It's undoubtedly the most important propulsive element in swimming and, unfortunately for most swimmers, it also the most elusive. The bad news is that all the streamlining and effective conditioning won't make-up for a dropped-elbow stroke, the antecedent of a good swimmer's catch or EVF (early vertical forearm). The good news is that coaches have new equipment and know more about how to train swimmers so they can acquire and improve this critical skill.
By analyzing videos of Olympic and World Record Holders, coaches and swimmers will see what a great catch looks like. All world class swimmers, in every competitive stroke, start with an extension of the arm(s) followed by a catch that moves the hand and forearm into the all important early vertical catch position. A great EVF doesn't just happen, it takes specific shoulder strength to put the hand/forearm into that crucial position. Knowing what to look for and understanding the mechanics of the swimmer's catch and the EVF position is just the start to improving it.
If swimmers can't demonstrate the EVF position out of the water, a vast majority won't accomplish the skill in the water. Every swimmer should be able to demonstrate what an EVF looks like to their swim coach. Coaches should give themselves plenty of opportunities to see that their swimmers can perform the skill correctly. These pictures show swimmers performing simple EVF isometrics (Swimmers can mimic the catch for all strokes using isometrics).
Swimmers should be able to show the EVF position while:
- Standing up
- Bending over as they mimic swimming
- While lying on their front and on their back (on a bleacher)
Dry-land Exercises for EVF SwimmingStrength training exercises must be incorporated in every swimmers training regime. Young or old, the benefits of a comprehensive and safe strength training program to swimmers are immense. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) may be the most respected organizations dealing with exercise and its benefits. The ACSM has drawn conclusions as to the safety and importance of incorporating strength training for young children to adults. Swimmers will improve more and faster when a good strength training program is in place.
General strength training should be at the core of every program and must be accompanied with auxiliary EVF exercises. The EVF exercises include specific shoulder and back routines. These specific exercises must be incorporated religiously into a swimmer's training regime to promote an effective EVF and are vital to improving the catch. It's important to note that the EVF exercises are in addition to and not exclusive to a comprehensive resistance training program.Swimmer's Dryland Exercises for Developing a Swimmer's EVF Catch Technique - Part I
Swimmer's Dryland Exercises for Developing a Swimmer's EVF Catch - Part II
Luebbers, Mat. "Swimmer's Shoulder and Related Info."
Network Task Force on Injury Prevention, "Shoulder Injury Prevention."
Morrissey, MC, EA Harman, and MJ Johnson. "Resistance training modes: specificity and effectiveness."
Swimming World, "Freestyle Catch vs Release."