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Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull...
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Read Sheila T's book this past weekend and in summary, the secret to fast freestyle swimming is developing a very strong pull. This is kind of what I've always thought but it was nice to see it said out loud by a former Olympic swimmer (gold medalist in the 1996 800 free relay). I also loved seeing this in print because I've always been a much stronger puller than kicker. Certainly to go really fast the kick is important too, but the pull is king for freestyle.

For the fish, this is basically very, very old news, but it is possibly of use to newer swimmers. The book is also kind amusing because she never, ever mentions Terry Laughlin or the Total Immersion (TI) technique by name, but she describes the TI technique and has an imaginary debate with a triathlete about it. It seems clear that she wrote the book in response to TI and thinks TI is NOT a good way to teach swimming. Pretty cool book:)


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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yup, she sums it up pretty good - but it's so simple many won't accept the message ;)
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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If you can't float & you have to kick to stay on top of the body, the pull is less effective. For that reason alone, I think TI sets a good foundation for teaching the non-swimmer how to use their body position to float.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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I read this book nearly two years ago when it came out. Not a fish myself, but having gone through the whole TI-thing myself (great for beginners, not so great after that imo), I agree with everything she says.

I did feel it was a 'one-trick' pony book, being all about the EVF. I didn't feel I really needed to buy the whole book to get the msg. The key things in the book that I feel sum up the entire book:
- 80% of speed comes from your pull and its power (assuming you've solved major drag issues). I found this to def be true - I can let my legs drag a bit in the water, kick errantly, even fishtail myself to slow myself down, but I'll still be very close to my normal swim time; for sure, I'm not losing 80% of speed from all that lack of hydrodynamics.
- The EVF is by far the most powerful and hydrodynamic position in the water that every single elite freestyle swimmer uses. It's also very non-natural and has to be worked on.
- She very carefully goes through the stages of the pull, and while the illustrations are good, it honestly it didn't help me improve my EVF significantly. If you watch a video on youtube of Sun Yang, you will see in real time what a near-perfect EVF is, which is more instructive than looking at pictures in a book.


I'm far from a good EVF, but I will add a bit of what I've learned in getting better at it - I honestly believe most beginners don't have the arm muscular endurance to do a proper EVF for more than trivial distances. I just got a Vasa swim trainer, which really encourages true EVF and it was shocking at how weak my EVF pull power was. Like useless after a mere 2 minutes of pulling on a Vasa (I'm not even a raw beginner - I swim a very middling MOP 1:35/100yd pace for 1500 in the pool.) If that EVF was tough for me at 1:35/100, you can imagine how impossible it would be for a beginner at 2:00+/100 - I honestly think it's near impossible for them.Furthermore, if you're so weak you can't do a good EVF in the pool, you learn to swim without an optimal EVF as a beginner and it makes it even harder to gain the correct muscular endurance. Taormina doesn't make this point in the book, but it's something that seems to becoming very clear to me after working with the Vasa and seeing how terrible my swim pull power was in the EVF position.

I guess that's my biggest critique of the book - she makes the EVF sound a lot more like a pure technique issue, but I felt she never really emphasized how important the muscular endurance was to even being able to do it. I actually feel it's much, much more of a muscular endurance issue than a technique issue for beginners, who I'll bet most of whom wouldn't even last 2 minutes on a Vasa/powermeter with good EVF technique, similar to myself.
Last edited by: lightheir: Dec 23, 13 19:58
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
I read this book nearly two years ago when it came out. Not a fish myself, but having gone through the whole TI-thing myself (great for beginners, not so great after that imo), I agree with everything she says.

I did feel it was a 'one-trick' pony book, being all about the EVF. I didn't feel I really needed to buy the whole book to get the msg. The key things in the book that I feel sum up the entire book:
- 80% of speed comes from your pull and its power (assuming you've solved major drag issues). I found this to def be true - I can let my legs drag a bit in the water, kick errantly, even fishtail myself to slow myself down, but I'll still be very close to my normal swim time; for sure, I'm not losing 80% of speed from all that lack of hydrodynamics.
- The EVF is by far the most powerful and hydrodynamic position in the water that every single elite freestyle swimmer uses. It's also very non-natural and has to be worked on.
- She very carefully goes through the stages of the pull, and while the illustrations are good, it honestly it didn't help me improve my EVF significantly. If you watch a video on youtube of Sun Yang, you will see in real time what a near-perfect EVF is, which is more instructive than looking at pictures in a book.


