View Full Version : Swim Speed article - You're editing and criticism is welcome

November 24th, 2007, 09:24 AM
I'd like to publish this someday but it needs tweaking and maybe more than that. Your help is greatly appreciated

Swimming Speed and Critical EVF Habit Formation

How to get swimmers to form the most efficient technical swimming habits is a fascinating subject and of vital interest to swimming coaches. Ailleen Ludington M.D., and Hans Diehl Dr.PH., talk about this thing called a “habit”, (1) “Most people find it takes about three weeks to form one new habit, (and) only by building new habits that are stronger than the old. The new choice must be made repeatedly, over and over.” Ludington and Diehl go onto explain the physiology of why habits are so hard to change and why it easy to revert back to an old habit. This information shows coaches why it’s so important to maintain consistent and effective training regimes in and out of the water.
Some researchers; Pink and Jobe (1996) show that swimmers can take over 16,000 strokes in a one week period. The concept of building a foundation of endurance at the beginning of the season in a hope of time drops, is counter-productive at best and at worst reinforces habits that will hinder the hopes of substantial time drops. Without a foundation of great swimming mechanics, improved mechanics or productive physical growth, competitive swimmers are destined to “yo-yo” seasons where they start slow and attain nearly the same time as the previous year.
It’s estimated that out of every 11,000 signals we receive from our senses, our brain only consciously processes 40.” (2) Giving swimmers more than one skill to improve doesn’t make sense so what skills will you make into effective habits designed to simply make swimmers FAST!
Eleven coaches at the recent Senior Nationals at Irvine California were asked the question; what would you teach first when teaching the freestyle. Nine of the eleven said the catch (Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). (3) Like every good swimming coach, no one dismisses the importance of streamlining, timing, kicking, and many other skills vital to swimming speed but if EVF acquisition isn’t at the top of your list it should be.
The opposite and enemy of a great EVF is an elbow that leads a competitive stroke. Emmett Hines wrote a great article (4) that should be required reading for all swimming coaches. Coaches need to know easy and effective ways to help their swimmers acquire this skill (EVF) that was once thought to be a gift bestowed on “talented” swimmers. Coaches won’t deny the fact that natural gifts aren’t given out evenly but every swimmer can improve their EVF.
Pink and Jobe (5) talk about twelve muscles that are responsible for the movements of the arm in swimming. Strengthening the shoulder muscles responsible for the EVF position and forming an effective EVF habit must become a priority for all swimming coaches. The best way to do this is not by performing chin-ups, pull-ups, increasing the area of the hand (hand-paddles), using machines that mimic swimming strokes, tethered swimming or using dry-land stretch cord pulling exercises. All of the later have a place in swim training but are ineffective or counter-productive for the development and improvement of EVF skills / habits.
Each competitive stroke can be separated into four different segments or quadrants. The front quadrant is where propulsion initiates; the second quadrant is where the acceleration (power) of the stroke occurs; the third quadrant where the recovery is initiated and the fourth quadrant is where the recovery makes the transition to the entry. The all important EVF position can be found in the first quadrant of each stroke.
Swimmer must work diligently to improve the first quadrant of their stroke. Coaches need to know that upon entry, a fast pull either forces a dropped-elbow or if the swimmer locks their elbow and pulls with a straight arm a bobbing of the body. A fast movement of the hand also increases the vortex of water behind the hand and slippage or lost of drag/pressure. So, when you teach and drill proper EVF positioning, you must do it slowly. Think of the EVF as “setting-up” a stroke for power.
Before we address the exercises and equipment needed to form a great EVF, coaches should understand these things:
1. The “over-the-barrel” position or “catch” made popular by the late and great Dr. James Councilman is the essence of an EVF.
2. It’s ridiculous to think that an EVF is a swimming “style”! The starting propulsive stage of every stroke is an essential mechanism of propulsion and not just some world class swimmers’ exhibit it, - they all do!
3. The EVF position is a safe position There are many reasons swimmers get shoulder problems the least of which is improving their EVF (6) (7)
Isometrics greatly reinforce the EVF position and the ability of the swimmer to maintain it as they fatigue. An isometric exercise can achieve a training response if it’s performed for ten to twenty seconds at 80% effort. An isometric isolates and promotes a slower muscular movement and the EVF position requires this isolation. (8) (9) You want the muscles to hold this all-important position and isometrics are very specific in nature and do exactly that.
EVF isolation isometrics can and should be done before, during and after practices. The bouts should last between ten and twenty seconds and they should be an indispensable supplement to every dry-land program. It’s easy to do the isometrics right after each swimming, kicking or pulling set.
Now, finding EVF equipment isn’t easy. Getting the forearm in an early vertical position cannot be done with a hand-paddle no matter how different it looks or what EVF claims it makes. Subtracting the area of the hand by closing the fist or moving that area to the forearm, are the only effective ways to develop an EVF. Any added area to your hand helps a swimmer lay on their arm (not conducive to speed). Adding any area to your hand also promotes dropping the elbow. A hand paddle is wonderful for improving the power phase of the stroke but it is not and will never become an EVF training device. Put it another way, you can’t promote an EVF by putting something on your hand and increasing it’s size. That’s why using EVF equipment with an open hand or aided by wearing something on the hand dilutes or eliminates their effectiveness.
When EVF equipment is used effectively, time drops are a given but the equipment will never trump a good coach. A good coach is able to separate the important and unimportant and then give swimmers’ the guidance and directions they need to improve. With that being said if swimmers want to rise above the crowd, they must learn how to effectively dissect, self-evaluate, and make necessary corrections to their strokes.
If swimmers need to break bad habits or simply tweak their strokes so they can break a world record, they need to learn what to examine and how to correct stroke flaws. It’s all about coaches training swimmers how to examine and what to examine when they perform stroke improvement drills.
Here are a few things coaches can do to help their swimmers in the self-examination process:
1. When swimmers are performing drills, stress that they should be done slow enough to allow them time to examine what they’re doing and if they’re doing it correctly. It’s difficult for swimmers to slow down enough to examine themselves but they’ll learn that the practice can yield not only time-drops but a better understanding of stroke mechanics.
2. You can also tell them to use over-correction as a means to get the results they desire.
3. Why not ask swimmers to come in on their own time and use video equipment to analyze each other, and then compare themselves to the video of world record holders?
The following websites show both EVF exercises, isometrics and EVF equipment www.early-vertical-forearm.com and www.techpaddle.com . Early vertical forearm training is here to stay and will forever change the way coaches train their swimmers.

