Fly - a revelation!

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Fly - a revelation!

Post by Don Wright on Sun May 27, 2018 10:12 am

Went for usual swim Saturday morn, and got into my FS "variations" routine - in my favourite position of the un-roped area, by the lane rope of the single lane. But then noticed the activities of a good lady swimmer in the adjacent lane (as muggins had his usual end of length "pit-stop") - I watched incredulously, as she did an 8 length sequence of, one length of fast FS immediately followed by a fast length of fly - without any pause for a rest.  ( I did note that there was little evidence of her feet breaking the surface, so maybe her fly kicking wasn't quite up to scratch!) I was just "itching" to see if she could give me any helpful tips on fly, since I get so tired after just several metres now. I didn't want to interrupt her routine though, so I pottered on with my stuff, but when I saw she had finished and was gathering up her training kit of kick-board etc, I told her of my amazement at her fly stroke ability and asked were there any salient tips she could give me! I told her how I had noted how high she kept at all times in the water during each stroke cycle - quite different from my efforts, in which after arm recovery and "head nod" to start the major kick upbeat - am quite deep in the water.  She said she was not a good fly swimmer (but one of the best I had seen in our pool!) and was only doing the normal "key-hole" pattern of arm movements.  However while talking to me about that pattern, she demo-ed the sort of arm movements she makes - and they were strikingly different from my current almost straight pull-through after the catch.  Her arm movements for the "scoop" (aka in-sweep) were what I would call "a quick fussy little sweep", well out in front of the head, in which the arms were never spread wide but not far below the surface as she brought her elbows very quickly out/around to the ribs, with the forearms/hands in the correct position ready for the big up-sweep - hands fairly close together near the central axis,  upper arms near the ribs but forearms/hands at an angle of possibly 60 degrees below the surface with hands somewhere below head or neck area.

BTW that is the transition attitude between the fly in-sweep and up-sweep used by maestro Phelps, and which I was told was mandatory for fly swimmers by coach/mentor "SolarEnergy" on the old SS forum (The "passing the elbow" business) - it certainly takes a lot of strain off the shoulder joints.  However, in wanting to examine what others did for the scoop action etc - I pulled out and re-played my old GoSwim DVD of "Butterfly Basics with Steve Haufler" and saw again, what I had forgotten about his ideas.  He does NOT teach his pupils to do the "passing the elbow" arm action - but instead teaches an almost straight arm action throughout the UW path, which is OK for young bods maybe, but not good for less fit ones concerned about shoulder strain.  Methinks, I will pass that DVD on to others - destined to go out with the next charity bag collection! I have "A Shaw way to fly" instructional DVD, which again does not mention the "passing the elbow" action - but I really like the "weirdo" background music (it's very relaxing with occasional bird calls - almost hypnotic) on the DVD, and the teaching of the body action is quite good, so am hanging onto that one. There are 3 YouTube clips which have the same 3 lessons content as the DVD - also liked the exhortation "Nothing is hurried", that suits an "oldie" like me!   

I tried several fly strokes using that "quick fussy little scoop" - and to my delighted amazement it enabled me to avoid the terrible timing "hiccup" I had before, of getting the legs in the right position (knees bent and lower legs ready to thrust down) for the completion of the major kick downbeat - before my arms had completed my deep almost straight pull-through. It felt as if I was being "catapulted" from one stroke into the next, by the more continuous undulation.  OK! so the pull arm action wasn't perhaps as wide as it ought to be  - but I have high hopes this marks a real break-through for me at least.  After the arm entry following recovery - I shall still do my "head nod" to initiate the major kick upbeat, but the "new-to-me"  way of doing things with that "quick fussy little scoop" does seem to help the arms get through the water much quicker/easier than before.  I have high hopes!!!  Very Happy

Think my trouble hitherto, has been clinging to my "pig-headed notion" (for yonks!) of doing a double EVF catch followed by an almost straight pull-through - that takes longer (and is a bit more tiring) than the standard fly practice, of a shallow catch and "top of the keyhole pattern" rounded scoop!  Big sigh! - No wonder there was a timing discrepancy between arm and undulating leg action. How stubborn some of us are, and need a "jolt" to modify our actions! Rolling Eyes


Last edited by Don Wright on Fri Jun 01, 2018 10:11 am; edited 3 times in total

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Re: Fly - a revelation!

Post by Don Wright on Tue May 29, 2018 9:52 am

Went for the next swim session on Monday - and of course, muggins couldn't replicate the happy discovery I had made 2 days ago. Euphoria evaporated - my "muscle memory" failed me!  Sad  Didn't SS say that it would take quite a few sessions to ingrain a new habit? Now it's the long grind of studying (Sheila's book "Swim Speed Strokes" fly section) and determined practice - hope I can do better tomorrow!  Think I will try setting the pace of the undulating body action - and fit in the arm action to that. If the lower legs arrive in position too early for the big up-sweep, I shall just have to make the UW arm action a bit quicker - or vice versa as the case may be.  Think I've "got the hang" of doing the early shallow part of the UW arm action (out-sweep to catch) - instead of my old double EVF catch - it's the wider pull action that is strange to me. I can cope quite happily with bringing the elbows out/around nearer to the ribs and changing the orientation of forearms/hands ready for the big up-sweep - it's just that top rounded part of the standard "key-hole" action that "foxes" me a bit.

I've hauled a bit about "passing the elbow" as used in fly stroke from one of "SolarEnergy"'s posts to me from the old now locked SS forum - note his last 2 paragraphs!

