Sep 022015

Great article on Backstroke Starts appeared recently in SwimSwam featuring The Race Club’s Gary Hall Sr. and World Champion Backstroker Junya Koga. Key take away points:

  • Foot placement is key – shoulder width apart to get the most power
  • Hips should be above the water when in the ready to launch position
  • Head snaps back like you are looking for the other end of the pool upside down
  • Arms go up over the top (not out to the side)
  • Thrust the hips to the sky to help your back get the arch it needs
  • Start should be quiet – you slip through the water not crash onto the water
  • We need a backstroke ledge! Good news, we are in the process of getting one to fit the IVC blocks

Click here for the SwimSwam article that goes with this video below:

Apr 202015

This past week British Swimmer Adam Peaty absolutely smashed the world record in 100M long course breaststroke at the British Championships in London in an amazing 57.92. Below is the video of his race and his interview after the race.

A few things in his technique stand out:

  1. He ALWAYS returns to the line out front. Even with a very quick tempo to his stroke, he does not sacrifice getting completely horizontal after each stroke. Note how his head and chest drop below his shoulders.
  2. His hip slide is phenomenal! Watch how far forward his hips slide on the insweep of the stroke. Note how dry his back is and how the wave behind him stays low on his back.
  3. His undulation is mild with hips always at or near the surface.
  4. The timing between his pull and his kick is perfection. Slow the video down and you will see that he is almost in streamline out front as his ankles quickly draw up behind him kicking him into a beautiful streamline.
  5. On the pull his elbows remain high and his hand strike forward is in very shallow water.

Adam is only 20 years old. Wow!

In this version you get a little better look at him close up, but it is missing the turn. Adam is in the lime green suit in Lane 4.

In the next video here, you get to see the turn (along with the crowd’s reaction).

Apr 092014

taper-timeYahoo! Swimmers are practically doing back flips because we have reached Taper Time. Beginning Sunday, April 13th, we start the 3-week taper for the Nationals held May 1-4 in Santa Clara.

A taper can be anywhere from 2-3 weeks long. I start our taper 3 weeks out in concept more than in design. For those on the team, you will have received our Swymnut Taper Guide by email (if not, drop me an email). The Taper workouts are constructed to work for both those actually tapering and the rest of the team not heading to the meet. As we progress through the taper weeks, you’ll notice those on taper exiting the pool earlier than the rest of you. Dang, don’t you wish you were going to the meet now? Either way, our non meet goers will not be forgotten. We’ll take good care of all ya all!

The first week of taper keeps our yardage totals pretty close to our normal 1-hour practices where we usually see total yardage (including warm up and warm down) in the 2800-3200 range. In fact, the whole idea of a taper is to cut volume incrementally to about 60% of pre-taper values just before the big meet. The first week of taper is about sharpening our focus on race strategy and stroke technique. We have some longer rest periods in that week, but need to maintain our aerobic base. We begin to bring down yardage week two and reach that 60% mark in the third and final week.

We need to maintain intensity of training, which is why you see a lot of sprint work or speed work indicated. The good news is that we allow much more rest in our sprint sets. Intensity also comes in the form of focus, so there is a lot of emphasis on good push offs, quality stroke technique, race finishes, and lots of time to work starts and turns.

It is important to swim frequently the weeks before and during taper. While we do want you to listen to your body and rest it as needed, we also need you to maintain your feel for the water. Come to practice and we will work together to analyze what you need that day. Just stay in the water to maintain your connection to it!

Distance swimmers (doing 500 or more) can add a little more yardage to the taper workouts. Remember, the key is “what is your 60%” yardage value?

And don’t forget, this whole Masters Swimming is all about having fun and staying fit. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Don’t analyze things to death. Don’t worry. Go, enjoy, and swim the very best you can that day, that event. Relish in what you are able to do not in what you didn’t do. Your well being and happiness are not dependent on the outcome of your race, so don’t beat the crap out of yourself when you stumble in an event or even at an entire meet. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your experience, and know that there will be many more swim meets down the road. It took me years to realize this and it is one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn. Meets are now much more enjoyable than ever before and I hope they are for you as well!

Soreness often comes into play during taper. To understand why, check out this article from the Swim Sci folks:

Why am I Sore During Taper?

Mar 312013

I focused on a previous post last week about the importance of Turns. Here is a pretty cool clip from Swim Technique covering turns for a 100 IM.

