Fly stroke - EEK! much needed changes!

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Fly stroke - EEK! much needed changes!

Post by Don Wright on Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:03 am

Some of the good advice on fly stroke that I have heard over the years was never really "taken on board!  For instance I remember Bob Bowman on a video saying that the body action had to be a continuous undulation, or one would soon come to a halt (e.g. if I stop the undulation a few feet from the end wall - thinking there isn't room for another complete stroke - I just drift - rather than glide  forwards the remaining few feet).

 For yonks, my stroke has had a rather discontinuous body action, concentrating mainly on the position of the arms at various stages. E.g. My stroke might at first glance have been "recognizable" Rolling Eyes  but had little flowing action, almost "robotic"  in the sense of "do this-then do that-then do the next thing"!  I am at long last (it has taken a long time for basic facts to get into my thick head it seems) trying to make the body action more continuous - by making sure that at the end of any body "kick upbeat" or "kick downbeat " there is a definite "rebound" action to ensure the undulation is not broken.  This, I have discovered (at long last) determines the arm action - which must be fitted into the appropriate stages of the body's undulation.

 One obvious place for me to concentrate on alteration in the stroke cycle - is the transition from catch through to the beginning of the major kick downbeat (where the thighs are thrown forwards, but lower legs are lagging behind with feet still up near the surface). What should have been an almost semi-circular pull "out-around-back" to the ribs (the top rounded part of the familiar "keyhole" pull!) - is currently in my case almost a straight pull back after the high elbow catch.  The result of that, is that hitherto there has always been a "hiccup" between my front end and rear ends being in the correct position time-wise. I've been bringing the upper arms in close to the ribs, and while doing so, "collapsed" the elbows a bit - in what our SS forum mentor "SolarEnergy" called "passing the elbow"  (although appearing to be a "dropped elbow!  The bent elbows reduce the strain on the shoulder joints when later pushing back/up) - changing the orientation of the forearms/hands (the latter brought in close together momentarily beneath the neck or chest, ready to press down/back  for the big arms up-sweep).  My problem, is that I usually get the forearms/hands in position to press down/back a "moment" before the legs are properly in position, because of my almost straight pull back - I gotta cure this fault!!!  I.E. in my case, the arms wait a (hopefully) short while, until ready for that lower legs down-thrust.  So I've got another fault here! The knees are poking into the water flow for a hopefully short while before that lower legs kick down.  My timing of front and rear ends is all "up the creek"! Will I ever get it right?  Knowing what one ought to do and actually doing it, is a problem!

 So muggins is currently concentrating on a more continuous body action, without any slight pauses, and more "rebound" to it.  Without the "rebound" action at the end of the major kick downbeat with the legs extended - I was relying on the "toppling forwards" effect of the arms doing recovery, once they had passed the shoulder line, to act as the minor kick upbeat in raising the legs back up to the surface. So the only "power" of my minor kick, came from the kick downbeat as the arms entered the water, to counter their "pushing drag"!

There iemains the matter of of the varying head position!  I remember the classic advice that "The movement of the body follows that of the head".  As the arms enter after recovery and do a little out-sweep, wider than the the shoulders - the head should be looking at the bottom (body streamlined) while the minor kick downbeat finishes before the arms proceed down to the catch. with the head-nod downwards (pressing the buoy!) to aid the major kick upbeat as the back "curls up a bit" (muscular effort!) to bring the feet up near, or just above, the surface - in what I like to call the "scorpion position", because the back is curled back up like a scorpion's tail, while my forearms at the catch are pointing to the pool bottom with high elbows....

( Perhaps I ought to digress a bit, to say that there seems to be a popular idea that the hands are spread quite wide apart during the out-sweep, and turning just the hands to get a catch (an action that reminds me a lot, of the start of the old English Backstroke double arm out-sweep).  However, having encountered the benefit of an EVF  style catch in FS - I try to "copy" that style catch with both forearms, in my fly efforts! )....

