Sprint Training by Dennis Dale (1998)


Introduction: I am about to bring up and introduce a gentlemen that has, in my mind done an outstanding job of taking a program and developing and nurturing it. He has brought it up to be, what I consider one of the strongest year in and year out programs that you’ll find anywhere in the country. His success, if you read the bio on the book, speaks for itself. I mean, his team consistently finishes top 15 in the NCAA Championships. They’ve won two of the last three Big Ten Men’s Championships. He has also been named Big Ten Men’s Coach of the Year a total of three times. However, what I believe to be the most important aspect of his success is the fact that he brings athletes into his program and he develops them and makes them faster. Having been on the men’s side, I know all of the talent out there and the whole recruiting process. When it comes down to it, what Dennis does at the University of Minnesota is what it is all about. It is truly an amazing job to me, because I know many times there are not named swimmers that come into the program. But, boy when they come out, people know who they are, and they’re progress is quite impressive to me. He has been doing this for a number of years, and I think people are finally starting to recognize it. It is well deserved, and with that I would like to bring up for you today, Dennis Dale.


Dale: Jimmy, thank you very much. And, I’m really happy to be talking to you today about sprint training at Minnesota. I think I should share with you a little of my background in coaching and in sprint training. I have been at the University of Minnesota for thirteen years now, and will be starting on my fourteenth year in the fall. Prior to being at the University of Minnesota, I was at Burnsville High School, which is a high school located south of the Twin Cities. I was there for thirteen years. I was the boys coach for my entire time there and the girls coach for the last eight years. We won four State Championships the last four years I was there. During the last ten years, I would venture to guess that we were in the top five in the state, in eight out of the ten years. High school swimming is very big in Minnesota. During those thirteen years, we scored no points in the fifty free at the States Championships.


You might ask, why am I talking about sprint training, and it’s a very good question. When I went to the University of Minnesota I was their distance coach. I coached our distance swimmers up until 1990. In 1990 Dave Anderson, the assistant coach at that time, and I talked, and we decided I should move over and work with the sprinters. The reason being that sprinting is so dog-gone important in college swimming. Therefore, we thought we should probably have the head coach, or at least a full time coach working with the sprinters, as opposed to a volunteer coach. So, at that time I went over and worked with the sprinters.


My thinking and philosophy about sprint training really comes from trial and error. Before I coached the sprinters, we had a volunteer coach who none of you have probably ever heard of. His name is Jeff Brown. He sprinted for the University of Nebraska. He came to the University of Minnesota for graduate school and while he was in graduate school for two years, he worked with our sprinters. I took some of his ideas and hopefully let them grow a little bit. That is where we are at Minnesota. We have dominated the Big Ten Championships in the sprints for the last three to five years. For the last four years we have had four of the top eight in the fifty free. This past year, we had four of the top five in the fifty free. We also had six scorers in the hundred free, at the Big Ten Championships this past year. We haven’t had the same sort of success at the NCAA’s. However, we are going to keep trying. I should introduce Clark Campbell. He’s been the assistant at Minnesota for the past three years. He will be running the overheads today. Clark is now the new men’s and women’s head coach at the University of Evansville, in Evansville, Indiana.


Clark has the University of Minnesota practice schedule on the overhead right now. This is basically our practice schedule throughout the entire season beginning October 5th. We’re a quarter school so we don’t start till the end of September. The distance people swim four mornings a week. The middle distance people swim three mornings a week, and the sprint group does not swim at all in the morning. We started that with the sprint group in 1992. The sprint group lifts weights four mornings a week. What really happened was the sprinters convinced me to try this. They said, why don’t you just try us.. let us just lift in the morning with no swimming. I said that we would see how it went. That was the first year that we placed four people in the top eight in the fifty free. I thought since it worked out all right, we would try it some more. And, so we’ve gone with that kind of philosophy ever since. By the way, this is just our drop dead sprinters who lift weights four mornings with no swimming. Everybody swims two hours in the afternoon. Everybody swims two hours on Saturday.


The next slide shows the members of our sprint group. I will just tell you a little bit about them. First of all, these are the events they swim. We had about twelve members of our sprint group last year. I am really quite proud of their accomplishments. I think there are two people in this group who came to the University of Minnesota in excess of a half a scholarship. One of the two is our backstroker, Alex Masseur, who is 47.4 in the 100 and 1:43 in the 200. The other one is Martin Lewsinksy, who is 46.7 in the 100 Fly. In the rest of the sprint group, there is no member on more than twenty five percent_ scholarship. There is no member who swam at Senior Nationals prior to coming to Minnesota. Finally, the entire rest of the sprint group came to Minnesota on less than one scholarship combined. So, there is not a lot of people who were highly recruited. These are not athletes that the a lot of the sun belt schools were going after.