Good Luck!


(1) Habit formation: How to change, by Ailleen Ludington M.D., and Hans Diehl Dr.PH., http://www.thequiethour.org/resources/health/habits.php
(2) Tips for Breaking Bad Habits and Developing Good Habits, October 16, 2007 by Scott Young http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/strategies-for-breaking-bad-habits-and-cultivating-good-ones/
(3) Swimming World website video/interview Freestyle Coaching - Catch or Release
(4) In Search of the Dreaded Dropped Elbow by Coach Emmett Hines http://www.h2oustonswims.org/articles/dreaded_dropped_elbow.html
(5) The American Journal of Sports Medicine 19:577-582 (1991)
© 1991 SAGE Publications The painful shoulder during freestyle swimming. An electromyographic cinematographic analysis of twelve muscles
(6) Signs and Symptoms of Swimmers Shoulder / Causes of Swimmers Shoulder http://swimming.about.com/cs/shoulderinjury/a/endswimshoulder_3.htm
(7) Shoulder Injury Prevention was presented by USA Swimming and the Network Task Force on Injury Prevention. (April 2002) http://www.usaswimming.org/USASWeb/V...702&ItemId=700
(8) A good Review of Reseach into Strength, Morrissey, M. C., Harman, E. A., & Johnson, M. J. (1995). Resistance training modes: Specificity and effectiveness. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 27, 648-660. http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/csa/vol21/morrisse.htm
(9) Isometric Exercises Discussed by Joesph Krachenfels http://www.questformuscle.com/articles/isometric-exercise.html

Allen Stark
November 24th, 2007, 05:39 PM
I like the paper.I'm not an English Major so I won't comment on style.I think you should add some pictures of swimmers showing good EVF. I'd also like to see pictures of the isometric exercises.One drill I do for EVF is dogpaddle with a snorkle.I can watch my arms and it is one EVF after another. Please keep up the good work and I'm glad we have such an erudite contributer to our forums.