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Living Legacies, Tips & Tricks, Training
In my previous writing I mentioned that our aquatic athletes must find a way to overcome several training obstacles. Major issues include lack of ability to play year-round and its place as a tertiary sport for most schools. In my opinion, this combination can be a blessing in disguise. Firstly, in a broad-spectrum sense we can devote this time to developing team skills by playing other sports, as well as, improving on our lagging physical and technical skills. As we learned before about the critical skill of the eggbeater; the skill of swimming in and of itself becomes another crucial skill for those in the developmentary ranks such as the athletes I work with. The purpose of this article is to espouse the importance of improving swimming skills especially for those in the developmentary stage (high school) will build a basis of sprinting speed and technical efficiency. For the sake of comparison, I’ll refer to a study that examined both absolute (sprint speed) and repeated sprint abilities (think conditioning here) that compared swimmers and water polo players. The researchers discovered that swimmers had the edge over water polo players in swim speed in short distances (25m) in which swimmers had the edge by over a half second (11.65s vs. 12.26s respectively); and two seconds in the long distances (800m-9.43 vs. 11.43 min) which was consistent with their initial hypothesis {1}.

Why Speed is King in the water to! If anyone is familiar with the concepts and practices of renown track sprint coaches Tony Holler and Chris Korfist (Track and Football Consortium), you may find a parallel here. In fact, many collegiate football programs are asking recruits for their track times alongside their football resume. There is a bit of recruiting industry behind this as well with services such as, which provides analytics based on unique athletic scores based on track and field for prospective footballers {5}. Philosophically I see swim speed for a water polo player would be analogous to an athlete that improves their absolute speed during track season as a proxy to their status in a field sport such as football, lacrosse, rugby, or soccer.

Most modern track and football coaches would agree that the hard skill development involved in sprinting sets the stage for success on the football field. I would be hard pressed to find a high school polo coach that would disagree that swimming would not help their water polo players. Two of my best male water polo players not only achieved all-state and all-American status in polo but also doubled those honors in swimming. Many other of my high achieving polo players (both on the Men and Women’s side) have had comparable achievements in both sports ranging from state honorable mentions in water polo and state placers in swim.

