INTRODUCTION: To begin our afternoon session Coach Brian Brown will do a double today. He had the first talk this morning and he has the first talk this afternoon so this is a double day for Coach Brown. If you were not here before let me just say quickly, Brian Brown is the coach of Asphalt Green United Aquatics. AGUA, which is water… very clever, and I love that. He is a former English Major from Columbia University. I love that part also. He coaches at Asphalt Green and if you are around the country at major meets, Asphalt Green swimmers are doing great things. They do great things at Junior Nationals, at Nationals and Olympic Trials. They are doing great things academically and with Scholastic All-Americans. The Asphalt Green Team are just doing great things, so we are very pleased that you are back for your second workout today, Coach Brian Brown, talking about Developing Power.
COACH BRIAN BROWN: Thank you for being here on Saturday and sticking around for the talks that are going on. I really appreciate it and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.
I have a PowerPoint here. I have to do the website for my team and the compensation that I have is I get to put up really corny graphic clip arts, so this is just my version of adding one of those to my own PowerPoint. I am going to talk about power and age group swimming.
I was asked to talk about age group swimming because I basically coach 18 and unders. I am primarily responsible for athletes that are 13 to 18 years of age (unless there is an exceptional swimmer that is younger than that) that is pretty much what I deal with. Now and then we have an older swimmer that swims with us. Primarily it is about age group and it doesn’t mean that my goals are not the highest level. I think I do want to be competing at the Olympics and Olympic Trials. I think it is possible for teenagers to do that, especially for girls. I just think you have to maybe work a little bit harder or work in a different way because age group swimming definitely has different challenges than college or certainly, post-grad swimmers have.
This is where I am and I am intent on being competitive at the highest level. So, you have to figure out how to get it done. If everyone of you has some sort of obstacle in front of you, you need to figure out how to move or go around or go over or go through, so I encourage you to do that.
In my opinion all sports in our era have gravitated towards increased power, either through training methods or through equipment. I think we obviously have gotten better at training the body to do all sorts of things. We are more fit as people, probably than we were in the past (at least athletes are). I think you can look at any major sport and see that equipment is focused on power. Golf clubs hit the ball farther. In tennis, if you are watching any of the US Open, the old guys are complaining about the fact that you don’t even have to know how to spin the ball anymore. All you have to do is just hit it as hard as you can, so it is a sign of our times.
Power is important (I came to this concept a little bit late in my own realization of coaching). I believe power is important in swimming. I think the greatest difference between World Class swimmers and good swimmers is the ability to generate and transmit power both internally and externally. That is from the body to the water. It doesn’t mean you have to be like a body builder, but you do have to have enough strength and enough power and enough finesse to be able to transmit that to the water, which is, as you know, a delicate medium. Assuming the basic training has been taking place for your athletes and you have got a program that is set up to emphasize endurance and technique and speed, I think the power is last stage of an athlete’s development. It doesn’t mean that it is the end-all and be-all, but I think you have to do the other things first before it makes sense to try to make them a little bit more powerful in the water.
It is also the way that age-groupers, I believe, or teenagers will be able to compete with fully-grown athletes. My purpose today is to share some of the ideas that we have come up with at Asphalt Green. If you were here at my earlier talk I showed this graphic, about 4 different concepts that I think are necessary whenever you are considering any question. The question is: what is involved in developing powerful swimming?
For me, the top idea, which would be in the North position, would be resistance, understanding resistance, considering resistance, figuring out how to create it and how to avoid it. The opposite of resistance would be flexibility. I am not going to talk a whole lot about flexibility because, I haven’t yet come up with anything I think is different than what you already know about stretching, yoga and Pilates.
Explosiveness: I think that this is a big component to becoming powerful. The faster you go through the water, the more you find resistance. That means the more pressure you put on the water, the more it resists you so in some ways you have a greater hand hold on the water, based upon how explosive you are. Then the last thing that sort of goes unnoticed, when you are thinking about power, is timing.
If you golf at all, you know about timing that the timing of your swing and when you unload on the ball it is really important. If you unload at the wrong time you are going to miss it or it is not going to go far or it is going to slice or whatever it is. The timing is really important and there are ways that you can help your athletes to develop that.
So, we will talk about resistance and we will probably spend most of our time talking about this. We are going to have one of my former assistants come up and help me demonstrate a few of the things that we do throughout the course of the talk. I do not have any video or anything. if you have questions, please wait until the end of the lecture. I would like to be able to answer some questions then and hopefully you can get the idea of what I am talking about.
Some of the things I do not have all of the equipment for, but I can describe it to you. Hard water is one of the principles that I have had for a long time. I thought that was the goal of what you were looking for, is hard water. And I am talking about, when you are making your catch, when you have hard water and a soft touch is sort of what I have come to at the end here. Well, not at the end, but where I am right now. Far too many people think hard water means just beating the water to death. Obviously that doesn’t work very well, but hard water and the ability to hold the water is the “Holy Grail of Fast Swimming.” I think you probably heard that in almost every talk that is here. It is really important to always bear in mind: whether you are doing technique, training for speed work or you are training endurance, the faster you go through the water, the more it resists you. That is a negative thing and it is a positive thing.
The negative thing is if you are going fast or you want to try to swim in a streamline okay? The positive thing is if you have good feel you are able to pull harder on the water and, therefore, hold the water better because you create greater resistance on your hand, your forearm or/and on your feet (particularly in breaststroke). The harder you press against the water the harder it becomes. I think that is a very interesting trait of water and you always have to remember that it is more about that simple thing, the harder you press against the water, the harder it becomes.
