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Taper Swim Workouts shouldn’t be easy and require QUALITY!

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:

Day #105

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

Set #2 
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

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A Problem with College Swimming

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.

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Deck-Based Dryland

The main goal of deck-based dryland (or simply “dryland”) within this program is to increase the overall density of work performed and to increase general working capacities. Another term for this is GPP, or General Physical Preparedness. A high level of GPP will not only increase general fitness, but help facilitate recovery from swim and weight training and, in all, bring your ability to train in the water to a higher level. Increasing your GPP will lead to faster swimming!Multiple qualities can be addressed with a well designed dryland program. Overall GPP can be enhanced through improvements in energy system efficiency, strength (general and core), power output, mobility, flexibility and balance. The goal of this program is not to lay out a cookie-cutter, year-long program, but to give an idea of how to set up dryland work, how to improve some of the basic qualities of GPP, and some general guidelines to evaluate dryland abilities and progression. Dryland workout examples are included, as is a full 7-week dryland taper program.An individual dryland training session will include an active warm-up, the work sets of the day, and a cool-down including active and passive stretching. Most weeks will consist of two lifting workouts. Micro and meso cycles are less important in dryland (than in weight lifting) as GPP can be incorporated at the levels presented here throughout a season. Instead of back-off weeks, dryland training includes test weeks. General qualities can be tested with the exercises listed, and ideal test values are listed, as are specific test workouts. If there is an exercise that is difficult to reach specific test values for (especially the first, easiest test), it is suggested that this exercise (or a variant) be placed first in subsequent workouts. Front-loading is another term to describe this; placing the weakest link of dryland ability first in a workout so that it can be trained in a fresh state.Other than the planned training session itself, you need very little to perform effective dryland work. A willingness to perform the work as indicated is obviously the most important thing to bring to any training session. For dryland training, additionally you will want comfortable clothing that is easy to move in, workout shoes, an exercise mat and/or towel, and a full water bottle. Effective dryland work can be accomplished with none of the above, but having most or all of these items will make the workout more comfortable. An index card with the full workout written on it is also easy to take to the pool and make notations as necessary. An additional item that you may want for dryland work is a medicine ball. Any med ball, bouncy or “dead”, from six pounds to ten pounds (depending on your strength levels) will work. A med ball can be used in conjunction with many exercises to make work more challenging and can be a great addition to improve core strength and power development. You can lift it, throw it, carry it, bend with it, twist with it, hold it close, hold it away, balance on it (cautiously), and use it to augment almost any movement pattern. If you have only one piece of exercise equipment for dryland or at home, it should be a medicine ball.GPP, as defined above, is heightened with all that we do in dryland training. If we improve any of the following qualities, we improve our GPP. Increased dryland ability = improved GPP = faster swimming. Broad definitions of some general work qualities follow.Energy System- The focus here is on using a large amount of our musculature to produce work. Basic work sets move to longer sets, and then to more dense work. Heavy breathing and a lot of sweat are the norm. Rest intervals vary from half to double the amount of time worked (2:1 to 1:2 work-to-rest ratio).Strength- The focus here is on improving relative strength, or the ability to move one’s own body. Basic sets move to multiple, short sets, and gradually progress to longer sets with increased density and or intensity. Rest intervals can vary greatly here, but are generally short (1:1 or less).Core- Improving static, dynamic, and rotational strength in the core of the body (the trunk, or top of the neck to bottom of the hips). Sets can vary, and core work should always be included liberally within a given workout. Rest intervals are very short (4:1 or less).Power- Increasing the rate and magnitude of force production is the focus here. Short, multiple sets will gradually progress to longer, more dense multiple sets. Rest intervals are usually longer here to facilitate nervous system recovery (1:2 or greater).Mobility- Increasing the body’s ability to move efficiently through a full range of motion is the focus here. This quality is improved with increased exercise ablility (as we move through a full range of motion in many planes), and with active and passive flexibility work included at the end of each workout.Now that the list of GPP qualities is defined, it is important to note that the specific qualities trained in a given session are less important than simply putting in work at an increasing density and/or intensity to enhance GPP. Similar to the weight lifting program, a focus on improving movement quality is the goal. What those movements are accomplishing other than work is a secondary concern. In any given workout the focus should be on the movements and their parameters.Why do we train some qualities (i.e. energy system work) in dryland when we can train many of these same qualities in the pool? The best answer is: to avoid over-training in the pool. Including an effective dryland (and weight training) program with a swim training program can help avoid over-use injuries and staleness. A variation in effective training means such as this will lead to higher levels of GPP and increased swim training tolerance and efficiency. Running can also be introduced into dryland training. Short sprints, hill sprints and running stairs can all constitute energy system and/or power work. If shorter efforts (i.e. sprint 3 x (8 x 40m on :25)) are utilized, place this after the regular warm-up (be sure to include lower-body work in this warm-up!) and before any work sets. Count efforts as energy system work if shorter intervals are used (as above), and as power work if more total rest is taken throughout (i.e. sprint 6 x 80m on 3:00 send-offs). If longer running workouts (more than 30 minutes) are part of your training, it is advised that you drop a dryland workout in its favor, or (less commonly) drop a weight lifting workout. This will allow for the recovery needed to accentuate your swim training. Tri-athletes and multisport athletes should gauge volume and intensity for total work (all sports/workouts) performed first, and then plan individual (sport) workouts based on this information. To realize swim performance improvements the total workload must be judged appropriately.Design your program now. Get more information in the Cross Training book and /or the back chapters of the Faster Swimming book.
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Speed – A Primer

