Practice: Adapt To Faster Tempo

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    Mat Hudson

    To allow your body to adapt (relax) into incrementally faster tempos, before you attempt to add SPL control.

    In this practice set you may count strokes to monitor what happens, but you do not try to control SPL. That will come later.

    You will make an incremental increase in tempo, then do several repeats at that tempo in order to give your brain and body time to adapt and relax into that tempo. You will move on to the next faster tempo ONLY IF you feel that relaxation.

    How will you know? If the tempo feels rushed, you have a hard time keeping to the BEEP, your body feels more tense, and you cannot control the stroke the way you want to then you have not adapted to that tempo yet. You may need more repeats to give your brain and body more time to adapt. If you cannot acquire that relaxation then you have reached your limit for the day. Give it a rest and when you return to this practice set the next time (within a couple days) you may find that you can go down to faster tempos. Your brain had time to rest and strengthen itself for the next time you do this task.


    About 1200, depending on how far you get in the set.


    Use tempo adjustment focal points:

    • A – speed up the recovery swing while keeping all other parts of the stroke the same speed
    • B – allow slightly less overlap at Mailslot Moment (switch slightly earlier than before)
    • C – pull the catch hand out a little sooner (cut off the back part of the pull phase)
    • D – add a little more hip drive (but don’t increase rotation angle!)

    6 rounds of 4x 50m with 8 nasal breath rest between.

    Choose one focal point for each repeat. You may use the same focal point for the entire round.

    Start Tempo at TC – 0.05 (or at your fastest comfortable tempo)

    • Round #1 at TC – 0.07
    • Round #2 at TC – 0.09
    • Round #3 at TC – 0.11
    • Round #4 at TC – 0.13
    • Round #5 at TC – 0.15
    • Round #6 at TC – 0.17

    You may adjust the starting tempo. You want to start on the fast end of your comfortable range. It should feel brisk but comfortable to start at this tempo. You can hold good stroke quality and the BEEP does not make you feel too rushed.

    If at any time you complete the 4x 50 but do not feel you have adapted – remain at this tempo for 4x more 50s. Your goal on each round is to give your brain and body time to adapt. If you move on before this has happened the sense of tension and rush will only increase beyond your control.

    For example: Maxim has a comfortable tempo (TC) of 1.25. He will start this set at 1.20 (1.25 – 0.05), then increase tempo by .02 on each round. He makes it to Round #4 (TC – 0.13) but he does not feel at ease with this tempo after 4x 50m repeats. So he does 4x more. He feels a slight improvement and tries Round #5. After 4x 50m he definitely still feels rushed. He tries 2x more and it gets worse. Maxim determines that he has reached his adaptation limit for the day and will work through this set again tomorrow.


    The expectation is that this set will stress your system (in a positive way) then you will rest and your brain will strengthen those faster tempo neuro-muscular circuits (so to speak). If you do this same practice set again within a day or two, you should notice it feel a bit easier to work down to the same tempos.

    Then, after two or three rounds through this practice set, you will increase the starting tempo. Instead of starting at TC – 0.05 you may start at TC – 0.07 and then work into faster tempos in the exact same pattern. You keep working this way, keeping the same starting tempo for a few days, then make it slightly faster. Over a few weeks you should find that your brain and body have learned how to execute the stroke cycle within a faster tempo far more than you could previously.

    For example:

    Round 1 – Starting Tempo TC = 1.35, then TC-0.05 = 1.30
    Round 2 – Starting Tempo TC-0.07 = 1.28
    Round 3 – Starting Tempo TC-0.09 = 1.26
    Round 4 – Etc.

    Once you have worked down to a certain fast-tempo goal, you may go back to the beginning set (and tempo settings) and add SPL control to the same pattern to take this to the next level for pace training. You will need to calculate some exchanges of SPL N+1 at certain points in the progression (which is explained in other tempo assignments and practices).

    ~ Coach Mat

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