One-Hour Workout: Stroke Clinic

Fine-tune your form with this early-season tech-fixer.

This week’s workout comes from Simon Bennett, a coach with Boulder, Colo.-based Apex Coaching. Bennett began his athletic career as a swimmer in his home country of Australia before transitioning to coaching triathlon, where he has worked in the United States and Australia—covering all distances and athletes from professional to beginner. Bennett holds a USA Cycling Level 1 coaching certificate and currently coaches a double Rio gold-medalist and 8-time world champion in road and track cycling. He has also coached several triathletes on the Team USA world championship roster.

“With a little foresight and planning, you can make your early-season swim training pay off with a more efficient swim stroke, resulting in covering the race distance with greater speed and less effort,” Bennett says.

Use this technique set to either reset your form or to fix issues that popped up during the previous season. Be sure to be always mindful of each drill, working that correction into your stroke, bit by bit. Bennett’s cues below will help set up the major points for effective swimming:

1. Body and head position (think long) – Your body needs to be parallel to the surface and as streamlined as possible. The best way to know if you’re keeping a streamline position is by knowing where your feet are. If you feel more buoyant from the hips down, your feet are too high and your head is too low. In general, you should be able to see approximately 1 meter in front of you and feel your center of gravity just above your belly button. Point your toes while keeping your feet fluid and relaxed.

2. Body roll and breathing – An efficient body roll of approximately 40-45 degrees will enable a longer swim stroke and facilitate the ideal head position when breathing. The body allows for an increased hold on the water, which will increase your pull. Be sure to keep your kicking rate consistent during the body roll.

3. Catch and pull – Catch and pull at full reach, while keeping your elbow the highest point of the stroke and the back of your hand facing the direction of travel, as you spear your hand into the water. Imagine pulling yourself over a barrel. Hold as much water as possible while pushing the water back to your thigh, speeding up the push phase, where your hand will exit the water to begin the recovery phase. Always imagine a line dividing your body lengthwise, with your left arm staying on the left side and your ride arm staying on the right side. Crossover will result in additional drag and unwanted sway in the lower body.

Warm-up:
300 free @ Rate of Perceived Exertion of 5-6, breathing every 3 or 5 strokes to limit muscle imbalances, rotating the body from side to side

30 seconds recovery

6 x 100 @ RPE 5 with 30 seconds recovery between each 100 as:
Odds – 25 of six-count and switch (Head face down, 6-second lateral kick, stroke and breath, and repeat. Be sure your arms aren’t crossing over your midline.); 25 free, focusing on long strokes (count strokes)
Even – 25 as three strokes left, three strokes right (breathe when changing sides); 25 free, focusing on long strokes and breathing every three (count strokes)

4 x 25 free with 15 seconds recovery between each 25 as:

12.5 FAST @ RPE 9-10 with limited breathing; 12.5 easy @ RPE 1-2, counting strokes

8 x 50 free with flippers and 30 seconds recovery between each 50 as:

25 FAST @ RPE 9-10 with limited breathing; 25 easy @ RPE 1-2, remaining efficient and counting strokes

200 easy @ RPE 1-2 as 25 backstroke, 25 breastroke

2 minutes recovery

Main Set
5 x 200 free, descend by 10 seconds on each 200 (RPE on first should be 4-5, last should be race pace)

3 minutes recovery between each effort

Focus on long strokes, catching the water early and speeding up the pull to push phase before the had exits the water. Back of the hand faces the direction of travel and elbow remains the highest point of the stroke. Record your times on each effort.

Cool-down
4 x 100 backstroke kick with flippers @ RPE 6 with 20 seconds recovery between each

8 x 25 pull free with paddles @ RPE 6, focusing on holding the water with 20 seconds recovery between each

Total: 3,200

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