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

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Practice techniques to incorporate

1. Racing – The drive to win close races to recover from mistakes and overtake your competition, the desire to win!!!! Some swimmers have that desire and others must be taught. You must add racing sets in your workout. Each swimmer must have the ability to start and stop speed (variable speed) throughout the season, no matter what phase of training you are currently involved. Drafting then passing, stagger starts and racing different abilities of swimmers in practice must be some part of a weekly routine.

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: let’s say your goal is to swim a 48.00 in the 100. In order to achieve this swim you must create and instill muscle memory at this speed. You will need to maintain 12.00 while swimming 25’s and 24.00 speed while doing 50’s. Adjust race pace demands based on how you want your swimmer to race.

If 48.00 is the goal and you want 23/25 as your splits then train at that speed. 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 you actually swim your big race. This will give you the confidence needed for the big race. Start the season with enough rest at each desired distance to achieve race pace goal speed and as the season continues lessen the rest interval and achieve the same result. If you are tired on a given day that you want to do race pace then you must give yourself 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 overspeed sets are as important and must be incorporated 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. Overspeed – 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 are a wide spread example usually incorporated during the taper or resting phase of a season and should be used throughout. Overspeed 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.

5. Recovery and dryland – These two categories make most people nervous. Proper recovery must be part of each workout phase and the dryland program must match. You must constantly change body part emphasis in your workouts 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. You need to alternate upper and lower body between dryland and swimming. You can alternate within each set, from set to set, from workout to workout or week to week. Add a true recovery workout once during the week and see how you respond the next day. Maybe you even need a day off as in MENTAL RECOVERY.

6. Set Structure – Sets 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 on both sides and even shoulder rotation. 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 and take it to the pool.

7. Pace Clock – Swimmers must be able to 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. You must understand a certain speed with feel. You must understand and learn variable speed and repeats of a certain pace physically and mentally. Simple example during warm-up 4 X 200’s with descending send-offs with a goal time on the last 200. For example, 4 X 200’s on 2:40, 2:30, 2:20 and the last one go a 2:15.

8. 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 will help the swimmers more in the short and long term.

9. IM (Individual medley) and the importance of doing sets in IM order. Training the muscle memory of going from one stroke to the other and breathing patterns. Breathing patterns change from one stroke to the other, as does the timing of each stroke. When switching strokes the swimmer must gain control of the breathing pattern before settling into the race strategy of each stroke. Doing sets in IM order will help train the breathing patterns.

10. Heart rate is a great tool to see if you are sick, stressed, over worked, need more rest or just out of shape. You can measure this many ways by creating a set that helps you maximize heart rate and measuring how long it takes you or your athlete to recover.

Remember you are not a doctor nor should you diagnose from the results, it is only a tool that can be used to help with each phase of training. This tells you about aerobic conditioning, fatigue during the core of training and the amount of resting needed to create race pace or sprinting. This tool definitely helps during taper and resting before meets. Consult a doctor or read up about heart rate, as there are plenty of studies and information on the subject. This will help you with flexibility and changing your workouts when needed.

