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This is a practice I designed for a swimmer with excellent control over form up to cruising speeds, who is preparing for his upcoming Ironman. He has not done much work with tempo before so I have been introducing him to the Tempo Trainer and how to prepare the nervous system to memorize a suitable tempo and maintain a consistently.
300 silent swim FR
4x (25 FR easy + 25 FR brisk) with different synchronization focal point for each repeat
Estimate your tempo during the brisk swim to establish tempo TB
Swim 200 FR with tempo TB = 1.18
Then do 4 cycles of the following set with increasing tempo on each cycle:
3 rounds of 2x 50 for each cycle.
- Round 1 use focal point for sync ‘torso plus entry’
- Round 2 use focal point for sync ‘torso plus catch’
- Round 3 use focal point for sync ‘foot plus extension’
And, per cycle use tempo:
- Cycle 1 at tempo TB
- Cycle 2 at TB – 0.03
- Cycle 3 at TB – 0.06
- Cycle 4 at TB – 0.09
Maintain your standard of quality for each sync focal point at each increased tempo.
Then swim 300 at tempo TB with a 25 sprint within each 100 (for a total of 3x 25 sprint inside 300)
What should your improvement expectation be for each Step in the skill progression?
Stage 1 – It Gets Easier
Generally, the benefits of Step 1 – Stroke Control skills – will be that you are able to swim a lot easier at your normal distances.
Why? With fundamental TI skills in place the energy demands and strain in the body will decrease a lot compared to your old land-mammal-style swimming.
This may not immediately translate into swimming farther or faster. Some people with such poor body shape and movement patterns may see a dramatic increase in speed because they were moving so slow before and totally exhausted by it. Those who were moving at a decent speed but under a great deal of effort, will more likely discover how to relax and produce that same speed with a lot less effort (this was what I experienced at first with TI). Meanwhile, there may be some basic fitness conditioning that needs to develop to support this new kind of body control before it can handle much longer distances. Enough power is available, but the swimmer can’t deliver it very well yet.
Stage 2 – Go Farther
The benefits of working in Step 2 and 3 – Stroke Length and Tempo skills – will be that you are eagerly able to swim farther with the same effort. Ability hold good shape and get consistent distance out of each stroke, and make those strokes on a consistent tempo will save energy and make it physically and mentally attractive to go farther. But this may not immediately translate into a major increase in speed either.
Stage 3 – Go Faster
The benefits of working in Step 4, 5 and 6 is that you will be able to swim faster under control.
The previous steps in the sequence (1,2,3) showed you how to quit wasting energy, how to save it and distribute it better to get more distance.
The reality of these advanced steps for speed (4,5,6) is that you are going to now have to put in more physical effort to match your mental concentration. Your strength is going to be challenged to grow parallel to your technique. The physics of human swimming dictates that we can get up to a certain speed in the early stages of TI training simply by reducing energy waste through superior body control – we might call this the Easy Speed Threshold. After that magical point we can only get faster by increasing power.
The critical thing to understand is this – and this a central point in TI training – that increased power can be applied effectively or applied wastefully, depending on the quality of your technique and how deeply it is imprinted. That instinct for quality is what Steps 1, 2 and 3 are meant to burn into your neuro-muscular system and into your training value system before you get to the pressure of increased power demands in Steps 4,5 and 6.
If there is a weakness in the TI training resources I think it would be found here – that the books and videos and most of the live training is focused on Step 1 and Step 2 skills – of course, this is what 80% of the swimmers of the world need right now. Yet people read, watch, or attend a training event and assume they have learned all they need to know about TI – or perhaps the instructor gave the impression that this is all they need to know. Not even close – this is just the beginning. This gap of understanding is what our online coaching service is trying to fill.
So my final question for you, my swimming friend…
What step do you feel you are at, and what should improvement for you looks like at this step?
Here is a question for you…
If you faithfully follow the TI freestyle drill sequence, use focal points well, mix it in with your whole stroke swimming, and take your time to master every piece – will you eventually turn into a faster swimmer?
Or, in terms of our organized sequence of Level 1 and Level 2 skills, if you work a long time at Level 1 until you feel like you can perform every body position and stroke control detail well, will you automatically become a faster swimmer? (I suspect this disappointed swimmer practiced a lot at Level 1 and yet expected a Level 2 result.)
Short answer: No. You won’t necessarily get faster. Because Step 1 is about learning how to form and control the stroke. In this step you are just discovering how to align the body and adjust the stroke using all the various control points. Step 2 and 3 are showing you what to do with that stroke control to set up the conditions for increased speed – basic stroke length and tempo skills. Steps 4, 5 and 6 are where you learn to produce speed upon that foundation.
Learning how to pull on levers, push buttons and turn dials on the dashboard of an race car will not qualify you to race that car, no matter how many months you sit there and tinker with the dashboard. You’ve got to take that car onto the track and learn how to make the vehicle do things (faster!) with those levers, buttons and dials. You need to drive the car on a real track, under real conditions.
This chart shows how we break down the skill progression. The swimmer only get to the results of Step 5 and 6 by first going through Steps 1 to 4.
So too, with your own stroke in Step 1, you’ve been learning how to notice and adjust little details in your body position and stroke control. This is just the beginning. You are going to need to take that skill and put it to practice on gradually increasing challenges using the variables of Stroke Length and Tempo and Distance to create that increase in challenge. By doing this, your fitness (ability to generate power) will develop in parallel with your technique (ability to apply power with precision, where it is needed).
Those two – fitness and technique – are inseparable in training because all movement patterns are training the neuro-muscular system –teaching the body where and how to deliver power while you generate it. So, if you are going to do any movement to build power for swimming, you need to train the precision of movement to go with it at the same time. That is a core principle in TI training.