Monthly Archives: December 2014

5 Swim Training Tips for Triathletes


At the request of a friend / triathlon coach, I’m writing with my thoughts on how triathletes could improve their swim training. (Thanks Mark!)

I should point out that I am not a triathlon coach. I’ve coached quite a few competitive swimmers who have also been triathletes. I’ve trained with triathletes in Masters swimming. And as this region is a hotbed for triathletes, I’ve observed countless dozens of triathletes training on their own over the years.

One of the biggest problems of non-elite triathletes is that they often train without a coach. And this fosters endless repetitions of poor technique in all three activities that ends up getting cemented as muscle memory. It also often means personally designed training programs that aren’t optimized for performance improvement. As a swim coach, I couldn’t imagine letting my swimmers train on their own, and design their own workouts. And yet that is the exact basis for the majority of non-elite triathletes.

So here are some tips for triathlon swimmers. They apply to all levels of proficiency, but those with a solid program are probably already addressing these.

  1. Lengthen Your Stroke

It’s hard to see it on television, but elite freestylers cover a huge amount of water with each stroke, and this is important given the inherent inefficiency of a swimming stroke. Most triathletes I see have short strokes and a perpetual motion type of movement.

A good way to address this is to count your strokes for each length, and then work on maintaining the same speed while taking fewer strokes. This involves lengthening the body, and holding the forward arm at near full extension for a brief time before initiating the stroke. There are too many technical points to get into here, but YouTube has a ton of good videos to study.

  1. Drills are Necessary

Competitive swimmers …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

The End of the Breaststroke Pullout?


I really don’t think I’m overstating this. The breaststroke pullout may be going the way of the dodo bird.

On Nov. 29, 2014, FINA issued a ruling (here), in which they change the allowable use of a single dolphin kick following starts and turns.

The old version of rule SW 7.1 stated

After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. A single butterfly kick is permitted during the first arm stroke followed by a breaststroke kick.

The new version of rule SW 7.1 states

After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. At any time prior to the first Breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn a single butterfly kick is permitted.

The implications of this ruling are considerable.

Why the Rule Change?

This rule change is the result of the all-too-obvious impossibility of enforcing the rules. From the time of the 2004 Olympics when Kitajima flaunted the rules and did one / two dolphin kicks when none were allowed, to the present day with breaststrokers doing huge double or even triple dolphin kicks off the wall, the breaststroke underwater phase is a free-for-all. At the high levels it seems almost impossible to get disqualified.

To illustrate how bad it is, this video (here) shows Katinka Hosszu doing a massive double dolphin kick during the recent 2014 FINA World Short Course Championships (thanks to G. John Mullen of SwimmingScience.Net for the video). No disqualification.

The problem is that the old rule made the officials job impossible. Not only would officials have to see infractions up to 5 lanes away (in …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Swimming By the Numbers: Elite Men’s 400 Freestyle Strategies

Sun Yang

This is a continuation of my series on how the elite swim various races. In my last instalment in this series I analyzed the women’s 400 Free.

There is no question that the 400 is a distance-oriented race, and so we can expect distance-oriented strategies. The purpose of this analysis is to determine which strategies are used by elite swimmers.

The Data

For this complete series of race analyses, the data set consists of the top 24 swimmers from the 2012 Olympics and the 2012 US Olympic Trials. For each selected swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just the last swim. I also collected each swimmer’s 100 Freestyle PB as of the time of the 2012 Olympics (disregarding any shiny suit swims).

I used the term ‘Offset’ to represent the difference between a swimmer’s split, and their PB for that distance. Ex. If a swimmer does a 56.0 as one of their 100 splits, and their 100 PB is 50.0, then their Offset for that split is 6.0. You’ll soon see why this concept is useful.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Analysis

When analyzing the 200 Freestyle race (see here), I came across some interesting comparisons between the men’s race and the women’s 200m race. For both genders, the 1st 50 was strongly correlated with overall success, meaning the very fastest 200 swimmers tended to have the very fastest 1st 50 splits. However, the men generally had a more aggressive last 50 than the women. One strange aspect did come out. The very fastest men tended to swim the 1st part of the race with lower offsets (closer to their 50 PBs) than the rest of the elite men, while the very fastest women tended to swim that first part with higher offsets . It will be interesting to see …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Is Russia the New East Germany?

Athletics Doping Russia

A few days ago a bombshell exploded in the sporting world. On Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, German broadcaster ARD aired a segment called “Top-secret Doping Dossier: How Russia produces it’s Winners”. It included a tremendous amount of evidence and on-camera testimony from Russian officials, coaches and athletes on massive and systemic doping, coverups and corruption that instantly reminds one of East Germany’s state sponsored doping program called State Plan 14.25.

Vitaliy Stepanov , a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency summed up the present philosophy in Russain sports as follows, “You cannot achieve the results that you are getting, at least in Russia, without doping. You must dope. That’s how it is done in Russia. The officials and coaches clearly say by using natural ability you can only do so well. To get medals you need help. And the help is doping, prohibited substances”

The nature of the ARD broadcasted evidence certainly indicates a comprehensive and systemic program of doping and coverups, with 6 sports named (track and field, swimming, cycling, biathlon, weightlifting, cross country skiing).

  • in a frightening echo of East Germany, the state pushes drugs on its athletes, saying it is the only way to success. One currently suspended world class runner said this to the camera, “That is hammered into the coaches and the coaches hammer it into the athletes. The athletes, therefore, do not think when they are taking banned drugs that they are doing something wrong”.
  • on-camera voluntary confessions of doping by elite athletes, plus a startling undercover video of drug use by an Olympic champion runner.
  • drugs are available from the system, with the head of the national doping test laboratory accused of selling banned substances, and the head of the Russian federation’s medical department accused of supplying doping products in exchange for 5% of the athlete’s earnings
  • Russian …read more

    Source: Rick’s Blog