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Challenges in Our Sport

Our sport faces many challenges, such as title 9, foreign swimmers on collegiate scholarships that should go to our young athletes first, long grueling age-group weekend invitational’s and of course controlling parents.

Recently a mother brought her 9-year-old son to my team to try out. He was good enough to join our introductory level. His mother made it clear that he is swimming with the goal of a collegiate scholarship (her goal of course).

Some parents are driving their swimmers out of the sport or any sport for that manner, especially age-group sports. Parents today have their children involved in too many activities with unrealistic expectations. High School and Middle School counselors, as well as educators, have helped create this mindset. It seems to be all about resume building for college. Do you really believe that matters? “Hey look I have completed 20 plus extracurricular activities….yeah but are you good at any of them?” What have you learned? We need to take a step back and really think about what is happening. I truly believe and so do you that if you do your best at one or a select few activities it will carry you further in life. Achieving good grades and doing your best in swimming (any activity) will get you into college.

You can’t progress mentally and physically without putting in the time. The current age of instant gratification and achievement must end. Parents expect it and kids don’t understand it. Parents with children with age-group children surely don’t remember how they were raised.

So how do we combat this issue?

1. We must educate the parents without telling them how to parent. Explain physical and mental progressions of the sport. We need to help them see the whole picture and what to expect at each level. A 10 & U champion doesn’t mean they will be a champion in high school.

2. We need to teach parents that (time) a :55, in any event, is not the only measurement of success. What about the start, turn, streamline, breakouts and kicking skills in practice? These are better gauges of success. Learning the fundamentals as mentioned will create faster swimming in the long term.

3. We need shorter meets for the introductory families and swimmers and fewer of them or at least coaches need to choose meets with this in mind. Add more dual meets to your schedule with shorter events, especially for new swimmers at all levels. YMCA and High School swimming already offer this type of swimming. Why would a novice swimmer and a new family to swimming want to start with a grueling 3 day meet? What incentive do new High School and Middle School swimmers have to continue after their season?

4. It would be great if we could align all States High School swim seasons. This would encourage year-round swimming allowing USA swimming to create a better championship schedule. There are a lot of fast High School swimmers that stop swimming when the season is over.

5. Make sure you have fun with the younger ages and teach mechanics to keep them injury free and interested. Re-arrange expectations and goals so swimmers are their fastest in High School and enjoy training. Teach about plateaus in our sport, tapering, muscular development, weight training and of course nutrition.

Lastly, when does a swimmer commit to swimming? This really depends on the child mentally and physically.

Swimming is an investment but what is the return? Is the return a collegiate scholarship? Some think so. What about work ethic and understanding how hard work relates to results. Don’t forget about discipline, time management, friendship, self-esteem and sportsmanship.

Fun fact: Swimmers at all levels have the highest GPA of all sports in High School and College thus in return very responsible.

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Swim Readiness – General to Specific, Volume and Intensity

Starting a season off appropriately, with long-term success in mind, requires the understanding and application of some basic principles. Many coaches want to jump right in and get to specific and intense training – and I think a better approach is to build into these variables. Following a principle-based system allows for success throughout the season, and helps avoid staleness and injuries.

General to Specific

For both swimming and dryland (strength and conditioning) a general to specific approach is best. Introducing and then training general concepts allows athletes to get a handle on the basics of whatever you are trying to teach, and helps the athlete build toward more specific adaptations.

For example, with swimming we generally work on lactate tolerance by introducing short Tabata intervals early in the season (ex. 8 x 25 free on :25, all out efforts, 1 to 2 sets), and build to more specific lactate work as the season progresses (ex. 1 x 200 @ 85% speed on 3:00 into 1 x 75 @ 100% effort on 3:00 into 8 x 50 @ 200 race pace on 1:00, choice of stroke). We generally prepare them for lactate work with short, easily manageable sets that are generally challenging, and progress to more specific lactate tolerance work at specific distances and paces. Generally working on lactate tolerance at the start of the season allows our athletes the ability to adapt and excel at specific lactate tolerance at the end of the season.

Volume and Intensity

Again, for both swimming and dryland (strength and conditioning) we move along a continuum of total work expressed in volume and intensity. Simplified, we move up in volume to start the season, then move up in intensity while basically maintaining volume through mid-season, and then move down in volume and still increase intensity (with more rest) for our peaking phase. Volume and Intensity must be accounted for in order to plan your season and have your athletes hit their peak when you want them to!

