Go Maximal To Raise Your Technique Threshold
The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.
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In the next block, we'll be introducing some maximal effort sessions (Level 6), which consist of very short sprints, with longer recoveries. Long distance swimmers tend to struggle with this type of session and I'd predict that more than 95% NEVER complete a true MAXIMAL session. When was the last time you swam 25m as a MAXIMAL sprint?
Here's the key thing, maximum intensity is not ‘HARD’, it is ‘MAXIMUM’. Most triathletes and distance swimmers tend to focus more on endurance based sessions, as that's deemed to be more specific to their sport. As a result of this, many swimmers have a very slow and steady arm action and they are unable alter it. They focus so much on maintaining a smooth technique, that even a small increase in arm speed means that they lose form and start thrashing the water. Sprinting with good technique is very difficult and often feels as though you've lost all resemblance of a correct swim stroke.
This bit is very important:
The prime purpose of sprinting is not to build power. The prime purpose of sprinting is to develop your technique and efficiency. You'll find that the first time you attempt a maximal sprint, your arms and legs will thrash in an erratic manner, which hardly resembles the front crawl action in any way. Quite quickly, you'll learn how to make this action smoother. The problem is a lack of co-ordination, not a lack of fitness. Your arms are only used to going at a certain speed and when you try and force them to go quicker, your brain finds it too complex and can’t control the movements. I refer to the point at which this happens as the ‘technique threshold’ and it is critical that you raise your technique threshold to improve your long distance swimming performances Luckily, co-ordination can be developed in a matter of weeks, whereas fitness takes months / years.
How do I resolve this?
The answer to this is very simple. You need to swim above you technique threshold, at a speed where you can't co-ordinate your arms properly. By doing this, your brain and nervous system will be working over-time to try and learn the movements at such speeds. Given time, your brain will smooth out the technique and you'll feel more efficient and less like you're 'thrashing'.
Here's the main problem - THIS BIT IS VERY IMPORTANT:
If you ask distance swimmers and triathletes to sprint 25m, they very rarely swim at MAXIMAL pace. They swim at the fastest pace they can, whilst still feeling as though they have good technique. Often the arm action is still SLOW and they are trying to GLIDE. They can't break out of this habit. You need to completely rethink how you approach maximal swimming, your arms should 'windmill' as fast as possible and try to breathe as little as possible. Every time you breathe, you will pause/slow your arm action, so put your head in the water, hold your breath and thrash as fast and as hard as you possible can. If if still feels smooth, you're not doing it properly.
Will they make me faster?
I guarantee that for 90% of distance swimmers and triathletes, you'll notice a big jump in speed over all sessions, after just 3-5 weeks of introducing a maximal session. That's how quickly your nervous system adapts. We'll be introducing maximal sessions next week. Try to get your head round the fact that during the session, you’re aiming for a 25m or 50m PB.
- Swim repetitions at MAXIMAL pace with breath hold as much as possible to assist your arm turnover.
- Use the full recoveries, do not cut them short, but take more if needed to maintain maximal effort on repetitions. COMMON ERROR is swimming the reps too slow and then reducing the recoveries, that's not a sprint set, it's an endurance set.
- Turn your arms over as fast as you can and don’t worry if it feels as though your technique is suffering. You need to feel out of control to challenge your nervous system to adapt.
- Focus on fastest speed rather than trying to hold good technique. If your technique feels smooth, you’re probably not trying hard enough.
The Endurance Store Swim Club