Breaststroke Training by Mike Lawrence (1998)


Lawrence: This presentation is on breaststroke training and every meet that I’ve ever gone to at every level, I’ve seen a lot of coaching going on during breaststroke. Before and after, there’s a lot of arm motion, hand motions from Coaches and athletes. During the race there’s a lot of noise, I think, because it’s one of the few strokes – or few races, where the athlete can really hear you. And, you may have some impact there. Before and after the races there’s a lot of, you know, stuff going on technically with hands. I think that’s because there’s a lot of room in breaststroke for creativity and finesse and a lot of intuitive coaching in breaststroke. If you really want entertainment during a swim meet, wait for a breaststroke event and look up in the stands, and see what’s going on up there with Mom and Dad. ‘Cause there is a lot of hand and body motion going on up there.


I think breaststroke is inherently inefficient. It depends a lot on the rhythm and timing of the stroke. The two power phases from the upper body and the kick need to be linked together, so that the athlete constantly can move forward. There is always a little bit of a glide period, which makes the stroke inefficient because you have to overcome that inefficiency, I think that’s where the creativity and the finesse and the intuitive coaching come in. Want to start here with these three points. I think these are just foundations of coaching. But, I couldn’t move on through this without going through these and tell you how they impact what I’m doing. First things I think all coaches need is a general stroke philosophy. How you’re going to approach what the athlete is doing in the water. How you want a general concept on how you’re going to teach. For me, it starts with the body position. High natural body position, and it’s a natural floating position in the water. It’s going to probably be a little bit different for each athlete. I want relaxed tension in the water, muscles ready to work, but not working against each other.


I view visible effort as effort against the athlete. It’s effort that the athlete is exerting that is perhaps holding them back. We all look at the great athlete in any sport, and say, Gosh, it looks so easy. You see the kids that swim, and you say, wow, they don’t look like they’re doing any work in there. But, that great athlete, is using every bit of effort to move forward, or do whatever their sport is. So I see that visible effort as effort that we need to eliminate. And try and get to where we have relaxed tension in the water. Now with the athletes and their body position, I want to create length in the water. The longer the body the greater the speed potential; is something we’ve heard for a number of years. So, I want them to create length with what they’re doing there. Reduce the resistance, reduce bad drag, make sure that they are moving through the water as efficiently as possible.


Now a simple thing that I use with athletes of all ages to help get the body position, create length in the water is what I call the 4H’s. Try and have the athlete get the hands, head, hips, and heels on the surface. So that they get their entire body up and, I want them to stretch their body from one end of the pool to the other. When they do that, then I think they will get the right body position. And, if they relax just a little bit through that, so they’re not straining, they’ll get the right body position in the water for any stroke. Finally, I want no forced motions in the stroke. I don’t want them to do anything which is going to create that visible effort. I want constant delivery of energy, constant delivery of force, and constant propulsion down the swimming pool in every stroke. The key words that I use is get the speed and keep the speed. I believe if they have the right body position, they create that length in there, and work to eliminate extra effort, then they will be able to do that.


I think we need to have a technical model for every stroke that follows the general stroke philosophy that we are going to work with. It’s critical, I just can’t emphasis enough to have a picture of what you want the athlete to achieve. Technically what they are going to be doing in the water. As coaches, we’re the feedback to the athlete. We have to be the eyes of the athlete. We’re dependent on the VCR. We have to play it back for the athlete. We have to communicate to them what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, how they fit inside the model of what we are doing, what they can do different. You have to have that. You have to know what we are trying to achieve and be able to communicate that to the athlete. If you don’t have a model, I think you can be successful. But, the success of the athlete, a lot of time will depend on luck. What depends on luck, you have a lot of problems, a great difficulty duplicating that effort, duplicating that result. You have to be able to communicate. The athlete has to know where they fit into that model, what they did right. And you can only do that if you have it in the mind’s eye. The eye of reality that is out there, that the athlete is doing that you are looking at. You have to be able to put side by side with your model, and look at that and bring it into… bring them together and communicate back to the athlete what they are doing well, what they could do better. If you have a model, and you’re able… and the athlete knows that they’re in there, and you work with that on a daily basis.


I think that success is easier to duplicate. Because you are communicating on a daily basis with the athlete, with your model. When you get to a meet, particularly an important meet, then you can talk about the result they get, how it compares to the model and give him great feedback. When developing the model, in looking back – comparing in the mind’s eye, the eye of reality,  I think you have to look globally at the results of what you are trying to do there. You need to be… know what you’re striving for within that model. For me, it’s continuous forward propulsion, and that’s what I’m looking at. You need to look, sometimes the athletes don’t look exactly like the model in your eye.   But athletes aren’t machines. So you have to be able to be flexible a little bit with that model and the most important part of doing that, is being able to use your eyes, your experience, and your intuition. Particularly the intuition that you use from your model to working with your athlete, I think that is the most important aspect of coaching.


The model that we have needs to be a long term model. It needs to play into the long term development of the athlete. We have all seen the fast ten year old, particularly ten year female breaststroker. The fast ten year old.. or eleven year old, twelve year old, and then all of a sudden they’re sixteen, seventeen, twenty two – and they can’t swim breaststroke anymore. So, you have to be able to project the athlete into the future, and give them   a mature stroke in every stroke. Something that they’re going to be able to be successful for, not for the next ten months, not for the next season, but all the way down their swimming career. Give them the foundation so that they can be successful when they are a mature athlete. When they’re able to perform at World Class levels, high performance levels, or at the top of their individual ability; they’ve got to have a mature stroke. We don’t want to short circuit a career by giving them a stroke early in their career, work with it. Wait for them to have difficulty and then say, let’s change the model. I believe that you start with the model of the great Senior level swimmer, the mature body, and then you go down, and you let the athlete grow into that model. Because they will grow.