It is more about that than specific stroke patterns, styles or anything else that you see different athletes being successful with because the one thing that they are doing is pushing against something that is almost solid. When they are applying pressure and tension ruins everything. Again, I will go back to tennis or golf swing certainly. The skill is not learning the motion, it is being relaxed while you are doing the motion and I think that is really the pinnacle of what we think of as talent, someone that has tension. This is not a negative tension, but a positive tension and they are able to be as forceful as they need to be, but not over forceful where they ruin whatever they are doing.
So, if we are talking about resistance, we are going to talk about in-water resistance and how we train that. We are going to talk about dry-land resistance and things that we do. Then we will talk about what I would call amphibious resistance. We will then talk about what is hidden in your mind and a hidden aspect of the whole topic of resistance is your mind basically. What is going on in your mind, in your training sessions and what is going on in your athlete’s mind. How are they relating to the training that you are trying to do and to the sport and to the goals that you are trying to accomplish so we will talk about those things. A lot of this stuff you will probably know, but it is all stuff that we have used.
This will be my 8th season at Asphalt Green. I have gone through a gamut of things trying to create resistance and resistance training in the program. You figure out some things and you forget some things, then you come back to some things. I think that entire process of discovery and implementation, forgetting, then rediscovering is actually beneficial, it is actually important. I think if you had one type of resistance training and you did that every year at the same time of year you would cease to reap meaningful benefits from that, especially if you are dealing with the same athletes.
You have to remember, I am in a club perspective so I have got a 13 year old and I am going to have that swimmer, hopefully, for 5 or 6 years. So there needs to be some variation over the course of their career. It is not like I get a new crop of kids every year. You have got some of the same kids that you are working with and they need to experience evolution that your training is giving them, but it needs to be a different form of it. It could be the same goal, but a different form so when I was first at Asphalt Green we had fewer swimmers than we have now especially in the top senior groups.
Right now I am working with anywhere from 5 to 8 kids per lane, but back in those days of 2002, 2003 and 2004, there were 3 to 4 athletes per lane that were at the Junior or Senior National level. Our sectional level, even had a little bit more flexibility in the sense that everybody had a lane gainer resistance cord and they had a belt that they would wrap around themselves and they would attach it to one end of the pool on the lane line or the starting block and they would swim against it and they would swim back, right? You would get 4 people per lane. Two going down while the other two are waiting and then these ones are coming back and these are going. You could run fast sprint sets on that obviously, but we would do things like 500’s that way. You can do long boring stuff that way and we did a lot of that and I think it was beneficial.
I may have done a little bit too much of it. I recognize that now, but I think you need to experiment with everything that you are doing and just observe and be willing to change it. Whether it is adding more or using less of it. I did have a guy that was a nice miler and we would give him his own lane and his own cord and he would swim many miles with that cord on him. He had nobody to get in his way and he could swim non-stop. It was an interesting thing so I think those are really beneficial and I will probably get back to that at some point, it is resistance and assistance. You go down against resistance and you come back and you have a limited assistance and it is a thing where you have 4 kids per lane or even more if you have got everybody all tangled up in there. Some kids are pulling the kids on their way back so that it helps them and it makes a set go faster also. Those are all pretty typical things that we do.
I think the benefit of resistance in general is that it is teaching, it teaches you, it teaches you how to pull the water. Am I keeping my elbow up? Am I dropping my elbow? Am I slipping? Is my hand going out to the left? To the right?
If you heard Bill Furniss talk, he was talking about proper hand position and sometimes when there is resistance applied to you, whatever form of resistance it is, it is a great feedback for doing things wrong. If you were here in my other talk I touched on one of my cornerstones in coaching and I am sure the parents think that I am a lazy coach, but the reality is that I think the greatest and most effective learning comes when athletes are able to teach themselves. If you can set up sets, environments or obstacles that they need to overcome and learn how to overcome them, the learning occurs much more thoroughly and much quicker. Probably the least effective way to learn or to teach is to lecture and I do not do a lot of that. Even though I used to do a lot of lecturing when I started out coaching. I spend more of my time, instead of talking about things, thinking about things that I can do to them that they will learn from.
I encourage you to try to think that way as well. We have some power racks that we use. If you go into the exhibit hall here, there are all kinds of variations of that and I think they are all excellent. They are not all the same: some have steady resistance, some have increasing or decreasing resistance, based upon what kind of construction they have. Some of them you can go 15 yards and some can go 25 meters. My goal eventually was to have one go 50 meters. We have done cords that way where you put two of these cords together and they have got to swim a whole 50 meters against a 25 yard cord, that gets pretty hard. I think challenging the athletes like that is interesting. One of the things that I haven’t done, but I am going to do is what I would call a power line. It is basically a rope that is tied to the athlete and the rope has weights on it and their weights are in the water and as you swim away the weights come up. It is hard and I think instructive, because you have to move water in the right direction in order to move forward. They can learn how to do that.
We had talked about power cycles in my other talk and I find you can have meaningful focus on these things for about 5 weeks, 6 weeks, and 4 weeks. Then you have kind of burnt them out physiologically and mentally. When I say we are going to do power for a while, that is what we do. We are just doing that all the time and focusing on that. One of the points that I was talking to one of my friends, after my last talk, I had said, “I think you need to focus on an aspect of your training and maximize that and then move on to something else.”
