Here’s a fun and challenging backstroke set that can help you explore the stroke rates of the champions.
When you purchase a Finis Tempo Trainer, you get a set of instructions and a plastic card with two great charts on it. Chart #1 shows the range of stroke rates for male and female world-class swimmers in each competitive event, as analyzed from the 1996 Olympics (Atlanta) and the 1998 World Championships (Perth). The chart takes those stroke rates and gives you the TT setting that matches the stroke rate.
When you look at the rates and TT settings in Chart #1, your first impression is that they must have gotten it wrong-or that they must be joking. The rates are simply too high. But they are correct. World-class swimmers typically have incredible turnover rates – it’s just that they are so technically perfect and smooth that we don’t REALIZE they are turning it over like crazy.
For example, here are the rates (and TT settings) that world-class backstrokers can achieve:
100 Back: 50-56 cycles/min TT setting: .54 to .60
200 Back: 40-42 cycles/min TT setting: .71 to .75
100 Back: 48-53 cycles/min TT setting: .63 to .67
200 Back: 42-44 cycles/min TT setting: .68 to .71
Even if you are not able to hit 50 cpm in the 100 Back, it’s fun to see how close you can get. Here’s a set that can help you explore your limits-and that might lead to some breakthroughs in your stroke. I used the fistglove – stroke trainer and the TT in this set. If you don’t have fistgloves, don’t worry. Simply swim with closed fists or swim with open ‘normal’ hands. The figures in brackets are the TT settings that I used. I include them only to illustrate how the set should work. When you finish each swim, you have to work FAST to change the TT setting – especially if you are wearing fistgloves.
BACKSTROKE SET: 1400
5 X 100 backstroke on approx. :20 RI
Wear fistgloves – for the first 4 X 100; take them off for the final 100. Speed up the TT by :05 on each 100. Descend time throughout the set. [My settings were 1:20-1:15-1:10-1:05-1:00. My times were 1:40-1:39-1:37-1:35-1:25.]
200 freestyle pull as recovery
5 X 50 backstroke on approx. :20 RI
Wear fistgloves – for the first 4 X 50; take them off for the final 50. Start with the TT at :05 less than your starting tempo on the 5 X 100. Speed up the TT by :05 on each 50. Descend time throughout the set. [My settings were 1:15-1:10-1:05-1:00-:95. My times were 49-48-45-43-40.]
200 freestyle pull as recovery
10 X 25 backstroke on approx. :20 RI
Wear fistgloves – for the first 8 X 25; take them off for the final 25. Start with the TT at :05 less than your starting tempo on the 5 X 50. Speed up the TT by :05 after every other 25. Descend time throughout the set. [My settings were 1:10-1:05-1:00-:95-:90. Times were 22 down to 19.]
What I discovered in this set is that I need to get out of my stroke-rate comfort zone when swimming backstroke. The faster turnover gave me MUCH faster times than usual, and actually forced me into a better stroke (no time to over-reach and no time to over-pull). It also felt GREAT to go from the fistgloves to ‘naked-hand’ swimming.
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