The second thing we need to have is a model of training. A clear view of how we’re going to develop the athlete, physiologically. A clear view. Again a clear view that works in the long term development interest of the athlete. The foundation for success, certainly high performance success is long term development of the aerobic system. This just can’t be emphasized enough. Along time ago, somebody said to me, don’t pay lip service to training, don’t pay lip service to endurance. I have followed that throughout my coaching career and you just cannot take a moment were in an athlete’s career at any time, where you are not paying to the endurance foundation of the athlete. Particularly when they are young. It’s important to train through the entire system of energy delivery. All the way up, all the way down. Regardless of where you feel like is the most important area to do that. You have to go all the way through, from low level aerobic speeds, all the way up to your anaerobic speeds. But, you have to train through the entire system. If you get to focused, it might be really good at that particular area, but they won’t be good at performing. So, in order to break out of being good at practicing, and not so good at racing, we need to train through that entire spectrum of energy. There needs to be a high level of conditioning at every energy category. You can’t focus exclusively on aerobic. You can’t focus exclusively on speed. Every one of those as you build the athlete, as you build the foundation, and you build performance, you have to have an extremely high level of conditioning at every one of those areas.


The model of training needs to focus on bio-mechanical efficiency. The technique in training is integrated… integration of technique and training is critical. You have pretty strokes, and they don’t work with your.. with your training, your physiology: you don’t have a very fast swimmer. If you have an athlete who has a great physiological motor inside of them, but has no mechanical skills, you don’t have a very fast athlete there. So, if we want the athlete to do more than expend energy or be pretty, then we have to integrate the two together. I think it’s important to maintain the form, stroke form, your technical model through the entire range as you work through energy training. Make sure that the athlete can do the stroke skills at slow aerobic speeds, make sure they can do them at endurance speeds, fast endurance speeds, anaerobic speeds, and finally at race speeds. That is critical. And this begins, I believe, with maintaining the stroke skills for an entire training session and that begins with.. when they first start learning to swim. Make sure that they can hold on to their stroke skills through an entire… not just a set of stroke drills.. but through an entire practice. That needs to continue throughout their career.


Finally, the model of training needs to be flexible. It needs to be able to identify stroke specific and event specific needs. Not so much when kids are younger, but certainly as they get into high performance area. You got to be able to look and say what’s the difference between a two hundred breaststroke – a one hundred breaststroke. What’s the difference between a four hundred IM and a two hundred IM.  You got to build those into the integration of your technical and your training mode and finally, all of the changes… all of the planning that you do, will eventually have to be changed. So you have to be flexible with those models. But, always remember to plan the short term changes that we make into the long term development, a complete plan of what we’re dealing with the athlete. Your plan needs to be communicated with your coaches and your athletes, every single one of them.


Every single coach in your program needs to know your model of training, and your technical model. They need to communicate with the athletes as soon as they begin in your program. That helps you to be consistent through your program. So that they athlete that is there for ten years or more in your program, hears the same message reinforced constantly. New athletes who come into your program, are able to easily assimilate in to the program. One caution on that, or one guideline that I think is important is that you have to allow coaches, assistant coaches, to have the freedom to use their personal style in delivering your models  to the other athletes that they work with on a daily basis. You want to turn that to the side also. OK. I’m going to go through a technical model of breaststroke that I use, and Mat is going  to turn this over on to the side, because they have a little video tape to go with this also. I want to keep those up there, both for you and for me.


The model of breaststroke, first of all some general things. We all, I think, have identified that there’s a particular anatomy that works best with breaststroke. They certainly need to be able to kick. Some people have a little trouble with that kick. Maybe their ankles don’t hold on to it, their knees don’t work quite right. All of that, but there is a particular anatomy that breaststrokers have that is important. There’s a certain kind of talent to do that, that is critical to the success there.


Need to identify the strengths and the weaknesses of each athlete. As I mentioned before there is propulsion from the upper body, your stroke, and your lower body. You need to identify maybe, where you can build more, and where you need to strength more with the athlete.  Then again, remembering that athletes are  not machines, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between technique and style. When you put the model side by side in your mind, you might want to make sure that you see that the athlete maybe achieving what you want globally. Again for me that’s the constant propulsion of movement forward. But, they’re doing it slightly different than maybe you envision the perfect stroke. But, an athlete is not a machine, they’re not a robot, they’re not going to do things like that. The great athletes will find better ways to do things, then you will give them.


Now, the model that I am looking for in breaststroke, is one that pursues efficiency. I want no loss of propulsion due to gliding. I want no exaggerated up or down movements. I want them to go from the floating position, and anything that goes above the water, anything that goes below the water is a natural result of what they’re doing in the water with their arms and their legs. I want no exaggerated motions to throw the body out of alignment, or out of body position.


What I am looking for is continuous propulsion. I divide the stroke up into four parts here: a press, scoop, recovery, and kick. And, those are the four parts that I want to see continuous, blended together, to have continuous propulsion down the pool. The press and the scoop and the recovery are obviously upper body. Arms – upper body, and the kick is obviously lower body. The press and the scoop are propulsive. That’s where we want to maximize our propulsion there. The recovery, when the hands move forward is non-propulsive. We want to minimize the time that we spend in that recovery phase. The kick is very propulsive and it is what I want to drive through the recovery phase of the stroke.


