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Swimming Article by Brendan Terry

The 1997 - 98 season is just around the corner, athletes old and new are returning to training after a well-earned break. Everybody commencing a program at this time of year has a similar goal, to work hard and improve.

Hard work is not the only key to success but is one of the more coachable factors to success.

In swimming, there's not a lot we can do to change body types; we cannot change hereditary traits.

We cannot do a lot to change "natural ability".

But we can teach technique. We can build strength. We can develop endurance. We can teach pace, we can improve speed, we can improve attitudes, and we can help create goals and desire. We can provide incentive. Now lets go over that list again in a little more detail.

TECHNIQUE. (Stroke correction) Stroke drills are the fastest and most efficient way of moulding technique. One thing I can't emphasize enough is stroke drill. It aids swimmers to get the feel of the water and isolates specific muscles needed to perform the correct stroke pattern. People often assume that stroke correction is verbal advice. I wish it were that simple, my stroke sessions would be once a month in the classroom and everyone should swim the same. A swimmer must be relaxed and comfortable to perform an efficient stroke, therefore I rarely say to a swimmer "you need to stretch out more" instead I would prescribe the appropriate drill and tell them they look fantastic when they stretch out. Using this technique instead of simply picking faults will insure swimmer is relaxed, confidant and the stroke will improve at a faster rate.

WHAT ARE STROKE DRILLS. Stroke drills are simply stroke mechanical teaching and training devices that can be designed and manipulated to get your swimmers to achieve better standards of stroke technique. My advice on drills is for you to learn, watch, adjust, practice and devise as many new drills as you can so your swimmer will strive for greater excellence and you will be able to provide programs with a much greater range of variation and thought. The following are some drills I use all the time and a sample stroke set.

CATCH -UP : where both arms begin and end on the surface of the water in front of the face, using a single arm cycle alternately, with a 6 beat kick.

ONE ARM F/S : this drill is done in the same style as catch up but with one arm, if the swimmer has poor coordination or strength in one arm I would ask them to alternate 2 laps with the bad arm and one with the good. This drill also helps develop bilateral breathing.

HIGH ELBOWS: is done by running the thumb from it's furthest point down the leg up the under arms.

then continue on with the remainder of the cycle. Then repeat. This drill will help teach correct elbow position, help with timing of the breathing, the shoulder rotation and kick pattern.

F/S SPEED DRILL: this is simply F/S done with your head out of the water, with an extremely hard kick and rapid arm turnover. it must be done flat out in 25's on 1:00 - 1:30 secs. This drill also builds strength so the triathlete can maintain momentum when sighting buoys during a race.

There are many other F/S drills that you could use. Most of them are variations of these. So what I recommend is to play around and make your own versions.


8 X 100 F/S on 2:00 - 3:00 swim every 2nd 100 drill

6 x 50 on 1:00 counting arm strokes

200 one arm free 1:00 rest then 400 @ 100%.

STRENGTH. The trend with swimmers (both distance and sprinters) today seems to be moving away from the weights program. My swimmers do not follow a weight program. I work on flexibility and strength with speed (biokinetics). I feel the Triathlete can also make significant strength gains without the addition of a time consuming weight program. Stretch Cords for 30:00 3 times a week can give great results, but go easy with them at first, 3 x 2:00 with 3:00 rest is a good start.


w/up 5:00.

1]2 x 2:30 with :30 rest hold 60-65 stroke rate.

4 x 1:00 with 1:00 rest hold 75-80 stroke rate.

2] 3:00 @ 80%, 2:00 @ 90%, 1:00 @ 100%.

Stretch and w/down.

I can remember Neil Brooks at the World Swimming Championships in Perth, during his commentary of the Men's 100 Fly announce "If you want to be strong in the water swim butterfly" I couldn't agree more, swimming Fly not only builds strength, it also builds confidence, I also use pull buoys, paddles and the ever popular bucket drag ( a belt is placed around the waist and a piece of rope is used to tie the bucket just below the feet, you should also use a pull buoy with the bucket) during strength set's.


8 x 25 Fly on 1:00 then 2:00 rest

200 bucket, buoy and paddles @ 100% then 3:00 rest

200 buoys and paddles @ 100% then 3:00 rest

200 with pull buoys @ 100% then 3:00

4 x 50 normal free on 1:00 @ 100%

all of the above is done x 2 - 3.

ENDURANCE and PACE. Heart rate sets is a great tool in terms of developing endurance and pace, but what are they ?. Within the culture of Australian swimming, particularly at the elite level, the term 'heart rate set' is well-known to most coaches. Coined by leading Australian physiologist 'Heart Rate Bob' Treffene, the term 'heart rate set' refers to a high intensity aerobic set designed to improve endurance fitness including the so-called maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). Many coaches would be familiar with the sets of 2000m to 3000m (30 minutes work) at a pace that elicits a heart rate 10 beats from maximum level e.g. 20 X 100m Fly/BK aiming for 185 bpm on a 1:45 cycle (for a swimmer with a maximum heart rate of 195 bpm). These sets when properly designed and monitored are a very effective way to improve aerobic fitness. Given their high intensity and associated stresses, they need to be introduced and developed gradually in order to avoid excessive fatigue. A maximum of two heart rate sets per week is recommended for well-conditioned triathletes.

SPEED. I feel that the development of speed is vital in triathlon, in a race if you have speed you can swim on to the feet of a fast moving pack, then settle in to a rhythm. The ability to swim fast in the early stages of a race, can make a huge difference in swim splits. Speed sessions are scheduled after recovery sessions to ensure quality. I try to maintain a 1-4 work to rest ratio when designing speed sets.


1] 6 X 50 on 1:00 - 1:30 every 2nd @ 100%

2] 8 x 25 on 1:00 - 1:15 ( limit breathing )

3] 400 recovery swim ( mixed strokes )

4] 8 x 25 walk backs

ATTITUDES GOALS & DESIRES: There was once a very controversial bloke in English radio called Dr. C.E.M. Joad. This man was a full professor at the University of London. He was clever with his tongue, he played hockey well into his 50s. He was an extra-ordinary character, but he talked a lot of sense and one of the things he said on radio was this. "What a lot of hypocrisy people talk about games. You must play the game for it's own sake. You must play for the fun of the game. No doubt, but unless you play to win, unless you play with every fibre of your being, the game ceases to be fun". And that I think, needs to be remembered by some. A game worth playing should be worth playing well.

SUMMARY: The proportion of each training session devoted to each physiological factor of conditioning work depends on: 1. The phase of the season 2. The particular event being trained for although the emphasis changes from phase to phase and event to event. All types of conditioning are included from one degree or another for each triathlete throughout the training session.

The types of conditioning work are alternated or cycled within each weekly training plan so that they can recover from one form of stress while applying themselves to another. Distance for each training session should range in length, on the phase of the session and event. My triathletes train at race pace and faster as much as physiologically possible.

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