In the video, you will see that the swimmer shows two different back to breast turns. The first such turn is a Back-to-Breast Bucket Turn where you go straight over. The second turn is a traditional Back-to-Breast – touch the wall, spin the knees up, and get off the wall on your stomach. Which, I might add, he does very well. If you watch this movie in QuickTime, use your arrow keys to proceed through the video frame by frame. That is a great way to slow it down so you can see every nuance.

The Bucket Turn is an older version that can be fast. I have a variation of that style turn where I make my flip go over one shoulder instead of straight over. For some reason this is definitely faster for me. The Bucket Turn and the Crossover Turn below are ways to significantly speed up your Back-to-Breast turn once you master the technique. However, you need to make sure you set up with a good breath going into the wall as it takes some explosive energy to execute. I’ve got this mastered for a 100 IM, but for a 200 IM, I feel a bit more winded and therefore do a standard Back-to-Breast open turn.

Here is a clip of Ryan Lochte doing the Back-to-Breast Crossover Turn – also known as the Suicide Turn. Click Turn Back To Breast Crossover Locthe. A GREAT turn and now THE common turn among elite swimmers. But it is also known as the Suicide Turn. Why? Because there is a high risk of getting disqualified. When swimming backstroke, you must finish the lap and your touch on your back. The touch on this turn is driving the lead arm up and over across your body on that final touch. The danger is that it is incredibly easy to wind up touching on your side. As you can see on Ryan’s clip, Ryan dives his left arm over across his body lifting his left hip to air. He then tucks his chin, folds at his waist, spins his knees to his chest, drives his head to his knees (getting incredibly compact),  and leaves the wall at a slight angle on his right hip.

Here is Eric Shanteau with the same turn.

For a step-by-step guide to the Crossover Turn, this is one of my favorites.

For a more detailed look at a Fly to Back turn check out this clip.

For a Breast to Free turn, check out this clip.

And finally, this clip from GoSwim has some very sage advice about how to work turns into your practice. Some solid technique is shown in this one.

That should keep you all busy and out of trouble. Now go practice those turns!

Feb 032013

dog_flipturnTime to brush up on those open turns we do so many of in practice.  “Why coach, why?!?”  Hmm, well because “I told you so” just isn’t going to fly with you masters swimmers, let’s give you a few “whys” behind how open turns can be your best friend, just like Fido here.

It is really easy to get sloppy in doing your turns. Sometimes it is fatigue, sometimes it is laziness, sometimes it is inattention or sometimes it is even because you just don’t know how. Whatever the reason, it is the simplest thing to stick with once you nail down the mechanics. Here are some benefits of fine tuning those open turns.

  1. Save energy
  2. Save time
  3. Be faster than the lane next to you! :-)
  4. Feel and look like a pro! We know what that means to you…
  5. Prep yourself for competition – you know you want to :-)
  6. Spare an injured body party – say your back – from the load it takes from flip turns and do so without sacrificing too much efficiency!

This post at Swimming World has a pictorial step-by-step guide for freestyle open turns.

This post, also at Swimming World, has a pictorial approach to breast and fly open turns. Now you can see the similarities once you have touched the wall.

And for a video on this, check out GoSwim’s Freestyle Open Turn Sequence which is done in a 4-part series.

Freestyle Open Turns Step #1

Freestyle Open Turns Step #2

Freestyle Open Turns Step #3

Freestyle Open Turns Step #4

Go out there and make us coaches proud of those super efficient and speedy turns!

Jan 232013
Photo from

Photo from

Today, I’ve got a follow up to the Sunday post this week on Get Rid of That Drag. In this follow up, we’ll see a video from SwimTherapy, a group out of the UK.  One very  common error in freestyle is the head position. This video covers that and different styles of breathing – unilateral, bilateral, exhaling throughout the time your face is in the water, or exploding the exhale immediately before turning for air. Video is very clear, numerous angles above and below, and terrific commentary. Check it out!

Jan 202013
Photo from

Photo from

You have got to watch these YouTube videos Faster Freestyle By Decreasing Drag and How To Swim Faster Freestyle with High Legs & Low DragPosted by J Shaules from SynergySwimming. His approach to teaching on this video is hysterical. While most definitely irreverent, he does make some excellent points. I especially like the first drill in the first video which is done in the deep end. Richard Quick used this drill in his Championship Swimming DVDs. Give it a go!