For example, with dryland (strength and conditioning) we generally include multiple short sets of moderate intensity (ex. 10 x 10 push-ups). Again – simplified, we would move to a higher volume (ex. 4x (5 x 15) push-ups), and then to higher intensity (ex. 4x (5 x 10) push-ups with 1st 5 reps of each set clap push-ups), and then to lower volume and yet higher intensity (ex. 4x (3 x 8) all clap push-ups). The move from moderate volume, a build in intensity, and then lowered volume with higher intensity allows the building of a foundation (or base) and from that position we increase intensity safely and effectively.

Intensity is our specific goal, as it relates directly to our desired outcome of effectiveness – performance (swim times, lifting max, and conditioning standards) AND we get there by following the above principles… General to Specific methods with planned Volume and Intensity training variables. Swim readiness begins with basic training principles, and followed to their conclusion results in our specific, highest intensity goal – Faster Swimming!

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Lets Talk about Tarzan!

The first item I would like to talk about is Tarzan. Tarzan is used for speed purposes. The proper body position for Tarzan is with the head and mouth out of the water. Keeping hips in line with the shoulders with a controlled fast kick. Tarzan is used for developing arm and leg speed. Leg speed drives the arms so begin by emphasizing the kick. The arm stroke needs to be shorter and faster than the normal freestyle stroke with an emphasis on equal shoulder rotation. There are many variations of Tarzan to train. Two of the main drills to use are just quality Tarzan sprinting and Tarzan to easy as indicated on the outline. “Tarzan to easy” is where the swimmer will work on increasing arm speed until they are unable then drop their head and finish easy to the wall. When the athlete is broken down this will be very hard to do but as the swimmer recovers he or she will be able to increase arm speed for longer distances of 25’s or 50’s.

Please go to Youtube and search “USAswimcoach” or Facebook and search “Faster Swimming” for the Tarzan video. You can also find it on Viddler

I’d like to show a few different drills of Tarzan. First I am having my swimmer do a 25 of Tarzan where he is holding a constant rate of speed, keeping his head out of the water, shoulders square with hips in line and a small fast kick. The next drill is 5 Tarzan strokes sprint up followed by 2 freestyle strokes down easy. The swimmer will just drop his head on the recovery strokes. Make sure the swimmers count their strokes to ensure that they start each new cycle of 5 up 2 down with the opposite arm. This will help ensure equal rotation of shoulders and help the swimmers work with both arms to start swimming. This will translate to their breakout strokes also. Please vary this drill as desired for example 7 up sprint Tarzan strokes then 4 easy strokes, etc.. We are always trying to prime the fast twitch muscles by using Tarzan. We do a lot of Tarzan during taper as well as throughout the season. It is easy to train your fast twitch muscle fibers to move at one speed with long sets, making it more difficult to retrain muscle fiber later. Always throw in some Tarzan or speed work into your workouts. The last 25 of the video is Tarzan where the swimmer is working on increasing arm speed throughout, working on equal shoulder rotation as well as proper mechanics. A variation of this is on the Faster Swimming 23 week outline is called Tarzan to easy. The only difference is that I want the swimmers to start off at a faster pace and when they can no longer increase arm speed they will drop their head and finish the set distance easy.

Let’s talk about Variable Speed

We all know that racing is the drive to win close races to recover from mistakes and overtake your competition at all costs. Some swimmers have that desire and others we must try to teach. This is why adding Speed work should be very important to us as coaches. Each swimmer needs the ability to start and stop speed with their upper and lower body and I call this Variable Speed. Training an athlete and enhancing his or her ability to change speed at any time of the race is key to teaching and giving the swimmer confidence that they can race. It is a big part of our designed workouts throughout the season. You will need to change the variable speed distances and intensities as outlined weekly. Variable speed work in sets is difficult for the swimmer because it spikes heart rates when a swimmer would normally train at one speed.

