"Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great - husband of Joanne Ernst, 1985 Hawaiian Ironman Champion
The forgotten fingers- the 4th and 5th fingers
Excellent swimming is achieved with attention to, then mastering all the details!
In 1873, the Virtuoso Pianist was developed by Charles Louis Hanon. The Virtuoso Pianist was a series of exercises created to train the pianist in speed, precision, agility, and strength; of all fingers, particularly the 4th and 5th fingers. The activation of these fingers it was believed could turn a good pianist into a great one.
Learning from accomplished pianists, competitive swimmers can improve their swim technique and speed through detailed focus on the use, position and increased strength of their fingers.
Training with certain Paddles
In my first swimming video I recommend to catch like you are reaching over and hugging a Swiss Ball. Your fourth and fifth fingers are lower. See Eney Jones Video
Nort Thornton , the University of California swim coach at Berkeley from 1974-2007 , takes this concept further and developed The Thornton Paddles to emphasize and develop specific finger technique and strength. See The Thornton Paddles
In his words, he describes the importance of the paddles.
“To pull with your lats and anterior deltoids you have to engage your ring and pinky fingers. Try it. Put you first two fingers, your index and middle fingers, with your elbow higher than your hand on a table and push. You feel the front of your shoulder. Now try the last two fingers, your ring and pinky. Press on the table and you will feel your lats and the muscles in the back of your shoulder engage.
So we designed paddles to give more resistance to that part of your hand. Supination paddles put more force on the last two fingers and have the additional benefit of building feel for the water in the rest of the hand. Using ultralight aluminum also allows for flex when the swimmer gets the proper hand and arm pitch.
This not only balances the stroke; it takes pressure off the rotator cuff and makes stronger faster more enduring strokes possible. We also have two different models, the full arm model and the hand model. Both have their specific benefits”
Training with Whiffle Balls
Yoelvis “Joey“ Pedraza, former University of Florida swimmer and current member of the United States National Open Water Team, recalls a drill he did with Gregg Troy at University of Florida with whiffle balls.
Pedraza said, “You grab the whiffle balls with your first three fingers leaving the 4th and 5th fingers on their own to enter the water and fend for themselves. You swim hold the balls in this manner.”
Finger Awareness Drills
Other drills that will create this awareness through movement are:
Backstroke. Entry focus on the 4th and 5th fingers. Kicking drill. Kicking with a board and grabbing hands like a handshake with a kicker coming the opposite way( and you thought this was cheating). Breaststoke pull with a dolphin kick. Scoop down and around with the 4th and fifth fingers lower.
Remember as Aristotle said ”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” So get all parts activated, working together . . . . . and get out there!
Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer, and is also a yoga instructor.
- Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
- Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
- National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
- Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
- Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
- European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
- Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
- Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
- Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).