Jun 012013

Success CompassDid you know that you have a secret compass on your body that can help guide you to success in each of your four swim strokes? Yup. It’s true. That secret compass is your middle finger. Now before you go getting all high and mighty, or extending certain body parts toward me, hear me out. Freestyle is probably the best example of using your middle finger to guide you all the way through the pull sequence. I kid you not.

When reaching out front to enter your hand into the water, let the middle finger be the first entry point into the water. Use your core to rotate slightly onto your side (about a 30 degree rotation) to extend your reach and have that reach be straight out from your shoulder. Slip your hand in and let that middle finger (all fingers) point straight to the other end of the pool.

Click here for a great SwimSmooth article on Freestyle Catch and Feel for the Water

Click here for a great SwimSmooth article on Freestyle Catch and Feel for the Water

Now, guide your middle finger from there to the pool bottom early in your underwater pull – keeping the elbow high and forward as long as you can. This helps you engage your largest muscles in the upper body, your latissimus dorsi (lats) and gives you lots of Superman powers on your pull.

An example of proper hand alignment and good early vertical forearm

An example of proper hand alignment and good early vertical forearm

Use these puppies - you won't regret it.

Use these puppies – you won’t regret it.

Get your stroke looking like the above graphic, not these gentlemen in the next two graphics.

The swimmer here is pressing down from the surface with a straight arm (no early vertical forearm). This motion pushes his head and torso up, causing his legs and hips to drop, all of which is creating drag.

The swimmer here is pressing down from the surface with a straight arm (no early vertical forearm). This motion pushes his head and torso up, causing his legs and hips to drop, all of which creates drag. He is also not able to use his big muscles, the lats, and is using shoulder muscles that aren’t as strong and well equipped as those big lats. This is a set up for a potential shoulder injury!



This angle really demonstrates what that straight arm can do to change the balance in a bad way!

Once your fingertips have reached “vertical” (fingers pointing straight down), now drive that middle finger straight back to your hip (not into or inside your body line). In the below graphic, this would be sequence C & D.

Freestyle Catch to PowerPhase

All that is left is to recover your hand over the top. Exit with the middle finger again pointing toward the pool bottom with your elbow high and hand relaxed.

Relaxed recovery, high elbow

Relaxed recovery, high elbow

For other articles on freestyle technique on this Swymnuts website, simply enter “freestyle” into the search engine in the upper right of this website. Some specific posts that might help you are:

Freestyle & The Ice Block

Get Hip With Your Hips in Freestyle

Head to the pool and put that middle finger to work! Remember, not at your coach, not at your fellow “gutter buddies”. Only at the other end of the pool and the pool bottom.









Sep 052012

Want to know what Early Vertical Forearm looks like? Below is a video from SwimAffect that shows a point by point breakdown of front quadrant freestyle with a high elbow. As you watch the video, take note of not just the front part of the stroke where they demonstrate early vertical forearm, but also look at the back half of the stroke.

Something I learned from Coach Stu Kahn (Davis Aquatic Masters) at the 2012 USMS High Performance Camp in Greensboro, NC last week was to consider a Late Vertical Forearm and an Even Later Vertical Palm.

A Late Vertical Forearm is the back half of your freestyle pull where you are at 90 degrees finishing the Early Vertical Forearm. It is the second fastest spot in your freestyle stroke! To find speed, you need to accelerate your hand all the way through the back half of the pull while maintaining a position with your palm pushing water back (but not up). Your opposite arm is out in front at the point you begin your Late Vertical Forearm.

The Even Later Vertical Palm – ELVP – is key to that back half of your stroke. Coach Stu used imagery as a way to guide your stroke. Picture yourself grabbing on to a block of ice in the front where you make your initial catch. Initially you pull the ice until you go from EVF to LVF at that 90-degree mark. From that point you are then pushing the ice block back, hence the need for the palm pushing back all the way to your hip.

Coach Stu’s tip is to “close your armpit” as you transition from EVF to LVF (feel like you are popping a small balloon in your armpit). Your wrist should be flexed when you get down to your waist, not pushing up to the sky. Hold the water all the way back. Some of the world’s greatest freestylers swim in this fashion: Ryk Needling, Michael Klimt, Inge de Bruijn, Federica Pelligrini, Ian Thorpe, Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin, and Katie Ledecky to name a few. While they may vary in the front end of their stroke, it is in the back end of their stroke that they share a common element of a palm push. Even the great Cal sprinter Nathan Adrian doesn’t really have an EVF (he has a straight arm style), but does have a very strong LVF and ELVP. Remember Janet Evans? She held on to the water on the back half of her stroke and that is what made her incredibly efficient even with an otherwise un-textbook windmill straight arm stroke and no early vertical forearm.

An easy way to wrap up here is to remember to:

  1. catch the water sooner
  2. hold on to it longer
  3. accelerate your hands through the pull / push of the ice block

Apr 292012

Ok, probably a no-brainer for most of you, but did you know that there are a variety of freestyle types? Sure, we all know that your freestyle may look different than your “gutter buddies”. But did you know that there are formal names for some of those different looks? Well, thanks to The Race Club, we’ve got some good descriptions of those different styles along with when you might want to change up and try a different style.

In the video link at the end of this post, Gary Hall Sr (Olympian and super freestyler!) demonstrates and narrates four different styles:

  1. Hip Driven Freestyle
  2. Shoulder Driven Freestyle
  3. Shoulder Driven 2-beat kick Freestyle
  4. Hybrid Freestyle

“Yeah, so what?” you might be saying. Well, check it out. A shoulder driven freestyle is used when you need to get up and go – you know, when you want to beat the person in the lane next to you. But a hip driven stroke might be what you would apply in your warm ups and in longer swims. Here’s a brief breakdown of each style. To really understand them, check out the video link below.

  1. Hip Driven. This is a style you might use in longer events. It has a lower stroke rate, roughly 67-71. In this style, your hand enters and extends out front and holds just a little longer than the other styles. Your hip is driving the rotation and your shoulders. This requires a good steady kick in order to do this style correctly.
  2. Shoulder Driven. You see this in 50 freestyles and some swimmers mix two styles of freestyle in a race and use this shoulder driven style at the end of their race. It has a much higher stroke rate, anywhere from 80-90. In this style, the hand enters and catches quickly, going into that early vertical forearm right after entry. Your hand doesn’t extend on entry, it catches quickly and drives that stroke rate higher. Your shoulders are the driving force here.
  3. Shoulder Driven with a 2-Beat Kick. This is rare as it is tougher to pull off an increased stroke rate with a very low kick rate. Here your leg kicks opposite of the arm stroke. So if you are about to enter the water with your right hand, your left foot starts the down kick. Your stroke rate on this hovers around 90. I find this darned impossible, as my legs want to kick furiously!
  4. Hybrid Freestyle. This has emerged over the last several years. You see it in some of the Olympians like Jason Lezak, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. You’ll recognize it because the swimmer seems to have a “hitch” in their stroke. In this hybrid style, swimmers are combining a shoulder driven style with a hip driven style. They have a quick catch on one side (shoulder driven) and on their breathing side they are using a hip driven style as they push out their shoulder and hold their catch just a little longer on the breathing side. This is often seen on 200s or 400s (or longer such as in open water). You do need strong legs for this stroke style to be effective. The stroke rate is generally 75-85.

Here is the video link: http://www.theraceclub.net/videos/freestyle-picking-the-right-technique/ Hit the water and see if you can do each of these styles. Can you change your style to get up and go? Or, if you are already that shoulder driven style, can you switch to either a hybrid or hip driven style?