History The term originates from Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan in the movies of the 1920’s. He was one of the World’s best swimmers who swam with his head out of the water. Johnny was considered the “Cadillac of swimmers” during his era. Sam Freas, who coached at LSU had a lot of success using Tarzan and dryland in the 1980’s. Who does this benefit ? This is for everyone who wants to develop speed and power in their swimming at any age. This is a great drill to spike heart rate in short spurts if you don’t have lots of time to work out. Why do you need Tarzan? This drill develops speed by forcing the swimmer to maintain a controlled small and fast kick. The kick must be behind the hips in order not to increase drag and fast! Keep the hips square, head still and out of the water while focusing on equal rotation of the shoulders. The arm stroke needs to be shorter to work on speed. This is a drill and used for speed and power so don’t worry about efficient long strokes. Correct form is priority! When do you add Tarzan to your workout ? Always fit Tarzan into your workouts, even if you do a few 25’s or 12.5’s at the end of a long distance oriented practice. You want to avoid retraining your fast twitch muscles to slow by swimming at the same pace which is usually slower than any race pace at meets. The more sprint oriented you are the more you need to work this in. If you need any help deciding how to use Tarzan or other sprint sets please email [email protected] .
Mechanics vs. Yardage
Yardage, yardage, yardage is the old school of thought in this sport and is still used by some successful teams around the country. The true test would be to study the longevity of the swimmers who over train as a training philosophy and see if they continue to swim in college and improve as well as reports on injuries incurred. Overtraining results in bad mechanics, which leads to injuries and results in less recovery swimming, which breaks down the athlete and trains all muscle groups to work as slow-twitch muscles. Each person has a different level of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles which makes certain swimmers better at sprints and
warm up: 500 mix
8 x 50 kick descend by 2 :10 rest
Set #1 warm down as needed after each sprint
6 x :48 second sprints ( :48 is the goal time for the 100 fly)
3 of them free kick and 3 of them fly kick
Set #2 warm down as needed after each sprint
4 x :48 second sprints
2 of them fly sprint swim and 2 of them sprint paddle swim free
warm up: 600 mix
4 x 100 50 kick / 50 swim build each 50 to 80% :15 rest
6 x 50 swim 3 free / 3 fly build each 50 to 90% :20 rest
Set #1 Tempo sprints ( decide stroke count to time and maintain speed once per each
25, starting 2 strokes after the break out)
2 x 25 swim (1 fly, 1 free) to develop tempo speed unless already known
rest as needed
4 x 75 swim (2 fly, 2 free) tempo each 25 maintaining speed
warm down as needed
timed turns, break outs and finishes
warm up: 400 mix
4 x 75 kick / swim / kick by 25 @ 70% :15 rest
6 x 50 kick @ 85% 3 fly, 3 free :15 rest
2 x 100 sprint kick 1 free / 1 fly
50 easy after each kick
Set #1 swim set fly and free
8 x 25 on :40 build each 25 to sprint
2 x 100 on 2:15 broken @ 50 for (:10) negative split
variable speed by 50 90% – 100%
2 x 50 on :50 sprint
12 x 25 on :35 1-4 tarzan (2 +/- 20 strokes and 2 increase arm speed)
warm up: 600 mix
repeat twice fly kick set up to :20 rest
100 middle 50 sprint kick
50 variable speed by 25 70% – 100%
2 x 25 sprint
warm down as needed
Set #1 paddle swim freestyle :10 – :20 rest as needed
8 x 50 @ 85%
2 x 100 @ 90%
1 x 200 variable speed by 25 70% – 100%
one block sprint broken 100 @ 50 and 75 for :10 each
warm down as needed
warm up: 400 mix into
all choice rest within reason but increase and elevate heart rate
2 x 50 kick / swim by 25
2 x 100 kick / swim by 50
2 x 150 kick / swim by 75
50 easy then timed 200 swim
50 easy then timed 2oo kick
200 alternate by 25 kick fly @ 80% / swim fly @ 100%
2 x 150 as above 1 fly / 1 free
2 x 100 as above 1 fly / 1 free
2 x 50 as above 1 fly / 1 free
warm down as needed
WEIGHT LIFTING / TRAINING GUIDELINES
1. When the core of your training is aerobic you don’t need to lift aerobically. You are lifting for speed and strength.
2. Flexibility is key especially after lifting. Stretching after any lifting to increase blood flow which aids in recovery. You must remain flexible in swimming and maintain your full range of motion.