The analogy in my mind that I forgot to give to you guys and would like you to think about is, it doesn’t mean I am right, but you can think about cross-training, it does have benefits. For whatever sport it is, cross training has benefits, but I think ultimately you are involved in whatever sport you are. If you are a runner you have got to run and train riding the bike. Maybe that helps your heart and everything, but basically you have got to run and I think cross-training, I mean, training all the different kinds of training; endurance, sprint, technique and power or whatever else you want to add. If you try to fit all of those things in a week or any number of those things in a week, it is to me like cross-training and it is mildly effective. However, I think you get a much bigger bang for your buck by focusing on something and getting better at it and then doing something else and getting better at that. I think if my putting stinks, I shouldn’t be out there on a driving range: I shouldn’t be out there because I really like to hit the big stick. You have got to get better and you have got to putt, you need to putt and your putt gets better. Now let’s go chip. Chip and chip and chip and do it that way instead of well every day I am going to have this holistic approach and do everything just focusing on one thing, get it done right and then move on.
Weighted swims: we have done a lot of that. I like to get these scuba weights and put them around a swimmer and you would be surprised 5 or 10 pounds how much difference that makes to your kid and their ability to swim in the water and it is a great way to have a subtle message to some of your athletes that “oh, this is what 5 extra pounds feels like. How does that feel? Especially, when it is around your mid-section.
Arm weights: I like to do all different kinds of things that basically in some ways hinder the athletes and make it hard for them. If you take those little plastic dumbbells. They are in a pound or 2 pounds. You make the athletes swim with those things. Number 1 it is like fist swimming, a fist drill, but it is hard as hell, right? You get your arm out of the water it requires effort and it requires thought, it requires will and I think those are good things.
Typical other things that everybody knows about are T-shirts and shoes, those are great things. Parachutes, great training tools. I don’t think any of these things are really new.
At Asphalt Green we do have a fast lane by endless pools and it is basically a unit, if you do not know what it is, it is an endless pool unit that you can put into your pool and take it out. So you can move it into your pool. We have two pools, a main pool where I can put it in a lane there and we have a teaching pool which is about 10 X 20 feet, but it is very deep. It is 8 feet deep and I can have enough leeway with the machine that I can put it over there and so I think they are great. I think they are great because they provide tremendous resistance. If you turn that baby up they can really get the water cranking, especially in a small pool and we will have people, some of the sprinters sprint into that. The big boys can sprint all the way against it and make it, but some of the girls that I have that are fast, they can’t. If you turn it all the way on, they cannot make it the whole way. So it becomes a test of will. “okay, ready go,” do your dive in and you are only from me to Mohammed (20 Feet). Mohammed, please raise your hand, it is only this far away. So I dive in and I am sprinting at maximum speed where he is and I just try to hang on as long as I can. There is a lot of benefit to that and they become overwhelmed. They get pushed back, everybody laughs and we time it.
It is a really good tool if you can come up with one of those things. A different way that we have used it and is a little bit more untraditional and more interesting, this is pertinent to our talk today, is to have the athletes swim, so if the flow of the water is coming from him to me. Typically you would swim into it, but I would sometimes rather have them swim with the water, but they are tethered on that side. The athlete is swimming this way so what is happening is the water is coming, basically from the feet towards my hands. What happens is my hands are pushing against a tremendous volume of water. When I do that, I can really feel if I am holding the water from the beginning of my stroke. Whatever my stroke is, all the way through to the end of the stroke and it is real effective for breaststroke kicking too because they can really feel it. It is a tremendous amount of pressure. What you are trying to get them to understand is they have to generate pressure like that in still water basically, but it is hard to explain that. If you can figure out a way for them to learn that through feel I think you are way better. You are way better off instead of talking about turn your ankles out and keep your knees in and all this other stuff. Just set them up in an environment where they can feel what you want and then they are going to learn a lot faster, a lot faster. So, that is some of the stuff that we do.
We do more resistance training “Neanderthal Training” is kind of what I would call it. Chuck Batchelor talked about “Home Depot Training” basically when he said, “oh we do not have any fancy buckets or anything, we just went to Home Depot and bought a bucket and put a string on it and you swim with it.” I like stuff like that. You know, the cruder it is, the more I like it. In a lot of ways because it is bare-bones. It tells the athlete we are not farting around. We want you to take a silly task seriously, basically so you give a kid a brick and I am not talking about a diving brick that is nice and soft and got rubber on it. I am talking about a real brick that has got sharp edges and it has got holes in it and you give it to them and alright, put it in your hands, put your thumbs through the holes like this. I want you to kick on your back. “Alright, lets go 300 kick on your back like that. Figure out how to do it, okay? So, they do it.
It may take a while, but they learn how to do it. Great, you learned how to do it. Now, I want you to kick on your stomach that way, okay? You are going to kick on your stomach like that and when you need to breathe what do you have to do? You cannot let go of the brick or the brick is going to sink. We have a 17 foot deep bottom, so you are not going to want to go down there and get that and I am going to yell at you if you drop it in the shallow end of our pool so what are you going to do? “Okay, well I don’t know coach.” “Well, figure it out!” Well, they figure it out and then you know I gotta roll over, that is what I gotta do to breathe. I need to breathe.
