Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off-Season Pool Workouts - It's Time for Form Drills!

After going almost 3 months without a lot of pool time, I've finally started to get in some decent swim workouts.  The nice thing about the winter season is that it gives you time to iron out some details in the pool.  What does this mean exactly?  Two words: form drills.  The idea is to focus on certain aspects of your swim stroke, then put all the pieces together to build muscle memory so you don't have to consciously think about swimming efficiently.  It just comes naturally.

Here's an example workout:

Warmup: 1000 Yards at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of around 4/10
I averaged 1:37 per 100 yards.  It's just enough to get my heart rate up and loosen up my arms and back without getting me too tired.

200 Yards - One Arm Drills - Version 1
This drill helps me focus on my body position in the water.  After pushing off of the wall, I roll over to one side and aim my chest at the pool wall.  I stick one arm out and slightly down and relax my neck so that I'm facing straight down.  The only significant propulsion comes from kicking. I concentrate on keeping my spine aligned horizontally and my body relaxed.  Every other component of my stroke builds off of my position in the water.

The first 100 yards of this drill are nice and slow.  I switch arms 2 times per length of the pool.  On the 3rd lap, I switch arms every 10-12 kicks.  The last lap is just a slow, exaggerated version of my normal stroke where I try to integrate the drill into my normal form.

200 Yards - Catch-up Drills
In addition to re-enforcing my body position, this helps me work on my tempo.  It's similar to a standard freestyle stroke, except only one arm moves at a time.  So, my right arm sticks straight ahead while my left arm completes a full stroke.  When the left arm returns to sticking straight ahead, then the right arm takes its turn completing a full stroke. 

By keeping one arm extended, it helps me lengthen my stroke and increase how far I can glide each time I pull.  Again, the first 100 yards are nice and slow with an emphasis on form.  The 3rd lap is somewhat quicker - a transition into lap 4 where I try to integrate the drill into my normal form.

200 Yards - One Arm Drills - Version 2
These drills are all about body rotation.  They're similar to the catch-up drills in that one arm moves at a time, but this time around I do one full length of the pool with one arm and then switch to the other for the return trip.  I breathe off of the side of the active arm.  After 3 laps of this drill, I do the 4th lap to concentrate on integration again.

200 Yards - One Arm Drills - Version 2.5
Yep.  These drills are almost the same as Version 2.  The difference is that this time, the inactive arm is down at my side and I breathe off the inactive side.  In other words, when my right arm is doing the work, I breathe off my left.  This one is harder than it sounds.  It's hard to keep your balance in the water without an arm sticking out in front of you to steady things.  However, you can REALLY get a handle on your body rotation with this drill.

Again - 3 laps of the drill with a 4th to integrate.

200 Yards - Fist Drills
The idea here is to use my entire forearm rather than just my hands.  My stroke is normal, except, instead of swimming with open hands, I ball them into fists.  At first it feels horribly inefficient, but after doing the drill, I get a better 'feel' for the water and can pull myself more easily with just my arms.  After 2 laps of only fists, I do one lap where I alternate between fists and flat hands on every 3rd stroke.  You can really feel the difference when switching.  On the 4th lap, my hands are flat the whole time.  Wow.  I feel like a rocket ship after getting my full propulsion back. 

500 Yards Steady Cooldown
Here's where I put all the elements together.  It's mostly a mental thing.  I try to focus on keeping a perfect form and using all the different skills together - position, balance, tempo, rotation and arm pull. 

This isn't an every day type of workout, but I like to do a variation of my form drills once per week during the off season.  It helps build a good foundation for the more intense workouts that come in the spring and summer.  Once my training plan kicks in, the emphasis will slowly switch from form to speed, tempo and distance workouts. 

Well, that's it.  At least for now.  I'll be back shortly to talk about some treadmill workouts and some more Fun in the Kitchen - this time with a more healthy slant.

Don't forget to vote in the poll from my most recent post.

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