So, the rhythm that I try and communicate to the athletes, and what I tell them is I want to pull for power, and kick for speed. Pull for power – upper body, kick for speed – as we try and go as quickly as we can from a not.. through a non-propulsive phase back into a propulsive phase of the stroke. In doing all of this, putting those pieces together, the thing that I can’t emphasize enough, is you always have to use your eyes, your ear… your experience, and your intuition to do this. I’ve got a little video here, that I’m going to use, and I’m just going to play it, I’m not going to stop it. But, I’m going to talk about those four parts of the stroke there, as I do this. And this is a video of Christine McGregor. Prior to doing this, I’ll tell you that Christine had knee surgery after the Spring Nationals in April or May, or whenever she did that. Then mid-way through the summer we didn’t feel like she was.. she certainly didn’t feel like she was going to be on top of her game. And, decided it would be in her best interest to continue training, but maybe not to train breaststroke. Simply couldn’t do it. So, when, we’re doing the video tape here, I did this right before I came, it’s much better than if I had done right after the surgery. But, her kick is not quite what it should be, or what it would be in a different situation. So, we’ll focus mostly on the upper body here. But the kick, you can look at, and I think it’s.. it’s good, it’s just not great.


First thing that I’m looking for in there is working on the body position. The four H’s is the first thing that I’m looking for. I think you can see that she’s under water there. The four H’s getting the hands, head, hips, and heals at the surface as you start the stroke. I want the eyes down, looking at the bottom of the pool. I’m looking to turtle shell the back, round the back. Call that a turtle shell, so that the water flows over the back smoothly. Shoulder come forward to the ears at the press part of the stroke, at the front end of the stroke. Good shot of body position there, point the toes backwards.


Now, the first motion in the stroke is going to be the press part of the stroke. The press part, when the hands move out, I want the palms to face the side of the pool, and want them to move out as wide as they possibly can. I use the term, with the athletes, try and touch the lane lines. I let them experiment with what is too far, what is the right width, but try and touch the lane lines. Press the palms to the side of the pool. During this phase of the stroke I want the elbows to remain straight. I think as soon as you bend the elbows, or if you bend them too early, you lose body position. The body immediately sinks, the kick tries to compensate for that, and pretty soon you’re vertical. So, I want to make sure that those elbows are straight. Now the hands are going to have a slight pitch, as they press out. Sometimes in some breast strokers the hands rise to the surface, sometimes they go just slightly under the surface in a straight line. I think that’s individual, so I don’t discourage or encourage that. But, they need to move out to the widest part of the stroke there.


Now, at the widest part of the stroke right out here, I want those wrists to bend just a little bit, keep those elbow straight and really grab the water out there on the top. That is the.. I think maybe the most critical aspect of the stroke. Holding water, when your hands are farthest from the body. The face will remain down all the way through this press part of the stroke, eyes looking down, and the legs trail the body inside the width of the hips.


On the next part of the stroke is the scoop part of the stroke, and some people call this an end sweep, and inward scull, all kinds of things. I like the term scoop, because again, I communicate with athletes of all ages, and it’s a very easy term for little kids to understand, and it’s an easy concept for older people, also. Now, during the scoop, at the widest part of the stroke, I want the finger tips to initiate that action. That makes sure that the palm stays on the water, and the elbows remain straight. As she comes through there, the fingertips are going to go down to the bottom of the pool, so she can hold on to the water. During that phase there, right when she starts the scoop, I want the elbows on the surface there. You can see the elbows how they are right up on the surface, fingertips down.


I think that’s really important to do to hold on to the water. Now, the scoop phase, the hands need to accelerate. Very important that the hands from that point, the widest part of the stroke, until they begin the recovery, have constant acceleration there. They have to maintain pressure on the water. They have to attack the water there. They attack the water and come through, continuously accelerating. I want the hands to carry water to the face. Kind of a nice little shot right there. I want the hands to carry water up to the face, like that. OK? Now the recovery, is the hands accelerate to the surface there. There’s a natural lifting of the face to breath.


It’s not a motion of the upper back, the lower back, or the neck. That would cost a lot of energy. Carrying that water creates a natural lift there. Now, the eyes are going to look forward and down into the next stroke. We don’t want to get ‘em up to high where the lower body sinks there. She’s going to pull her shoulders forward onto her ears, as she extends forward. Remember we want to get back to the four H position. Stretched from one end of the pool to the other, then as the hands move forward, in some breast strokers they’re going to come out of the water, and that is a result of natural acceleration.


One thing that a lot of little kids will try and do is lift their hands out of the water. It’s a very cosmetic thing to do, but probably sinks their lower body. So, this needs to be a natural motion. You don’t want to force those hands out of the water, if it’s not natural. Natural would be the acceleration of the hands forward. ‘Cause the hands move forward through the recovery, I want the fastest recovery that I can get in there. The hands go forward as quickly as possible. As they reach forward, I want to flip them over and go palms down on the surface as fast as I can get them there. The hands come up, accelerate to the face, go forward in one motion, and then flip over and get forward sliding across the surface.


Now the kick, the kick stays inside the profile of the body throughout most of the stroke. As the hands come to the body, not only is there a natural lifting of the face to breath, there’ll be a natural lifting of the heals up start the kick. Now the kick… the instep, the inside part of your foot, is what drives the water backwards. You have to hold water on the instep of your kick. And, then I like a nice little narrow kick that drives the heels backwards with the water on the instep. At the end of the kick.. I want the feet to make that little propeller motion by bringing the soles of the feet together. We talk a lot about finishing the kick, I think if you just bring the feet together, like touch the big toes together or something like that. You’ll do OK. But, that little motion at the end, that spins the feet, brings the soles of the feet together, is really what finishes off a powerful breaststroke kick.