I'm far from a good EVF, but I will add a bit of what I've learned in getting better at it - I honestly believe most beginners don't have the arm muscular endurance to do a proper EVF for more than trivial distances. I just got a Vasa swim trainer, which really encourages true EVF and it was shocking at how weak my EVF pull power was. Like useless after a mere 2 minutes of pulling on a Vasa (I'm not even a raw beginner - I swim a very middling MOP 1:35/100yd pace for 1500 in the pool.) If that EVF was tough for me at 1:35/100, you can imagine how impossible it would be for a beginner at 2:00+/100 - I honestly think it's near impossible for them.Furthermore, if you're so weak you can't do a good EVF in the pool, you learn to swim without an optimal EVF as a beginner and it makes it even harder to gain the correct muscular endurance. Taormina doesn't make this point in the book, but it's something that seems to becoming very clear to me after working with the Vasa and seeing how terrible my swim pull power was in the EVF position.

I guess that's my biggest critique of the book - she makes the EVF sound a lot more like a pure technique issue, but I felt she never really emphasized how important the muscular endurance was to even being able to do it. I actually feel it's much, much more of a muscular endurance issue than a technique issue for beginners, who I'll bet most of whom wouldn't even last 2 minutes on a Vasa/power-meter with good EVF technique, similar to myself.

I didn't buy the book myself, just read it in the bookstore. I think she does talk some about the need for muscular power/endurance though and she has several pages on using the "Halo trainer" and the stretch cords to develop this muscular endurance. I don't think she's saying that EVF is "all technique" at all because she emphasizes the use of dry-land training. I'm surprised she did not have your VASA trainer in that section but maybe she just didn't have easy access to one. It could be the VASA will completely change your swimming life:)

Also, regarding most people not having the power/endurance to hold EVF for very long, I see that all the time in the pool w/o even looking, e.g. I notice the dropped elbows or the too straight-armed/too deep pulls every day, just because I can't help but notice at other people's form.

When I first started swimming competitively, we had no dry-land training at all but rather we just swam lots of fast 50s, 100s, and maybe 2 x 200 per practice on long rest, as in 3 to 8 min between each swim. Prob swam a total of maybe 1500 yds at the most. We went off the blocks on every swim and every swim was supposed to be as fast as you could go. Dropped about 20 sec off my 100 free in the first 6 months, and 15 in the 2nd 6 months. That's how I developed EVF, lots of hard swims:)


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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Man, if dropping 20sec/100 off my free were as easy for me as swimming all-out 50s-200s with ample rest in between, I'd be a FFOP swimmer by now. Alas, I've tried that, maybe not as hard as you did while on competitive swim team, but it didn't get me anywhere near the results you got!
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
Man, if dropping 20sec/100 off my free were as easy for me as swimming all-out 50s-200s with ample rest in between, I'd be a FFOP swimmer by now. Alas, I've tried that, maybe not as hard as you did while on competitive swim team, but it didn't get me anywhere near the results you got!

Well, I had a lot of excellent role models and I recall picking up the flip turn just by imitating other guys/girls' turns. Also, my breaststroke kick had a little scissor in it, so this girl who was a good breaststroker showed me how to do it. I seemed to absorb most of it just by osmosis though, i.e. when you're surrounded by good swimmers who are pretty much all swimming with good to great form, you just subconsciously start trying to swim that way yourself, and pretty soon you are.

I can "feel your pain" though as it relates to kicking, as I've worked very hard on my kick over the past 5 yrs or so, but am still slow compared to the "natural kickers". As Sheila T points out, one's potential to be a strong kicker is largely determined by ankle flexibility and, while mine has improved over the last 5 yrs, still they are not like the fast kickers ankles. Oh well, I still have my pull:)

The poster known as klehner is an adult-onset swimmer with zero kick but he grabbed onto the pull big-time and got down to 51.X for the 100 yd free, so he's a real role model for you.


