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Hi / Lo Intensity Training for Big Meets

The following explains a little of the peaking phase of training that we structure into the end of the season,along with some general ideas and considerations.


We most often use a Hi/Lo system of training sessions as we near our biggest meets.  “Hi” being high intensity, race pace work that includes more and more rest as we move toward each swimmer’s probable top meet.  “Lo” being lower intensity mainly aerobic work, with very short distance skills work(starts, turns, underwaters, etc) mixed in.

Training intensity is directly proportional to competitive results.

Training intensity (speed) is directly proportional to competitive results, and so we maintain a fairly high level of intensity (fast tempo, goal race pace training) throughout the Hi/Lo template above.  This can vary from swimmer to swimmer and from meet to meet.  We want each swimmer to know, understand, and “feel” race speed and race plans from both a physical and mental perspective.

We drop volume far more than intensity as we near the swimmer’s biggest meets in order to reduce fatigue and allow for their ultimate expression of speed.  This drop in volume most often allows for a higher energy level for each swimmer as we move through the peaking phase, and is often accompanied by lower RHR’s, stable or slightly increasing body weight, and (hopefully) more consistent sleep habits – all of which should be noted in their training journals.

We shift dryland and lifting to more reactive training(faster lifting with moderate weights, med ball work, some fast-paced dryland)and continue to include a solid base of lower intensity core, dryland and mobility work.  We continue to lift and do dryland as we move through our peaking phase as we want ALL of our physical qualities at their peak as they step up on the blocks for their biggest races.


Swim practice is still our main focus throughout the peaking phase.  All aspects outside of swimming(nutrition, rest, strength, etc) are of secondary importance to fast(er)swimming.

Coaches “listen” by watching the swimmers practice as much as listening to what the swimmers are actually saying.  Big meets and high level performance can cause some jitters, and actions most often speak louder than words – perhaps especially at the end of the season.

We adjust training as necessary by practice, by swimmer, in order to have each athlete swimming their fastest at their biggest meet(s).  This can mean more work for some and less work for others – and only in order to have each swimmer peak at the appropriate time.

Our season-long focus on quality swimming over quantity swimming – combined with our advanced dryland and lifting training – most often allow for an extended peak period for our swimmers.  It is not unusual for our NAAC swimmers to hold their peak for 3+ weeks.

– Written by Coach John Coffman, Head Coach of New Albany Aquatics Club

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Questions re: Distance. Some Advice for Practices

I am a new subscriber and received my first set of workouts this morning. I have read through them carefully and looking forward to getting started. I love the instruction on improving the dives, streamlining with dolphin kick etc. Plus the turns practice. However, how do I compensate for the distance as it is a bit far for me. I’m only used to swimming @ 3000 to 3500m in practice.

Once you develop more strength in dryland and can handle the mechanics of swimming fly with the fly kick your goal of breaking 4 min. should be easy. Try kicking with fins when swimming fly to help with your leg strength and speed but don’t get into a habit of using fins. Work on some short fly swimming (with fly kick) without breathing while maintaining proper body position as described in Faster Swimming. Stay as streamlined as possible and take a few strokes to begin working on timing with the fly kick then slowing work in the breathing. Timing and breathing of the stroke is described for you also. Let me know how you progress.

Determine your stroke counts for training as it’ll definitely be a part of practices. In the course of a week you’ll train all strokes with a lot more kicking than you are use to. Work in the kicking as you are able and feel free to use fins for part of it until you can handle all the additional kicking. As the season progresses kicking will be a smaller part (percentage) of the workout.

You don’t have to increase your yardage drastically and whatever you don’t finish on a specific day, just continue it the next practice. Try to plan your swimming workouts as to never have three days between practices as you’ll lose the feel for the water.

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Questions from Across the Pond

This note and the following questions are received from a coach just North-west of London, England.

“I coach on a voluntary basis and have a passion to ensure I give the very best to my swimmers and ensuring that they arrive at the championships in March in the best form they can. All help and guidance is gratefully received.”

Question #1. Variable Speed swimming Distances/ Efforts- Does that mean to use all energy systems ? And would any of the sets be at or near race pace? I have perviously planned my season using Counsilman and Maglishco reference books and am therefore familiar with EN1, En2, En3 and so on.

Answer #1. Variable speed focuses on the ability to change speeds at will, to never over train either the fast twitch or slow twitch muscles. Throughout the season you will see Race Pace added into sets, especially the months during taper. Changing the effort during sets increases work load and the aerobic capacity quicker than grinding out yardage. The mechanics of strokes have changed a lot as well as training methods. This as is evident by the amount of speed at the USA High School Level. Swimming is finally following the lead by track coaches to train athletes for a specific event. Training yards or short course meters is key to training speed and puts more emphasis on starts, turns and momentum. Take what you need from Counsilman and Maglishco as they have obviously helped swimming more than I can give them credit for in this newsletter. We all learn from the past just don’t get stuck in it.

Question #2. Legs – Yardage at 50%, does that mean, if say for example I had a total distance of 3000m for the session 1500m should be legs only? Also does the phrase mix it up, shown on Monday of week 1 apply to everyday with legs at 50%?

Answer #2. Do the best you can to have 50% of kicking a day during the first part of the season. It is hard to write in and motivate the swimmers to do this but they will taper better and have more speed for all events. As you know the legs muscles are big and require more training than coaches think. I’ll take less yardage and more kicking any day. Do the best you can to be creative and do lots of variable speed to increase the aerobic gains from kicking.

Question #3. Basic Format – Alternating upper body and lower body by Set. Would that mean one set pull, one set of legs?

Answer #3. Yes, or just a swim set alternating with a kick set. Swimmers don’t kick as much as they should and will focus on upper body work during a swim set, so I use a swim set for upper body and pulling is great also. Work in what is best for the talent you are training.