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Race Readiness

Practice

You must simulate race conditions in practice to get better at racing. This includes having a plan for a general warm-up, perhaps an event-specific warm-up, what to do if no warm-up pool or lanes are available during the meet, what your athletes need with them behind the blocks (goggles, a relay card (?), a cap (?), their suit tied (?), everything); all to get their minds focused and their bodies ready to race. In practice the swimmers can race against the clock, race against teammates, and/or race against the whole team. This is one of the basic advantages of being on a team, competitive cooperation. Swimmers can push each other to get better not only by lane talk and finishing their sets well, but by racing and competing against one another at practice to push all of the team to a higher level, and then be able to compete better as both a team and as individuals.

This article focuses on the basics of physical race readiness – it goes without saying that an appropriate race strategy, as well as any mental/psychological preparation, should be planned for and practiced as well. The way the below warm-ups are structured leads naturally to an increasing level of focus, so include strategy and mental prep within the warm-up as works best for your swimmers.

Warm-ups

Warm-ups should move from general swimming to specific skills and proceed from lower intensity to higher intensity. This goes equally for start-of-the-competition team warm-ups to specific individual or relay warm-ups. We establish a general team warm-up early in the competitive season that progresses as above to get our athletes energy systems on-line first (moving from aerobic to anaerobic) and then bring their nervous-systems on-line once they are fully warmed-up (starts, short full speed sprints, etc). A set warm-up routine allows the swimmers to individually tailor their efforts in order to be race ready, whether adjusting efforts within the team warm-up, adding extra efforts at the end of team warm-ups, and allowing for any specific pre-race warm-ups.

Our base warm-up is as follows:

A. 10 min aerobic swim (HR 25 +/- for 10 second count)

B. 6 x 100 choice on 1:45, last 2 100’s build to sprint

C. 3 x (4 x 25 sprint choice on :40, 1 x 50 easy on 1:20)

D. Starts with 15 to 25 yard sprints

E. Additional swimming (pace?), turns, relay starts, etc

This simple plan allows us to easily make adjustments for time available and allows each swimmer the ability to find what works best for them to be race ready individually within our team warm-up structure. Some athletes may need more volume and/or more intensity, and this can be adjusted once a basic team warm-up is in place and well practiced.

If by chance there is no warm-up pool available during a competition, any type of whole-body deck-based dryland for 10 to 15 minutes +/- can be helpful for specific race preparation, especially if there is a significant break between team warm-ups in the pool and a specific race. Just as with the swim warm-up, steady efforts at a lower intensity shift to shorter efforts at a higher intensity. We use the deck-based warm-up that follows as needed, and practice this warm-up at swim practice, at dryland, and at early-season meets so that each swimmer can find (and then use) what works best for them to be race ready.

Deck Warm-up Example

3 to 5 x 15 Squat-Thrusts :30 rest +/- between

then,

3 to 5 x 5 Clap Push-ups or 10 fast Push-ups :30 rest +/- between

then,

3 to 5 x 3 Full Jumps :30 rest +/- between

This example is simple, easy to do, and easy to practice. The above deck warm-up would take about 12 to 15 minutes to complete, so if you want to be behind the block and ready to go 5 minutes +/- prior to your race, you’d want to start this about 20 to 25 minutes out from the projected race start time.

Many times I have my athletes do some of the above after a specific swim warm-up even when there is a dedicated warm-up pool. Fast, powerful, explosive movements fire up your nervous system and get you ready to compete. Again – this should be something learned at practice!

Behind the Blocks

Assuming you have done both a general and a specific warm-up for your race, the last 5 minutes +/- behind the blocks should be race prep time for the individual swimmer. Different athletes get prepared for races in different ways – some joke around, some zone out, some become mildly excited, some hyper-excited, etc. What works best for one swimmer may not work for their teammates – and they will never know what works best for them unless they experiment at practice! One thing I try to have sprinters do (from 200m and down) is to get their nervous system completely fired up by slapping themselves – arms, legs, back, chest (or doing “percussive” massage – which is a fancier, Eastern-Block way of saying “slapping”). This should be done just prior to racing – like one minute or less prior to your race, maybe even up on the blocks. Another easy way to get the nervous system firing is to grab the block hard when given the “Take your mark” command, and be sure that this does not interfere with start mechanics by – yet again – practicing this.

Practice (again!)

