Many swimming techniques focus on the arms, legs or core, but you can greatly improve your speed and precision when you focus on proper wrist position. The position of your wrist while swimming really depends on what type of stroke you're swimming. From a flexed wrist to a straight one, when you bend this muscle a certain way, you'll see improved stroke performance.
Swimming freestyle means mastering the art of keeping your wrist straight. The goal is to have your arm enter the water each time as smoothly as possible. This is helped when your wrist is straight, as it can pull more water behind you, thereby giving you more power in the stroke. That said, you don't want your wrist to enter the water flatly -- the position of your wrist as it enters the water should be at an angle that makes sense to entering the water. Your palm should face down, and your wrist, while still straight, should enter the water at about a 10- to 15-degree angle.
How your wrist is positioned during breaststroke depends on where you are in the stroke. As you bring both of your hands in toward your body, your wrists should be coming together naturally at about a 45-degree angle. Once you extend your arms outward, however, your wrists should be as straight as possible. You want your hands to slide over the water as if it were glass, so extend your wrists along with your hands. When you go to pull your arms back in as you take another stroke, keep your wrists loose and flexible so your hands can pull as much water as possible.
Unlike freestyle, where your hand is entering the water in front of your face, your hands enter the water slightly outside the shoulder when you swim backstroke. U.S. Masters Swimming recommends hands enter the water at the "eleven and one o'clock" position, with the pinky edge of the hand first. So this leaves your wrist at a bit of an angle, a stark contrast to the rigidly straight wrist you want when you swim freestyle.
When swimming butterfly, the sweep of your arms forces your arms to lock in straight, but keep your hands and wrists relaxed. In fact, your wrists should lead the recovery, or the end of the stroke. You want your wrists to aim for the end of the pool as opposed to forcefully down on the water, then have your hands follow.
Nadia Osman is a California-based writer. She has covered travel, real estate, fashion, fitness and other topics for various online publications. Osman holds a B.A. in history from UC Irvine.