They learn how to do that and they learn how to manage that extra weight and then you ask them to do catch-up drill on the brick. Well now it is a lot harder. I can swim now, but that is a lot harder to hold that brick out there with one hand. You just keep adding obstacles for them to overcome. Now, you learned how to do that. That is awesome. We are going do catch-up drill again, but this time you are going to have the brick in your hand that moves, okay? So, our hand comes over the water and you are holding a brick. You should try to make it harder. They have to kick like hell to make that work and they have to have a great body position to make that work and it takes a long time to learn, but they can do that. I had one boy a few years ago. He was a big kid, big, size 14 feet and he was a good swimmer, but he was a great kicker, a great kicker and so his kick board was a metal chair basically.
We are going to do a kick set here so you get a folding chair over there and Truman, you go and kick with that chair. That is your thing. So, a chair wants to sink okay? Well, he figures it out finally. There is actually some hydrodynamics to that shape that can make it work. No, no I didn’t mean kick with it like that. I mean open it up and hold it and kick. So, you get them to do that. Anything that is in resistance to their sense of what is possible is a positive thing. Just be creative.
I mentioned in a previous talk that that I have a paddle fetish. I love paddles. I think they are great. I love all kinds of paddles. I never met a pair of paddles that I didn’t like, okay? That is true. I think you are all probably asking the same thing. Well, I am sure that guy has got a lot of shoulder problems. I hope this is real wood but knock on wood. In 15 years I have never had a swimmer that had to have shoulder surgery. Knock on wood. I think that is because of the way we teach them to swim. We teach them with proper technique and you have to have proper technique, if you are going to ask them to do all these crazy kinds of stuff and swim with paddles all the time. You have to make sure that they all have proper technique. To me that boils down to head position. If your head is up too high like you and I learned how to swim, looking straight forward, you are going to wind up with some problems. This is because you are using the entire pec muscles in this small axis leveraging system on the front of your body to propel yourself versus using your lats and the long leveraging system when you have your head down. That is how I have managed to be fairly lucky with avoiding injuries.
We have people that have flare-ups, no doubt about it, but we also take care of it with ice and whatever else we need to do or backing off from it. But I love paddles.
I am going to show you a few of the different paddles. This is not all of them, but a few of the different paddles that we use and why we use them. This is in no particular order either. I am also not affiliated with any of these companies so I am not trying to sell you anything, but these Hans Paddles I really like a lot. These blue ones are off-set and I think that is really important. You get the swimmers to put any sort of paddle that you have. You have multiple variations of how you can set them up and I think all of ours, almost all of ours are set up in an off-set fashion so there is more paddle surface on the outside of the hand. Now what that does is using their lat muscles a whole lot more, when the swimmers pull, especially on freestyle or backstroke. That is what you want. If you are going to have a long stroke you want to make sure you are using your lat muscles and aside from maybe a 50 freestyle, especially a yard 50 freestyle. I think that is a better way to swim.
A 50 yard freestyle is a kind of a different animal, straight arm and then just whaling on it. So, I don’t have anybody that swims that way. I have one young lady that swims a pretty good 50 freestyle, but even she will swim this way in order to try to set the hand and use the lats and the outside of your hand when you are pulling so these are good for that.
I also love them because they are almost indestructible and when you use them all the time that is what you want. I am going to encourage you to be creative with your paddles also. We have more Hans paddles and this is the poor man’s version of the forearm fulcrum. Well, we just put two of them together and they can swim like that and they grab a ton of water and they keep their elbow up and they use their forearm when they are swimming.
You swim backstroke with these things and it is incredible. It is incredible the amount of water that you can hold and you get to feel what it is supposed to be like. I do a lot of single arm paddle swimming. I got that from Chuck Batchelor. You do a lot of that and what you are trying to do is make one arm feel like the other. One arm has got the paddle, the other one doesn’t and you try to make the two feel the same and then switch. So, everybody grab one paddle. We are going 3 x 300’s this way and then switch it and we are go 3 x 300’s the other way and then we will go 3 x 300’s with both paddles and always trying to mix up the sensations that they are experiencing.
Put the two together in another way, basically to make them wider, heavier, it is wonderful for breaststroke. We have got a pretty good breaststroker on our team. It is a little 14 year old girl, but she can really catch the water out here, really catch the water out here and wind up really being able to turn it through. When I got her, about a year ago, she was a very, very good age group swimmer. She is 14 now. She has been 1:09 in a hundred meter breaststroke. She was 1:12 when we got her. She was 2:34 and she went 2:29 at the end of this year. Basically that 2:34 and the 1:12 was all legs, it was all legs. Her kick is fantastic and that is a great time, but it is not going to get you to the Olympic Games. Neither one of those times. I explained to her we have to actually have a pull.
You cannot just rely on your legs exclusively so we did a lot of work with distance per stroke and all that sort of thing, but actually teaching her how a breaststroke pull is supposed to be like instead of just sort of moving your arms around. This helped her do that because they are so wide out in front.
A guy from the New Jersey Gators gave me these paddles years ago. He gave me only one pair and he told me he would send me a bunch. I never got them, but I want to thank him. Lou Petrozziello. Lou and I have radically different philosophies on training and on swimming, but we agree on one thing, these are good paddles and he made them. He has a plastic extrusion company where he makes gutters and stuff like that and this is some sort of guttering material that he used and it is a big paddle which he says is for technique only. That is one of the parts that I kind of ignored on what he told me. What I like about it is on the bottom are all those ridges so your hand is out here and it comes straight back.
