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↓ Scroll down for access to 3 ways to Improve your Freestyle Catch:
1.) Perform EVF Drill with a Theraband on Land
A theraband can easily be used to mimic the motion needed to obtain an EVF. By doing this motion outside the pool, it will help train your brain to understand and feel the position, before adding in the additional resistance of the water.
Attach the theraband to a doorknob or something about at your hip height. Grab both ends of the theraband and hinge at your hips. Extend your arms out in front of you and drop your head down. From there alternate arms, starting from the fully extended arm position with the finger tips facing forward and ending at the 90-degree bent elbow position with the finger tips facing down.
If you struggle to achieve the 90-degree end position, your shoulder may be too tight and you should perform the sleeper stretch on a regular basis to help maintain a healthy range of motion. Without healthy shoulders, you will not be able to get into that high elbow position.
Recommendation: 3×30 on each arm, daily
2.) Improve the internal rotation of your shoulders:
Due to the repetitive, overhead motion used in the Freestyle stroke, most swimmers experience tightness in their shoulders at some point during their training. The main muscles involved in this forward, overhead movement are the Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, and the Deltoids. If these muscles are continually over-strengthened in comparison to the upper back muscles, there will be an imbalance seen. This imbalance affects the flexibility of the shoulder joint and its ability to rotate forward (towards the axis of the body).
In order to achieve an early vertical forearm, a swimmer must have an abundance of internal rotation. If the imbalance talked about above is seen, a swimmer can improve their internal rotation by performing the “sleep stretch”.
This stretch is done on your side with your elbow bent to 90 degrees. The elbow is parallel to the shoulder and the palm is down. The opposite arm pushes down slightly on the front of the forearm until a stretch is felt. If you have pain at anytime during this stretch, stop and consult a doctor.
The key to this stretch is to keep the back of the shoulder (of the one being stretched) on the ground. If you have an imbalance, the back of your shoulder (of the one being stretched) will pop up as you push the forearm towards the ground for compensation purposes.
If this happens to you, stop just before the back of your shoulder pops up and hold this stretched position for 30 seconds.
Recommendation: 3×30 seconds before and after you swim.
3.) Swim with a Focus on Keeping the Elbow Forward for as Long as Possible
The analogy I like to use with my swimmers is to avoid swimming like your petting your cat. If you take your hand and pretend like you’re petting a cat, you’ll notice that your elbow drops immediately and starts moving backwards as your hand rubs the cat’s back. The position you want to swim in (an EVF position)–is the complete opposite of this “cat-petting position.”
Grab a pull-buoy and snorkel– let’s do a few sculling drills. Extend both arms forward in front of you, while you’re face down in the water. From there, hinge both arms the elbow (keeping both elbows forward), but moving the hand and forearm backwards until you reach a 90-degree position with your upper arms and elbows. From there extend your elbows back to your original starting position. This sculling drill is EXACTLY the same motion as the theraband exercise, but works with your body in the water.
The next step is to perform the same sculling drill, but once you reach that 90-degree elbow allow your elbow to move backwards to finish the pull with your hand and forearm–performing an entire underwater recovery!
Recommendation: Try 2×25’s of the EVF drill only. Then 2×25’s with the entire underwater recovery scull.