This brings us full-circle back to practice. Practice racing. Practice sprinting. Practice general and specific warm-ups. Practice deck warm-ups just-in-case. Practice being prepared behind the blocks. Practice nervous system activation. Know what works for you before your major competitions and then practice these things.

Practice being ready to race!

– Coach John Coffman, Faster Swimming & NAAC

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Deck-Based Dryland and General Physical Preparedness

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.

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Building your Dryland Program – Week 1 Example

Dryland Training 1 – coinciding with Week 1 Faster Swimming Weekly Workouts

Weekly points:

  • Dryland workouts should follow swim practice or be separated by 4+ hours
  • Separate these workouts by at least one day
  • End all sets at indicated times – if you don’t reach a number goal don’t worry, just keep working towards these goals
  • Basic strength and energy-system work
  • If sore from dryland, include extra stretching at the end of any workout

 Workout #1 (Week 1)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Squat/Thrust

Stability 2 x 1:00

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Mountain Climbers

5 Push-ups every :30            continuous         1:00 Rest between sets

3 x 1:30 Squat/Thrust                        30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

5 x 30 Squats                             continuous         :45 Rest between sets

Vary stance (narrow, medium, wide)

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Workout #2 (Week 1)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Mountain Climbers

Stability 2 x 1:00

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Squat/Thrust                        30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

4 x 1:00 Walkout Push-ups            goal=effort :45 Rest

2 Push-ups per walkout

2:00 Push-ups                              goal=effort no Rest

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

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Building your Dryland Program – Mid Season Example

Weekly points:

  • Dryland workouts should follow swim practice or be separated by 4+ hours
  • Separate these workouts by at least one day
  • End all sets at indicated times – if you don’t reach a number goal don’t worry, just keep working towards these goals
  • Basic strength and energy-system work
  • If sore from dryland, include extra stretching at the end of any workout

 Workout #1 (Week 27)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 SQUAT/THRUST

2 x 1:00 Stability

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Mountain Climbers

5 Push-ups every :30            continuous         1:00 Rest between sets

3 x 1:30 SQUAT/THRUST                     30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

5 x 30 Squats                             continuous         :45 Rest between sets

Vary stance (narrow, medium, wide)

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

 

Workout #2 (Week 27)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Mountain Climbers

2 x 1:30 Stability w/switches

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 SQUAT/THRUST                     30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

4 x 1:00 Walkout Push-ups            goal=effort :45 Rest

2 Push-ups per walkout

2:00 Push-ups                              goal=effort no Rest

C-down               4 x 1:30 Stability w/switches

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

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Building your Dryland Program – Pre-Taper Dryland Test Set Example

Weekly points:

  • Dryland workouts should follow swim practice or be separated by 4+ hours
  • Separate the test workout from other workouts by at least two days
  • End all sets at indicated times – if you don’t reach a number goal don’t worry, just keep working towards these goals
  • Use results from these tests to work on any glaring weak points, especially as we are now in the taper phase!
  • If sore from dryland, include extra stretching at the end of any workout
  • TEST WEEK – do your best and see where you’re at in your training!!

Workout #1- TEST (Week 18)

Warm-up    3 x 1:00 Stability

1:00 Overhead Squats

2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

Test Sets 

5 x 1:00 Squat/Thrust    30 per goal  :30 Rest between

2:30 Stability                                                  no Rest

3 x 1:30 Squat/Thrust/Push-up/Jump   20 per goal  3:00 Rest between

3:00 Push-Ups      75 goal     Rest as needed

Rotate/Twist/Sit-up Ladder    12 goal    no Rest

Cool-down    5 x 1:00 Core Rotations

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :20 intervals

5 min Active Stretching

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Core Rotation Questions Answered with Video

One of our friends recently had questions about core rotations and core training.  This is the information we sent him:

Core rotations are simply rotating through core exercises for a given amount of time.  For example

Core rotations – 4 min, switch exercises every :30  could just be a series repeating – for instance, alternating pikes and ride-the-bike, or could be a bunch of exercises and look like:

:30 flutter kick

:30 kick outs

:30 ride the bike

:30 pikes

:30 Russian twists

:30 sit-ups

:30 plank

:30 sit-up get-ups

Use what works best with your team – the real effectiveness will come in progressing in exercise time and difficulty, and the effort given by the swimmers.  Some video links follow at the bottom with a bunch of core work ideas.  Please copy and paste the links below into your browser.