We do a lot of freestyle. I am sure you can get that from what I am demonstrating to you, but it comes right through and if your hip does not get out of the way, you wind up with a little cut there. The swimmers pain tends to be a great motivator, I find injury is even better. This is the one you will think I am crazy, again, more Hans paddles. These are small and they have diving weights attached to them so a 1 pound diving weight on each paddle. We gave 2 pound versions of this also for athletes that are more challengeable. What this does, it is not just about strength and torture, it is also honestly about technique and teaching them to do things that they do not know how to do. When you bring your hand up like this, I have had people do butterfly with these on also, I am telling you, you get a beautiful recovery because if they do this kind of recovery the next thing you know they are in the office with some ice on their shoulder, okay? Well, you did it to yourself. I told you not to do that, right? You have got to listen. So, they are able to do that.
Backstroke is wonderful with the weights on it. You really know where your hand is, but also under the water. This is due to the hand sinking. Obviously, it follows a natural line on butterfly and on freestyle that you are going to want it to go on. So you get strengthening and you get feedback at the same time. This is where the weight is and when they get good then we ask them to turn it around and the weight is now out in front, becoming something that is harder to manage. This just another skill that they have to learn. “Oh, I put my hand in that way and it fell off”. Well, it is 17 feet down to the bottom there, so you do not want it to fall off… do you? Right? Keep it on your hand, okay? Well, I will do it right and that will keep it on my hand.
I got another set that I will show you later because it relates to some of the other topics, but we do a lot of swimming with this. I mean, not right away, but we have athletes that do 3,000 yards with these on. Now, they do not start out with that, but they do do that. I have athletes that swim fast swims with stuff like this – they do not do it right away, but they do build up and do it because there is a progression to everything. All that Neanderthal training and everything, even that was evolution. They did not start out as Neanderthals, right? They got there through hard work. So, that is a little bit about my paddle fetish.
I bought a new pair of paddles while I was here. I got a little bit mad and I haven’t used these yet. They are the anti-paddle. You guys have seen those before. The anti-paddle, but they are hollow right? And so this sort of stole two ideas that I had. I know that these are going to work. 1) If you have to press down against air you are going to feel a certain degree of resistance on your hand and you are going to be able to understand, “oh yeah,” I am adducting my shoulder. 2) obviously what it does, it makes you use your forearm to swim, but these are hollow. The woman was telling me, which is exactly what I would have done. Dave Marsh put sand in them. Yeah, he wants the same thing I want. We didn’t know it, but we are on the same page so it is interesting and just another way to add another sensation to your athlete, when they take any of this stuff off and typically that is what we do.
We will overload them with some paddles of some sort, doing something and then afterwards ask them to swim well. Typically, they swim fast after that. Whatever it is, if it is a fast distance set or a fast sprint set. They tend to swim well after you take all this stuff off. That would go back to the parachutes, that would go back to the buckets, that would go back to the power racks. I think it is essential when you are developing power to develop it and then let them experience it right away. Right away because it is a tremendous difference in sensation and it gives them an empowerment. It is like WOW!!! I feel fantastic! You take that weight off of them, they had 10 pounds around their waist and they were struggling. You take that off and they are fast and it is a way of teaching them what it is supposed to feel like.
DRYLAND STUFF I am going to ask Casey Brandt, who is one of my former assistants, to come up here and help me with some of this stuff. Hopefully you will be able to see it. I like to use stretch cords in any possible way that I can. One of the ways that we did it was for breaststroke. I am sure you have probably done something like this yourself, but you need to think about as many different ways as you can on land to get them to do the motion they need to do in the water with resistance. If I need my breaststroker to stand up from a breaststroke position then I want her to do it with resistance. Casey was a wonderful breaststroker in his day. So you have got these cords and you are in that sort of a position, right? And what happens is, your core gets involved. If I was at home and Casey was swimming I would have him working on a harder cord than that, but he has to hold his cord (keep doing it). He has to hold his cord together in order to make that happen and so, right, excellent, my best athlete takes I think 16 strokes per length. Do you want to try that? No, I am kidding so we will do that. Obviously you know about using cords for freestyle and butterfly, if they are hooked onto something you know about that.
The other thing is this TRX device. I do not know if you have seen this or not. We have some of them at Asphalt Green and it is something that was invented by the Navy Seals. It is a really heavy-duty band thing that is adjustable. You hang it on the ceiling and then your athletes put their arms or their feet in stirrups at the end of them. Then they do all kinds of various activities, but it will hold your body weight.
So, I particularly like to punish my breaststrokers with their kicks so what I will have them do is: we will suspend the TRX from a pole and then they get in a chair, they put a foot in this one and a foot in this one and then they are basically, it is to steady themselves, in the air and able to do this over and over again and the thing about it is you could do that on land sure, but the feet stay still. In the TRX you can do it and the feet come together so they wind up standing straight up like this, but they are suspended in air. Then they have to let themselves back down like this. Then they are able to lift and the feet come together like that so you teach them the motion and you strengthen the motion at the same time and the thing I also like is, if you are asking their ankles to bear their body weight, they are getting some good flexibility in there by doing that.