3. Always lift your larger muscle groups first when organizing your work-out routine. Basic Guideline: Day 1 Back with bi-ceps and one leg exercise and 15 minutes of ab work. Day 2 Chest with tri-ceps, finish legs. Take one or two days off or do Legs and Abs on a third day and not with day 1 or 2.
4. You don’t have to be sore to increase your power and that definitely hinders speed. Example of how to work thru set( chest exercise):
Let’s say your begin doing flat bench warm-up with 135lbs. Begin with 2-3 sets warm-up with this weight doing +/- 8 reps, now lets begin. As you increase your weight you must maintain the speed of each lift, for example if you increase your weight to 155lbs and did 5 reps total and 4 of them maintained speed and you struggled with the 5th rep you should have stopped at 4 reps. Now increase the weight and try for 2-3 reps maintaining your speed. Remember that we are training you for power and speed, working your fast twitch muscles. If you are more of a distance swimmer this will only help your training.
5. Lifting is cross training and is essential for full body strength, power and speed. It is old school to lift aerobically if you train 2-6 hours a day aerobically in the pool. You eventually reach an aerobic threshold and then the rest of your training is useless. An example of aerobic lifting would be 3-5 sets with 10-15 reps or circuit training where you spend 30 seconds or more at stations, sound familiar ? That type of training has a purpose but not when you are getting your aerobic training from swimming, maybe pre-season for starts.
6. Cross-training sports is good for some athletes. The only time to really worry about cross training will be when you are resting for a meet or in the taper phase or your season for the season end championships. Example, don’t start running during a taper especially if you are in conditioning phase of another sport or throwing if you are in softball or baseball. Things to consider as they will impact your swimming performance greatly. Start your other sports after championships!!!!!
7. Distance swimmers gain from lifting for speed and power. You are training for the mile and your coach is preparing you in the pool. Lifting as prescribed is a great form of cross training that will not only help your power and speed but help in recovery from all your slow twitch muscle work.
8. There is a local team that over-trains swimmers and forces bad weight lifting mechanics upon its swimmers. I was asking them about their weight lifting program and he told me that they push multiple reps to ultimate failure. Does any coach even old school do that ? NO ! They give hard sets but you are always able to finish to the wall and complete the set. Do you ever pass out or sink to the bottom ? Then why would you train that way in the weight room. The problem is that most coaches don’t understand how weight lifting, body strength, speed and power work to help swimmers.
9. Weight lifting is one dryland component of training as is swimming. Pilates, Yoga and any exercise regime that increases full body strength needs to be included in your dryland routine.
10. Each person has a certain muscle make-up that helps pre-determine success for particular events and if a coach doesn’t try to recognize individual differences then true success or full potential will never be known. In short there are fast twitch and slow twitch muscles in everyone and each person has a different percentage of each. The hard part on coaching is trying to recognize the tendencies. Long distance training or over yardage will reinforce the slow twitch muscles and slow down the fast twitch fibers of that swimmer and the swimmer that is predisposed slow twitch will reach his or her full potential. Weight training correctly will help maintain the fast twitch fibers thru-out this type of program. Remember there is no need to lift aerobically as you are getting all you need and more in practice. There is an aerobic threshold for each swimmer and program that each coach needs to recognize for each training group. What is that yardage number is yet to be determined and hasn’t been studied enough yet. Once this yardage figure is reached the remainder of practice aerobically is useless. I would place the figure to be around 7,500 +/- yards per work-out. Once a swimmer is in aerobic shape and this can be determined by max heart rate sets based on time after set is complete for full recovery. The faster the recovery to resting heart rate the better shape the swimmer is in aerobically. The heart rate set must be completed using a set that is a slow build in speed that utilizes slow twitch fibers as they recover faster due to their size and energy demands on the body. Now if a swimmer is predisposed to fast twitch you may begin his or her training. I have developed a 9 week weight lifting program that would start during the finish phase of getting swimmers in shape aerobically and continue thru the print phase of training or as some prefer to say the beginning of taper and finish with a 4 week speed work taper that all finishes with the championship meet. You must have some sort of speed work in every practice even if it for 10 minutes at the end of each practice or trailing warm-up. You can’t let the fast twitch of any swimmer to be detrained at any phase of your season.