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for posting... You just saved me a ton of wasted time this New Year - I was going to start working on my kick. I'll just start working on pull, EVF, and perhaps some body roll. (I got to cut another 8-9 mins off my 5k time... And get me down to 1h 03m ish)....

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Proud member of FISHTWITCH: beating you to T1 for over a decade, and working on beating you to T2...
Last edited by: TriSliceRS: Dec 24, 13 5:14
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [turningscrews] [ In reply to ]
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turningscrews wrote:
If you can't float & you have to kick to stay on top of the body
…then you are doing it wrong. It is never necessary to kick to maintain body position.

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"i disagree with your analysis [or judgment], nevertheless you have the responsibility of moderating this board so i honor your authority to make the moderating decisions."
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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What the hell is EVF?
Last edited by: SpicedRum: Dec 24, 13 4:15
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [SpicedRum] [ In reply to ]
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SpicedRum wrote:
What the hell is EVF?

Early Vertical Forearm: starting the pull such that your forearm is as close to pointing straight down as early in the pull as possible.

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"i disagree with your analysis [or judgment], nevertheless you have the responsibility of moderating this board so i honor your authority to make the moderating decisions."
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [SpicedRum] [ In reply to ]
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take a look at this video...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF93rZpczaU
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [TriSliceRS] [ In reply to ]
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Makes me wonder if this is the book to get (I like what I hear so far), or have others read better?

________________________________________________
Proud member of FISHTWITCH: beating you to T1 for over a decade, and working on beating you to T2...
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [TriSliceRS] [ In reply to ]
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Can't remember what I paid for it, I think it was $15 for the Kobo reader. To sum it up she says that the Pareto Principle applies to swimming (aka the 80/20 rule) in that 80% of your power comes from your pull & therefore that's where your focus needs to be. I would suggest going through her book first and apply her theories first, and then go through Gerry Rodrigues' videos on youtube a few months later - Gerry's stuff IMO is a good extension to what Sheila has shared.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [TriSliceRS] [ In reply to ]
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TriSliceRS wrote:
Makes me wonder if this is the book to get (I like what I hear so far), or have others read better?

Awful, awful book.

The principle that pull & EVF are the most critical aspect of the stroke might be 100% true, but the book sucks. Terrible pictures and diagrams, bad explanations. You'd think that if a book was about just one aspect of the stroke then it should be the definitive reference, but no.

Most of the book is irrelevant filler, for example an attempt at an in depth discussion of the hydrodynamic principles, taken directly from Swimming Fastest.

Finally, I'm very suspicious of the Amazon reviews. I got the Kindle book.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [klehner] [ In reply to ]
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klehner wrote:
…then you are doing it wrong. It is never necessary to kick to maintain body position.

So if you do a set with an ankle band and no buoy your feet will just stay right at the water level? I tried one recently and my legs sank like stones making me look like an upside down L going through the water.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [Chris Martin] [ In reply to ]
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Chris Martin wrote:
klehner wrote:
…then you are doing it wrong. It is never necessary to kick to maintain body position.


So if you do a set with an ankle band and no buoy your feet will just stay right at the water level? I tried one recently and my legs sank like stones making me look like an upside down L going through the water.

If you're doing it right, they most certainly will.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [racin_rusty] [ In reply to ]
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racin_rusty wrote:
Chris Martin wrote:
klehner wrote:
…then you are doing it wrong. It is never necessary to kick to maintain body position.


So if you do a set with an ankle band and no buoy your feet will just stay right at the water level? I tried one recently and my legs sank like stones making me look like an upside down L going through the water.


If you're doing it right, they most certainly will.


I'd say extremely few people will have the same body position with a tight ankle band. To take it one step further take the legs out completely by locking your ankles crossed over each other and most will find it very hard to make it across the pool with their dignity intact. There's no doubt the kick is aiding in body position for pretty much any level of swimmer. It doesn't mean you need a hard beat for distance swimming, just a relaxed kick that assists in keeping the body in line.




BA coaching http://www.bjornandersson.se
Last edited by: bjorn: Dec 24, 13 7:12
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [bjorn] [ In reply to ]
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Have to disagree with you on this. AFAIK distance swimmers kick to aid in body rotation not for maintaining horizontal position.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [TOMOP] [ In reply to ]
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TOMOP wrote:
TriSliceRS wrote:
Makes me wonder if this is the book to get (I like what I hear so far), or have others read better?