I believe the positive effects of swimming ability and water polo is two-fold. Firstly, developing the technical skills to swim fast in the free style (front crawl) for break away, loose balls, and swim offs (which happen four times a game) will turn a polo player’s speed into a weapon. Learning the backstroke will also enhance the skills of the defensive players during transitions and spin moves. Secondly, the mental fortitude of a racer is paramount for an aggressive and confident polo player. In other words, would you want to play with someone who thrives on pressure or succumbs to it? Would you also want the other team wary of your team because you have an ace swimmer, or several of them, that can break away at any time and win every swim off? You’d be crazy to not want speed! Perfecting the Hard Skills In Expanding upon the concept of developing a fast swimmer to improve polo play, we must recognize this endeavor is approached from a skills-based process. And like every skill requiring total body effort and coordination there are rules to follow in terms of position, posture, and technique. This is what is meant by a hard skill. Even casually looking at any athlete at their peak, they all have commonalities in their technique. The great thing about the study above was that it not only found the obvious of superior speed of swimmers over polo players but also inferred as to why that may be. Specifically that swimmers have technical superiority over water polo players “…These findings may indicate that the superior head-down front-crawl swimming skill previously noted for swimmers compared to water polo players (Cazorla and Montpetit, 1988)…”. {1}. The significance of this finding manifests itself in two ways. Firstly, in terms of preservation and injury reduction. “Understand that most injuries have a neuromuscular base. It is a combination of technique and strength or other physical qualities as they relate to the execution of the skills on the field.” {6} Basically the two major mechanisms of injury are lack of technique and insufficient strength (more on strength later), which should go hand in hand. If our aquatic athletes are trained in the proper mechanical execution of swimming, then they will cease to wear themselves out during sprints and have reserves for the possible extreme variations in stroke technique. Secondly, this study also examined the work capacity and energy system abilities for water polo players and their swim counterparts. At first thought the researchers favored water polo players over swimmers in respect to a repeated high-speed sprint effort test. Given that the sport itself (scrimmage practice included) has a mix of intense efforts (racing to the goal or a loose ball) and less intense efforts (treading/ eggbeater) versus swimmers who compete in single efforts (usually with large rest times between events) one can see how this may play out. To the surprise of the researchers, swimmers outperformed water polo players in repeat sprint efforts. “However, in contrast to our second hypothesis, water polo players exhibited poorer RSA compared to the swimmers (Figure 1).” {1}   Repeated sprint test indices among elite water polo players and elite swimmers. IS = Ideal Sprint Time; TS = Total Sprint Time; PD = Performance Decrement. *NOTE THE PD WHICH IS A MEASURE OF DROP IN SPEED PERFORMNACE IN THE RSA TEST In this case the technical superiority of the swimmer allowed for a better stroke economy per sprint effort. Specifically, the superior posture and position of the swimmers in the “front crawl” allowed better stroke precision and kick coordination. One can certainly make the argument that more chaotic stroke patterns will occur during a polo match (much like sprinting in field athletes where varying patterns and degrees of freedom of technique will occur with deviations from linear. While it is true that no one movement will truly look the same as the previous, it does not give us a free pass to bypass technical development {2}. Without a base standard of swim technique and mechanics; our varying degrees of stroke patterns will suffer. If our body and brains do not know what optimal and efficient patterns are, then the variations will not be as powerful nor efficient. In this case, the less technically swim trained polo player will have less margin for error and may fatigue at a faster rate, offering themselves to more injurious situation. This is something we obviously want to avoid when not in contact with an opponent. Up and coming water polo players should realize the importance of this concept and take initiative in developing the hard skill of optimal swimming technique. Swimming competitively on a team in short course season or seeking out a qualified coach are viable options to garner the competent hard skills of swimming. Well that sounds great…but what can we do outside of the pool? Again. I can’t stress enough my role as a physical preparation/ athletic development coach. My objective is to help PREPARE athletes for the demands of their water sports, not BE the water sport. The following will cover how I attempt to develop and bridge the gap to the hard skills of swimming through strength without ‘bringing the water to the weight room’ or wherever else you may train. Key Movements Concepts: The front crawl Here I’ll borrow concepts from how I train a swimmer. We’ll begin with the front crawl. Examining this in a basic sense we can see that the athlete in lying prone over the top of the water reaching over the head with one arm and retracting the other; cycling in a crawling motion in the attempt to “grab water” to propel the body forward. The legs are also working in opposition in the kicking motion to enhance this propulsion via a rudder effect. Essentially, we have a prone cross crawl pattern to produce horizontal movement; most of which is produced by the upper body. Parts…Part I: The Plank aka “getting long” Firstly, we must examine posture and position. In my opinion the alignment of the trunk (via the spine) is of paramount importance. As this will determine how well the athlete is able to keep their torso over the surface of the water to have the best position to propel the body forward. Any type of slumped posture while attempting to get long, will limit overhead reach and any hyper-lordodic posture will limit the ability to kick effectively. Think Janda lower/ upper cross postures to an extent here. (***We must not deny the flexion/ extension moments of the spine that happen during the dolphin kick action.) For us this begins with a robust plank position from head to toe. Head in line with shoulders, in line with hips, in line with ankles; this is our base posture. If our athletes are unable to at least hold this for the duration of a swim event (twenty seconds to five minutes) then they may exhibit a performance bleed at the shoulders or hips somewhere along the line. We use the planking drills as living diagnostic in which we can encourage proper positions while correcting faulty ones. The beauty of holding positions and most isometric drills is that kids learn by “thinking their way” through the drill. They learn what optimal and non-optimal positions feel like. In this case we cue a glute squeeze opposed to a stomach brace. If you’ve recently attended a clinic where Cal Dietz has presented, you probably know why. {4} What we’ve consistently found was that overly bracing the abdominal region waters down (pun intended) performance about the appendages. On the other hand, a squeeze of the butt allows a stable alignment and allows for the spine to move properly during strokes. You do want some rotation here rotation to happen here when swimming. Parts…Part II: Bear Crawling Next, we extend the idea of the front crawl by doing exactly that…CRAWLING!!! Athletic development and training experts from Vern Gambetta to Jay DeMayo to Donnie Thompson are advocates of some form of walking on the hands to not only load the shoulder joint but also to connect the upper and lower body. I hold this philosophy to be true as it helps us apply rhythm and coordination while maintaining this “planked” posture as they will in the water. We’ll typically incorporate bear crawling variations in our warmups. Five yards seems to be a good distance and we’ll go forward, backward, to the left, then the right, and do the same while crossing the hands over. Once, our kids are no longer challenged by normal bear crawls we’ll load it by condensing the breaks, adding into a “medley,” or a mini-band around the wrists. As well as these variations Forward/ Backward Bear Crawl:   Lateral Bear Crawl:   Lateral carioca: The connection: Croc Walk progressions Once regular planking and bear crawling become easy then we join these parts into a whole movement of sorts. We have our kids put their feet on furniture sliders and crawl forward and backward. For us the croc walk is way we bring “life” to the basic plank. The technique here resembles the front crawl as seen in swimming, sans the kicking. Our athletes are instructed to grab the ground as they would grab the water while maintaining the plank position with the rest of torso. The hips may twist a little but don’t let them sway. This proves to be quite challenging for most at first but give this a try for a few weeks and they’ll be able to do the cycle croc walks before you know it. The cycle crocs are another part of the progression in which the athlete work their arms through the catch, pull, exit, and recovery cycle. The next progression is a loaded cycle croc in which we attach a load at the hips. We’ve done these with bands, a sled, and even an Exergenie sprint trainer. DO NOT rush to get to this point, it is imperative that your athlete must earn their progression by mastering planking, the basic crawls, and possess a surplus of upper body strength at least (10 plus strict pull-ups) in the general exercises. This will come into play as when we use this drill as a “compete” exercise and time a ten-yard croc. Important exercises here are the body weight drills such as the pullup and various versions of the push-up as they form the base of shoulder extension and resisting a force in front of the body. Forward Cycle Croc   Backward Cycle Croc   More Parts In my opinion good programs include a blend of specialized and broad-spectrum exercises (general). We can also refer to them as part exercises as joint actions with these drills may include “part” of the whole movement, the front crawl in this case. I’ll use the phases of the arm cycle as reference points for the exercises and the muscles involved. The free style catch involves the arm reaching overhead with the hand entering the water with slight internal rotation of the shoulder. Exercises we use are overhead pressing with dumbbells (single arm preferred) and pushup variations using sliders, rings, or straps. We use these drills to improve the reach. More recently we have found that employing a Coiling Core Concept ™ during alternating arm patterns allows our aquatic athletes to bridge the gap between general and specific in their effort to “get longer.” This concept can aid in teaching the coordination of the reach, spinal movement, and contraction of the opposite latissimus dorsi which loads the recovery arm for subsequent strokes. {3} Reaching Pushups Y Pattern Reaching Pushups I Pattern   The pull initially involves almost pure internal rotation with the humerus abducted at ninety degrees (the popular 90/90 position). To work this action the rubber band rehab/ PT type of exercises that involve the internal rotation may serve a purpose here in initial stages of training. Med ball throws of the repeated and single effort type will add a power component to this as well as training the muscles and pattern to throw with more velocity. The pull will transition to the arm drawing downward (shoulder depression/ arm lateral adduction) toward the hip as in a bent arm pullover movement then into pure arm extension as it enters the “exit” phase. The key is keeping the “high elbow” (toward the head and toward the water). For us this is where having a strong pullup in all grips come into play. The wide grips strengthen shoulder depression in lateral adduction while the neutral grip allows us to use pure latissimus dorsi work as the arm goes into extension as in the transition to the exit. Another key exercise would be a pullover with straight elbows. You may use a light barbell here, but I prefer to use bands or a flywheel device that allows us greater range of motion. flywheel pullover repeat front slam   The exit phase (finish) resembles what meatheads may know as a kick back. Keep in mind that this action follows the for mentioned pullover action. The elbow and arm extension act as a finisher of projection before the hand reaches the surface of the water. Here we can use dumbbell kick-backs with a pronated wrist, old school barbell triceps extensions, and full pullovers for general development. If we want to get closer to the specificity spectrum we can use the flywheel device (adding a decelerative component via eccentric force) and we have recently discovered a unique drill for flyers and breaastrokers using a basic dolley.  Here we can train the full stroke so to speak in the manner and contractile regime in which it happens. Flywheel Kickback   Flyer Crawl     The exit phase then leads to the recovery phase in which the arm shortens close to the body as it is pulled up out of the water before reaching to enter for the catch. The muscles of the posterior shoulder girdle, deltoids, and trapezius are put to work in this action. Basically, every muscle that moves the scapula in every angle is worked in swimming. While most strength and physical prep (many of whom have been influenced by well-meaning PTs) only opt for scapular depression and retraction exercises and technique. Emphasis on the basic rowing exercises will only serve us so much, we must not neglect EVERY movement of the scapula. Protraction and upward rotation must be at equilibrium in terms of strength; with the afore mentioned movements. In other words, don’t be afraid to shrug, don’t’ be afraid to reach horizontally, and certainly don’t be afraid to go overhead. Our programs do include Olympic lifts and pulling variations that link scapular coordination from toe to head. We also employ isolated scapula actions in our pullups and pushups that cover depression, retraction, and upward rotation/ elevation. Much like their field athlete counterparts, our aquatic athletes must prepare with emphasis of skill as well as strength and conditioning. As physical preparation coaches our duty is to not only cover the strength and work capacity components of their development but also bridge the gap to skill. This may seem like a difficult task in working with aquatic athletes but if we can give them what the water isn’t, we are on the right track. In my experience I’ve never seen young women and men that are as dedicated and loyal to training as my aquatic athletes. I hope the concepts and drills above were easy to grasp and will allow other physical prep coaches the opportunity to diversify and connect with their aquatic athletes to have the same rewarding exercises I’ve had.

Owner of Legacy Strength Systems (LSS), Pete provides athletic physical preparation services to some of the Naperville area’s finest athletes. Specializing in the preparation of driven grade school and high school athletes in their quest to get to the next level. LSS is the training choice for Naperville Central High Schools women’s and men’s swim team as well as the Naperville North women’s and men’s swim and women’s aquatic athletic programs.

{1} Repeated Sprint Ability in Elite Water Polo Players and Swimmers and its Relationship to Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance (Meckel, Y1, Bishop, D. Rabinovich, M1, Kaufman, L. 1, Nemet, D3,, and Eliakim, Alon) {2} The Paradox of a Hammer—Cracking Motor Pathways to Hard & Soft Skills By Jeff Moyer; 2018 {3} Coiling Core, Concept Weck Method. David Weck. {4} Bracing Your Core – Cal Dietz & Dr. Andy Galpin on Episode 217 {5} {6} Yessis, Dr. Micheal.

General, Living Legacies, Tips & Tricks
By Pete Arroyo

The eggbeater is the most important kick for water polo players. It provides the base of support for vertical passing and shooting and must be continually conditioned (trained). The eggbeater kick movement is an alternating rotating kick to maintain body height and position” {2}

Outside of swimming ability, the eggbeater is the most valued key skill that a good water polo player can possess. “Egg beater is one of the foundation skills of water polo. Without having a strong egg beater, the rest of your skills will be impacted. Whether it’s trying to push a defender away, shooting a ball or blocking shot, egg beater is the main way to get yourself up out of the water.” {6}

These skills allow a player to become a force in the set game (like the half-court offense in basketball). Offensive and defensive field players that can repeatedly perform a powerful eggbeater set the basis for pre-positions for key actions such as unimpeded shooting, passing, and transitions. Goaltenders also give themselves enhanced ability to block high shots and adjust laterally. If you do not possess this skill, then your chances of playing well are severely limited. In working with athletes of many types I can honestly say that this motion does not exist in any other sport besides water polo itself. This has made training this in a specific way (out of the water) damn near impossible. 

The Basis of all other skills: Throwing to Pass and Score

Goal scoring is essential to winning a water polo match, but goals will not come easy if throwing velocity and transition passing, for an effective set game is lagging. Throwing velocities in elite male water polo players can range from 58 to 88 km·h (36 to 54 MPH). {1} The ability to rise above the water’s surface will have a direct effect on the degree to which throws are made with accuracy and velocity and is two-fold.  Firstly, the egg beater allows you to get up enough, so you can throw a ball without the water impeding your arm path and torso rotation. This alone helps accuracy and speed of your throws. {6}  It is my observation that the role of torso rotation while treading water comes into play as a force generator because water polo players DO NOT have the luxury of pushing off the ground as quarterbacks, pitchers, fast bowlers, or javelin throwers do. Consequently, the more the torso is submerged the more the water will inhibit its contribution to a proper throw. As you can see in the pictures, the perpendicular set of the shoulder girdle to the target for both players is evident.

EC Lines Up his Sniper Shot!                                                

Rowdy Rylee rises above the water and opponent to rock the cage!

Secondly, the ability to rise will in the throw also allows you to clear from your opponent. If you look at the second pic Rylee’s arm is not only well above the surface but also above the head of her defender. This allows her to have a clear shot on goal despite some tight blocking position. The defender is damn near slapping her across the face. (More on the violent nature of the game later). Get the body up and your chances of Athletes must rely heavily on arm action in this case. A good general target would be to get from the top of the abdomen on up, out of the water. This will allow that all-important instant of an unimpeded window to shoot or make a quick pass to an open player. In a game that is as fast-paced as water polo, the game is made or broken in these split-second windows. 

The Basis of all other skills: Shot blocking and denial defense

On the other side of the coin, we have defense. In the same light of the team that scores the most wins, the team that can’t score will certainly lose. 

(Cue the defense wins championships cliché…NOW!)  

The height above water is imperative for set game defenders as well as goalkeepers. Especially during the duel between the center forward and 2-meter defender, where the battle for position and possession of the ball is key. {3} Firstly if the pass is denied in the 2-meter zone by a stifling outside and inside defense, then the goalkeeper will have a much easier day lining up and reacting to shots from longer distances. Here, outside defenders can wreak havoc on entry passes by getting to the same height as the passers release point. Secondly, height out of the water will give shot blockers and goaltenders that same advantage. The initial block attempt will be made by the closest defender and will depend on their reaction and how fast they can get to the level of the release point. Goaltenders are the last line of defense as any shot that gets by them ends up as a score. Height above water can mean the difference between an easy block at a high shot or an easy goal. Think of this as the inverse of the “5-hole” in ice hockey. Instead of between the legs, the polo “5-hole” is directly over the head and between outstretched arms. The art of shot blocking can be summed up into three components:

  1. Vision
  2. Reaction
  3. Hustle  

The visual component is the primer to the reaction and I will cover that in another article. Seeing as this article is about the key physical movement, the egg beater; we will delve into the HUSTLE part. To “boost” oneself up fast enough, athletes are best served using a violent and aggressive egg beater. Imagine climbing up water with your legs circling up and out trying to push off water. A combination of cyclical power and coordination is the order of the day.  More on technique later.

Goaltenders must also maintain a “hang time” of sorts.  If a block attempt is misread or a potential blocker succumbs to a “fake” the ability to maintain height for a split second or longer will allow the blocker room for the timing error.  In an interview with one of my former trainees who is now at the University of Redlands, KJ stated,

Q: If the ability to “jump” out of the water can be used as a fake to the defender?

A: Yes, and sometimes it’s the most effective. As an attacker, when I change my elevation and look like I’m about to shoot, the defender and goalie should react to that. As a shooter, I look for over reactions from both the defender and goalie. If I get both to jump to one side hard when I tread up, I can shoot to the other side of the goal. Most of the time, fakes are all about body position. And if I have the ball up and I’m high out of the water, the goalie and defender have no clue if I’m about to shoot or pass that ball


In this case, hang time is created by maintaining the speed and ferocity of the AEK long enough to make a block on a delayed or misread shot.

Technical Execution

The eggbeater kick is a form of treading water that allows water polo players to keep afloat in an upright position (which occurs for half the game {7}). Athletes should have a still head during the eggbeater (for optimal vision up pool) while the arms are free to shoot, pass, dribble and control the ball. The player’s torso is upright while the thighs are parallel, knees bent at about 90 degrees with the lower legs perpendicular to the water surface. The most efficient and optimal “in game” technique is the alternate eggbeater kick (AEK).  The AEK technique averages greater pushing forces than the simultaneous eggbeater technique (SEK) in which both legs are used in unison. The SEK technique somewhat resembles the breaststroke kick used by swimmers in which both legs kick in unison in a mirror opposite fashion. The AEK technique also favors postural economy for the goalkeepers that need to maintain an upright position in a short box, allowing them to see the entire pool. {3}

As the left leg makes a clockwise rotation, the right leg makes a counterclockwise rotation. Imagine lifting your knees directly in front of you then flicking the feet down and outside of the knees. From here, the kick is “finished” by aggressively circling the feet outward and downward attempting to push the water with the soles of the feet and snapping them back together. {5} The keys to technical proficiency in this movement is to modify speed and amplitude of the leg motion to match what each athlete needs. Use a larger more aggressive action to get out of the water, or a smaller more rhythmic motion to maintain position in the set game. 

Important muscle actions and muscles

Optimal eggbeater kick performance should encompass a fast-horizontal motion with the feet, a large abduction and flexion moment of the hips, and fast extension and flexion of the knees. {4} I would also add the importance of eversion and more so; inversion of the foot and ankle complex in finishing more aggressive AEKs. In other words, an effective eggbeater kick, (AEK) and (SEK) alike, takes a coordinated and powerful effort of the hips, knees, and ankles occurring in the frontal plane. This action keeps players in vertical position for 50% of the game {7}. These factors make training this key movement outside of the water tremendously difficult but a necessity to help athletes prepare for in the gym. 

From my experience and most recent investigations, it is my opinion that the egg beater movement is extremely unique and not seen in any other sport. The movement itself doesn’t lend itself well to efficiency. The crux of the leg action occurs frontal plane. Imagine trying to run in place with your legs flailing to the sides. Now imagine trying to run ON WATER (not IN WATER) attempting to keep your head above it so you don’t drown. Sound Like fun? Last I checked humans were not meant to thrive in water.

The question now becomes what role does gym training play in the critical movement?  With respect to what we do in the gym, track, fieldhouse, or anywhere we can train; our objective is to PREPARE every athlete for the demands of their respective sport, without being a second practice. 

In the water

When beginning to learn the eggbeater, learning the Breaststroke with emphasis on the kick action can serve as a developmental drill in the water. Even though the action utilizes the simultaneous action of the legs; the overall action resembles that of the eggbeater.  In terms of dynamic correspondence (a la Verkoshansky and Bondarchuk) breaststroke kicking can serve technical developmental drill as one would not only have similar leg action but also develop a feel for the water. The unique interplay here lies in the how the feet “push” the water. The effectiveness of your finish will depend on the power that the feet culminate the kick it with. If you merely need to tread, then the finish would require a rhythmic action that maintains balance. If you need to climb or jump then the feet must finish powerfully against the water. {8}  This would put the BSK into the special strength category (SDE for you transfer folks). I’ll emphasize that without getting a feel for the water the following drills will have a dampened effect as it is hard to bring water to the weight room.  Suffice it to say, in early development it pays off to swim.

Out of The Water

Out of The Water This next section will cover some “weight room” drills (I put these in quotes because you can certainly train these elsewhere) that I have found to help my water polo players over the years.  I will also categorize them them from general to specialized (I’ll used specialized as opposed to specific because unless it’s done in the water it cannot truly be specific), for reference into your programs.  A note of importance here but I do believe that identifying exercises for each sport (in this case water polo) creates a positive psychological effect regarding athlete “buy-in” and connection.  Knowing the terminology of each sport and linking it to their training lets your athletes know you care.  Even if you don’t know as much as they do (as is my case with this sport) it tells them you are invested in their success and is imperative in gaining the trust of them and the coaching staff.  {9} Verbiage and terminology are crucial answer to helping them find their “why” is the key to eliciting intent.

General Strength

Forward mini band duck walks

When used: Warmup or as a filler between upper body pairs

Objective: Load the eggbeater pattern while walking forward and backward to mimic the coordinative pattern when treading.

Execution:  load mini band around, legs above the knee. Take a squat position. Perform the AEK while taking small steps forward for 5 yards.  Return going backward. 

Lateral mini band duck walks

When used: Warmup or as a filler between upper body pairs

Objective: Load the eggbeater pattern while walking laterally to mimic the coordinative pattern when treading.

Execution:  load mini band around, legs above the knee.  Take a squat position. Perform the AEK while taking small steps forward for 5 yards.  Return going backward. 

Lateral Lunges When used: as a frontal plane lower body single leg strength movement Objective: train dynamic flexibility in the adductor of one leg and strengthen the abductors of the other Execution:  from a standing position begin by shifting your hip to the lunge side.  Step to one side while keeping a forward foot angle, push the ground in opposite direction with the off leg.  Flex at the hip, knee, and ankle sinking the hips.  Keep your head over the foot of the lunge leg. Lateral Step Ups: When used: as a frontal plane lower body single leg strength movement Objective: strengthen the adductors and leg muscles respective of egg beater motion Execution:  stand to the side of a knee height or slightly higher box or bench.  Step on box with leg closest to it. Knee should be pointing laterally of the body.  Raise the body up by stepping down through the box while bringing rest of body toward working leg.  Flare foot no more than 45 degrees.    Keep your head over the foot of the step leg.   Off Set Squat to Lateral Step Up When used: as a frontal plane lower body single leg strength movement Objective: strengthen the adductors and leg muscles respective of egg beater in a greater range of motion. Execution:  stand to the side of a knee height or slightly higher box or bench.  Step on box with leg closest to it. Knee should be pointing laterally of the body.  Perform a regular squat with the one leg on box before raising the body up by stepping down through the box while bringing rest of body toward working leg.  Flare foot no more than 45 degrees.    Keep your head over the foot of the step leg.   Feet Plate Slides: When used: as a filler between upper body exercises or in GPP circuit Objective: strengthen the feet with respect to inversion and the finish of the egg beater kick. Execution:  while is a seated position and preferably barefoot, push a plate with the outside sole of your foot toward the other foot.  Make sure you have a weight and floor surface that doesn’t have to much friction. You can perform for rep or time. Seated 90/90 hip rotations Medial/ lateral rotations; seated and standing When used: as a filler between upper body exercises or in GPP circuit Objective: strengthen the muscles of the hip rotators. Execution:  While is a seated position, and hip and knee at 90 degrees, attach a cord or band around ankle.  From here keep turn the lower leg in or out keeping the knee in place.         General Power Jumping Lateral Step Ups When used: as an explosive warmup/ interval cycle/ or in a crawl cycle. Objective: Build power in adductors necessary for a powerful Egg beater. Execution:  assume position as in lateral step up.  Leap up in air as you do the step-up motion, draw body to other side of box to land on the other leg.  To build technique use in an extensive, repetitive manner using a rhythmic, relaxed, and replicable tempo.   To build power reset body after each jump aiming to jump as high as possible.     Dynamic Off set Squat to Lateral Step Up  When used: as an explosive warmup/ interval cycle/ or in a crawl cycle. Objective: Build power in adductors necessary for a powerful Egg beater. Execution:  assume position as in Off Set Squat to lateral step up.  After lowering into squat, leap up in air as you do the step-up motion. Version 1 can be done on one leg at a time.  Here you will draw legs together momentarily at the peak of the jump before landing.   Version 2 can be done in alternating fashion.  Here draw the body to other side of box to land on the other leg.  To build technique use in an extensive, repetitive manner using a rhythmic, relaxed, and replicable tempo.   To build power reset body after each jump aiming to jump as high as possible.     Feet plate flicks When used: as a filler between upper body exercises or in GPP circuit Objective: strengthen the ankles with respect to explosive inversion needed to finish egg beater kicks aggressively. Execution:  Using the same set-up as in feet plate slides, flick plate with the outside sole of your foot toward the other foot.  Make sure you have a weight and floor surface that has very little friction.     Specialized Slider Circle Ins: simultaneous (breastroke) and alternating (egg beater) When used: During interval sets like Tabata, 30 on 30 off, or in a “medley” Objective: strengthen the muscles with respect to the egg beater motion while maintaining specific timing and duration of the movement. Execution:  Set-up in a classic front plank and place each foot on a furniture slider.  From here flex at the hip raising knee toward head, without hesitation circle the foot laterally while returning to extended position.  When learning both the simultaneous and alternating techniques, the movement stop each rep before before going to the next.  You can utilize a more continuous technique as your skill and strength progress.  

{1} Strength, Endurance, Throwing Velocity and in-Water Jump Performance of Elite German Water Polo Players

Christoph Zinner,1,2 Billy Sperlich,2 Malte Krueger,1 Tim Focke,1 Jennifer Reed,3 and Joachim Mester1

-Although goal scoring is essential for winning a water polo match, a high level of throwing velocity and precision is also of crucial importance. Elite male water polo players achieve maximal throwing velocities of 58 to 88 km·h

Several investigators have noted that the eggbeater kick is the most important skill in achieving high vertical reach above the water surface to clear the opponents defense and reach high throwing velocities

{2} Testing and Training of the Eggbeater Kick Movement in Water Polo: Applicability of a New Method

Melchiorri, Giovanni; Viero, Valerio; Triossi, Tamara; Tancredi, Virginia; Galvani, Christel; Bonifazi, Marco

{3} The Examination of Different Tests for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of the Eggbeater Kicks

Igor Stirn,1 Jernej Strmecki,1 and Vojko Strojnik1

Our results show that when performing alternate eggbeater kicks greater average pushing forces were produced by the water polo players with respect to consecutive simultaneous eggbeater kicks. This suggests that the players should use this technique when they are “wrestling” with an opponent which is a common situation in modern water polo. This situation is especially typical for the duel between the center forward and 2-meter defender (Dopsaj and Matković, 1999D’Auri and Gabbett, 2008). The goalkeepers are also using alternate eggbeater kicks when trying to maintain the high position of the body for a longer period of time. Sanders (1999)

{4} Kinematic Patterns Associated with the Vertical Force Produced during the Eggbeater Kick.

Oliveira N1Chiu CYSanders RH.

-For high performance in the water polo, eggbeater kick players should execute fast horizontal motion with the feet by having large abduction and flexion of the hips, and fast extension and flexion of the knees.

{5} Breast Stroke Kick Drills.  Chris Burton.

{6} Email Interview with Intercollegiate Polo Player: Kyle Jackson  (10/10/18)

{7} Repeated Sprint Ability in Elite Water Polo Players and Swimmers and its Relationship to Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance Yoav Meckel,1,*David Bishop,2,*Moran Rabinovich,1,*Leonid Kaufman,1,*Dan Nemet,3,*and Alon Eliakim1,3*

Despite this, players spend only 50% of game time in a horizontal body position; during the remaining time, they perform activities in a vertical body position, at moderate to high intensity, with and without contact with an opponent. Therefore, the velocity of horizontal displacement may not adequately reflect the intensity and the intermittent nature of the activities performed in the game, particularly for acceleration and deceleration movements in the vertical plane or in contact with opponents. It was also found that players’ heart rate usually exceeds 80% of the maximum at any stage of the game, suggesting that the intervening lower-intensity activities were of insufficient duration for complete recovery


The sole – the power! Most beginners fail to realize that most of the magic in the eggbeater kick is coming from the sole. Yes, the bottom of your foot! If you swim using the breaststroke, then you will understand this better. You must feel the water on the bottom of your foot being pushed away. One good way to develop this is to use a kick board and swim with only your legs.

{9} The Manual: Volume 3, Central Virginia Sport Performance 2018.  (Chapter 2: Bob Alejo, pg 28.)

General, Tips & Tricks
In part I we looked at the effect of high repetition strength training and its effect on the strength spectrum.  For me, the discovery of the multiple types of repetitions trained in a single set of twenty reps was a validation in the effectiveness and efficiency of this method.  Especially in regard to training the “year round” athlete that has limited “developmental” time and a limited reserve capacity due to the demands of their sporting commitment.   In this part of the series we look at the effect the high repetition set has had on the positive transfer of multiple athletic qualities for these young athletes.   Quality I: Power Measures I’ll begin with power measurements.  I will not go on and on about how broad jump and vertical jump improvements are correlated to athletic performance as these are well known.  But I will attempt to explain how improving the basic ability of power not only underpins the quality at which our sporting movements are done but also bridges the gap of a strength exercises to applicable movement. The quality of power production (and absorption) is evident in a sport such as soccer especially with the many cutting and start stop actions in pursuing or defending the ball.  “In order to make a change in direction while in motion, especially a quick one, you must have adequate levels of strength (eccentric, concentric, and isometric), speed-strength (explosive strength), flexibility (ROM) and coordination (technique).  Also included is speed of movement which is related to your strength levels.” {1}   For optimal projection to occur the muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle must absorb, stabilize, and contract in a quick, powerful, and coordinated manner.   I do understand that the transfer of more specific drills (plyometrics, altitude drops, etc.) do play a vital role in the development of these movements but in my opinion; these means incur a large cost if the athlete is not prepared.  In other words, our athletes are only as strong as their weakest link. Especially in the over competed and under trained populous such as women’s soccer players.  The way I see it, it is vitally important to develop needs sequentially from base to peak during the developmental stages.  Even though each of the young women featured in this article series are division one signees, their base athletic metrics were at a relatively low level. Here is a glimpse into the improvements of the broad jump, vertical jump, and average power (as measured on the COACHING TOOLS link on XLATHLETE.COM) that were taken about one month apart. As you can see substantial progress was made over the respective time periods for both athletes, especially in the broad jump.  The beauty of the utilizing the BABA (build a better athlete system AKA 1×20) was that employing one high rep set for broad spectrum (AKA general) exercises not only help build strength along the repetition spectrum but allowed us the time to work on other aspects of athleticism (cutting technique, sprinting, specialized exercises and variations of broad and vertical jumps in this case) without draining the neuro reserves. SIDE NOTE:  This phenomenon became evident especially as the Meg and Katelynn had their team early morning “conditioning” requirements as well as side jobs that included babysitting and shoveling snow for multiple hours in a day.  Circumstances like this were mentioned by Jeff Moyer in his presentation as he explained the “why” behind the minimal effective dose philosophy.  What’s also interesting are the improvements is average power.  This metric includes Jump height in relation to body weight.  There are two ways to look at improvement in average power.  First way, jump height remains relatively unchanged as body weight rises.  Which would apply to athlete’s looking to put on quality muscle mass.  This scenario mainly pertains to athletes in weight class dependent sports looking to bump up a class or two; as well underweight footballers or rugby players.  I don’t believe in gaining weight at the sacrifice of our power production capabilities.  The second way, is that body weight remains relatively unchanged while vertical jump (counter movement style) rises.  Which happened to apply to our athletes in this scenario.  The low exposure to total volume (and time under tension) in the minimal dose, broad spectrum strategy aided in keeping their body weights at bay.  The total volume remained stagnant (20 rep sets in ½ squat) as each exercise was executed for the same amount of reps aiming at improving technical execution of the jumps and specialized exercises while making minimal jumps in the strength exercises from week to week.  This is unlike classic strength approaches in the West where overall loads of barbell (volume and intensities) and number of exercises are increased over time.  While this approach may be optimal for those in barbell sports or the gym rat that wants to work out longer and harder; it will most likely eat away at the adaptive reserves of those in merely need to “use” strength to develop athletic abilities.       Quality II: Agility   Having the ability to devote time (while sparing the adaptive reserves) to the specialized drills and jumps was imperative to bridge the gap between our strength exercises and “on-field” drills.   While at the same time these young women improved their strength, they were able to learn how to apply that strength without running the well dry. Here is a glimpse into measurements in the pro agility (***no hand touch as they will never touch their hand down to change direction in game play). As you can see here both  made some great progress in the basic 5-10-5 test.  What should be noted here is that I did not introduce the specialized exercises for the side and forward cord lunges (as described in the many resources provided by Dr. Micheal Yessis and better shown in the Coaches Corner video section of the CVASPS Community site) until the second week of January.  This may be why we saw the larger improvements in Megan’s time from December to February.  Part of this decision was two-fold for myself 1) I felt meg needed to develop strength in the spinal erectors, abductors, and adductors 2) My comfort level with teaching the exercises which was made easier with the (excuse my shameless plug for Jay DeMayo) videos on the CVASPS Community.  In hindsight I probably would have introduced the lunges in a more basic manner (IE with dumbbells or possibly isometric holds) so that we could’ve made a smoother transition into the cords, but there is nothing wrong with the progress we made.  My takeaways on how this was done…
  • The protocol of half squats was not simply doing a set of 20. I may get flack for this; but I utilized a form of triphasic modalities in two warm up sets preceding the 20 rep set (what we term our push set).  The importance of eccentric strength in cutting cannot be understated as it is a key strength skill (a coordinated strength effort) in executing effective change of direction movements {2}. I waved the method of slow lowering to the half squat position (for a six count), holding the half squat position (for a six count), and slow lowering with a bottom hold (each for a three count).  In three week waves a piece.  My reasoning here was for them to learn the position, posture, and “pace” of the pattern.  (I apologize for the tongue twister.)  The loads represented fifty and seventy five percent (respectively) of the load in the push set, which was just enough to prime them for it.   In the grand scheme loads this light may not have been enough to completely train eccentric or isometric qualities “enough”; but given the training age of these individuals I felt it was necessary to use the TP method as a learning tool to effect posture and position more than anything else.
Some may ask, Why the half squat?  In short, a real smart guy in Whitewater Wisconsin told me in a phone conversation that ½ squats transfer to cutting and ¼ squats transfer to sprinting.  Thank again Ryan.  
  • As mentioned before the ability to spare training time and the nervous system allowed us simultaneously develop technique. Featured here are a series of pictures at the “plant point” of a cut.
  Here is meg in her second test in the 5/10/5.  And you can see a couple of things going on from this perspective that standout as inefficient.  Firstly, her head and shoulders are in front of her hips (center of mass).  Secondly, her hips are closed and not turned and are too late in positioning her body to run in the opposite direction.  The lack of strength in her erector muscles is evident as the angle of the torso is dipping into the angle of the shin. This lack of position causes her to swing her head and hips around her plant foot (as she pushes off) which forces her lead foot to swing back and to the side roughly at a 45 degree angle from her intended direction (as marked by the circle) detracting from the ‘sharpness’ of the cut.  In this case her lack of technique and postural strength force her to lose a step in the direction she wants to change direction to.                   Here is meg in her third test of the 5-10-5. Notice the more balanced and centered posture along with a pretty good hip turn.  You’ll also see that megs lead foot is nearly parallel to the plant foot as well as “in the air” ready to receive the ground off the push-off.  What used to take Meg two movements (and more time) to execute she now does in a single movement.  Take a look at that torso and shin angle nearly perfectly parallel and into that ankle beautifully, she can now apply the developed strength optimally.     Quality III: Confidence   A quality often overlooked in the development of young athletes is that of confidence.  I believe I heard Joe Kenn say in one of his presentations that “Confidence tranfers.”  Given the experience I’ve had with these young ladies as well the ones I’ve been so fortunate to work with over years; I’d be hard pressed to disagree.  It is easy for us coaches to get lost in the numbers but if there’s one intangible I’ve learned in this project if we can measure we can motivate.  These two things go hand in hand as well as give both coach and athlete an idea of where we are going together.  Giving equal ownership in progress to both.  Gratification is great thing both as an athlete and coach as it keeps us both in check with athlete on the intent of effort end and the coach on the critical thinking end.  I believe it was Tony Holler that wrote in a recent article (or one of his million twitter posts per day) about a dopamine release when kids see their numbers.,,Record, Rank, Publish I say he got it right.  If this is true, is this not the neuro rich environment we want our kids in?  Hell yes I say, because is they can see it we can sell it!  All this talk about buy in is then made simple.  In working with this group of girls thus far they gave me crap about having to go pants shopping because their legs out grew their current size.  I of course joked, “Like you women need another excuse to go shopping?!”  This type of interplay is vital in relationship building.  My young eight grader (numbers were not featured in this article as her training his largely to garner technical competence and basic strength) has also experienced the confidence boost.  Recently she scored a “defensive” goal in her indoor season (basically on a shorter pitch she was able to score form a long distance kick); which left herself and her parents surprised and elated.  Her mother told me she would never have had the confidence to try that before.  A couple weeks later her father told me how she now pursues offensive attacks with her arms up, unafraid to engage with larger players as she plays a level up against high schoolers.  With that said it is hard to argue with positive effects of a minimal effective dose approach that does not bash our kids into some archaic and ass backwards mantra of no pain no gain.  But rather keeps the needle moving forward for them making the training experience more enjoyable for athlete, parents, and coach. My take away items from this project and writing were many and I’m sure more will reveal itself as I put this project into practice more often.  I certainly hoped you gained a newfound appreciation and understanding for general (like I said let’s call it broad spectrum) means in reading this. I know writing it has helped me better understand and discover what can be done when you can the simple meaningful.       {1} “You must have adequate levels of strength (eccentric, concentric, isometric)…pg. 47” Yessis, Dr. Micheal, Women’s Soccer: Using science to improve speed. 2001, Wish Publishing. {2} “Strength along with coordination is very important, especially eccentric strength.” pg 130.  Yessis, Dr. Micheal, Explosive Basketball Training. 2003 Coaches Choice.  

Tips & Tricks
The athletic development and sport preparation field often undergoes it’s own audits via the latest fads, trends, and paradigm shifts.  Lately there has been a recent shift to low dose/ optimal dose/ minimal effective (insert your term here) dose amongst many successful coaches.  Especially among the ones I’ve been fortunate enough to interact and listen to in the past three years.  Thanks to guys like Ryan Bracius, who lets me visit him at Whitewater whenever I ask; as well as the great speakers at the Track and Football Consortium.   The latest of which featured an all-star lineup on top of even better presentation material.   At conferences such as the TFC the vast amount of material and impact of the information often leaves one’s head spinning, in a good way! Each presentation has nuggets of gold and diamonds in the rough.   For myself, Jeff Moyer’s presentations contained both.  Jeff was able to sift through the quagmire of concepts and offer some of the best practical advice that you could apply today.  One diamond in the rough he hit upon was in viewing strength as a spectrum.  Specifically, how it is executed in a high repetition program such as the 1×20 system.   In Jeff’s application he mentions that strength training is one of many components of many needed in an training arsenal.   As a coach who has limited time to train his athletes (like much of us do) he must find a way to effectively and efficiently to make improvements in the key indicators that matter.  Spending time executing multiple sets and reps of multiple strength exercises not only takes away from time learning vital skills but also the athlete’s recovery and adaptation reserves. In other words, you can only run the well dry so long before you run out of water. In Jeff’s words “twenty reps is one of the least possible CNS costs to get a positive transfer.”  The phase of 20s is also paramount to building the broad spectrum of needs for young athletes which include strengthening of connective tissues, cardiovascular development, capillarization of blood vessels, skill improvement, and maximal strength all within a single set.  Sounds like a way to get a bang for your buck in my opinion.  {1}   Well this got me thinking…how can I see or show this?  As Jeff mentions in his TFC presentation “A Minimalist Approach to Building A Better Athlete.”  That the 20s cover a spectrum of strength including accelerative strength, strength endurance, and maximal strength along with immense carry over to power metrics such as vertical jump, broad jump, and sprinting.  The great thing about trends is that sometimes they spawn the production of nifty little tools.  Enter:  velocity measuring devices!  So, I decided to measure the spectrum of reps in a twenty rep set and see how if fell along the velocity zone/ special strengths spectrum. {2} In my case investigation I used the Open Barbell V2.0 and accompanying IOS app.  for the ½ squat exercise with two of my Women’s soccer players. The following photos show the velocities of each rep during the twenty rep set.  I was able to track one of the athlete’s over the course of several weeks because she began training with me before the other.  So, goes life in the private sector once one gal starts coming and seeing results she tells her friends about it and soon enough you get more working with you. I digress. If we examine the first 10 reps we can see ”Meg” begins with a low end accelerative speed .53 m/s then quickly jumps up to the mid range .66 m/s up to rep ten before fatiguing a bit where she falls below .6 m/s. My guess is that this was her first session attempting a twenty rep back squat and was feeling her way through the movement. Reps 12-16 reveal the competitor Meg is, as she hits nearly a .7 on reps 13 and 16 before getting back down in the .5m/s on rep 17. On her last rep she is able to jump near .6 again probably becuse I told her to finish fast.  Intent is everything when you get fatigued! Upon close examination you can see some fluctuations going on as the speeds certainly did not drop uniformly as a perfect spectrum would look like. Again, I attribute this to her first attempt at this.                   A few weeks later you can see that Meg was not only able to add 15 lbs. but produce greater overall speeds throughout the set. She began in the high .6 m/s range which she held for the first 5 reps. Reps 6-20 we see that Meg slowed down a bit into the .5-.57 m/s range but maintained the low end accelerative throughout.  In other words, she was able to repeatedly display her accelerative ability for 14 reps after the initial fast reps.  What’s more interesting is that she displayed faster bar speeds with 15 lbs. more load.  We can see that this also gives us insight into the type of strength she is able to develop in the 1×20 system.                   The first pic in the series features a set of 20 at 132lbs. for Katelynn (Meg’s teammate).  As you can see Kate begins really strong at .65 m/s before dropping a bit to the low accelerative end in the mid .50 m/s. in rep 4.  From rep 5 she is able to maintain speeds in the low accelerative range until rep 16 in which she begins to teeter in the absolute strength zone to .47 m/s and near uniform drop until the last rep at .42 m/s. Katelynn’s set demonstrated a pretty much uniform drop in speed and looked more like a spectrum.                 About 6 weeks after her initial session with 85 lbs.  Meg increased her squat to 132 lbs. I should also mention that she did not put on one pound of bodyweight in the time she has trained with me.  **This will come into play in a follow up article as I show how this transferred to her speed and agility markers. She begins in the low accelerative end for 4 reps before dropping to .45 m/s in the high absolute strength zone in rep 5. Meg is able to maintain that force production capability until rep 15. Where the “weight” of load has become heavier in the .37 m/s range.  **In Dr. Mann’s recommendations .30 m/s is the slowest cut-off for the squat lift {3; pg. 48} and she is able to maintain the high end absolute strength zone for the 5 remaining reps.                 I’ve always held to the mantra that everything we do in the weight room and all other forms of sport preparation should compliment, amplify, and improve an athlete’s skill set.  In the current landscape of “year round” competitive sport; where our kids are over played and under trained; we as coaches must deal with the problematic environment that the situation produces.   In my practice, training must produce positive training and performance results without draining the athlete.  We want to get the most bang for our buck, performed in a time efficient manner, and allow the system to recover, adapt, and grow.  This investigation revealed the positive effect of high rep sets in regards to training multiple strengths at one time.  Not only is this appropriate for the level of athletes in this investigation but also a necessity given their year round commitment to their one sport.  In the next installment I will investigate our progress in other key performance athletic markers.   {1} Moyer, Jeff. A Minimalist Approach to Building a Better Athlete.  Track and Football Consortium VI; December 2017. {2} {3} Mann, Bryan J. Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of Velocity Based Training in Athletes. Ultimate Athlete Concepts 2016.