11. Coaches must remember the key ingredient to this whole program is based on training swimmers for the exact event. Most coaches still believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare you for the 500. I believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare them for the mile and hurt the speed needed for the 500. I said speed for the 500 and speed and power are part of each event. Training for the 50, 100 and 200’s take more speed and power but it one of the important components of training after a swimmer is in shape aerobically. Please remember that while you are in the aerobic phase of training that speed work must always be worked in the work-out and the basis for your lifting program.
12. I have had a handful of swimmers that came from programs that over-trained and were in excellent aerobic shape but had no speed and power and never trained for specific events. It took about 6-8 months to get these swimmers to train with quality for each event and develop speed since their muscle memory needed to be changed while trying to figure out their muscle fiber make-up.
13. Kicking drives speed and needs to be a larger part of practice and slow controlled kicking works while using correct body position without using kickboards.
1. Racing – The drive to win close races to recover from
2. Race Pace – This isn’t sprinting to exhaustion but creating the speed that will be needed to achieve goal times for each event. Let’s take the 100 free for our example: John’s goal is to swim a 48.00 in the 100. In order to achieve this swim we must create and instill muscle memory in john to help him achieve this goal. John will need to maintain 12.00 while swimming 25’s and 24.00 speed while doing 50’s. You can eventually work up to 75’s and broken 100’s (breaking them at different distances) and finally a 100 from the block before he actually swims his big race. This will give John the confidence he needs for his big race. Start the season with enough rest at each desired distance to achieve race pace speed and as the season continues change the rest interval and achieve the same result. If John is tired on a given day that you want him to do race pace then you must give him enough rest to achieve race pace. This doesn’t have to be the main set but just the last 10 minutes of a desired workout. Please remember to do race pace during the aerobic phase of the season and during holiday training. Race pace develops muscle memory and helps create speed and power. Remember that your dryland program is important and must coincide with this type of training. You will do more race pace as the taper progresses. Recovery and over-speed sets are as important and must be incorporated in workouts with race pace. Training with speed and power in the water and during dryland will enhance everything you are trying to achieve in your program.
3. Over-speed – Creating and enhancing muscle memory with the possible speed of a time not yet achieved in a race. Creating speed in short spurts helps train the fast twitch muscle make-up of every swimmer. Cords is wide spread example usually incorporated during the taper or resting phase of a season and should be used thru out. Over-speed can be achieved off starts and walls and during very short distances or with correct Tarzan swimming.
4. Tarzan for speed purposes – Swimmers that do water polo use Tarzan to see the ball. They are strong, have arm speed, upper body strength and usually are great at kicking. Wow, everything you need for sprinting!!!!! Sprinting doesn’t always mean short distances. 200’s are now in the sprint category. If you have ever seen Diana Munz swim she has great kicking skills that were evident in her swims off each wall and at the end of distance events. She shows variable speed and power in the distance events with her upper body and legs…………..
5. Recovery and dryland – These two categories make most coaches nervous. I understand the thinking of overtraining, as I have to constantly trust what I believe and not slip into the way I was trained to over train. Proper recovery must be part of each workout phase and the dryland program must match recovery and must constantly change body part emphasis to ensure recovery. Hard work should alternate legs, core and upper body. That doesn’t mean if you are recovering the legs you can’t work the arms, etc…. You can even alternate upper and lower body between dryland and swimming as well as in each set! You can alternate within each set, from set to set from work –out to workout, week to week. Add a true recovery workout once during the week and see how your swimmers respond the next day. Maybe recover for an hour and surprise them by sending them home early, you have now added MENTAL RECOVERY.
