Training for IM Part 4 - The Swim

g said... Instead of pull sets, most folks might want to consider doing mod-hard hold-a-lot-of-water swimming. You get a much more appropriate strength workout from holding water with a big paddle then using a paddle to hold water with your hand.

OK Amigo,

Only because it's you!

I think we often get confused between appropriate swim training for swimmers and for most AG triathletes. I got a kick out of reading a post a while back where the author was quoting the techniques of Olympic class swimmers. Well, that might be OK if you are Chris Hauth but it's not very relavant for most triathletes.

I still didn't understand that one section of your original post that i quoted? can you try to explain that again to me?

It's a different way of saying "try to go faster by holding more water and apply more force to the water -- rather than -- spinning your arms"

Most triathletes reinforce and get away with crap technique when pulling. I see it all the time underwater. It gives them the illusion that they are training appropraitely... working hard, building strength and going fast.

Get a triathlete to really understand the catch (not a Thorpe catch, a simple 'enter down' set-it-up catch) and they will have plenty of load on their swimming muscles from simply swimming correctly. The Vasa is a great tool for seeing this in action.

This is my take on the propulsive side.

I think it was you that made the point that the glide shouldn't exist -- I agree completely! It's simply an unnecessary rest. When I talk about hip drive -- I seek to lift turnover through hip drive (rather than arm spin). VERY fatiguing for an athlete will good stroke mechanics -- absolutely essential process for the well-balanced, good stroke mechanics athlete to go through.

Feel free to follow up.

I probably used the wrong word when i spoke of the "engine." i meant the more specific limiting factors to swimming performance which are different from running or cycling performance. the former dependent much more on the ability of the muscles to extract the oxygen while the latter limited by the carrying capacity of the circulatory system.

I know what you meant. The subtlety that we both understand is what often leads tough and powerful athletes into a brick wall with their swimming. It's a dance that involves the controlled application of force. Force application not force generation. That's why swimmer babes can crush most guys.

The upper body muscles inherently have a much lower capacity for aerobic work than those of the lower body. that's the product of thousands of years of evolution. the leg muscles have a much higher proportion of oxidative fibers compared to the upper body.

The limiter for most triathlon swimmers is not their ability to do work. The limiter is the ability to apply their existing force in the appropriate movement pattern, while maintaining body alignment.

Those without a swimming background, swimming with proper technique, still will have a very limited capacity to do so "aerobically." i've never seen clas swim, but i'm sure that technique is not his only limiter. he can't even come close to using his engine because the plumbing just isn't there. that's the limit, and that's what i was referring to when i used the term "engine," which was probably a poor choice of words.

I started in December 98 (30 yrs old) -- 52.5 mins this year at IMNZ. It can be done.

Clas is like most strong AGers with good aerobics -- they are limited by technique and flexibility -- the ability to apply force not the ability to generate force.

The advantage of a buoy and paddles is that it makes it much easier to approximate good technique with less intensity. the average triathlete just doesn't have the appropriately developed musculature to do this otherwise.

I'd rather shorten the swim interval. I never used gear in my first two years of swimming -- I think that really helped me. My coach didn't let anyone use gear -- it was magic when I discovered pullbuoys -- tri swimmer's crack! At various stages, paddles and buoys have helped me. At various stages, they probably held me back.

furthermore, swimming is dependent on a very specific strength. using paddles and added resistance is by far the best way to develop this strength. that is why it is beneficial even for very good swimmers to perform a significant portion of their training in this manner.

I agree for swimmers. Most triathletes have more in common with 9-10 year olds -- except they don't balance as well in the water. Nearly all triathletes are reinforcing a sub-optimal stroke pattern when they increase the load on their existing stroke mechanics. Unfortuantely, most don't realize this and that's why I think video analysis is an essential tool for making progress.

Your protocol is a good one. Mine's only a bit different. Very tough to give everyone in an entire squad what they need. Most programs are geared towards the top two lanes.


i think i agree with a lot of what you're saying, however you are either missing, or disagree with, a fundamental point:

physiology limits technique in swimming.

you are asking a great number of muscle fibers to perform a task for which they were not designed. many swimmers cannot maintain good technnique for long for this reason. yes there are subtleties in the application of force, etc. but i don't think these are really the problem for most people struggling with the swim.

in order to have good technique, you first have to develop the muscles in a way that allow it. the means i have suggested are not the only way of doing so, but probably one of the more efficient methods.

like i said before, the limiting factors to swimming performance are very different from cycling or running. no matter how large the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, swimming will depend on peripheral factors. so while the systemic capacity to do work may be there, the same cannot be said at the local level. make sense?