Now, there’s some things that I think are critical to coach here in breaststroke. One is to make sure that they get in to the right position at the beginning. Face down body position, looking down towards the bottom of the pool, in that four H position. You want them to be streamlined, with no water.. no lifting of water on the back. Or another way to think of it, is don’t let the water press the athlete underwater. Want them to be at the surface there. Straight elbows out with the press. Critical to hold on to the water. At the widest part of the stroke, use the wrists, use the hands like paddles. Attack the water through the scoop phase of the stroke, using your hands like paddles. It’s a very vivid picture to give athletes, to use your hands like paddles as you attack under your body. Need to have speed through the recovery. Fourth critical place in the stroke, to have… because the recovery is non-propulsive. You do that by moving the hands forward quickly and bringing the shoulders on to the ears there. Then, finally finishing the kick with the soles of the feet together is what gives that last little burst and what drives the body through the recovery and into the next stroke. Let’s you overcome that inefficiency there.  I think that’s it Mat.

OK, now in trouble shooting breaststroke, and looking at breaststroke, I like to watch breaststroke from the side of the pool. Not from the end of the pool, and not from behind. I like to look at the side. Because I’m looking for movement that goes up and forward down the pool, like that. The way I can judge that versus going up and down, and you can see breast strokers if you’re on the side of the pool, particularly with lane lines. If you watch the shoulders sometime they go up, and then they go straight down. Now, the athlete will drive their kick through the water there. So it’s kind of an intuitive thing there, to decide whether they need to get forward more or not. But, I want that motion to be like that, into the next stroke, rather than up and then straight down. I measure that against the lane lines there. I think it’s important to watch the elbows and the wrists all the way through their training.  Elbows and wrists in their pull.


During heavy training when the muscles get tired, it’s a little bit harder to hold those strength moves, it’s critical that you focus on that, so the athlete can maintain their form. Remember, I said before, I believe that you have to maintain your form at all times during your training, through all energy system training, through everything that you do and through an entire practice. So in heavy training when the arms are tired, heavy, they don’t quite feel good, they’re mentally not on top of their game, you’ve got to watch those elbows and that wrist out there holding on to the water, getting your paddles on the hands so that you can accelerate through the scoop phase of the stroke. That is critical also and it’s another area.. these are small little muscles here, those forearms hurt, on good breast strokers, and hard breaststroke training. They hurt, and when those get tired and they get out here, and all of a sudden their hands won’t hold on to the water, they won’t be able to swim very well.


The finish of the kick is really the most important, and almost the only thing I look at the kick, assuming that it is mechanically correct. I want to make sure that at the end they’re able to spin those feet together. The other things, particular with high performance breast strokers, the width of the kick, the knees, things like that, those are secondary to me, to making sure that they kick finishes there. Something that’s also, again fairly intuitive is watching from the side of the pool and watching where the water goes. Or even standing behind the athlete watching where the water goes on there. You can see the flow of water as an athlete rises up to get a breath through that. In addition to whether the body drops straight down. I want to see the water flow backwards over them. I don’t want to see them lifting water up on their back,. that turtle shell position I talked about at the beginning, is what makes sure that the water flows around the athlete this way. You know, this way around my back, and then over the shoulders and down towards the feet. So, I want to make sure that there’s no flow of water… and as that water flows, make sure that it doesn’t… once it goes over the shoulders, sit here on the lower back and sink the lower body there. That’s where looking at the shoulders, if the shoulders are moving up and forward, then you’re not going to get water sitting on the lower back and on the hips there. If the athlete is going up to get a breath, and then you can look and you can see those shoulders go straight down like that, you can be sure that there is water sitting there behind them, holding them down under water.


Another intuitive point here, it’s intuitive for me, it’s exact for a lot of other people is to watch the rhythm and the stroke rate of the athlete. I do use a stroke rate monitor. But, as a Club Coach I’m sure a lot of us.. you just can’t swim.. you can’t do thirty people sometimes. So, you can do it exact, and I do it exact sometimes with a stroke rate monitor. However, you do that, stop watch or special stroke rate watch, or intuitive. I tend to do it more intuitively because my situation demands that. And, that means you have to tune in to every athlete there, so that you know what they look like when they swim good. Again, that’s the picture in your mind’s eye. Because, you are a feedback for the athlete. So learn the rhythm and the stroke rate of the athlete.


Now, we can go to the next one here, we want to get to integrating the training and the technical models, because that’s really what we do with high performance athletes. We want to integrate the training model, and integrate the technical model that I just talked about in breaststroke. Now, generally the body has to be very strong in order to do endurance training. Endurance training is the foundation of my training model. For most coaches, I believe.  The body has to be very strong.


There’s a difference between doing endurance training, and doing endurance speeds. Endurance training is very demanding on the body, and there must be a foundation for the body to fall back on in order to do that, and recover again to do endurance training. Endurance training is not easy training. So you have to have a tremendous base in order to do the kind of endurance training that is going to lead to high performance. The body has to be strong. I believe, because breaststroke is inherently inefficient, that it has a very high endurance component. I have talked to some coaches, that feel like well we don’t need to do a lot of you know.. we don’t need to six, eight, ten, four hundreds – because we’re swimming a hundred breaststroke and that doesn’t relate. I couldn’t disagree more. You have to have a very high endurance component and a very high aerobic power in order to swim breaststroke. At least to swim the way that I think is good breaststroke, because there is continuous motion. Hands and the feet won’t move continuously for a minute and ten seconds, unless they have the endurance to continue that motion.


On the technical side, the individual motor qualities on any stroke are going to develop unevenly. Athletes are going to have different patterns of development, and you have to be very patient with integrating the technical model into the training. Today, one piece looks good, tomorrow that piece is out of the puzzle again. So, you have to be patient. There are some skills that the athlete may take a huge amount of time, several years in fact, to get the skill down the way you believe they should. So, you have to be patient with that. Constantly integrate that into your technical and training model. Now, I think it’s OK if an athlete falls a little bit short, they’re going to. And, they’re going to fall short sometimes for long periods of time, sometimes just for today’s training. But, we have to tell them that they have  to be perfect. You have to strive for perfection. I don’t believe in being dishonest with an athlete, telling them that you’ve got this skill, or that’s good, or that’s a good repeat, or we’re getting there; unless it’s true. I think you can tell an athlete this is what we’re striving to do, we’re not quite there yet, this is a little better than yesterday, or last week, or last season. It’s not quite as good as last week, but we’ve got to be honest with the athletes to develop a trust, so that they can perform at high levels there.


