing a Nova (or bent-knee surface arch position) or at the end of a walkover.

Nova or Bent-Knee Surface Arch

To achieve the nova position from a back layout:

Hot Tip: Use Your Body

No matter how good your split scull, you will not be able to rely on its pressure alone—remember to use your body too.

Learn to control the shape and design of your figures or hybrids with the strength of your muscles, instead of just pushing or pulling yourself into positions with your sculling. It will make you much more efficient.

  1. Start in a back layout with both hands sculling overhead.
  2. Use reverse torpedo to pull yourself across the surface. Begin arching.
  3. Switch to split arm scull when you are halfway through the arch and start bending your knee.

End of a Walkover

To keep your hips up and to keep you from traveling foot-first:

  1. Begin widening your support scull at the point during your front walkover when your leg reaches the knight position.
  2. Transfer your hands to split arm scull when you feel comfortable during the closing of the walkover. This is most likely to occur when your leg has passed the knight position.
  3. Begin to scull harder as your top leg gets closer to the surface.

Use Drills to Perfect the Scull

These drills will help you improve your split scull.

1. Just the Right Arm

  1. Start in a surface arch with your feet on the pool wall.
  2. Place your left hand behind your back, and do not use it.
  3. Scull with your right arm in split scull, and do a half of a lap travelling face-first.
  4. Keep your arch and avoid tipping chest-up and feet-down.

2. Get a Teammate’s Help

  1. Do either a Nova beginning or your walkover closing for a partner.
  2. Once you start, your partner should hold up your hips with one hand to help keep them at the surface.
  3. Repeat the drill at least twice or until you learn how it feels to keep your hips up.
  4. Try again on your own. Work your split arm scull until you achieve the same outcome that you had with your partner’s help.

Divide & Conquer

Split arm scull is a skill that will help take your figures to the next level. It will give you more control and the ability to slow down. Practice the drills and begin using the split arm where and when appropriate—soon it will become a natural part of your collection of sculling skills.

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