Post by Matthew Rose, Head Coach at Dynamo Multisport
Like in running and cycling, power potential (or force capacity) in the water is important in creating efficiency and overall speed across race distances. It might help to think of this type of swim training like hill repeats in running or big gear force efforts in cycling. Just like in those disciplines, the specific swim force training is hard work but interesting and fun.
Swim force capacity training mostly consists of short, high intensity efforts with near full recovery between intervals. Adding a mix of common pool “toys” – paddles and fins – aids in the stimulus mix to increase power potential. Pool toys increase the effective surface area of the levers (hands and feet) that in turn require greater force to move at normal stroke and kicking rates. An example of a simple force set using a mix of toys in a short course pool would be:
- [8x25 @ 30” Rest Interval (RI)
- 200 easy @ 30” RI]
- Round (RD) 1: fins and paddles
- RD 2: paddles
- RD 3: no toys
We can add in even more force stimuli through mid-pool starts. The idea is simple: by starting away from a wall in a still prone position, the swimmer must create greater force to overcome inertia and get up to their normal stroke/kick rate. The great part of this type of training is that you do not need toys or even a pool. Open water will suffice. However, as we layer on toys and/or add faster stroke rate goals, we can create a lot of force obstacles for the athlete to overcome. An example of another force set using a mix of stimuli in a short course pool would be:
- [4x25 @ 30” RI *
- 4x50 @ 30” RI**
- 200 easy @ 30” RI]
* start approximately 12.5m out and sprint the next 25m into and out of the wall back to the middle of the pool. After last repeat swim easy back to the wall to begin the 50s.
** start at the closest 5m backstroke flags, sprint the 20m to the opposite wall and the 25m back
RD 1: fins and paddles
RD 2: paddles
RD 3: no toys
Athletes can incorporate small doses (<200m of work) of these types of sets as often as they want within a given week for maintenance and to keep the nervous system sharp. Most age group triathletes should add larger doses (600m or more) of force work in their training only one time per week and visit these sessions at various points throughout the season. Use no paddles or smaller paddles initially until the shoulders can handle the force loads required for this type of training.
About the author: Matthew Rose is the founder and Head Coach at Dynamo Multisport, an endurance sport coaching organization located in Atlanta, Georgia. Dynamo athletes span the experience spectrum from professional champions to beginners. He has also held coaching positions on the staffs of the swimming teams at Stanford University and Arizona State University where he worked with Olympic medalists, World and American Record holders and NCAA champions.