6. Each set should include distances as well as the repetitions, mechanics emphasis, and what to do on each part of the swim. For example: 6 X 400’s on 5:00 free with 4 fly kicks off each wall breathing to one side of the pool (to insure breathing n both sides and even shoulder rotation) and make-sure the swimmers know why. Odd swims are variable speed 75% – 95% by 50, with numbers 2 and 4 pace holding 1:02 and number 6 being timed with sprint kicking each wall and last 200. Write it down for them to read and repeat it to them verbally as you know it’ll take many times to get it thru their heads.
7. Make sure your swimmers can read the clock and understand negative, even, ascending, and pace terminology for splits in races and practice. Swimmers should constantly be using the clock even during warm-up and warm-downs so times and speed can be inherent. They must understand when you tell them they need to go out in a certain speed for a race strategy or tell them next time to go out faster or slower. Most swimmers shake their head OK but actually have no idea how to actually physically do it. They understand the concept mentally so you must incorporate this in your training sets. Simple example during warm-up 4 X 200’s with descending send-off tell swimmers to just make the send off as it descends with a goal time on the last 200 that is easy to achieve with some effort in order to reinforce feel of that speed in the water. 4 X 200’s 2:40, 2:30, 2:20 and the last one go a 2:15.
8. Just FYI and my opinion about certain types of equipment: Paddles – I like paddles but it does take away the feel of the water temporarily from the swimmers. Please incorporate a longer warm-down after a paddle set to give the swimmer time to regain feel. Pull-boys – They are made with different styles that fit each person differently and usually result in bad body position during a set. Please watch for this, as pull-boys don’t promote streamline body position. Kickboards – again different styles and sizes. Please don’t do all your kick sets with boards as this takes the body out of proper streamline position. Kickboards are good for isolating the legs. Cords for dryland and over-speed – Good for cross training as talked about previously. Please check the cords as chemicals do eventually cause the cords to snap and that’ll hurt!
9. Coaches flexibility: Stay flexible and evaluate if the swimmers are getting what you wanted out of each set. Don’t force the issue if motivation isn’t the issue. Change the set to achieve your goal, scratch the set if needed, adjust it or use it later in the season. If you change the set explain why and try to get them to understand the reason. If you can’t explain it you’ll never be able to teach it. If too much info is written for the set slowly increase the stimulus over time. Flexibility is hard as a coach feels the time constraint to get it all in. Fight that urge and back up, as that’ll help the swimmers more in the short and long term.
10. IM (Individual
11. Old school breathing – Have you ever been told to only breath 3 times each lap in the 200, hopefully not. Breathing is your friend in events longer than a 50 and helps the body alleviate the pain you feel in your body by exhaling and eliminating the lactate acid your muscles are producing as a by-product of the work you are demanding of them. Breathing too much or poorly (mechanically incorrect) in the 50 can slow you down. Breathing is important in the timing or the breast and fly and essential to the backstroke. Breathing is covered in mechanics of each stroke. You can’t expect a swimmer to change or do anything different is a meet that you don’t train at practice. Please keep that in mind ……… Breathing should never compromise streamline position especially before and after each wall or flags to flags.
12. Heart rate is a great tool to see if your swimmer is sick, stressed, over worked, needs more rest or is out of shape. You can measure this many ways by creating a set that helps the swimmer with maxing heart rate and measuring how long it takes to recover. Remember that I am not a doctor nor should you diagnose a swimmer from this, it is only a tool and can be used to help you at each phase of training. This tells you about aerobic conditioning, fatigue during the holiday training and the amount of resting needed to create race pace or sprinting and definitely during taper and resting before meets. Consult a doctor or read up about heart rate, as there are plenty of studies and info on the subject. This will help you with flexibility and changing your workouts when needed.
If you lift you must taper lifting also. Do not stop lifting or the benefits of your cross training will be lost. You must work on speed while continuing to gain strength. The Faster Swimming coach’s guide shows an exact practice schedule for lifting during taper as well as detailed dryland workouts during this crucial phase.
