How to Train With Resistance
Simply swimming with resistance has a lot of value. Just paying attention while you’re being resisted will give you a lot of insight into what you’re doing well, and where your opportunities for improvement lay. However, more so than anything else, think of using resistance while swimming as a turbo boost to all of the tools we’ve described above. Because of the enhanced feedback with resistance, all of the tools above become more effective.
We previously discussed manipulating stroke count and speed as a way to keep track of your swimming. In terms of learning, the enhanced feedback during pulling actions can really help you lock into which arms actions lead to effective and efficient swimming. More importantly, they help you FEEL what those actions are supposed to feel like. Once you know what it feels like, you can rely on that sensory information to help you swim better each and every day.
While measuring stroke counts and speeds sounds simple enough, it can be difficult to determine exactly to do. Should you just get the information? Well, simply knowing what those numbers are often leads to their improvement! That’s not a bad start. However, you can be even more effective, and I’ll show you how. We’ll start with the simplest strategies and you can slowly incorporate more advanced strategies. They ALL have merit and all should be used accordingly.
Level 1. Stroke count swimming. Simply count your strokes while swimming with resistance. Work to get that number lower. What’s great about resistance is that you can’t really glide more. Because of the resistance, you’ll simply come to a stop! The only way to lower your stroke counts is to create more propulsion.
Pay attention to where you lose pressure on the water during a pull, and use that information to change your stroke. Try to keep the pressure consistent for the whole pull, and make each pull feel just as good. Don’t worry about how fast you’re going. Just take fewer strokes to accomplish a set distance.
Level 2. Take less strokes at the same speed. In level 1, you just focused on taking less strokes, looking for solutions that allow you to move water more effectively. In level 2, we’re going to add a speed requirement. Say you’re doing 10x25s with a parachute. As an example, now the goal is to swim each 25 in 20 seconds. There’s nothing special about 20 seconds. It’s an arbitrary number.
Pick a number that is a little faster than a warm up effort, but not much faster. The specific number will vary greatly depending on how fast you are, as well as what type of resistance you’re using. Let’s say you take 22 strokes for the 1st 25. Your goal is to take fewer strokes over the course of the remaining 9x25s and STILL go 20 seconds on each repetition. If you can reduce the stroke count to 19 while still going 20 seconds, that’s success!
In terms of speed, the faster you go, the more challenging this will be, and the more rest you’ll need to maintain performance. Start slower and increase speed as you experience some success at any given speed. This works at any level of intensity.
Level 3. Descend at the same stroke count. This is similar to level 2, except now you’re going to keep the stroke count the same, and try to go faster. Whatever stroke count you choose, you’re stuck with it. You’re not allowed to take any more. The challenge is now to see how fast you can go at the same stroke count. The only way to do so is to be more effective with how you’re feeling the water, and use that information to pull more effectively.
Level 4. Swimming golf. Here we’re combining level 2 and level 3. For each repetition, you’re going to add your stroke and your time to get a number. The goal is to make that number as small as possible. Go back to the 10x25 set. Let’s say you take 20 strokes and it takes you 20 seconds on the first 25. Your score is 40 (20+20=40). On number 2, you take 19 strokes and it takes you 20 seconds. Now your best score is 39 (19+20=39). On number 3, maybe you take 19 strokes and it takes you 19 seconds. Now your best score is 38 (19+19=38). How low can you go?
This is effective because it forces you to focus on being more effective AND efficient. You can’t just focus on one, you have to focus on both. The added resistance makes this strategy even better because the extra feedback provides more insight into what the potential solutions might be. Further, because cheating is much less of an option, the solutions you choose to use are much more likely to be solutions that will help you swim faster. It’s about learning to feel and using that information to swim better.
These are some very simple steps to take. You can make it a lot more complicated, constantly shifting between the various levels. You can also perform any of these levels at any level of intensity, from warm up speeds to maximal sprinting. It’s all effective.
Stay tuned for part IV where I discuss some other great ways to train with resistance.