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Momentum, Body Position, & Drag

I read this article written by Gary Hall Sr about coupling motions.

FIRST RESPONSE TO ARTICLE: This article is another great way to describe momentum.

“When an external force acts upon a body, it changes its momentum; however, when no external force acts, the momentum of the body does not change, a fact which is incorporated in the principle of ‘the conservation of momentum’. Therefore, momentum has come to be known as the force of motion that a moving body acquires in continuing its motion by virtue of inertia.” – Webster’s Unabridged

If you can understand this concept, you will be a very happy swimmer.

Maintaining a proper streamline and being able to time your breakout into your swimming is key to fast swimming. If you ever do anything underwater and feel yourself slow down then you have lost momentum. Momentum will be different for each athlete based on body type, flexibility and skill level. What and how you do your underwater mechanics and how you break out into your swimming all effects momentum.

Streamlined position:
The hands should be crossed – hand over hand, some people teach a crossover grab. The biceps should be pressed upon the ears with the shoulders and chest stretched out as much as possible. The head will not be tucked chin to chest but in the same position, it would be in as if you were walking. The midsection and hips will be in line with the thighs and feet following directly behind. The legs must be in the same plane as the hips thus reducing drag. This is the basic streamline (spike). Hands, Head, Hips, and Heels in line. Once this has been achieved you may begin your breakout by starting your first stroke. Judging the depth of the water is essential for a good breakout by maintaining momentum.

SECOND RESPONSE TO ARTICLE: I don’t necessarily agree with the way he describes Breaststroke coupling and the mechanics involved. This is obviously a stroke that is still evolving but I would err on the side of teaching body position of the stroke first.

Body position and reducing drag:
If a swimmer can master body position, then the battle with drag can be won. Reducing drag should be a swimmers main concern. Your head position should be held as when walking. The head should not be tucked forward or back. The head controls the position of the feet and a slight movement of the head will make a huge impact with the legs and increase the drag of the whole body. The head must be streamlined with the body during the whole swim. The concept of body position must be learned with the thoughts of achieving a streamlined body position. As often as possible you must try to keep the 4 H’s in line (Hands, Head, Hips, and Heels). Once body position is lost the drag becomes a very large factor and stroke mechanics fall apart. Eliminating drag is an important part of stroke mechanics and one of the driving forces of swimming along with maintaining momentum.
Breaststroke legs warm up during meets before a competition.

200-400 non-breast easy, based on how you feel 
Begin with 8 x 25’s kick with a drill. (3 kicks / 1 stroke or hands at side, breathing every kick) @ 60% rest as needed 
Another 8 x 25’s kick, 4 with a drill and 4 w/board or hands in front @ 70-75% rest as needed 
Another 6-8 x 25’s kick half kick w/board or hands in front and half swim(emphasis kick) @90% rest as needed 
Another 6 x 25’s build each 25 swim to 95% rest to recovery 
200-400 non-breast, easy based on your recovery needed and plan to finish about 7-10 minutes before you compete

We are all here to learn and adapt. Let me know your thoughts. Please take some time to review all our seasonal plans (7, 14, 19 and 23-week programs). If you need any help adjusting programming to your team please email me.

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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