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High Elbow Catch Swimming – Why it matters.

How many times do you hear a coach remind swimmers to “keep a high elbow catch”? Efficient, faster swimming starts with the ability to access the strongest, most powerful muscles of the upper back – the lats. And the best swimmers have learned that consistently swimming with a high elbow catch is essential for all strokes.

Coach Karlyn Pipes explains and demonstrates how to set up the high elbow catch (also known as Early Vertical Forearm – EVF) for Freestyle, Butterfly and Breaststroke. This technique is essential for developing and sustaining an efficient, powerful Freestyle swim. It can be learned and trained very effectively on dry land with the Vasa Swim Erg swim training system, then integrated into swimming in the pool or open water.

The fastest swimmers and top coaches understand why the high elbow catch is critical for accessing the powerful muscles of the lats and upper back. It also helps avoid overload to the shoulders and biceps tendon.

Training the high elbow catch on land, using the Vasa Swim Erg or Vasa Trainer, allows the swimmer to master it thanks to the immediate feedback available. The monorail and framework of the Vasa allow you to see if you drop the elbows and/or cross the midline, both of which contribute to “spilling water”, i.e. losing grip on the pull. Coaches have the ability to see the full stroke and can readily make adjustments. Then the swimmer can engrain the correct neuromuscular patterns necessary for perfect practice.

Karlyn Pipes of provides swim technique clinics worldwide. She holds over 200 Masters Swimming World Records. Watch her complete video series, “Faster Freestyle Swimming: 5 ways to Improve Technique & Gain Power” here: