How to Train with the Eel-Fin

Training with the Eel-Fin:

First 1-3 sessions:

The first few sessions with the Eel-Fin should help swimmers FEEL the proper undulation. The initial goal should be about 20 min sessions (x 2-3 over a week or 2) to get them to understand what the Eel-fin does and how it can improve their undulations. The coach should be focused on a few key elements in the communication and feedback with the swimmers:

  1. Demonstrate that we don’t want big knees and all power to the front of the body, but also want roughly EQUAL power to the recovery phase of the undulation (in fact the recovery phase will never be as strong as the forward/power phase)
  2. Explain how we are not ‘dolphins’ but ‘eels’ when we move through the water because we need to lead with our chest to create offset water vortices on both sides of our body to roll along our body until we propel off of these vortices on our feet both forward and back (like 2 wheels that shoot out a tennis ball but in our case the wheels are offset and rolling down our body)… where these vortices start as we suck water toward our body as we pull our chest back and draw water inward in a spiraling pattern
  3. We need the to use POWER to the recovery phase (which they may not have much of the correct muscles yet)
  4. The undulation should be somewhat fluid with equal distance and power to the front and to the back of the mid-line of the body,
  5. We need to ensure that the kick continues PAST the mid-line in the forward direction and doesn’t stop directly down from the mid-line (this is crucial for a bilateral undulation).
The first few workouts should target how to FEEL a Bilateral Undulation:
Step 1:
  • Start off with the Lil’ Red Kick in the far position (as far from the feet as possible)
  • They are going to swim ON THEIR SIDE ONLY to about mid-pool underwater and then surface and finish a pool length with an even pace freestyle. Give them 30-45 second rest between each pool length for feedback from the coach.
  • Have them swim ‘big eel’ trying to take about 4-5 feet of width along the lane like an eel. Their arms should be overhead with elbows straight but the hands should be apart about shoulder width overhead. They need to ‘lead with their chest’ (not the head) making their body into a ‘wave’ from chest to feet.
  • They need to FEEL that the weight (Lil’ Red Kick) will act as a pendulum that they can feel when it is fully forward or fully back. They can’t jerk their feet back and forth but must undulate slowly and wait for their weight to finish moving fully forward or fully backward before they change the direction of their feet.
  • Problems to watch for:
    • Some swimmers will just kick their legs back and forth and not lead with their chest
    • Some swimmers will try to bend their knees too much (ask them to keep them straight even though this is not reality) and end up almost bringing their knees toward their chest. They need to move ‘forward’ in big undulations
    • Most will still want to just power forward with their knees and not use muscle to pull the Eel-Fin back at an even pace and power as they move their legs forward (this takes practice)
    • Many will want to stop their forward undulation at their mid-line and this will become awkward as the weight will try to force them to ‘finish’ forward
  • Repeat this process for 4-5 lengths with the Lil’ Red Kick in the far position. Change which side of their body they face for each replicate.
Step 2:
  • Next move the Eel-fin to a middle position and say that this time we will “undulate faster” but still not at race pace.
  • Again this is ONLY on their side, never facing down or on their back at this phase (which just brings back their old bad habits they have developed after years of big knee undulations)
  • For this they will still have some of the same problems but more may start to get the process as this is a more comfortable pace for them… watch for the same problems as above and make corrections and feedback
  • Repeat this process on their side for 4-6 replicates.
Step 3:
  • Next move the Lil’ Red Kick to the closest position below their feet.
  • Explain that this will be their race pace tempo (roughly)
  • Now they will still ‘lead with their chest’ but the chest will move just slightly
  • They should have an EQUAL distance in their feet undulation front to back (in relation to their mid-line)
  • They should be showing POWER to their recovery (backward) phase of their undulation with less overpower to the forward (power phase) direction.
  • Repeat this process for 4-6 replicates (underwater to mid-Pool).
  • While still practicing ONLY on their side you can also have them race their partners to mid-pool with the Lil’ Red kick at the closest position just to get the idea of using their body properly at race pace
  • Next take off the Lil’ Red Kick to ensure they are undulating properly on their own
  • Take off the Eel-fin for them to practice a few times ‘on their own’
  • Race their partner to mid-pool (on their side). Monitor this closely as their old habits are very likely return when they race each other.
After 1-3 Sessions
  • Once they are getting the majority of correct body position and undulation power, you can move on to more complex training sessions
Step 4:
  • With just the Eel-Fin (and no ‘Lil Red Kick weight), repeat some the process from Steps 1-3 with undulations on their side (for some swimmers you may need to use the ‘Lil Red Kick a few times to remind their body how to undulate properly)
  • Swim several lengths as ‘underwater to mid pool’ on both sides again as you dial in their problems.
  • Next have them undulate on their back. They will notice that they want to go back to old habits on their back. You may suggest they close their eyes and just focus on the same body undulations they were taught on their side.
  • Lastly have them undulate on their stomach. Almost ALL swimmers will want to go back to their old habits of unilateral undulations with lots of forward power, no recovery power, etc… so they may really need to close their eyes.
  • You can also have them corkscrew by undulating 1-3 times on their side and then roll to their back or stomach for a few more undulations before surfacing.
Step 5:
  • As swimmers improve you can also use the Eel-fin along with Tempo Trainers to create a 0:45 tempo and have them undulate each cycle with the 0:45 beep
  • Use the Eel-Fin/Tempo Trainer on both sides, then the back and the stomach
  • Then remove the Eel-fin and continue practicing on all 4 sides with the Tempo Trainer only
Step 6:
  • The real key to ALL of this is being able to regularly fine tune what they learned and not to allow their technique to degrade to the old unilateral undulations.
  • We offer a training series called ‘power down’ which helps to develop the ‘recovery’ muscles which can help supplement a bilateral undulation training program.
  • You should also include break out noodles in the lanes to ensure they regularly have to undulate underwater to select distance off each wall. The coach should monitor their process during hard workouts to ensure they are undulating properly and give them feedback and reminders.
  • We have some workout sets you can use to include the Eel-fin regularly into workouts to help develop the more subtle details they need:
    • Keeping knees together in both phases of their undulation
    • Keeping the balls of their feet touching (allowing the ankles to flex outward)
    • Constantly improving their recovery muscles
Step 7:
  • The Pro Eel-fin is designed more for power development than for routine training. The Pro Eel-Fin is not ideal for training a bilateral undulation with the ‘Lil Red Kick weight but rather to make the recovery phase a very active process to develop stronger and strong recovery muscles.
Step 8:
  • The ultimate goal for underwater undulations for fly and back races is to be able to undulate 11 times underwater (at a 0:45 undulation rate!!) and surface with the head just before the 15 meter mark and then have the first stroke (back or fly) reach over the 15 meter buoy.
  • The Eel-fin can be used to help develop this skill by measuring how far each swimmer can swim with 11 undulations. Mark where they surface and record it so they can constantly improve on that distance.
  • This process is ONLY relevant if using a Tempo Training to control the rate of undulations, otherwise they simply go back to using lots of knees to get distance from each undulation. But DISTANCE is of no value if there is no speed. They have learned over the years to over-power their forward undulation in order to get distance out of each ‘kick’ but that this habit has fueled their innate sense that more forward power is a ‘good thing’ when they get more distance with less effort. This is the habit that needs to be re-trained… more about speed and bilateral first… then distance per undulation second.
  • You can measure their distance with 11 undulations (0:45 sec rate) with both the Eel-Fin and without (they should be similar or able to go further without the Eel-fin as the Eel-fin does not significantly change their speed or distance per undulation.)
Step 9:
  • Once all the ‘pieces’ are in place it Is time to retrain the swimmer’s propulsion (forward) phase. At this point many swimmers will have a balanced bilateral undulation, meaning they may have EQUAL power in their propulsion phase and recovery phase. However the propulsion phase should be 70% of the power and the recovery phase should be 30%.
  • So far in our process you have developed the beginnings of the ‘power’ for the ‘recovery phase’ and the balanced undulation needed. It will take time to constantly create the muscles and muscle memory to maximize the 30% power needed for a quality recovery phase.
  • The final goal is to gain propulsion power AND recovery power. This can be achieved with regular races of equally balanced swimmers AND by using drag resistance such as a parachute.
  • In order for the swimmer to develop forward distance and power, parachutes will need to be oversized compared to a parachute that may be appropriate for the same swimmer with a pull set.
  • As with any underwater distance training, it is best to use Tempo Trainers at 0:45 to control maintain an adequate tempo while developing distance and power from each undulation.
  • Another method for using parachutes is to have an extra -long tether strap from the hips to the parachute. Place the parachute out in front of the swimmer as they push off the wall so that their first 2-4 undulations are done without any resistance and then the swimmer can focus on maximizing their next 4-6 undulations as the parachute activates.
  • This method can help the swimmer develop a strong propulsion phase with a balanced recovery phase.