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Resistance Training

Recently I have been thinking about the pickle I am in for morning practices. I have limited time and limited opportunities: one hour a day of practice time, five mornings a week. My objective is to pack as much quality training as possible into those five hours of time.

In the past, my workout partners (Glenn and an age-group ace), and I had used a lot of interval training and timed swims. The focus of the practices was to get in a good amount of straight swimming. On each swim or set, we would focus on some technical point that needed work or improvement, but most of the stress was on conventional training. We did 25s, 50s, 100s, etc. The practices would usually look something like this:

Warm Up
200 Free
200 Kick w/ a board
200 Pull w/ paddles

First Set
8 x 100
odd IM @ 1:20
even Free @ 1:10

Main Set
12 x 75 Stroke @ 1:10
Descend every four

2 x 200 @ 2:40
Second half faster than first half

Last Set
4 x 50 @ 1:00
all on the watch held under a certain time
1 x 50 easy
1 x 50 for time

Warm Down
4 x 25 Dolphin kick w/fins
2 x 50 Focus solely on technique

These practices were effective but lacked something. The fast swimming was always swum fast but lacked Umph. It was one of those "get the job done, but that’s it" kind of things. Swimming is not the most entertaining sport in the world, but just swimming back and forth at different speeds was getting stale. I felt we needed a change of pace.

Back to the pickle. The goal was to pack maximum work into 5 hours a week. But if we were going to do something besides 25s, 50s, and 100s, what would we do? So we decided to try and blend the practice with a mix of technique, fast swimming, and non-conventional training. The practices haven’t really changed that much. The first thing to go was the 200 free in warm-up. For the most part this was the worst part of every morning practice. Despite prodding and suggestions on my part, this was always a pretty sloppy swim. So the 200 free has become a 200 stretch swim. On the first 50 of the stretch swim we alternately circle both arms, in and out of the water. The circles help to loosen our shoulders. On the second 50, we swim freestyle, but stretch the pulling arm backward before starting the recovery. This is done mostly to warm up the pecs and lats. The third 50 is sculling of the swimmer’s choice — to help awaken the hands and forearms to the water. The last 50 is choice swim to get going. The rest of the warm up is done the same way.

The second set has stayed pretty much the same. The swim is usually a quick interval with low rest to get moving. This helps us get ready for the Main Set and gets the heart going a little. Plus I can’t get away from the notion that you have to do SOME aerobic swimming, regardless of who you are or what you are swimming.

The biggest change has been in the main set. Rather than "getting in some yards" and working on whole-stroke swimming, we have started to use the main set for resistance training. As a result, we don’t do whole lengths and, if we do, it is usually with some sort of resistance. The other day we did some "swim wrestling" for the main set. One swimmer grabs the other swimmer’s ankles and tries to keep him from getting to the middle. Once the swimmer gets to the middle, the "grabber" lets go and the swimmer sprints home. One benefit is that you can switch where apply the resistance. We have done sets focusing on kick, second-half swimming, front-half swimming, and technique. While we haven’t been doing a lot of yards, the resistance has more than made up for it because it builds strength and is incredibly tiring.

After doing a resistance set, we now switch to straight-up sprinting. The other day we did a fast 200, then a broken 200 for time. The times have been right around the same as before. Sometimes they are a little faster, sometimes they are a little slower. The thing that they always have is Umph. We are attacking these swims as if a huge weight has been taken off our shoulders — because it literally has. After a main set of resistance swimming, you feel like you can whup just about anything that comes your way. Our morning practices now look something like this:

Warm Up
200 Stretch Swim
200 Kick w/ a board
200 Pull w/ paddles

First Set
6 x 100 Free
alternate 1:10 and 1:20
1:10s are make it with a little rest, the 1:20s are fast

Main Set
Resistance swimming
12.5s
25s
200s
Depending on the day and what I want to get out of it.

Timed Set
200 FAST
4 x 50 @ :10 RI added up to get 200 time

Warm Down
4 x 25 Dolphin kick w/fins
2 x 50 Focus solely on technique

As with any change in focus or training, only time will tell. So far the swimmers have responded very well to the change. As a coach, the change has given me new perspective on how I can get done what I want to do in a shortened period of time.