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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:

Protecting the Water Polo 5 hole

  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

KJ making his move

 

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

https://journals.lww.com/nscajscr/fulltext/2015/10000/Testing_and_Training_of_the_Eggbeater_Kick.10.aspx

{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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v61nEYUb5_0

{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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3873665/

{8} http://easeswim.blogspot.com/2015/06/why-you-find-eggbeater-hard-to-learn.html

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.)

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