For example:

A basic 8 x 200 swim set descend by 2 on 3:00 can be adjusted with variable speed work by 100. For example on the first 2 x 200’s have the swimmers work at 70% on the first 100 and 80% on the second. Descending the 200’s by adjusting the variable speed effort. Variable speed work can be similar to Negative split as I just described in this set. The hard part is getting them to understand the actual percentage of intensities and still descend the 200’s. You can mix it up by making the swimmers go out in the first 100 @ 95% and the second 100 back in a controlled 90% by either giving them their splits, doing open turns or breaking the 200 at the 100 for a short rest interval. This will make their set more difficult and train their muscle fibers at variable speeds. You don’t want to get in the habit of training your swimmers at one pace thus making it harder to get into sprint work later in the practice or season.

Using Heart Rate

I am using the measurement of heart rate in this set to get a basic feel of how my swimmers are feeling today. There are a lot of factors that affect heart rate so this is just a guideline. I have created a set where the swimmer must maximize heart rate and created the speed work I wanted to have in today’s workout. This set was given a week after one championship meet and week before another. Prior to this workout, they had two hard weight and dryland workouts and one longer aerobic swim practice. They were sore and a bit tired as they should have been.

This set is all freestyle starting with 2 x 100’s on a 1:30 send-off. The first 1:00 holding a minute pace and descending the 2nd 100 holding a :56. They are to take their heart rate immediately after the 2nd 100 for a starting point. They are taking their heart rate for 10 seconds. I want them to take their heart rate again after+/- 45 seconds to see how fast they recover. Once the heart rate drops below 20 (for :10 seconds) they will finish the next part of the set which is, 50 sprint kick followed by 2 x 25 sprint Tarzan with :20 seconds rest then a 100 recovery swim.

They will repeat the same basic pattern two more times.

Second time starting off with 2 x 50 on a :35 second send off just making the send-off immediately followed by a 100 free holding a :54 or faster again taking the heart rate immediately after the swim. Their heart rate should be above 30 or elevated from the last time taken. Once the heart rate drops below 20 finishing the set with a 50 sprint kick and 2 x 25’s sprint Tarzan with :20 rest and a 100 recovery swim. If their heart rate doesn’t drop you can assume that they need more rest or they are completely out of shape. This is very individual and knowing your swimmer will help you answer that question. If their heart rate doesn’t drop below 20 for a couple of minutes then just have them finish the set or warm down, your call.

Third time thru they will begin with 4 x 25’s @ 100 Race Pace on a :20 second send-off. Each swimmer should have an understanding of the effort needed to maximize their heart rate on this set. Then finish the set once heart rate drops with 50 sprint kick and 2 x 25’s Tarzan then a 100 recovery swim.

Tarzan, Variable Speed, and Heart Rate sets are some of the important items included in the Faster Swimming program. We discussed Race Pace training in the last Journal. If you have any questions please email [email protected] or [email protected]

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More on Tarzan, Plus a Coach’s Recollection

Effective freestyle that utilizes the mechanical advantage (law of levers etc) and the kinesiological principles (anatomy of muscular movement) and especially the first and second laws of motion dictates the hands should always be opposed to each other throughout the full arm cycle allowing for the most efficient application of muscular force, thus eliminating any stop and go movements that are created with an inefficient catch up stroke (the worst technique ever developed!)…Dara Torres has a very efficient freestyle.  Check it out. Rule of thumb – apply any of the ridiculous swim drills to walking, and you will get the idea!!

FasterSwimming Answer:

Remember to account for body position in your analysis… posture dictates execution and effectiveness, more than lever action.  Tarzan places added emphasis on full hip extension and a tight core that can transmit force.  Try swimming freestyle with your chin on your chest even if you have great oppositional arm force. Tarzan doesn’t replace efficient swimming but adds great cross training that develops core strength, shoulder and leg speed.

Another email about Tarzan, great story!

Hello Coach;

This is the first time I’ve seen your email letter and I got a kick out of the Tarzan article. I used the Tarzan drill a lot earlier in my career in the early 1970s.  I first saw it used by Don Gambril at Phillipps 66 Long Beach A.C. in 1969. Assistant Coaches were Ron Balatore and Flip Darr.

But here is one of my favorite memories of the Man, Tarzan. In 1967-68-69 (can’t remember which year) I was swimming in an East/West College meet at the Hall of Fame Pool. One evening there were some festivities at the pool and I was in the stands along with a few hundred other swimmers. In the late 60s all of those swimmers were baby boomers.  There was a featured sprint race between some of the best sprinters in the country and Johnny Weismuller. Tarzan still looked great and was in good shape.  But, none of us could quite figure out what was going to happen.  Weismuller was about 65 years old. He dove in, flew down the pool, beat everyone (and they were swimming fast), climbed out and gave the Tarzan yell.