Be patient with.. with your breaststrokers getting them to do the skill right. But, make sure that they do things right. In breaststroke I think there are a couple of special things in breaststroke. I mentioned the high endurance capacity. That upper body strength and aerobic power is critical. Now, I know some people… some breast strokers want to spend a lot of time in the weight room to gain that strength. I personally believe that you should augment strength by using the weight room. And, most of the strength that you need, or can gain is developed in the water over a long period of time through a long career. But, in breaststroke that upper body strength is key, and that aerobic power.


Now, I like to do lots ..lots of pulling. A lot of pulling in my training and I’ll show a little bit of that later on. But, lots of pulling. A very typical set of aerobic pulling that I use with breaststrokers are six four hundreds pull. That could be six four hundreds … it’s like six four hundreds free style. Pulling, I use a lot of paddles. You do need to be judicious with paddles, I use them both in free style and I also use them breaststroke training. You have to be judicious in that and make sure that you’re not injuring an athlete. But, that’s where our jobs as coaches and our intuition, or our experience come into play. But, I do use… I do a lot of pulling in my training. We’ll use pulling as a set all by itself, or use pulling to set up other kinds of sets by getting them into a certain aerobic state.


Athletes… breaststroker’s need to have great lung capacity, you have to work to develop that. there’s a lot of time that is going to be spent face down in breaststroke. You know, maybe a lot of time… maybe three fourths of the stroke is going to   be spent face down. You’ve also got the underwater pull outs on each end of the pool, and on the start. So, they’re going to have to learn to minimize the up time, in order to minimize the resistance’s they go through the water. So, you have to do a lot of work on that lung capacity. Some of the drills, I think are fairly common in breaststroke training: under water swimming, four strokes underwater four strokes above water, anything that you can do there… pulling six four hundreds is breathing every nine strokes or something like that. Whatever it is, some kind of restricted breathing, either in breaststroke or something else that will help them to develop that strength.


Now, in training we all have training markers there that we use. Those are the different kinds of things that we use to measure our training. In endurance training I use ten three hundreds, twenty seconds rest, fastest effort possible all the way through. I’ve used T30’s, five thousand time swims, all sorts of a variety of things, forty minutes swims, twenty minute swims to try and get that. I heard Peter Banks talk about doing ten three hundreds on twenty seconds rest, last year at World Coaches Conference in Birmingham. I said I’m going to try that for something different. I found that I got much better efforts out of the athletes, and I thought I had a much better endurance marker on that. So, I use predominately, ten three hundreds on twenty seconds rest as a marker of endurance.


Other things, I do use ten one hundreds step test, you know 4,3,2,1 going through different energy categories in trying to mark the changes on that. I don’t find that as useful as the ten three hundreds. To look at top end fast endurance work, use ten one hundreds on three minutes, max effort all the way through, or certainly not getting slower at the end. As, looking at that top end of endurance capacity there. Anaerobic sets… anaerobic markers that I use maybe consistently – six two hundreds on ten minutes, straight ahead two hundreds not broken, just straight ahead, maybe some recovery swimming, maybe no recovery swimming – six two hundreds on ten minutes. We use a little set of three four hundreds on about twelve minutes, and they are broken. It’s a little set that Maureen Sheen, or other coach picked up in 1993 at an USA-Australia – Canada training camp held in Hawaii. We have done that for some time now, just kind of marking that three four hundreds they are broken. Then… specifically with breaststrokers I like to do a set of four hundreds doing some kind of combination of under water and above water swimming, and then follow it up immediately when they’re in a… you know when they can’t breathe, follow it up immediately with a set of eight fifty’s at race pace on about one fifteen. Those are all max efforts, or again, certainly not losing the last two or three repeats – they’re eight fifty’s on one fifteen.


For speed training, do a couple of different sets there, you know, that I keep track of. These are sets that I keep track of: six twenty fives…say two minutes, but whatever time it takes to walk back and get the kids off at the blocks again is what it comes out too. Six twenty fives, timed max effort on those. Do a set of eight fifty’s going…eight fifty’s on two minutes six of them all out kick, and two of them all out swim. A couple of years ago I saw Aginadi Torrettski, and he gave me this little set as a marker, particularly for hundred meter swimmers, so I have been using that over the past couple of years. I like the results of that. Eight fifty’s on two minutes, six of them all out kick, and then two of them all out swim, and then average that together for some kind of indicator on the second fifty of the one hundred. And, then another set particularly at the end of the season, just a little set to watch breast strokers and look at the rhythm and the timing, four fifty’s on one thirty, monitoring the time and the stroke rate. Making sure we’re not using efficiency.


Kicking, the only thing I do to mark kicking is I go twelve one hundreds – ten really hard, one easy, and then one timed. Then I compare the timed kick to their event time. For example, if they kick let’s say a one ten hundred breaststroke, how closely does that relate to their actual breaststroke time and try and get those as close as possible, understanding that you’re never going to get them close together. Now, the kick, particularly in breaststroke is extremely important, and need to have great core body strength to do that. I think of the body in breaststroke as your upper body and your lower body, and having a chain. We have to link this part of the chain to this part of the chain down here. If one of these links in here – in the core – is broken, fractured, not quite as strong, you’re not going to deliver power all the way through your stroke.  You’re going to have break down.