If you need help tailoring your program please email me @ [email protected]
Athletic peaking, when you are in top shape, results in your best performances of the season. At this time fitness is at the highest level, while fatigue is at the lowest. This is the one time of the season that fatigue should in no way mask fitness. Your peak occurs when you are ready to perform at your best physically (fitness, skills, reactions…) and psychologically (strategy, focus, intent…). Peaking for sport is no accident, but rather the culmination of training, competitions, tactics and regeneration that has been planned for.
A peaking period can be as long as several weeks or as short as several days, so defining your peaking period and planning accordingly is critical. No new stimuli of any significant intensity should be introduced at this time, and training methods (psychological, physical, and technical) must be specific to the demands of competition. Complete regeneration of all required physical capacities; such as speed, strength, and power; is paramount. These levels should all be at their highest during a peaking phase. While volume most often drops significantly and rest periods increase during a taper, some portion of training intensity MUST remain high to facilitate peak performances. To maintain an extended peak, appropriate intensity must remain in your training at some level throughout the peaking period.
The Taper phase used by Faster Swimming is a 7 week process.
Get the exact workouts needed in our 23-week program.
Below is workout #105 of #113 that lead to Championships:
Another meet warm up:
600 choice swim @ 70%
6 x 100 choice 50 kick / 50 swim :15 rest
6 x 75 choice #1-3 kick / swim / kick by 25, #4-6 swim / kick / swim by 25 :15 rest
6 x 50 swim take heart rate then :10 rest
#1-3 heart rate above 25 for 10 seconds, #4 easy,
#5-6 heart rate above 30 for 10 seconds
5 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10
Set #1 SKILLS spend 10 – 15 minutes on each
1. reaction drills
2. starts and relay starts
3. turns, finishes and walls into and off turns
6 x 25 swim @ 100 RP or 200 RP rest appropriate to hold pace
( or 2 x 100 @ 500 RP)
6 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10
2 x 100 choice kick :15 rest
1st 25 alternate 5 fast kicks / 6 slow kicks, last 75 @ 70%
4 x 25 kick #1-2 build to sprint, #3-4 @ 70%
6 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10
Total yardage = 3,725
I would like to discuss observations I have seen over the years as my High School swimmers attend and swim for Universities across the country. There are a lot of variables that affect performance for athletes as they move away from home and adjust to College life but there is no way that a majority of the athletes should get weaker and slower.
How can this happen?
First, I feel that most College coaches don’t care or inquire how an athlete trained previously or how they achieved their results. What makes that athlete tick physically and mentally? Wouldn’t you want to know what works – and shouldn’t they? Wouldn’t this save time getting to know the athlete? This seems like common sense to me. Are the egos of the collegiate coaches so large that they think they know it all? Does every College coach win their Conference?
Secondly, I feel that most College coaches don’t understand weight training and total body strength. You are training an athlete, not just a swimmer, and there isn’t a difference. Strength is strength and you need it to enable speed and power in the water. Strength training reduces injury and is essential. All of my swimmers have returned by their first college break weaker and by the end of their first college year have regressed many years in strength gains.
Third point, I feel that many collegiate coaches think that yardage is the main training formula. If you train your athlete at slow speeds for long periods of time you are training them to swim slowly. Training speed equals performance speed. This is one of the main training philosophies of Faster Swimming.
On a side note: A lot of talented athletes go by the wayside since most college coaches won’t take the time to figure out how best to train individual swimmers. There are many that still believe one formula works for all. Collegiate coaches are mandated to win and if they just take the time to understand each swimmer in their program they would succeed. This leads me to my next topic to discuss in a future newsletter. The recruiting of foreign swimmers that take scholarships from our American swimmers – especially boys – so the team can win. This shouldn’t be allowed! I know that the foreign swimmers are older, hence more mature, and this makes it easier for coaches.
All of these programs have a significant increase in yardage and loss of strength for all swimmers. There is a common theme of feedback from the swimmers about the collegiate programs and that is “mechanics aren’t important”. It is obvious when they return to train in the summer.