They had laid a rope on the bottom of the pool- at night it couldn’t be seen- and Tarzan picked up the rope on the dive.  There were about 5 guys on the other side of the fence at the Hall of Fame Pool.  As soon as they got the signal that Tarzan had the rope, they took off running.

The interesting thing to me and I didn’t quite comprehend this until years later, was the tremendous almost instant togetherness type of yelling that went through the crowd of male swimmers who were kids born between 1945-1950. I think there was sort of a group epiphany.  A lot of us had grown up watching Tarzan movies, being swimmers, and thinking we were unique or alone in all these little towns across the USA. Many of us dreamed of being Tarzan, swimming like Tarzan and loving the Tarzan movies and being swimmers.

Yours;

Marc

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Building Aerobic Capacity and Race Pace

500 free goal time 4:50.00 training guidelines:

Building aerobic capacity needs to be done by monitoring heart rate.  You can add longer warm-up sets if you feel the need to increase yardage for your swimmer. Each swimmer will have a certain amount of yardage per workout where you need to end the practice and that is just knowing your swimmer. You will build aerobic capacity and a base to taper from if you monitor heart rate. For example; 8 x 100 on a 1:30 send-off, holding Race Pace with the Heart rate at 28 +/-for :10 seconds (each swimmer is different) will build and maintain aerobic capacity faster than doing a set of 4 x 600 where you just tell the swimmer to build or hold a fast pace.  Training at Race Pace will help the swimmer understand/feel the speed needed in a race and give them confidence. Train all your main sets based on race pace and heart rate.  You can still do set of 4 x 600 but don’t make that a habit.  Always do Race Pace in practice and some short sprints or Tarzan in the workout.

Week 15 and 16 of the 23 week FasterSwimming book will give you the longest workouts of the season. Feel free to add or subtract yardage based on your swimmer. I have included workout #79 below for you to use as a test set for pace and stroke count. When you are about a week into the season do this test set to get a starting point for training. Let’s say your swimmer starts out holding a 1:07 pace per 100 and swims 19 strokes per 25. Begin your main sets by monitoring heart rate while holding a 1:03+/- pace per 100 and 18 strokes per lap, for about 3+/- weeks.  As your swimmer progresses drop the training pace per 100 to 1:00 at 17 strokes per lap for another 3 +/- weeks. During the 7 week taper before champs, the training race pace per 100 should :58 or faster per 100 holding a stroke count of 16. Remember this is a guideline and very realistic.   Race pace sets can be written with all distances involved it just takes a little math, so be creative. As your swimmer progresses the rest needed for a particular pace will decrease.

Stroke counts depend on efficiency of stroke, size of athlete and other factors that only a coach would know by training the athlete. As the swimmer progresses adjust goals hopefully faster!

The next step will be to help the swimmer understand how to swim the 500 in a meet. Remember to follow the workouts in the 23 week book and complete all the kicking sets as outlined. It is important to alternate upper and lower body work within sets or by sets. This will help add recovery to every workout while increasing intensity of each practice.

Warm up:  (meet warm up)

600 choice swim

6 x 100  choice 50 kick / 50 swim   :10rest

then stretch based on time allowed no longer than 5 minutes

6 x 75  choice  :10rest with heart rate about +/-20 at a minimum, check  twice adjust heart rate based on age and level of fitness

1-3  kick / swim / kick by 25, 4-6 swim / kick / swim by 25

6 x 50  choice swim – raise heart rate, check heart rate and then :15rest

1-3 heart rate +/-25, 4 easy swim, 5-6 heart rate +/-30

100 easy

2 x 25 sprint (work in starts at meet)

75 easy after each

This workout may not be for all but do your best!

Please adjust test set for age and ability with shorter distances. Remember this is a test set to determine beginning training pace per 100.

2 x 1500 free on 17:30 (1:10 pace per 100)

adjust as needed – 20:00 is a 1:20 pace per 100

use paddles if desired

2 x 1000 free on 11:40 (1:10 pace per 100)

8 x 75 recovery on 1:10

timed 800 free

8 x 75 recovery on 1:10

OVERSPEED

4 x 25 pull only for speed continuous

100 easy