So, developing the core body strength and the kick strength is really key. You must have this strength in through your hips here, in order to do good breaststroke. So, it’s very important to do that.  Some of that can be done in dry land work, I like  to do it again, in the water. I like to do a lot of butterfly kick, particularly on the back and to use a lot of fins in all kinds of kicking, but particularly butterfly kicking on the back there. Breaststroke kicking, need to do all kinds of breaststroke kicking. We do, probably like everybody, all kinds of breaststroke kicking, long aerobics, six two hundreds, three four hundreds, short threshold, twelve to twenty one hundreds. And, then speed work with the kick.


Now the speed work, I think try and be a little bit more specific on, because the speed of the kick is so critical to getting through the phase of inefficiency. The three things that I use in the .. in the kick and two of them I borrowed from other people. One of them is simply timed twenty fives, you know, basically trying to keep the pressure on the athlete to go fast when they kick. Second, is bicycle kicking drill, that Dave Salo delivered at a breaststroke talk a couple years, I can’t remember exactly when. It’s basically putting the kick board in front and kicking like a bike. Not a breaststroke kick, but driving your heels backward, at exactly like you were riding a bike. It brings the heels up… you don’t go very fast, you don’t go very far very fast, but it is very demanding on the athlete and it gets the kick up there.. the heels up very quickly. And, then finally with kicking, a little drill that I picked up from Scott Volkers, in Australia in April, and a kick of mixing stroke and kicking combinations – but in twenty fives just as fast as you can move the feet. Kicking all out, like four kicks of breaststroke all out, four… four arm pulls with no kick, there’s different combinations of that, trying to get the limb speed to go as fast as you absolutely can get it to go for twenty fives.  I time all of those things.


Now, the rhythm in breaststroke, the key thing in breaststroke is the rhythm. It’s very simple. I think you tell the athlete to think butterfly, and swim breaststroke. Think butterfly and swim breaststroke. Again, it’s pull for power – kick for speed. The hands go forward, like breaststroke, and it’s just power on the front end of the stroke and then kick for speed there. I think that little picture is an easy one with athletes: think butterfly – swim breaststroke.


Now, in the water, technically I use a lot of fins and I use a lot of paddles when I swim breaststroke. In the teaching phase or training phase. But, you can do all kinds of things, some of  the drills we do without fins, but I use a lot of fins to try and get that rhythm and I use a lot of paddles, also. The paddles I use, by the way, and I brought some here, and I don’t think you can find them. I actually got these from Scott Volkers, and… if you want to look at them, you can look at them afterwards. But, they’re a little bit different shape, and he developed them specifically for Samantha Riley. These are a little tight, been on a kid, but they have a little curve here on the side, and they have a little bit different cut out there, so that you can grab the water out here, and accelerate through this phase of the stroke. I have used everything from square paddles to those round ones with the holes in ‘em, what are they called – stroke makers? But, I use those, and these are for smaller athletes, this is roughly the same shape, but you can see the little cut out there, and they’ve got a little raised thing there. But, I looked down there and I don’t think you can get them here.   I got about ten or twelve pair of these from Scott, when I was down there. You can look at them afterwards if you like.


Training, specific training plan, and understanding that a training plan we all know that it’s something that is flexible. We have the model training plan, and then you have to make adjustments for it, depending on your competition schedule, on your illness, injury, all of those kinds of things that come into play there. But, making sure that the training plan is flexible. The beginning of the training plan is pretty simple, aerobic preparation, three weeks or so of joint preparation. Getting the body ready to swim. This is also assuming that you haven’t taken a huge training break.  I am not someone who believes in taking huge training breaks. Certainly not on a  regular basis.


So, assuming that we’ve got, you know certain level of aerobic preparation coming in to the aerobic preparation phase, look at three weeks of basically getting the joints prepared. Technical preparation in all strokes – three to five thousand a session, aerobic sets, twelve to two thousand… twelve hundred to two thousand meters. Distances – repeat distances maybe fifty to four hundred meters, twelve hundred meter kick sets. Straight aerobic swims of maybe anywhere from six hundred to twelve hundred meters. After that, I am going to follow it up with a six week endurance phase, and I divide that into two cycles. What I call an A and a B cycle.


The first cycle of three weeks is going to be aerobic evaluation and development continuing off of the first preparation there. Then beginning to set up that threshold development, and during that period there, going to kind of make an evaluation of where the aerobic phase of the season is going to go. During that time, just moderate rest intervals on that.


The second cycle is going to focus a little bit more on the threshold development and begin integrating a little more aggressively technique there in all strokes. By the end of the endurance phase there, be moving .. you know, maybe five thousand – eight thousand meters a session. All the way through that second cycle there, remember we’re in.. say week seven, eight, and nine, going to be increasing through the endurance phase there, the percentage of stroke training through each week and then through the entire six week cycle they’re building the amount of stroke training as we’re going through there. We’re going to build to perhaps as much as forty percent kicking, that’s probably in a session. Forty percent in a session kicking, there, particularly with breast strokers. About forty percent of all of the aerobic work during that phase, of all of the aerobic work is going to be pulling there. Whether it is slow aerobic pulling, easy aerobic pulling, or whether it is threshold type pulling work. All of the aerobic…. endurance and aerobic work will be about forty percent pulling. The breaststrokers, they do a lot of dolphin drilling, trying to set up rhythm very early in the season, very early in the cycle. We do a lot of dolphin kicking to develop the core body strength, because it takes a long time to develop those two things: the rhythm and the core body strength. Virtually all of the breaststroke in these first nine weeks there, is going to be kicking, drilling, or pulling. It’s going to be very little whole stroke swimming, of breaststroke when we go through there.