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Re: Transition from fly stroke insweep to upsweep
Postby SolarEnergy » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:14 pm

Such a funny little thread  Very Happy

You're confusing (or were confusing) dropping the elbow with passing the elbow. This critical phase is not at all addressed by any of the SwimSmooth litterature, at least to the best of my knowledge. Same for Mr.Smooth who completely overlook this aspect. Applied to FreeStyle, this is so advanced that I can understand why it's been left away. It is something that, to the best of my knowledge, only Smooth type swimmers would work on since it fits well both their personality and swimming skills.

What it is really, it's a critical phase during which the elbow passes (going first) underneath the body in order to allow for the triceps muscles to apply more force during the final up sweep.

Reason why you cut your teeth on this aspect whilst attempting the fly is that whilst this is optional at FreeStyle, it is not at all an option whilst swimming the fly. If you overlook this aspect, you may come short of power during the critical breathing phase.


Was astonished to see that it was some 7 years ago that I was "agonizing" over the issue - how the years whizz by, seemingly faster as one gets older ! Shocked

I've tried "passing the elbow" (or PDE "Planned Dropped Elbow" as I sometimes call it) - when swimming FS with a fast arm turn-over, and it was a "messy" thing to do, requiring a quick/sudden PDE as the forearm/hand of the stroking arm approaches a vertical attitude  (i.e. nearly pointing to the bottom). In fact, I soon discarded the idea.  However am a firm believer that one can gain a lot of forward momentum by flinging the stroking arm back/up in the up-sweep  ...

which accords with the general advice in Sheila's book "Hand speed is slowest during the catch and fastest at the finish of the stroke. Elite swimmers accelerate water back at the finish of  the stroke."

... so it seems to me that if the FS arm action is a bit slower (avoiding sudden changes in the plane of action of the lower arm) then a PDE might more easily be fitted in, possibly adding greater force to the up-sweep as the forearm/hand accelerate back/up!

While lying on my back after doing essential back exercises this morn - I had some more thoughts about this "passing the elbow" business, as part of the FS arm stroke's UW path.  It doesn't have to be a sudden drop in the vertical plane of the elbow to get the arm into the right attitude. Rather, as the elbow of the stroking arm comes level with the eyes, then one can switch the focus to the elbow and upper arm as they are smoothly brought in closer to the ribs, with the hand speed dropping so that the hand lags the elbow - that will get the forearm/hand in front of the elbow ready for the bigger up-sweep, with the hand closer to the long central axis!  "SolarEnergy" was quite right to correct my observation that it seemed to be a case of "dropping the elbow". As he said in his old post copied above : "What it is really, it's a critical phase during which the elbow passes (going first) underneath the body in order to allow for the triceps muscles to apply more force during the final up sweep" So I won't use that PDE (Planned Dropped Elbow) description anymore!

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Re: Fly - a revelation!

Post by Don Wright on Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:31 am

After several sessions in which muggins tried to replicate the delight he had after using that "quick small fussy scoop" action of the arms - but eventually with some disappointment - I have made further mods to my efforts, in trying to get the timing of body undulation and arm action in synch.  What had earlier seemed to be a "rosy dawn" of success doing that little quick scoop, turned out to be a "blind lead" - it was out of place with the rest of the slower body action - and ultimately seemed really awkward!

At arm entry after recovery and doing the minor kick downbeat with arms outstretched, I now more or less at the same time, "drift" (i.e. not forcibly pushing water sideways!) the arms out, a bit beyond shoulder width, start a "rolled over" hand catch, while nodding the head down to initiate the upward curl of the body for the major kick upbeat.

When the feet break the surface, am actually at the catch with forearms/hands pointing approx downwards.  Then I've got sufficient time to simultaneously - draw the heels closer to the butt  (equivalent to throwing the thighs forwards with knees bending!), and draw the arms back/around from the catch to a position ready to do the big up-sweep (when the lower legs will thrash down).  The upper arms have just passed the vertical after the elbows have been drawn back/around, to almost beneath the body, while the forearms/hands (close together) are out in front, near the central axis some 45 degrees below the surface (the "passing the elbow" stuff!).  The hands lower down, are somewhere below the head or neck, and visible because the head needs to still be looking at the bottom, but ready to rise up at the start of the big up-sweep of the arms, so as to clear the mouth above the water line later.  Think the experts say the inhalation should be started before the arms exit the water - the up-thrust of the arms about to recover, combined with the down-thrust of the lower legs, should lift the mouth above the water line for a quick safe inhalation. Need to make it a snappy suck-in of air - the weight of the head/recovering arms momentarily above the water, makes the window of opportunity quite brief!

This timing seems to be correct for me - maybe it's not as the elites do it - but I devote all the time of the scoop (or in-sweep) to getting the lower legs into the correct position for the big up-sweep. I initiate that, a very short instant before starting the arms up-sweep, because I reckon the action of the lower legs helps "lever" the body higher in the water as well as propelling it forwards - that should aid getting the mouth clear of the water for inhalation.

Oh I almost forgot! That "lower legs thrash down", is when we need to turn the ankles outwards a bit, so that the feet are in a pigeon-toed attitude for more effective pressure against the water!  Guess who often forgets that!  By making the body action more continuous, I hope there is a slight rise up to the surface of the legs after the major kick downbeat and the arms are into recovery - it musn't be too dramatic, or else the "window of opportunity" for inhalation will be decreased! The body "toppling forwards" once the arms swing past the shoulder line (due to the sudden change in weight distribution), should complete the minor kick upbeat.  

The above action seems to help me keep up a more continuous body action - without the former "hiccups".  The only muscular rest one can grab during the stroke cycle seems to be during the entry of the arms after recovery!

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