Pool Tools – Stretch-Cord One Spot

Originally published May 6, 2005

Continuing with fun games to play with stretch cords in swimming, it’s time to introduce a bit more learning and pain. Sorry, no matter what you hear to the contrary, it’s part of the sport.

One of the most important things is to figure out is how to keep moving forward in the water when you really begin to struggle. This drill simulates what’s bound to happen at the end of a race. You’ve given it your all, and you’ve got nothing left…except 15 more yards till the finish. It’s now up to you to reach down, grab a bit of your heart, and also…make sure the movements you’re making are PRODUCTIVE.


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Stretch cords are a wonderful tool for learning how to hold on to the water after extreme fatigue has set in. If you don’t grab water and propel forward, you’ll get dragged back. To simulate this "end of race" feeling, and to isolate the arms, you’re going to have to stay in one spot for…well…a while. It’s important to understand that this doesn’t always make it easy to maintain good body position, but it’s a very easy way to overload the arms quickly, and learn how to continuously create force on the water.

Swimming in one spotWhy Do It:
Learning how to make productive moves when you’re no longer able to power through the water can be the determining factor between winning and losing. While all swimmers tire at the end of the race, it’s those who can control their technique during this phase, who ultimately come out on top.

How to Do It:
1.
Tie the stretch cord to something at the end of the pool — preferably something very solid and near the waterline. In our example, we waited until a quiet time and searched out a spot in the pool that doesn’t get much traffic. We tied the cord LOW on the ladder, so that most of the cord would always be below the water. Of course, we kept our eyes out for people wanting to walk past that spot and, as we hoped, no one walked by as we were practicing and filming. Of course, whenever using cords: safety first.

2. Swim whatever stroke you’re going to swim. For this, the safest and best strokes are breaststroke and freestyle. Butterfly is extremely tough, and your hips can REALLY sink. Backstroke it a bit dangerous since this drill is based on staying in one spot and then, hopefully, advancing toward the wall. You could always line yourself up under the flags, but we’re focusing on the wall in the example, so we’ll stick with breaststroke.

3. If you’re going to use interval training on this, you should swim against the cord and toward the opposite wall. Once you get to a preselected spot (usually the spot where you can make almost no forward progress against the cord), the clock starts. We started with 15 seconds staying in one spot, then yelled, and the swimmer then relaxed and was dragged back. We continued to increase the duration, until the final repetition lasted for about 1 minute, with the swimmer then being challenged to continue TO the wall. Sure…this is kinda mean, but it’s really fun for coaches. ­čÖé

4. During the most stressful part of the drill, pay attention to your hands. Try to make sure they are in a productive, or propulsive position for as long as possible. We were pretty happy with the results on this swimmer. While he was dropping his elbows just a bit, that’s also due to his inability at this point to draw the hips forward properly. We didn’t worry too much about that and focused primarily on his pulling action, and hands.

5. Of course, the kick becomes a factor, but with the cord stretched so tightly, swimmers really don’t have much of a chance to add ANY glide or they’ll be jerked back. It’s important to begin the pull IMMEDIATELY. This can also aid in developing proper timing in your breaststroke.

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Pick a spot that really challenges you. We started this by setting up the spot at the flags, and the swimmer continued to move forward until he got to the wall. This made it really easy to pick that spot but, as a coach or swimmer, pick a spot on the bottom, or on the lane line, to focus on. Stay in that spot for the predetermined amount of time…cruise back…and do it again.

As a swimmer, you’re going to focus your attention on NOT being jerked back at any point. Think and pinpoint your focus on your hands, and try to maintain pressure on them for as long as possible. No matter how bad it hurts, make sure you’re doing everything possible to stay in that spot, or move forward, if even just a bit.

If you consistently make it to the other end before your time segments are up, you can always wrap the cord around the ladder, or block, to shorten it. If you get really good at tether swimming, you’ll continue to move forward until you get to the end, or until the cord SNAPS. This is why you NEVER stand on deck behind the cord. The swimmer will be safe if the cord snaps because the water will stop the cord from snapping to the body, but those on deck could be seriously injured if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cord work should be done ONLY in STRICTLY SUPERVISED areas. Don’t be an idiot and try to snap a cord just to see what happens, and be very careful if you decide to use paddles. It’s easy to snap a cord when you’ve increased the surface area on your hands. OK…maybe not EASY…but it’s been done A LOT!

There’s so much to learn with resistive swimming, especially how to develop a constantly propulsive stroke. It’s worth the time to learn it. But SAFETY comes first.