Being able to adapt to and reduce potential flaws is essential for elite performance. Too often attention is given to the wrong area. For example, many coaches instruct the early vertical forearm, but the inhibitors may exist outside of the water that make these cues useless. It’s like yelling at a turtle to get up on its hind legs and dance- not physically possible!If something cannot be performed on land, then it is unlikely to occur in the water. This is not to say that performing the early vertical forearm repeatedly on land is a good idea, as this needlessly increases the risk of injury. However, screening to identify limitations is a mandatory step if coaches want their “EVF” cues to further their swimmers performance (rather than frustrate everyone involved.)
Deficiencies in muscle length, muscle strength, and muscle timing often prevent ideal movement. If a muscle is overactive, range of motion for the joint will be impaired. If it is weak, the body is unable to perform the movement properly. If it doesn’t have the muscle timing, then co-activation and aberrant movement exist, exacerbating and potentially inducing the aforementioned conditions. Much more about this can be found in the Swimmers Shoulder System or Troubleshooting publication with Allan Phillips (planned release date December 2012).
Another common mistake is to only consider the shoulder complex when addressing deficiencies. I believe that the shoulder is the first area to consider, as many of the answers are found in this joint. However, a joint by joint approach is necessary for maximum benefits. This typically means improving the joints proximal (cervical spine) and distal (thoracic spine) to the glenohumeral joint but could potentially be further away (hip or ankle). This makes it imperative to check for muscle length, strength, and timing at these joints as well.
The first step to assessing whether an athlete get achieve an EVF is determining whether the athlete has the necessary range of motion outside of the pool. If they do not, it is likely they have tight muscles (such as, potentially the infraspinatus) inhibiting this motion. However, assessing the muscle strength of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer muscles is key. Lastly, seeing if the athlete has control at the end range of internal and external rotation is key, as proper motor control or timing is essential for an proper early vertical forearm.
Next, check the neck range of motion, strength, and timing between the neck and the shoulder. If an athletes has any limitations at the neck, they could have impairments at the shoulder as many of the cervical muscles attach to the shoulder blades and collar bone.
The thoracic spine is a potential structure that limits EVF capability If the athlete has poor thoracic extension range, they it is likely their rotator cuff muscles have inadequate room for movement, potentially resulting in impingement. Also, if the thoracic spine and shoulder muscles do not work together, then as the shoulder flexes the thoracic spine may not respond with the necessary extension. Moreover, if the athlete performs flexion and internal rotation (EVF) the spine must slightly extend, allowing adequate rotator cuff and shoulder blade movement.
|Think she has a good EVF?|
By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.