Championship Core Training

#1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU0jqP4radE&list=UU0zptkU-mFCY-G-5iE_r0HQ&index=94&feature=plcp

#2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9gwH829DdE&list=UU0zptkU-mFCY-G-5iE_r0HQ&index=93&feature=plcp

#3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnnS0xgARMM&list=UU0zptkU-mFCY-G-5iE_r0HQ&index=92&feature=plcp

#4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUO_ew7OnlQ&list=UU0zptkU-mFCY-G-5iE_r0HQ&index=91&feature=plcp

#5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB3ihY8zcE0&list=UU0zptkU-mFCY-G-5iE_r0HQ&index=90&feature=plcp

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23 Week Program and Weightlifting, Dryland & Yoga

Lifting aerobically for swimmers isn’t needed. You already get your aerobic needs from the pool and or running. Cross training is great and do just that – Cross train!

Lifting is for speed and power as described in the FasterSwimming eBook. When you weight lift you are elevating your heart rate and are actually achieving a small base of aerobic conditioning.

If you have had a long break and need to ease into work-outs then please ease into it. Give yourself goals, with the best goal being longevity for exercise. If you attack it – it’ll be harder to maintain motivation.

I am going to elaborate on the 23 week program in FasterSwimming and your incorporation of weightlifting, dryland and yoga. If you follow the program you’ll lift twice a week, do dryland twice a week and yoga once. You need to add yoga at least during the taper phase for whole body strength and flexibility. It is also great for pre-season training. Start off with doing yoga as part of your dryland regime or begin with yoga as your dryland regime. When you have flexibility and feel stronger add more intense dryland and then start weightlifting. When you begin planning your weightlifting, dryland and yoga exercises you need to start with an emphasis on legs as they take the longest to get into shape and need more rest at the end of the season. Legs are neglected by all and drive speed. You must fight your desire not to work the legs. Legs will set you apart, drive the speed in swimming, give you a faster start and turn, better fly kick off the walls and create and maintain momentum.

When choosing your weightlifting daily program choose accordingly as outlined. You can mix it up between Whole body, Upper body and Lower body exercises either by set or alternate within sets. That is consistent with your swimming workouts. If you emphasize legs during weightlifting then have a recovery kick set during your swim work-out and the same pattern for Upper and Lower body exercises. Choose accordingly to coordinate all your workouts as you don’t want too much of one thing during the day. You need to alternate either by set or within each set as this is one of the essential guidelines to faster swimming. You alternate Upper and Lower body parts always to force recovery of the opposite body part emphasis as well as increase quality of the body part being worked.

When lifting and trying to maintain speed remember safety and the mechanics of each lift. Don’t just throw the weight in the air to ensure speed. You wouldn’t spin your arms in the water without controlled speed and efficiency through the water. Just remember this concept. Your controlled speed will develop over time just keep focus.

Dryland emphasis is mainly whole body working your core always with upper and lower body support muscles. Develop in conjunction with weightlifting, yoga and especially your swimming.

When you begin the 7 week taper your weightlifting, dryland, yoga, and swimming are all focused on developing speed and power while maintaining your aerobic base. Week three you’ll notice changes in your training requirements with the slow resting of your legs. (The weightlifting taper workouts are outlined on pages 78-81 and the dryland taper workouts are outlined on pages 113-117 of the FasterSwimming eBook.) Remember to specify to your yoga instructor to hold the leg poses for less time, possibly do them at the beginning of the work-out and do recovery stretching. The taper outline explains when you should focus on speed work. THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD STOP TRYING TO GET STRONGER! Strength helps produce speed. Do a few warm-up sets of your desired exercise then try a set or two of one repetition maximizing your weight, then stretch or do a recovery swim if you can. Get a massage or sit in the hot tub maybe on weeks 5 or 6. A full body massage if done correctly will take a few days to recover from so don’t do it the day before your big swim. Hot tubs will sap your energy so hydrate and use the hot tub for recovery well in advance of your big swim.

You should also limit your weightlifting and dryland exercises to about 30 minutes while increasing your yoga and stretching to 60 minutes. Maintain 45 minute sessions of each during the season. Recovery swimming after each would be great if you have the facility and the time. If you decide to do dryland during week 7 then add a +/- 20 minute session to maintain core strength before yoga or swimming. This is a great way to help the fast twitch muscles recover especially if you have just finished one of your championship meets.

If you have noticed from reading this article, recovery is essential to your faster swimming.