Another TRX thing that we will do is, have the athletes’ on the ground in a pushup position but their hands are suspended from the ceiling or whatever is above them. Then you ask them to move their hands, separate their hands as much as possible to get to a freestyle position. I don’t have anybody that can do that yet. They can go about this far. When they can hold themselves in this position then I know I have got something. The ultimate goal will be to have the feet suspended in the stirrups and their hands suspended in the stirrups. They are then holding themselves out completely off the ground. That to me would be superior power so that is the goal.
Okay, now for other dry-land activities that build power. Casey, can you come on up here again, please? (use of physio ball) This one is a fun, a little bit combative and fun for the kids and I always like to watch them do it. So, you want to build up some core strength, right? You have this idea that boxing is really good for building strength and they’ll have to try to knock them over. (Brian is punching a physioball, as fast and hard as he can. Casey is holding a physioball) You make them do that for however long their shortest event is, so if they are going to go 100 free, then you make them do that for 55 seconds. I want her to do the exercise as hard as she can. Some people can do this and some people cannot, but you ask them to try.
The other exercise would be having her stand against a wall because it pulled over your head. You are going to want to punch this way like this or do butterfly like this, as hard as you can, over and over again. You are getting a ballistic motion in your shoulders and I am out of shape and that hurts me, but it is great for them. That is part of our job is to understand that they have greater capacities than we have. Do not ever let your own capacities limit your expectations of your athletes. I think we often fall into that, but that would be punching.
There are also all kinds of variations of trying this. So, you do an upper cut as hard as you can (you are going to feel it right here after a while). Then we also try kicking with the ball. He will be in a pushup position with his feet up on the ball. You want them to kick on the top of their feet as hard as they can. You do that for a minute as hard as they can. This works pretty well. It worked; I am out of shape too. Was that like 8 of them? So that is one stroke cycle in there.
Another great version is, if you have a chin-up bar or anything they can hang from. We do not have that here, but you ask the athlete to hang and kick into the ball, while somebody else is holding it and as they are holding it and they are kicking you tend to push against that so that they go from a vertical position to as much as possible, a horizontal position, bearing their weight and by the force of their kick so that is one thing that we are to do. Tell them not to let go of the pole that is correct. Thanks Casey.
Amphibious training is stuff that we do in the water, then out of the water, and then back into the water. Just simple things. Simple things like having a stretch cord. If you want to work on the breaststroke out-sweep then you have to ask the athlete to press out. Press out like this as many times as they can (I do 16 strokes per length. I am talking about long course. I am out here doing this, keeping my head down, 16 times. They hop into the pool and do it in the water. Don’t breathe, let the whole thing go, and then swim so you are transferring from out here where they do not have to worry about breathing. They do not have to worry about doing it right. They learn how to do it. I got it, alright coach. I got it. Hop right in. Do it underwater, floating, whatever. I don’t care. Drop it and then swim. All of a sudden that out sweep is like WOW! That is awesome. You can do the same kind of thing, but with one arm at a time.
Backstroke: Just make sure you have enough tension. You get them to do it on their back in the water, doing this motion. This is creating internal tension, which is going to make my body position right. It is also strengthening me at the same time and so you want to do just that simple motion of recovery and then swim, and they will feel good on that side. Then let’s get back to the other end and do the other arm and this is what I call amphibious training. This is more for the better/older swimmers because they will take it seriously.
I like thinking about producing resistance within the motions that I want the athletes to do. We do not do any weight training, aside from the paddles. We do not do any weight training in our program. 1) I think it is risky to have young athletes do this, because they do not usually take it seriously and they can get hurt. 2) I am really much more interested in something like this that is more directly applicable to what they are going to do when they are swimming.
What I would encourage you to do is think about using the band and think about whatever you are asking your athlete to do. I had a couple of breaststrokers, when I first got to Asphalt Green. I came in 2002 and they had no Senior National Qualifiers and there was no Junior Nationals at that time. They had one or two sectional qualifiers when I went to the team. There were two athletes that came with me from New Jersey and decided to switch to Asphalt Green. One of them now works for me and they both were good breaststrokers and IM’ers. They both swam at Olympic Trials in 2004 and 2008. They both swam at the NCAA meet.
The Clemmons girls; Claire Clemmons and Allison Clemmons. I used to have them do some really interesting things that I do not have anybody doing right now. I would like to share with you because I think it is interesting. They would take bands like this and just sit down on top of the blocks and do breaststroke kicking like that. Just hold yourself up and you hold the resistance somehow or put it over your head like this and assuming its long enough and do breaststroke kicking like that and you really feel it. Now you got your legs warmed up. Here is what I want you to do now lie on your back on the deck and hold it over your head and do breaststroke kick, okay? Now: your whole body is warmed up. You are going to go over here against the wall and do a handstand, okay? You are going to do a handstand with a cord in your hand and the cord is on your feet so you are upside down, you are doing a handstand and you are doing breaststroke kick, alright? Now the one girl could do that you know. You are doing as many as you would do in your event. The one girl could do that, but her younger sister could do that holding a handstand. In other words, her feet never touched the wall. Allison could do that. She would be in a handstand, without touching the wall, holding cords in her hands and cords around her feet and she is doing that resistance, that motion. That is power. That is control. That is ability. Just keep imagining, what is next beyond that. What do we do beyond that? That is the way you have to coach. If she can do that now, let’s do that with weights on, you know, whatever it is, just go to the next step.
