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tomtopo
November 14th, 2008, 08:26 AM
Let me help my colleagues with factual information taken from experts in the field of competitive swimming. First: A catch or Early Vertical Forearm is a motion common to every swimmer in the universe. Unless you swim with a completely straight arm in the first and second quadrant of a stroke, you are swimming with an EVF. The only question you should have is; how early do I get my arm vertical? Think of the catch from the standpoint of a bell curve, where on one end the swimmer swims with a perfectly straight arm and on the other end the swimmer rotates the hand under the elbow while the arm (above the elbow) is straight and touching the head. You can imagine it’s impossible to find a swimmer who is strictly on either end. Everyone should try to improve their EVF but individual anatomical strengths, weaknesses and differences create limitations.

Second; Muscular imbalance and/or weakness is the primary cause of shoulder problems. Muscles work in pairs to provide movement and stability and when one of the sets is to strong it can create an environment that may strain or tear soft tissue. All swimmers should have a shoulder strengthening program to help them reduce or eliminate the chance of acquiring a shoulder problem. An imbalance or weakness in shoulder muscles cause shoulder pain and possible debilitation to one degree or another. All muscles work in pairs and when both are weak or one is much stronger than the other, the imbalance can cause problems. This is why swimmers with stable shoulder muscles rarely have shoulder problems and swimmers with weak or imbalanced shoulder muscles do.

Third; (taken from one of the following articles) Coaches and swimmers should know there are many possible causes of shoulder problems. The main culprits of swimmer's shoulder are:
• Faulty stroke mechanics
• Sudden increases in training loads or intensity
• Repetitive micro-traumas related to overuse
• Training errors (such as unbalanced strength development)
• Overuse of training devices like hand paddles
• Higher levels of swimming experience
• High percentage of freestyle swum in practices
• Weaknesses in the upper trapezius and serratus anterior
• Weakness or tightness of the posterior cuff muscles (infraspinatus and teres minor)
• A hyper-mobile or lax shoulder joint

Early Vertical Forearm Training specifically isolates and strengthens the shoulder muscles and should not be avoided. In the world of competitive swimming, swimmer's shoulder is not a good thing! Strength training exercises will help defend swimmers against shoulder related problems. More importantly, the avoidance of shoulder strengthening exercises may actually increase the chances of a swimmer acquiring shoulder problems in the future.


Please read the following articles so you can help yourself and your swimmers. Get yourself and your swimmers on a shoulder strengthening regime so shoulder problems can be all but eliminated. A knowledgeable swimmer and/or coach will help you avoid some of the above “culprits” causing your shoulder problem. Try not to listen to anecdotal information that may be a little more than simple nonsense. When you have an injury, a good rule of thumb is; Find an orthopedic sports specialist (MD) who gets their patients back into action without surgery.




Shoulder Injury Prevention

Presented by USA Swimming and the Network Task Force on Injury Prevention. (April 2002)

Introduction by Scott Rodeo, MD // Chair of the USA Swimming Sports Medicine/Science Committee and Team Physician for the NFL’s NY Giants

http://www.usaswimming.org/USASWeb/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=445&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en&mid=702&ItemId=700




EVF training specifically isolates and strengthens the shoulder muscles and should not be avoided. In the world of competitive swimming, swimmer's shoulder is not a good thing! Strength training exercises will help defend swimmers against shoulder related problems. More importantly, the avoidance of shoulder strengthening exercises may actually increase the chances of a swimmer acquiring shoulder problems in the future.
Coaches and swimmers should know there are many possible causes of shoulder problems. The main culprits of swimmer's shoulder are:

Faulty stroke mechanics
Sudden increases in training loads or intensity
Repetitive micro-traumas related to overuse
Training errors (such as unbalanced strength development)
Overuse of training devices like hand paddles
Higher levels of swimming experience
High percentage of freestyle swum in practices
Weaknesses in the upper trapezius and serratus anterior
Weakness or tightness of the posterior cuff muscles (infraspinatus and teres minor)
A hyper-mobile or lax shoulder joint (Some stretches may cause more problems) See this Power point ---
http://usaswimming.org/USASWeb/_Rainbow/Documents/75451fd8-1efb-413b-9951-9972ae0112c0/Shoulder%20Stretch%20Convention%202007%20092307%20 %5BCompatibility%20Mode%5D.pdf

A swimmer may cycle their arms as many as 16,000 times in a week, so it's easy to understand why a coach should develop a strategy designed to strengthen the posterior rotator cuff muscles. Without a strong upper trapezius, serratus anterior, and shoulder cuff, improving the EVF becomes much more difficult.
Coaches should focus on the following muscles and groups to help decrease shoulder problems:
The rotator cuff
The muscles that stabilize the shoulder blade - trapezius, serratus anterior muscles
The muscles of the low back, abdominal, and pelvis - the "core" of the body - the abs and lower back
A good dry-land program should help swimmers develop muscular symmetry and that can be accomplished by training opposite muscle groups. The following list can act as a template from which coaches can expand or create their own resistance programs. Specific swimming (EVF) exercises are added to these core exercises and shouldn't eliminate or exclude basic muscle group exercises:
Push-ups/Flys + Back-Row/Reverse Flys*
Curls/Reverse Curls + Triceps extensions/Dips
Core Abdominals + Core Back*
Quad-Extensions + Hamstring Curls/Gastroc/Soleus
Pull-ups/Chin-ups + Military Press*
Internal Rotators + External Rotators
*EVF Exercises are done in these exercise groups using stretch cords, isometrics and/or light dumbbells
The use of isometrics in conjunction with surgical tubing or therapy-bands can reduce strength training time dramatically. Isometrics isolate and strengthen only the muscles they train. They may slow down muscled contraction response and this may help slow the swimmers "dropped elbow" habit or discourage it. An isometric exercise specifically targets a single and a training response can be achieved with ten to twenty second bouts at 80% effort. Isometrics can improve and greatly reinforce the EVF position.
Evf Isometric Training - Getting Started
Once the training regime is understood and becomes an honored team tradition, the program should be expected to evolve where distance swimmers may have a different regime than sprinters just as flyers may follow a different program than backstroker's, but a daily routine must be adhered to by every swimmer. When a training response is realized, an increase of resistance, time or both should be initiated.


I am developing a swimming specific strength training video (free) that I should have ready for presentation in a few month. Good luck – Coach T.


Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.

Typhoons Coach
November 14th, 2008, 09:53 AM
Excellent post, Coach T!