Awful, awful book.

The principle that pull & EVF are the most critical aspect of the stroke might be 100% true, but the book sucks. Terrible pictures and diagrams, bad explanations. You'd think that if a book was about just one aspect of the stroke then it should be the definitive reference, but no.

Most of the book is irrelevant filler, for example an attempt at an in depth discussion of the hydrodynamic principles, taken directly from Swimming Fastest.

Finally, I'm very suspicious of the Amazon reviews. I got the Kindle book.


Well, I'd definitely disagree with you.

I think the problem might be you bought the Kindle version. The paper copy has glossy super high quality photos, and I've never seen a better, clearer, more comprehensive TEXT version of the EVF. The good Amazon reviews mirror all the overwhelmingly positive reviews it gets on BT as well as here in the past.

That aside, I still think it's a bit overpriced for what is essentially a one-trick-pony book , although it is quite effective for her point which is that it's all about the EVF and pull power once you've gotten decent body position in the water. And I still think it's more helpful to watch videos of the EVF than see the diagrams and pics. Still, I'd recommend it if you don't know how important the EVF is or if you've never heard of it.
Last edited by: lightheir: Dec 24, 13 7:34
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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And in other news, cycling requires leg strength and lung capacity! =)

A strong pull is great, but somewhat useless if you're not in a great position to apply it. Also, I'd say a strong pull is generated by being in the right position and being able to engage the right muscles, so a strong pull comes from having good body position.

I still think newbies are best served by learning good body position, then things like rotation, kicking, and pulling.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [racin_rusty] [ In reply to ]
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Well, seems to me that applying a downward force with your legs and feet is the easiest way to keep them up high. If that isn't enough, as stated before, just look at what happens to 99% of swimmers body position when you tie their feet together very tightly. I'm honestly at loss for how people can say the kick doesn't help with body position. Propulsion etc is a different discussion.




BA coaching http://www.bjornandersson.se
Last edited by: bjorn: Dec 24, 13 8:01
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [bjorn] [ In reply to ]
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bjorn wrote:
There's no doubt the kick is aiding in body position for pretty much any level of swimmer. It doesn't mean you need a hard beat for distance swimming, just a relaxed kick that assists in keeping the body in line.

This is correct.

It drives me crazy that everyone is lauding Sheila T who spent her whole life swimming. She had an enormously efficient kick that enable her to hold back and maintain speed whole focusing on her pull. For the average AG'er on this forum, some focus on kick will make them faster - the goal is not to develop a 6 beat kick but one that flutters and enables the alignment and pull. Just letting your legs hang and do nothing, hinders everything about your stroke.


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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [TOMOP] [ In reply to ]
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TOMOP wrote:
TriSliceRS wrote:
Makes me wonder if this is the book to get (I like what I hear so far), or have others read better?


Awful, awful book.

The principle that pull & EVF are the most critical aspect of the stroke might be 100% true, but the book sucks. Terrible pictures and diagrams, bad explanations. You'd think that if a book was about just one aspect of the stroke then it should be the definitive reference, but no.

Most of the book is irrelevant filler, for example an attempt at an in depth discussion of the hydrodynamic principles, taken directly from Swimming Fastest.

Finally, I'm very suspicious of the Amazon reviews. I got the Kindle book.

Your opinion is in the minority. I found the illustrations to be very helpful. Just one chapter of this book drastically improved my 100 times.
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Re: Sheila T's "Swimming Speed Secrets": It's all about the pull... [klehner] [ In reply to ]
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klehner wrote:
turningscrews wrote:
If you can't float & you have to kick to stay on top of the body

…then you are doing it wrong. It is never necessary to kick to maintain body position.

I'm not nearly as fast as your are (but, still decent/FOP for my AG). And, have also found that kicking is not needed for good body position. I can't explain it - other than to say to myself "keep the head down (you idiot :-) )"

Maybe I should; but I never use a pull buoy.

Happy Holidays, and, here's to a fast '14 for all (well, except if you're in the 50-54m AG - Hah!)


I could break the course record - theoretically, Bishop Pickering - from the movie "Caddyshack"
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