One of the main points we make in our Powerstroke® clinics is the emphasis we place on high elbow catch / early vertical forearm (EVF) during the catch and pull phase of the stroke.  Note that you can have a high elbow catch that does not start particularly early in the stroke – hence the additional name of early vertical forearm. 


“Early” means that the elbow begins to rotate upward / hand and forearm downward or perpendicular relative to the bottom of the pool just after the extension phase of the stroke.


Some swimmers start to pull down in what we call a straight arm pull, and then begin the high elbow catch.  This is good but not as technically proficient a move or ultimately as powerful a swim stroke as an EVF will be (used in conjunction with high force output).


Regardless, below are a few underwater shots and accompanying explanations.



Figure I.  Initial extension



In this shot you can see the extent to which the swimmer has extended his lat and ‘reached’ forward.  The hand is just beginning to initiate a catch position (the forearm will follow momentarily).  The swimmer’s body has rotated quite a bit so that he is almost directly on his right side with the right shoulder extended forward.



Figure II. high elbow catch phase begins



At this point in the stroke, the swimmer’s right shoulder remains extended forward, and has rotated internally while the right hand and forearm are moving into the ‘early vertical forearm’ position.  The left arm has just entered the water to begin extending forward.



Figure III.   Vertical forearm 1



Now the swimmer’s body has rotated so that his chest is facing the bottom of the pool, while the right hand and arm are nearly entirely vertical.  Note that the right shoulder remains extended forward and the right lat muscle is fully flexed, beginning a powerful contraction (the pull).  This contraction will move the body forward through the water; the hand and forearm act as an anchor point.  The swimmer is literally pulling himself forward through the water by anchoring his hand in front of him and then ‘levering’ himself forward stroke by stroke.  That is what swimming is all about.



Figure IV.  Vertical forearm 2



Now the shoulder has moved back towards the torso (or the torso has moved forward through the water) and the hand and forearm are entirely vertical.  There may be some internal rotation of the arm (towards the torso) as the body rotates forward to allow the left arm to extend fully.  The lat remains the primary mover through this point in the stroke.




Figure V. The push phase



Once the arm has moved under the shoulder, the pulling motion becomes a pushing motion.  At this point the triceps, biceps, and pectorals take over some of the work of the lat.  (The lat has now contracted quite a bit and is no longer in a position to be used optimally).




Figure VI.  Final push and left arm extension



The right arm has now moved back towards the hip.  At this point the triceps have taken over more work from the lats and can be used to get a bit more foreward motion out of the entire stroke.  Meanwhile the left arm is extending forward and slightly up in order to make the most out of the next catch and pull. 


Most of the power in the swim stroke takes place in Figures II through IV.   In Powerstroke®, we concentrate on a high force contraction through these motions.  It is crucial to note that without proper form, the power will not be not applied effectively.  That is why the full name of the DVD is Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form.