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Part 2: Planning Your Practices

Here are basic concepts to keep in mind while planning your practices:

1. Any swimmer that is poorly conditioned with bad mechanics will see improvement with any activity associated with swimming.

2. Once your swimmer advances in conditioning and skill level basic practices no longer apply and actually retards further development.  Higher levels of practices are needed to mimic racing demands of the athlete mentally and physically.

3. Keep in mind that practices must mimic racing demands of the athlete. Coaches must understand the principle of specificity mentally and physically. This is the learning process involved in understanding neuromuscular patterning and its importance in regards to energy systems.

4. “It is erroneous to practice swimming if the skill amplitude and rate do not reflect the intended race-specific qualities”.

The purpose of this article is to elicit thought. I have many quotes as I feel this best explains my readings of all the studies I am sharing with you.  Our goal is to become better coaches!

We all know about aerobic conditioning but do we really understand it. Coaches always say “you need an aerobic base to taper”. Does this mean cranking out yardage or is this individual to the athlete? If you are set on yardage, yardage, yardage you are training the athlete to train and not creating the physical and mental demands on the body needed for one race. This is going to take a lot of research on our part as coaches to really understand and apply.  I have thought for years that swimming is way behind track and field, in regards to training the athlete for a specific event. All the scientific studies researched in the study I am referencing below arrive at the same conclusion. “In traditional training sessions little, if any, happens that will influence better race performances. Training largely improves training but not racing.” This applies to the first concept listed above while planning your practices.

“Skillful and efficient performance in a particular technique can be developed only by practice of that technique.” This means at race pace to mimic the demands on the neuromuscular mechanism needed to ensure that energy systems in a race have been put to memory. Muscle memory, at race pace only, involves the neuromuscular memory of the energy systems used.  “Movement patterns in the brain incorporate the energy sources for the movement(s). Technique and energy are inextricably linked in movement patterns no matter how complex they might be.” If you practice at a slower pace the movement pattern and energy system associated is different than what is needed for racing.

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Body position is a key factor to consider. Even a slight change in a swimmers body position or stroke mechanics changes the movement pattern and energy system demands of the race. This happens all the time to our swimmers at the end of a race and practice sets. Practicing at race pace involves body position, mechanics and intensity. This loss of control can be viewed as detrimental fatigue. Try to recognize whether this fatigue is physical, neural, mental or a combination of all three.

We all currently train our athlete’s through fatigue so understanding how “in-performance” recovery applies is extremely important.

We as coaches really need to incorporate more individual training and understanding of the concepts mentioned in this article. Please do your research and experiences to develop your swimmers!

All feedback is welcome.

This article is created from the readings of:  Swimming Science Bulletin Number 39Produced, edited and copyrighted by Professor Emeritus Brent S. Rushall, San Diego State UniversitySwimming Energy Training in the 21st Century: The Justification For Radical ChangesBrent S. Rushall, Ph.D.,R.Psy

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