Do not assume that they cannot do things. I had other people that would see that going on and they would ask “can I try that?” I said, “well okay, but do you think you are as coordinated as Allison is?” “No.” I said, “are you willing to find out?” “Yes.” “Okay”, so they go do the handstand. The first time they crash on their head when they try to do it. The second time they do a few of them before they crash on their head. The third time, I think we got it figured out.
Again, I will go right back to it, pain is a great teacher so they learn how to do it because they see it is possible. So, that is something, I would go through that series. They would do it upside down like that and then hop in the water and go breaststroke. 100 breaststroke meters. Come back and go through the whole cycle again. I would call that amphibious training. You are in and you are out and you are doing all that stuff like that.
Another thing, I missed Matt Kredich’s talk. I hear it was fantastic and we must be doing some of the same things. I don’t know, but from what I have heard. We have these things that they use in the swim school. Things that they use in the swim school that are like lily pads. They are thick and they float. I get the kids on those and I guess this is what he was doing, do a flank on that and kick or do a pushup position on that floating thing. It sinks, but it floats and you kick the whole way. Now, that is hard to do. You are getting shoulder stability when they are doing that and they are getting core work when they are doing that. They are getting legwork when they are doing that. It is everything at once so it is interesting to try to have a principle of this is a dry land activity and how do I transfer that to an in water activity? I think the more that you can bring strengthening things, the exact same exercises basically, the more that you can bring them into the water. They are going to be more beneficial. I think sometimes there is a great divide between things the swimmers can do on the land. Some of the dry land is amazing, but then when they swim, you would not know that they could do that because they haven’t transferred their kinesthetic ability or they do not have the coordination. They haven’t learned how to do it. So, I try to emphasize that and foster environments where they can do that.
One of the latest things that we have been doing that I think works really well for breaststroke. Particularly for butterfly is to (if your pool is deep enough) have them go underwater, then hold onto the lane rope and dolphin kick up against that. Now, it provides enough resistance where obviously they do not come out of the water, but it also provides enough feedback to that motion that they understand. oh – am I here? Am I here? Oh, I have got to really maintain my body, while I am forcefully kicking against this lane rope that is above me. Does everybody understand that? If you want your athlete to go 8 kicks off the wall, we will go 8 kicks, as hard as they can, underwater vertically. They come up get their air, then go off the wall 8 kicks as hard as they. All of a sudden, their kick is a lot more powerful because they have experienced the resistance in front of them. You want to make sure whatever your athlete has to do, whatever activities they have to do, whether it is an arm recovery or whatever, they experience some sort of resistance. This gives them feedback, that is the way I look at it.
This is exactly what Chuck Batchelor was touching upon the other day. Basically, I think the hidden part of power is empowering your athletes mentally and emotionally. Getting them to imagine you know, why not? Why not whatever I can’t do right now? Why now? Well let’s try to do it. You might not do it the first time, but why not? Why can’t you do that? Teach them to think that way instead of thinking in terms of limits…think why not? You can do that on a daily basis. I would ask like for guys, what does a sub 1:50 200 meter backstroke look like? It doesn’t look like what we are seeing right now, it looks like something else. What does sub 2 minute, 200 meter backstroke for women look like, you know? And if you can get your athletes or you yourself to visualize what that would look like then you can coach or train them to that I think.
It is easy to look around and see what somebody that goes 2:06 looks like, right? We have evidence of that right in front of us, but what does 1:59 look like? It looks different so if you can get their mind attuned to that, I think you are going to reap some benefits. Dreaming is living. You want to make sure that they have dreams in order to be alive. I want you to teach them to be decisive because decisiveness is what creates the power to do whatever you want. You just decide, no if, ands or buts. Just decide. I try to teach the athletes to make up their minds what they want to do or who they want to be. Instead of just do it, just be it.
I think you yourselves and this is the power of history, human history; what we can gain from people that have done amazing things. I like to read biographies of people. Like Charles Lindbergh and great artic explorers, or people that overcome adversity. When I read their autobiographies I feel like I am surrounding myself with accomplished friends and it helps me. I think you need to read about real historical events and tell your athletes what people really did.
The Spartans marched on Athens in 401 BC with an army of men. 10 abreast. They were marching 10 people across and that line was 15 miles long. That is a lot of people, right? That is a lot of people that have decided to make war on something. It is not press a button war, we are going to fight with spears. I think people do not understand what human beings have accomplished and as a coach you have to open up athletes minds to what people have accomplished. You open up your own mind and it is just an endless source of inspiration.
I like that movie “The 300.” Has anybody ever seen that? So the Spartans are fighting against Xerxes and has millions of soldiers in his army. They use hoplite warfare, which basically means you have a shield and a spear and you are responsible for the men on both of your sides. You are protecting another and yourself with the shield, using the other hand to fight. You have to line up next to each other.
I take time out of practice when we could be doing yardage and trust me, I love yardage. I take time out and I explain this whole battle of Thermopylae, where Western Civilization was turned on one point in history in 480 BC. We wouldn’t have Democracy if this had not happened. After the movie I read everything I could read about it and then you get the kids all excited about it and you are like, get that kickboard, right? So they get a kickboard and you line them up and they are all doing this right? You are advancing on each other and you are getting them to become something that they are not, but something that really was. It is the same process to get them to become a swimmer that they are not, right now. They might be able to imagine.