Now, the.. the next phase of the stroke…is what I call a maximum endurance phase up here. Maximum endurance, I’m going to do this phase, it’s about nine weeks………into three endurance cycles.


The first week we’re going to increase the volume each week progressively. Increase the volume each week, establish the stroke rate at endurance speeds, during those first three weeks. Put a lot of technical emphasis on turning. That pretty much is the first three weeks there.


During the second cycle of three weeks, going to increase the volume of each week. We’re going to start… that would be week, in this phase, that would be like the fourth week of this phase, we’re going to drop back, and we’ll be doing more volume then in the first week, but maybe a little bit less than in the second weeks, we’re going to go back and start through the second three weeks there. But, we’re going to increase the volume in through those three weeks, also. During this time, going to put as much pressure as possible on the athlete as possible to maintain form. We’re going to get during that phase, that the second of those three week cycles up here, we’re going to put as much pressure as I can on the athlete to maintain their stroke form. Because, after you finish with the endurance work, and you get into quality work, there tends to be very rapid break down in quality work. If they cannot hold their stroke together at these speeds, they won’t be able to do it at quality work. You’ll get a lot of tired swimmers, but they probably won’t be able to swim good breaststroke. So, I’m going to put pressure on the week… on the athlete there, to maintain their form while increasing the volume of their training.


Then the third cycle there, the third of this endurance cycle right here, going to maintain the highest volume possible, through the entire three weeks, without breaking down in stroke. That is your critical eye of looking and saying, what is too much, what is not enough, can I do a little bit more.  That is the intuition  of the coach there. There is no other marker for that, going to maintain the highest volume that I can there, without losing stroke technique, and without losing efficiency.


During most of this nine week period, they’re going to do the kicking with fins. Do a lot of kicking, not in breaststroke obviously, but a lot of the kicking in fins to build the legs there, as strong as possible. Be working anywhere in that nine week phase, anywhere from six thousand to nine thousand a session. Want to raise that up a little. Following that, I go into a three week cycle there, that I call endurance and speed. I do that for a couple of reasons. I think that if you dull the speed component of an athlete, and you do it early in the season, sometimes they get discouraged. And, sometimes at the end of the season you can’t quite get back the speed that you thought you had.. or that the athlete thought they had. So, I’m going to maintain volume through here. Not going to decrease the volume, aerobic sets, threshold sets are going to be the same as they were before, but, I’m going to try and introduce a little bit of speed work here and there. And, you can see there is some quality work in there also. But, we’re going to make sure that we keep the stroke skills precise, and make sure that there is precision in everything that they do.



Now, in the max endurance phase, we did a lot of focusing on turns, during this phase here I want to do some focusing on start work also, so I don’t lose the front end speed there. Going to.. in this first cycle, there remember I did nine weeks of almost all endurance fin kicking. Going to rest the legs just a little bit in week one here, as we go through. But, then getting back to work down here, in these two weeks, down there. A lot of times we have a competition, and this question mark down there, depends on what’s going on of course. A lot of times there’s a competition where it’s important to evaluate what you’ve done. Because at this point in the season I’m going to have to make a decision, do we have endurance work, do we need more speed, where are we, how is our foundation, and where can we go forward. So, a lot of times we’ll have a lot of us… we’ll have a competition there, and that’s what I’m going to do there. But, without compromising the endurance component there, making sure that every one of these sets here is the kind of set that I want them to be, and the volume there. Going to introduce a little bit of speed work there, so I can make a good evaluation down here.


The quality phase that I use is basically about six weeks, two three week cycles. The cycles pretty much as I go through there. I have more time. I might go three cycles there. But, probably not more than that. Generally, if I had more time, I would add more endurance work in there. But, always depends on the athlete, the age, and the ability and the goals of the athlete there. During this phase there are a couple things here. This is what I would call moderate interval training and this down here, short interval training. So, those… and moderate interval training, maybe it’s five seconds of fifty’s…or I mean.. moderate interval training ten seconds on a fifty, maybe five seconds per fifty, just general guide lines there. But, this is a cycle that I am going to use during a quality phase.


Now just some little notes down here, is if you’ve done good in endurance work all the way through… remember we just had twelve fifteen weeks, I think, is that right? Fifteen weeks or more.. eighteen weeks of training there, where we focused on endurance development and aerobic development. If you’ve done that work, then when we get down here, then I can go through this cycle and decrease my threshold work from maybe sets of three thousand up in this area – to maybe down here going sets of two thousand by the third week there. I can also do the quality work up in this area of about twelve hundred meters per quality set. By the end of the cycle, the three weeks, be of very high demand eight hundred meter quality set down there. What I want to do here, is increase the quality of the quality work, as I go through this cycle there. So, constantly demanding stroke perfection in trying to get them to do better and better quality efforts, moving through this cycle like that. If I had a competition down here, race, want to use week three as a little bit of adaptation week there. Going into there, the volume… the overall volume will drop a little bit as you go through here. But the insistence on quality efforts, down here, if they’re going to do race pace you’re going to be race pace. So, make sure that we maintain the pressure on the athlete to hold form, and to strive for pace as we move through this phase.


Just a couple of little general things there, through the week as athletes get tired, we’re probably going to shorten up the distance of the threshold and the aerobic type work. Say that we’re doing two hundreds here, by the time they get down here, it might be you know, fifty’s, hundreds, stuff like that at the end of the week. So that they can maintain form, and maintain speed. So that will move me through six weeks, going through this twice. As the volume drops going down through here. And then in week four, I’ll go back up here and then I’ll be doing the same thing again. And trying to get even higher quality demand on the second of those two cycles. After that, race preparation phase, end of the season here, three weeks there and down in here, you know, we have to make a decision on this.. who knows what I’ll need to do down at that phase of the stroke there… or that phase of the season. More endurance work, a little bit of shoring up whatever we have to do. Typically, in a pattern like this, might be looking at you know, your Nationals maybe starting on Tuesday or Wednesday, usually in the middle of the week there. So, by the time we get here, we’re going through and you still have a rest phase through this weekend here.. and into this, and depending on what events you are, you’re looking at a week later training there… racing.


