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Preparing for Championships through Taper

Now is the time of year when everything counts. Hopefully, your swimmers have trained well and if they haven’t well then last call.

Taper time is a well thought out process of preparing your swimmers for championships.  Taper means QUALITY work and QUALITY recovery just to begin.   Race Pace, Variable Speed swimming and kicking, Understanding the process of resting legs, etc are huge components of this 7-week preparation. This is the time of the year to emphasize exact race pace speed needed for the big swim.

I have included a few videos to help you through the process. Heart rate is a great tool to establish what your swimmer needs. Tarzan is used to spark the nervous system and work the fast twitch muscles of the whole body as well as Overspeed work.

This process and all information is spelled out on the weekly outlines included in the Faster Swimming 23 and 14-week books. The 23 and 14-week book include the exact swim and dryland workouts throughout the taper process.

I would be glad to help just let me know, thanks!

Brad

 

Please copy/paste the links below into your browser.

Heart Rate Set Explanation:

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/146/

Heart Rate Set Swimming:

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/147/

Tarzan

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/78/

Overspeed with cords

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/111/

Pulling Cords

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/112/

Overspeed Drag and Pull

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/237/

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Weight Lifting During Taper

Coaches – please remember when the core of your training is aerobic you don’t need to lift with an aerobic agenda. Your swimmers are raising their heart rate a lot more than you think while lifting so just lift for speed and strength. Make sure that your swimmers maintain flexibility after lifting. Stretching after any lifting will increase blood flow which aids in recovery. Your swimmers must remain flexible in swimming and maintain your full range of motion.

Always lift your larger muscle groups first when organizing your work-out routine. Basic Guideline: Day 1 Back with biceps and one leg exercise and 15 minutes of ab work. Day 2 Chest with triceps, finish with legs. Take one or two days off or do Legs and Abs on the third day and not with day 1 or 2. Remember that 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 you begin doing flat bench warm-up with 135 lbs. Begin with 2-3 sets warm-up with this weight doing +/- 8 reps, now let’s begin. As you increase your weight you must maintain the speed of each lift, for example, if you increase your weight to 155 lbs 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.

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.

Make sure your athletes aren’t starting preseason training for another sport when you are trying to taper them for Championships. 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 other sports after championships.

Understanding how to rest legs through weight training and kicking is key to performance!

Distance swimmers gain from lifting for speed and power. When training for the mile your coach is preparing you in the pool. Lifting as prescribed is a great form of cross-training that will not only help power and speed but help in recovery from all the slow twitch muscle work.

There is a local team that over-trains swimmers and forces bad weightlifting 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, train that way? HOPE NOT! Do coaches ever give hard swim sets where swimmers don’t finish to the wall and complete the set? Do your swimmers ever pass out or sink to the bottom? Then why would you train that way in the weight room?

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 the set is complete for a 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 weightlifting program that would start during the finish phase of getting swimmers in shape aerobically and continue thru the sprint 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.

Coaches please 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.

The Faster Swimming Strength program and support videos will help you taper lifting with your swimming for Championships!

 

Good Luck at Champs!

Brad

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Tapering for Your Event

The athlete must be in aerobic shape and strong before you start fine-tuning or “taper”. Tapering needs more attention and understanding in our sport.

What is the most important part of the season to you? Aerobic phase, anaerobic training, weights, deck based dryland and kicking? The truth is, they all are essential and coaches/swimmers need a plan.

What does tapering mean to you?

Tapering is not just resting your body for the big event. It is fine-tuning it for optimal performance. Athletes must be able to practice at a high caliber to perform to expectations. Athletes must be their strongest, sharpest and most focused before taper meet(s). Athletes need to take responsibility for training,

“I missed my taper” or “coach didn’t taper me correctly” are just excuses…

To taper correctly your athletes must have goals and the goals must drive training. You must understand recovery and muscle development of athletes and have the flexibility to individualize for a specific athlete and his/her events.

Understanding how athletes respond to different types of training based on slow, medium and fast twitch muscle fibers helps individualize training. Training slowly doesn’t help the athlete who has fast twitch predisposition and resting doesn’t produce optimal performance.

Taper is an in-depth process that is a whole lot more than dropping yardage the last few weeks and adding sprints. Most coaches use weight training to cross train and prevent injury then stop weights 2-4 weeks out from championships. The athletes must continue to lift throughout taper in order to achieve strength gains, which coincide with speed and power necessary to perform at meets. If you cross train during the season you must taper the cross training to optimize performance.

