Swim Fitness Articles
Report from the 2002 Texas Speedo Coaches Clinic by Judy Wagner Master's of Brazos (MOB)
For the last few years I have attended the Texas Speedo Coaches Clinic in Austin in April. Swim coaches from every level of swimming in the State of Texas attend this clinic: USA swimming - age group and senior level, summer league, high school, YMCA, college and masters. Coaches share their ideas of most successful techniques and methods they use in their swim programs. The most beneficial thing I learned at the clinic was what I will call "The drill that fixes most problems with freestyle."
One of Coach Eddie Reese's (the University of Texas Men's Team head swimming coach and coach of the USA Olympic team) swimmers showed us this drill. He said Eddie makes his swimmers use this drill all the time. They swim it slowly. They swim it fast doing sets of 200's on intervals. They use it to race. They use it all the time in many different ways. After watching it, I figured that it does not take a rocket scientist to discover that if the drill works for the best swimmers in the world, it will probably help me, you and everybody else who swims.
Eddie has his swimmers do this drill with a stick, which is about an inch thick and about 7 or 8 inches long. Since I did not have a stick with me the first time I wanted to do it, I used a plastic hairbrush, which I had, in my equipment bag. The first time I used the drill, I was shocked at what it helped to correct. I would recommend that you try it and see what it does for you. I recommended it to an age group coach here and he is using pencils for his kids to practice the drill.
Here is a brief description of the drill. Hold the brush/stick/pencil in one hand, be sure to extend your arm straight out and reach. Point the stick at the far end of the pool. Keep you elbow straight and your arm parallel to the bottom of the pool. Do not let the stick point downward.
Balance your body by leaning on the outstretched arm, don't let the arm drop or point downward, be sure you are reaching for the far wall at the end of the pool. Lay on to your side, arm extended. Your extended arm should be under the water several inches.
Begin swimming, you will have to have a strong kick to do this drill properly. If you have fins, use them in the beginning; and as you get stronger and better at the drill, practice swimming using your legs without the fins.
This drill is a form of a catch up drill because you are going to switch the stick from hand to hand as you move forward. Always keeping the stick pointing forward and you should roll over on to the outstretched arm. Keep the pressure under the armpit to keep you body balanced so you can stay streamlined on your side. Your out-stretched arm should be shoulder depth below the water.
As you are doing this drill you transfer the stick from hand to hand out in front of you. Do not look at your hands. Your eyes should be focused downward. Concentrate on a perfect stroke. Reach, Roll, Breathe as needed, breathe by rolling on to your side. Do not move your head. Look down at the bottom of the pool, roll to breathe and look up. Keep you head aligned with your body. The water line should be a the middle of the top of your head. Keep your elbows high in your recovery and keep the recovering hand close to your body. Always keep the hand below the elbow on the recovery.
When you begin the underwater stroke, point your fingertips to the bottom of the pool, use your whole arm, grab the water, and you should feel a forward surge as you roll and move down the pool. A strong kick will help. Be sure you finish your stroke back by your leg.
This drill will help solve the dropped elbow problem if you will remember to keep your non-stroking arm straight and extended in front of you and if you will concentrate on always keeping the stroking hand fingers pointing to the bottom of the pool and hand below the elbow. Do not move the elbow and arm first, point the fingers down to the bottom of the pool, rotate the elbow up and move the hand not the elbow when stroking.
Try it. You will see that this drill incorporates body balance, into your swim. It forces you to practice front quadrant swimming. It will make you think because it gives you a physical tool with which to work. I have found that if I practice the drill slowly.
If I then put down the brush/stick/pencil on the side of the pool, and begin swimming intervals trying to imagine I still have the item in my extended hand, I will swim intervals at race pace with better form and body position.
This is a brief summary of other topics of interest: Last year, in 2001, the most talked about topic was the effective use of the underwater dolphin kick. We saw it used all last year in most national competitions where it was used as a speed weapon by the fastest competitive swimmers. The topic was still considered to be very important in 2002 also. If you can incorporate the fly kick effectively off the walls, it is considered to be the second fastest stroke in swimming.
One way to help incorporate the fly kick into your swimming is to practice vertical kicking using a fly kick. We were urged to practice this everyday. For example: swim a set of 100's or 75's with 25 of a stroke, then spend 6 seconds doing 18 to 25 vertical kicks after each 100. Try to get in as many good vertical kicks in a short period of time that you can. It was also recommended to practice fly kicking on the back -- this works the stomach and the legs. There is no question that the fly kick is breaking records so why don't you try to incorporate it into your swim race? To use it effectively you must practice it everyday!
The general consensus from all the coaches was to be a good swimmer you must be a good kicker. Several coaches talked about having swimmers do kick sets with tennis shoes to strengthen the kick. If you want to give yourself and exhausting experience try swimming with tennis shoes! Years ago yardage was important and the kick was not. Now the kick is important. Legs are important. The winning swimmers are the ones who are good kickers. Use your legs 100% in a race, 50% arms and work on getting the upper body to relax. Use the core body and let the legs act like a motor at the back to give you some extra acceleration. Practice this with drills. The coaches recommend lots of kicking without a board. Kicking with a board is used mostly for social time and not considered to be the most beneficial form of kicking. If you want to use a board, try kicking sets with tennis shoes.
Threshold training is important. It was recommended that we increase threshold training from 20 minutes to 45 minutes especially for distance swimmers. Putting stress on the body increases the ability to swim fast in races.
Frequent weight training was recommended for everyone. Everyone should do strength training for the upper, lower and core body. No weight training was recommend during taper because you need to let the muscles rest. Distance swimmers do not do as much weight training as sprinters.
Lots of stretching was recommended for all ages of swimmers, before and after swimming at any time of the year. Stretching is a must for everyone at any age on a daily basis whether you swim or not.
Do lots of stroke drills, do them at the beginning of your work out, do them at the end of your work out, and drill even when you are tired. Do a lot of slow easy perfect swimming. Perfect practice helps make a perfect performance. Put the pressure on perfect details not intervals. Always work on the perfect stroke. Go race pace then repeat it. Increase the interval and swim it right. Keep the stroke long, train tired with a perfect stroke and then train to race. Mix quality with yardage.
Race strategy has changed. It is recommend that we go out fast and hold on. Race with quality. Work every day on a prefect stroke.
Keep your head straight when swimming freestyle. Breathe to the side not to the back. Count strokes. The person who takes the least number of strokes correctly will be the fastest swimmer because every time one takes a stroke one breaks the streamline body position, which slows one down. Drills will help decrease your stroke count. Develop your kick to help create fewer strokes. Stretch out. Reach and roll. Keep it long and strong.
I would encourage all masters' swimmers and coaches to attend this clinic in 2003. It is a delightful experience. We always have a social on Friday night and some interesting opening discussions. We have classes on Saturday where we can attend talks given my some of the most famous coaches in the country. There is a luncheon where each year Texas swimmers are inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame for Swimmers. Sunday morning is always the most informative for me. We go to a pool and watch the coaches instruct swimmers as to how to perform their favorite drills for all 4 strokes. Masters swimmers are welcome to attend the clinic. The clinic will be in Austin again next year in April. Make a weekend trip and attend the convention. You will find it a very informative and enjoyable experience. Hope to see lots of masters' swimmers and coaches there next year.
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