In the first week up here, we’re going to rest the anaerobic system and rest the legs, so that as we move through .. by the time I get down into here, the athlete is well rested in the systems that have been stressed most. Going to increase the dive work up here, you can see there’s sprinting, all of the dive work is going to increase up here. Quality work will be either pacing or dive work, versus maybe just a lot of push off work and, then the volume.. just general guidelines there, those aren’t exact, but just a guideline for thinking purposes, decreasing the volume, if I’m doing six thousand up in here, decreasing to two thousand down in here the week prior to a meet. When you get down there, going through …if you were leaving and going like to a National meet, your volume might drop even more there, a little bit of rest there with travel and everything. Threshold volume is going to drop all the way through there, because we did really good endurance work at the beginning – threshold volume endurance work is going to drop, moving down through the season. The quality work that we’re doing because we did good quality work is going to decrease so that maybe up in here, we’re doing something in eight hundred meters, but down here we’re just doing pace work at the end pace fifty’s.


Now, three little markers that I use, these numbers here ten, and there’s one here five, and then there would be another one three… ten, five and three are my mental markers to tell me that ten days out is the last time that I want to do anaerobic work, that I think is going to make anaerobic gains. Five days out is the last time I want to do a set of threshold work that I think is going to add to their endurance component. Three days out is the last time I’m going to try and make speed adaptation. You’ll do a little bit of that work, continuing on past that. but, that’s the last days, ten, five and three, that I’m going to look at for making real adaptations.


And, one final overhead here, and this is actually how I use this training plan, in working with Christine McGregor. Christine, just a little bit of work.. back ground, Christine had a very disappointed Olympic Trials, where she swam significantly slower, two and a half seconds slower than her best.  A lot of athletes are in that boat. After that she decided like some athletes, that she never wanted to swim again. And, hung it up, and wasn’t going to swim again. About May of ’96, I got a phone call saying can I come train with you, but I don’t want to compete, I don’t want to race, I don’t want to do two a days, I don’t want… all I want to do is kind a just get in there, ‘cause I like to swim.  So  I thought it over and I said, well this isn’t really OK, but I will work at changing her mind.


So, we did that, and this is the race plan that we did. And we did end up changing her mind, and it was a good thing for her and for us. After the trials, when she joined sometime in May, we just started… you know she just started swimming, aerobic preparation phase, a little endurance phase, we went to a meet in Toronto. She swam almost… she swam within a second of what she had done at the trials, and thought maybe, hey I want to do this again. So, I through in real rapidly a quality phase there, going into the Ft. Lauderdale meet. And, then really didn’t rest, I just did this, so when she dove in it wouldn’t be a.. you know a new shocking experience of racing and then she did that. She went one ten eight, which was three seconds faster than she had gone at the trials, in a very short period of time after that. It was also a life time best time, over her time from the ’94 World Trials.


Going into ’96 she was a little more enthused, and she did the same training plan I just showed you there: aerobic preparation, endurance, and endurance speed. Went to the US Open in San Antonio and went 1:083, a hundred meter breaststroke there. We came back and got on the endurance speed there again. Then we went to quality work and on very little or no rest, went to Buffalo and she sent one ten six, up there, again, a life time best there. We came back, because it’s still the Club season and she wanted to be with her friends, of course. We wanted her to there. She did another endurance speed cycle of about three weeks. She set the American record in the fifty meter breaststroke on an attempt of the hundred meter…hundred meter short course breaststroke, she went 1:08 flat, or something, I think the record is 1:07 or something. Then she went double O nine breaststroke there, on that. Then we got back… had to get back to work for the Nationals, and she ended up last summer, going 1:097, and .. and making the Pan Pac team. But, this was the training plan, and it was extended further into ’98, but with her knee surgery. The knee injury was not able to continue that plan. But, this is an example of how I use the training plan with Christine McGregor.


Like to take some questions if I can, there on anything that I’ve said. I think it’s a lot of information. I’ll do the best I can with any questions. Yes.



Mike: Yeah,  that’s exactly what I’m trying    to do, eliminate that glide. And, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Scott about that. As soon as the hands go forward I want them to start an immediate stroke. As soon as the feet finish at the end of the kick I want them … they’ll natural rise to the surface there… that’s exactly.. exactly right. Yeah..please.



Mike:       ….ah…in pulling? I use pull buoys in pulling for free style, I don’t really use them in breaststroke, because  I think it gives an unnatural body position. And, when they get that unnatural body position it gives a break down in the stroke rate, so that they aren’t practicing a race efficient stroke. So.. yes.



Mike:  Yeah, I did, I do a lot… I do some, not   a lot of vertical kicking breaststroke, but I do think that it is good. Especially like at holding a weight and things like that. One thing that we do with vertical kicking with breaststroke is take a piece of this surgical tubing, or something, curl it into a figure eight, and put it around the ankles, so they don’t move apart very much. And, then it forces the athlete to use the instep to do the kick. Because, the feet are only that far apart. And, they just have to do this. And, it’s particularly effective if they have to hold a weight.  So… yeah.. any other questions?…Yes..



Mike: You try and get them in like this, not into the side back here, but under the body there. But, really I focus on the hands, I think if the hands are coming up and moving forward, the elbows are going to go right here, doing that. They’re not going to get stuck here at all. But, I don’t…. no I definitely don’t want them back here, ‘cause that would tell me that the shoulders are back instead of forward. Yeah… any.. OK, I think that’s it.


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