Kicking is more important than ever. Since the legs are slow to recover and are the hardest to get in shape, make sure you always write sets and workouts that alternate upper body and lower body. This is a great way to include active recovery in every workout.

Preparing your athlete to compete at race pace (goal speed) must always be emphasized, “always”. You must create goal speed so your athletes are 100% prepared to achieve.

You can still decrease yardage and maintain/increase aerobic capacity during taper. When done correctly an athlete will be prepared for multiple championship meets. One way to increase aerobic capacity is to monitor heart rates. Heart rate is essential to monitor to adjust the athletes training and recovery needs.

Don’t forget about reaction time training which involves mental focus and increased muscular reaction. Incorporate appropriate drills for focus and quickness.

The athlete must believe in what they are doing so engage and educate them every step of the way. They must be able to give you feedback about how their bodies are feeling and how well they are recovering to adjust workouts. They must also be mature enough to handle proper feedback.

Optimal training = Optimal performance.

The taper outline details yardage demands for distance, mid-distance, and sprinters. It explains when to train tarzan with drills, overspeed, race pace, recovery, starts, and turns. It details when to use variable speed swimming and kicking while detailing intensity and exact distances to be trained. One of the most important aspects of training is alternating upper and lower body, which is built in active recovery, is built into the taper.

The whole 7 week taper outline can be found here.

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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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More on Taper with Video Help!

Taper time is a well thought out process of preparing your swimmers for championships.  Taper means QUALITY work and QUALITY recovery just to begin.   Race Pace, Variable Speed swimming and kicking, Understanding the process of resting legs, etc are huge components of this 7 week preparation. The outlines will spell out exactly what distances to swim and kick, effort level and rest intervals needed for each set. During taper an athlete is able to increase and maintain aerobic conditioning. This is the time of the year to emphasize exact race pace speed needed for the big swim.

I have included a few videos to help you through the process. Heart rate is a great tool to establish what your swimmer needs. Tarzan is used to spark the nervous system and work the fast twitch muscles of the whole body as well as Overspeed work.

This process and all information is spelled out on the weekly outlines included in the Faster Swimming, 23 and 14 week books. The 23 and 14 week book include the exact swim and dryland workouts throughout the taper process.

To view the videos below, please copy and paste the link into your browser.

Heart Rate Set Explanation

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/146/

Heart Rate Set Swimming

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/147/

Tarzan

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/78/

Overspeed with cords

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/111/

Pulling Cords

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/112/

Overspeed Drag and Pull

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/237/

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Real Tapering Survival

Why do swimmers and coaches feel there is a big mystery about tapering and hope that it works? This is crazy!  If your seasonal plan includes progression of race pace work and the proper recovery throughout the season then you have the experience to know that your taper will work. Tapering is the progression towards your race pace goals from the beginning of the season. It is not a resting process to recover your body from over yardage during the season. If your taper has been that simple then you have underachieved your true potential.

Just remember the confidence you have gained all season and understand the process involved. You have created muscle memory for performance and energy demands needed to swim your goal time. Your intentsity of training never decreases during taper. You do add more recovery to your swimming but your actual training work needed has to be the highest. If you have been lifting all year you will need to taper your weight program to be at your strongest before your big meets. Meets as in plural as you will be able to swim faster for many weeks in a row.

The process for tapering isn’t guess work but calculated and planned out. The biggest variable is understanding your recovery needs which includes eating, sleeping and training.

Weekly workout with emphasis on recovery:

1. Alternating upper and lower body during sets is the easiest way to include recovery as written throughout this workout.

2. You can write workouts that alternate swim sets and kick sets within the workout as active recovery.

3. Including variable speed by stroke or kick counts adds short bursts of recovery during a set.

10 slow strokes/ 10 fast or kicks. Variable speed work by 25 during a 75 swim/kick, 25 build to 80%, 25 @ 65% followed by a 25 @ 100%.

4. Be creative to help write sets that swimmers will enjoy!

 

 

Warm up:  200 choice

6 x 150 alternating 25 kick/50 swim choice

6 x 50 25 kick/25 build swim

6 x 25 descend to sprint,  1-3 and 4-6

all above :10 rest

Set #1 (:15 rest thru set)

8 x 75 kick variable speed by 25 100%, 70%, 100%

4 x 25 recovery swim

8 x 50 kick descend 1-4, sprint 5-8

4 x 25 recovery swim

2 x 100 timed all out.