Here are the results of just a few of our past club swimmers and where they are swimming. (See attachment for results) University of Cincinnati, Louisville, Akron, Notre Dame College, Kenyon, Maryland, Duke, Princeton, Columbia, University of Notre Dame, Illinois Tech, Boston College, Findlay, Missouri, Kentucky just to name the most recent.
And a side note from Coach Coffman:
I don’t want to rant… well, maybe I do, but I’ll try not to – but the fact that many of these athletes returning from college have no indicators as to how strong they are is ludicrous to me. The main factor for strength training is maximal strength (1 rep max – or for the faint of heart, a 3 rep max). Maximal strength has a direct correlation to every other type of strength. Improving maximal strength leads to the ability to produce more force PERIOD – whether that force is low velocity or high velocity and whether that force is short duration or long duration. Maximal strength is also correlated best with improved durability (e.g. less repetitive injuries!). I feel it is lazy thinking (or no thinking?) that leads many to believe that they can create a better overall athlete while allowing for less maximal strength (which then leads DIRECTLY to a lessened ability to produce – and then apply – force…!!!). As far as dryland training goes, strength, conditioning, and speed are the top factors in faster swimming. Successful programming should be set up so that all 3 qualities improve over the course of the year and season. The fact that most of our former HS athletes come back from college far weaker (and many times actually devote more time to dryland at college…!) is sad, and I think an indication of poor programming.
Speed determines the victor in the sport of swimming. Whoever touches the wall first wins, regardless of technique differences, fitness, strength, mental toughness, or whatever. Speed wins.
So how do we improve speed? We swim fast(er). Often. And when full efforts don’t produce the speed we are looking for in the water, we slow down or shut it down. Why? Two reasons… Number one is technique. If you push harder and harder, technique can begin to fall apart. We don’t want to reinforce sloppy swim habits – especially at or near full speed, whatever the stroke or distance. Technique is ingrained and imprinted through repetition – specifically repetition at a given intensity or speed – by the nervous system. So we want to repeat the good – not the bad and the ugly.
Which brings us right to the doorstep of reason #2 – the nervous system. The nervous system controls our movements (coordination) and helps create speed (through impulse). Many confuse energy-system work (bio-chemical reactions & efficiencies) with nervous-system work (maximal speed and control of motion). They are tied together, of course, but to understand the difference and apply this understanding to your training is the key. It is the difference between a great practice swimmer and a great competitor. Ideally we strive to find the perfect balance between these two, and when in doubt we (Faster Swimming) err on the side of “Less is more” – sparing both technique and nervous system fatigue. We live to fight another day.
Speed can also be trained and transferred to swim performance (to some degree) through dryland and strength training. General Physical Preparedness (or GPP) can be trained in part through dryland. If you simply put in some work with dryland training you may have some carry-over to swim performance, but the correlations will be low. However, if your dryland training includes standards that account for speed of movement (volume per time) your correlation to faster swimming will be much higher. This is training the acceleration (speed) end of the F=m x a curve.
GPP can also be trained in part through weight lifting. Improving strength with weight lifting works the mass end of the F=m x a curve, and should be approached with a “controlled speed” technique to exploit nervous-system efficiency and sport carry-over. The saying “Train fast to be fast” comes to mind as I write all of this and applies not only specifically (to swimming) but generally (to dryland and lifting) because your nervous system controls it all!
This is simply a primer, and needless to say there is much more to discuss about how and why certain training can be not only more effective but also more efficient in creating race speed. Ever wonder why different athletes/teams taper so differently/better/worse? I would look to the nervous system for most answers (fatigue, efficiency, readiness…). I will leave you now with a final thought. I have always believed athletes are physically trained and (therefore) mentally tough. If your training involves pushing the pain barrier repeatedly at sub-maximal speeds, does that make you better physically trained or mentally tougher than training at near or maximal speed with less fatigue?
Which makes a better competitor – the ability to produce maximal speed or the ability to endure pain repeatedly? And then do you apply your thinking to your actual training – both in the water and out?!?
If you have any thoughts on the topic of speed, I welcome any and all comments on our blog, on Facebook, or shoot me an email. And thanks for reading.
Design your program now. Get more information in the Crosstraining book and /or the back chapters of the Faster Swimming book