I think you loan books to them depending on the age of the kids and you judge their reviews. If they say, “it was good” that means it sucked, right? It didn’t touch them at all, right? If they are like that was insane, that means it was really good. They really liked it because they can’t believe that somebody actually did that. I think that is good. Then the last thing that I would say about resistance or training as far as the mind goes, teach your athletes to look at things from the perspective of a bird. A bird’s eye perspective so that is the horizon that they imagine. They can see for themselves it is much greater than what we see down here on earth where we are limited by a whole lot. I think that way they can look into the future and look into the possibilities and feel like they are able to accomplish things through limitless thinking.
I told you I was going to talk a little bit about flexibility. I think you know about flexibility already, but I will say the more that I stopped. I was talking to Casey today and I was saying, the more that I stopped fighting people about what I want them to do, the better we have gotten. I do not think that means that I have gotten soft. I think that is winning without going to war because the goal is to do better and be fast. So, the more flexibility you can have without compromising the goal the better it is.
I think you need to understand the Greek ideal. The first Olympics were in 776 BC and the Greeks prized “Arete” which is excellence. Their definition was “excellence in body and mind.” I think that we have grown since 776 BC and I think it is body, mind, spirit and state and if you can, in your club, create people that are interested in excellence in state. State, meaning they are basically your team. Then you are going to have excellence because it is going to require all those things. Think about what motivates your athletes and bring it into your coaching somehow, if possible. Now, I cannot believe when I write this in my notes for this presentation, but I did. I became a better coach when I learned how to text message. OMG, right? That is what the kids listen to, okay? You incorporate some decision-making in it with your athletes that are old enough to make wise decisions and do not always pick, the 50 freestyle as their event. You allow them to make decisions. They are going to do a lot better for you.
I am trying to create, as I told you in my other talk we had a little bit of an issue with boys. I am trying to solve that issue where my boys are as good as my girls. I think one of the models that you could look to is skateboarding. Those kids spend hours and hours and hours skateboarding. They are doing hard things, hard painful things on a skateboard. Have you ever seen some of that stuff that they do? And when they crash it is ridiculous, right? And yet, they will do it over and over again and it is something about, in essence, they are coaching themselves. There is no authority figure telling them yes or no and they are able to accomplish things that you and I cannot even imagine doing on ground, let alone on wheels. Same thing with gaming. I don’t like it, I won’t pretend to like it, but I do know the focus that they have when they do that is unbelievable so there has got to be some way that you can tap into that because kids are able to focus.
Q. If you don’t have anything to do could you keep going, yeah, is there anything on this that you really can highlight on explosiveness.
A. Alright, he asked about really highlighting the explosiveness part. I talked about hang on for dear life, flume sprints where you are going as long and as hard as you can into a force that is greater than you. I think that is really important. We get mini-tramps, the little trampolines that they have and you get people running on those things really fast. Getting their legs to move really fast, especially if they have weights in their hands like a good heavy medicine ball. That is very good for them.
I talked about the physioball, amphibious, out of the water/ in the water and fast thinking. How do you spell amphibious? I will ask a swimmer that or how do you spell contagious? Just to make them what? Make them be alive while they are kicking, in between sets or whatever they are doing.
One thing I do want to share about timing. You know, we can get all of the devices and everything else, tempo trainers and stuff like that, they are great. We have that stuff, everything. One thing that I know that you will like that I want to share with you is a broomstick drill. I have a couple of them. Just get a broomstick, that is all it is, okay? You can do catch-up drill on the broomstick. okay? But not like this, alright? Here, let it go, that is what Bill Furniss was talking about. Stretching further so the broomstick floats basically. It is underwater, let it go, catch it with the other hand, let it go, catch it. I have got girls, especially, (you can go 300’s like this). Holding 1:20 yards. Yards, not meters, but it is a timing device and it is a coordination device as well, but the one I like otherwise, if you have like a pool stick, you hold the broom like a pool stick. Like this okay? And you are in the water, you can do it out of the water too. You just have to figure out where to pull, but if you ask them to swim with a pool stick in their hand, lift this arm up as high as it will go. Then you can pull with the front arm. Don’t do like this. Lift this one up as high as it will go and the rate of flexibility is different, but look at where my hand is and then switch to the other side.
Even better is backstroke, okay? Now be careful of that one because when you ask them to do backstroke the first thing they are going to do is smack, right in the face. It is a good teaching method, okay? They have got to roll and hold that line. While they are holding, they are holding that pole right in front of them and the timing on the backstroke is amazing when they do that right and take it away and make them swim. If they do not have it right. Give it back to them and make them swim again. Lilly was really good at that. She kind of didn’t need that, but she would be bored in practice so we would get her to do drill work you know and stuff like that. You know, a few hundred yards whenever she needed it. They have to kick really hard to do that well which is why I like it.
Q. Do you have 50 broomsticks and you let the kids do that?
A. No, I don’t have 50 broomsticks. It gets too hectic. I have got 5 and 8 kids per lane so no I have got only 5 or 10 of them.
Q. Where is the broomstick again?
A. It would be right in front of you. It would be in front of you right here so it is across here and what they want to do is lift it up too much and it goes across their nose. It has to stay like right here, and you rotate and then you are able to bend this elbow and it works in unison like this. It really establishes the relationship between one arm and the other arm very well and what is the next version of that? Let’s put some weights on it, right? Let’s put some weights on it. Same thing with this, okay?
I think that is all the time we have, but thank you so much for your attention.