200 recovery swim

Set #2

Repeat this set 3 times each time adding more rest as your body needs to recover.

Start with :20 rest first time thru.

3(100 swim build to last 25 @ 100 race pace followed by 2 x 25 tarzan sprint)

50 recovery swim

3 x 50 kick descend 1-3

2 x 25 hands together head out of the water free kick.

100 recovery swim

repeat so there are 9 – 100’s in this set.

Finish working on starts and/pr turns.

For complete seasonal workouts, see the 23 Week Training Program.

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Athletic Peaking

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.

  • by John Coffman, FasterSwimming.com Contributing Writer
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Fitness and Fatigue

When training to compete we increase our fitness by recovering from our training. There are several models to describe training and it’s after effects, the most popular and recognized of which is the single-factor model. The single-factor model proposes that training is the stimulus for super-compensation, and that repeated bouts of gradually increasing intensity result in gradually increased fitness. Basically: train, recover to a higher level, train again, recover to yet a higher level, etc, etc. This model, however, does not take into full account the factor of fatigue.

The two-factor model of training takes fatigue into full account. The two-factor model proposes both a long-term fitness after-effect from training, leading to specific fitness (aerobic, anaerobic, etc.); and a short-term fatigue after-effect, leading to specific (aerobic, anaerobic, etc.) fatigue. Throughout much of our training, fatigue masks fitness. A high work load in training, especially in a concentrated block or multi-sport training, can cause a much more pronounced fatigued state. The athlete themselves may have an exceptional level of fitness, but performances can suffer or become stale if fatigue is not taken into account and managed. The ONE time of the year fatigue should not mask fitness is during a peaking phase (otherwise known as tapering).

There is a lot more to all of this – but the take-home message is to be aware that your training produces both fitness and fatigue, and that fatigue can mask your actual fitness level much of the time. So how much fatigue is too much? Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) can tell you a lot. After a couple of off days from training, simply take your heart rate as soon as you wake up. Don’t go to the bathroom first or take your HR after breakfast – measure your HR as soon as you wake, while still in bed. This will give you a base-line measure. If during the training week your RHR differs upward from your base-line RHR more than 6-8 beats per minute, take it easy that day. You can still train in this state, but a recovery-type of training day may be in order. If your RHR differs upward more than 9-10 beats per minute, a day off is probably in order. Anything under 6 beats difference and you should be good to go. I say “should” and “may” because every athlete’s response to training and ability to recover is different.

These are some general guidelines for you to track your recovery and monitor your fatigue, and if you stay on top of your recovery, your true fitness level will be accessible when you need it!

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Tapering

Tapering is a great experience but only a tool to enhance optimum performance. Swimmers must take into consideration all the factors that will be mentioned in this article. Tapering isn’t the magic pill to faster swimming but one of the factors to faster swimming.

Once you have established your aerobic capacity and finished your maximum yardage phase of training you must trust that you have done enough. Lower your yardage and begin the taper phase that develops power and speed as outlined in the 7 week taper program.

I understand the fear of not lowering your yardage but trust me you can and it works. You can rest a lot longer than you think as long as you stick to the program. You will continue to keep your heart rate elevated during taper which maintains your aerobic capacity.

You will have more energy as the taper progresses. Remember that during a taper you must maintain quality swimming at race pace with enough recovery swimming. Tapering doesn’t mean easy swimming but quite the opposite as you are fine tuning speed and power.

You must believe and not doubt your ability since you are practicing at race pace. Your body is developing muscle memory at your desired speed. You are doing the work so have confidence and get ready to race.

Lifting during taper is essential to maintaining speed and power as outlined in the 7 week taper program.

Try not to get bent out of shape about how you feel each day of the taper. Your body is recovering from previous hard training and trying to retrain your fast twitch muscle group. The fast twitch muscles take more energy and you will feel pain, so recovery is essential during each practice.

Nutrition, hydration and sleep are as important as your training and can affect your swimming greatly. Doing one of the above incorrectly can ruin performance immediately. You can find optimal nutrition and hydration products by clicking on the Nutrition link.

Please pick your events wisely at Championships to ensure proper warm-up, warm-down and recovery between events and days at the meet.

Know your race strategy and be able to adjust as needed. Understand how breathing during the race will benefit you or adversely affect your performance. This concept is extremely important!

When you arrive at your hotel is also important. Plan ahead and give yourself enough time to check-in, eat and shave for the meet. Plan for something to go wrong and maybe pack your suit and goggles in your carry-on bag, if you are flying.