Think we are advised to gradually raise the head again as the arms do their "scoop"  (in-sweep) action, with the thighs being thrown forwards.  So that in the subsequent thrust down by the lower legs to complete the major kick downbeat - the head is in a good position to start inhalation as soon as the head pops out of the water, as the arms do their vigorous up-sweep to the surface.  I was "looking-up" in Maglischo's great old tome, what he recommends about the head position for fly.  He seems to advocate keeping the head in a natural position during inhalation and the start of arm recovery, looking forwards but down a bit, to see the surface of the water!  Of course, as recovery proceeds and the arms swing past the shoulder line, the head naturally drops back into the water, looking more in a downward attitude, ready in a more streamlined position for the subsequent minor kick downbeat.

(Hope the above stuff makes sense when I read it back!)  Smile


Last edited by Don Wright on Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:27 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Fly stroke - EEK! much needed changes!

Post by Don Wright on Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:39 am

I think I've found the solution to my bad-timing problem! Very Happy

The problem occurred because I was "so struck" on taking the good things from FS arm action, across to fly stroke (EVF catches, and perpetrating the almost straight pull-through of the FS pull phase) that I more or less ignored the "keyhole" arm action long advocated by experts.  So I ended up with only a vague notion of when I should do the fly stroke arm action of the mandatory "passing the elbow" (see first post!) that "SolarEnergy" told me about - done simultaneously with the "throwing forwards" of the thighs to start the major kick downbeat.

It seems to me now, that the arms "scoop" (or in-sweep) can be divided into 2 phases.  The first phase extending from the catch, while the arms do a nice rounded pull until the elbows come into line with the shoulders. (while, the feet are up near the surface "out of the way" because of the head nod downwards, aiding the major kick upbeat). That marks the beginning of the second phase of the "scoop". (In my case, with the double EVF catch the first part of the pull has the upper arms parallel with the surface a few inches above the body, and the forearms/hands pointing down to the bottom.)

During the second phase of the "scoop", the elbows descend a bit lower in the water, still keeping an elbow bend of approx 90 degrees, as the forearms/hands begin to change orientation as the elbows come closer to the ribs and they come to the end of the semi-circular upper-arm sweep (changing direction from out/around to in/around). During this phase the movement of the hands slows a bit, as the elbows continue moving at the previous rate).  The hands are now in a good position ready to initially press down, then press back in the big up-sweep. The action of drawing the upper arms closer to the ribs has the effect of drawing the forearms/hands closer towards the body's long axis - where we really want the hands, momentarily close enough at this stage, so that the thumbs almost touch.

The final part of this second phase  sees the elbows very near the ribs, hands lagging behind the movement of the elbows and stuck out in front, with the head still looking down at this stage. Think you should be able to see your hands, probably beneath the head or neck, forearms/hands at an angle of some 45 degrees relative to the surface.  It is at the start of this second phase that I now believe, is the correct time to throw the thighs forwards, with the relaxed lower legs having the feet still up near the surface and the heels are drawn closer to the butt because of the knees bending. The lower legs are now in position to thrust down vigorously.  This will complete the major kick downbeat, so that the legs are fully extended, as the arms do their big up-sweep to the surface - allowing inhalation as the head breaks the surface and arm recovery (still with a bit of elbow bend).

The description of the arm action as being like that of a keyhole pattern when viewed from above is a bit simplistic.  The elbows may trace out an almost semi-circular arc (representing the rounded top part of the keyhole pattern) during the in-sweep, but the hands follow a more "squashed" arc because the hands lag behind the elbows during the latter part of the in-sweep.  Hence, yonks ago, me thinking elites were guilty of using a "dropped elbow" towards the conclusion of the in-sweep - it may look like one, but it aint!  BTW Maglischo's comment (from his old "Swimming Fastest" tome) on this is "You might wonder how the hands get underneath the body without sculling when the in-sweep with the arms is outside the shoulders..." (that's during my first part of the in-sweep!) "The way this is accomplished is by pressing the upper arms back on a slight downward diagonal.  If this action is performed correctly, the forearms and hands will quite naturally travel down, back, and in under the body."  

So what was a vague uncertain time at which to start the major kick downbeat is now much clearer to me - I have to throw those thighs forwards just as the elbows come into line with the shoulders. Mmmm! - some experimenting to be done during the next swim session! Cool

Don Wright

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