When you’re trying to learn to swim REALLY fast, it’s sometimes hard to simulate the speed that you’re trying to achieve. Swimming lap after lap tends to make the swimmer JUST a bit slower than top speed at the places in the race where things need to be MORE exact.
By splitting up swims into segments, and allowing the swimmers to focus JUST on a very specific part of a swim, there’s a good chance the swimmer will hit that spot at a higher speed, and begin to learn how to be more accurate, or quicker, during that specific spot.
Why Do It:
Timing walls is really the key to this drill. While swimmers have ample opportunities to practice push-offs, turns, and finishes, they typically spend the MAJORITY of those opportunities practicing these things at BELOW race pace. Think about it. Do you really want to turn at the same speed in a meet, as you do on a set of 100s on the 1:30? If you’re like most swimmers, the answer is NO!
How To Do It:
1. Plan on swimming short distances — 50s are a good way to start this type of set. First, decide what it is that you REALLY want to work on, and design the focus point into the set. Don’t make them focus on four or three or even two things. Pick JUST ONE. Whether it’s the push-off, the turn, or the finish, allow the swimmer enough time to either build up to speed, or enough rest to hit that spot with a bit more intensity.
2. Determine which stroke you’re going to go. In our video, the swimmer is swimming 50s. He’s obviously focused on breaststroke, but he swims freestyle when he’s not focusing on being precise. This ‘downtime’ helps to pinpoint his attention on the segment where we’d like him to GO FASTER.
3. In our illustration, the swimmer is doing sets of 3 x 50. In the first 50, he works on the timing and depth of his underwater pull. It’s important that in doing this, he doesn’t stop thinking or working when the underwater pull finishes; he incorporates a couple of REAL strokes. In every stroke, the breakout is about getting into race-pace swimming with as little disruption of speed as possible.
4. In the 2nd 50, our swimmer is working on his turns. Try to have your swimmers make the transition from smooth freestyle, to fast stroke PRIOR to the flags. This allows them to learn their race-pace ‘count’ to the wall on all strokes. It’s not just for backstroke.
5. On the 3rd 50, the focus is on the finish. As with the turn, make sure the transition from smooth freestyle to the specific stroke (if other than freestyle), occurs BEFORE the flags. (And when you switch from yards to meters, make sure you practice this again, because the flags are just a bit further away during the meters season.)
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine points):
Obviously, intensity of focus in HUGELY important in this drill. By allowing the swimmers to focus on just ONE THING, you allow them to be aware of small changes, and how they impact their ability to keep things moving QUICKLY. Always make sure the goal of achieving race pace is paramount in this drill. Hopefully it’s not CURRENT race pace either… but the desired race pace at the end of the season.
Practicing short segments allows swimmers the chance to learn how to become more instinctual about push-offs, turns, and finishes. Enjoy.