One of my philosophies with our sprinters is that I don’t treat our sprinters as swimmers who do not know how to train, or can’t train, or are too lazy to train. We treat them as swimmers who specialty happens to be sprinting. They can work just as hard as other members of the team. They just do not swim as much mileage. They simply do different things. This past year we had two people who tied for most valuable. They were Alex Massuer and Martin Lewsinksy who are both in the sprint group. We also had one member of the sprint group that was selected as the hardest worker on the team. His name is John Kahoy. He was our second butterflyer up there. I think that one of the things that we try and establish with our team is that sprinting can be hard work. We try to let everybody see that sprinters can work hard, they just work hard in different ways.


The next slide is a typical weekly sprint plan. I am sorry this is written in pencil, but my secretary refused to type this out for me. We actually have three groups within the sprint group. The first group I will refer to as group one. They are people who do not swim the two hundred. They lift weights on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Once again, I have them referred to up there as group one. They are a very small group. The second group is the largest group in the sprint group. It is probably two thirds of the sprint group. These people do the same weight program on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The only difference is that they also swim on Wednesday. These are the people whose specialty is not the fifty free. Finally, there is the third group, which is group two on the overhead. This group in fact, swims in the morning with our middle distance group two to three mornings a week. They lift weights in the afternoon with the middle distance group, but all their afternoon practices are with the sprint group. For example, group two will swim in the morning on Monday and Wednesday and maybe even Friday. Aerobic type training will be the emphasis, and they will go about forty five hundred meters. Once again, the afternoon session will be with the rest of the sprint group.


We sometimes change the emphasis depending on what the cycle is. During most weeks of the season we have Wednesday set aside as our quality day. Our swimmers know that that is going to be a quality day. We have Tuesday set aside as an aerobic day, and we will do EN1 and EN3 training. We have Monday set aside as a day which we do light aerobic, EN1 and EN2 training. We do power racks and zoomer kicks on Monday, and by the way, we define zoomer kicks as under water twenty five kicking. We also do zoomer kicks on Friday. We will do anywhere from ten to sixteen 25’s under water. We will generally go on a faster interval about one day a week, which could be thirty seconds or twenty five seconds no breath. Then on the other day we might go on a slower interval, where they really emphasis going all out the entire way. After doing strong aerobic work on Tuesday, we do some sort of a stand up quality set on Wednesday, in which they are really challenged. They usually feel that is the hardest day of the week. Then we come back on Thursday and do what I call  a recovery day. That recovery day includes hardly any aerobic training. When it comes to my sprinters, they have a mindset that if I ask them to train aerobically, they’re working hard.   If I don’t ask them to train aerobically, they aren’t working hard. They will do power racks, and they don’t mind doing that. We do work on starts and turns so they can do some other things on that day. The idea being that we try and accomplish some things, but aerobically they haven’t been challenged at all. Friday is very much like Monday. It is a light aerobic day with some zoomer kicks and then we get to  Saturday.


It is probably the one day that really varies during the course of the season. During the fall, Saturday tends to be an aerobic day. However, as we move into another cycle, it can be a quality day. In the winter, it is almost always a quality day, either a swim meet or some sort of hard quality practice. This is basically our schedule. In the fall our emphasis tends to be on Tuesdays, and as we move into the next cycle, our emphasis begins to be on Wednesdays. We try and follow this so our swimmers will know exactly what is going on by looking at the schedule. They seem to like it that way. I use to think they wanted it switched every week. And, then they informed they liked doing it. They want to know what they’re going to do on Tuesday. They want to know what they’re going to do on Wednesday. So, I don’t switch, we stay with that same weekly cycle all the time. It actually makes it easier for me.  It makes it easier for them.


I have some information on our weight program. I am not going to talk a lot about our weight program. I’ll just put it up there on the overhead and say a few words about it. Our weight program is designed by our strength coach. We have a strength coach at the University of Minnesota that works with the non-revenue sports who want them to. We like Brad Arnett, who is our strength coach, and he is at every one of our strength practices. He helps design the program. We talk about our season plan prior to the season and then we at our schedule. We also talk about what meets are important and what the cycles are going to be in the water. After looking over all of the information he then designs the strength program to coincide with that. You have some handouts which shows our strength program. In here it talks about what the purpose and the emphasis of the various weeks are. In another hand out are the various exercises. The emphasis on the strength program is to work on core body strength. We do not do a lot of exercises that work on small groups or more total body lifts as evidence by this hand out. This is the second part of the season. This was basically our plan for last year. These are the exercises that we do on Monday’s as oppose to Tuesday’s etc… I am not going to spend time talking about these various exercises You can get them in any hand book on lifting or you can ask your strength coach if you have a strength coach. I’m sure he knows what they are.


Let’s move on to the type of aerobic sets that we do. We do aerobic training on Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Friday’s. We generally do aerobic training where we are giving our athletes thirty seconds rest between repeats. I know that might sound like a lot of rest between repeats. It is something I never did when I worked with our distance swimmers. What I have found is, sprinters tend to need more rest especially if they’re bigger and stronger and have more muscle mass. They can use that thirty seconds to stretch. Therefore, we almost always do our repeats with thirty seconds rest. For example, if we are going two hundreds in practice, we will have a group of sprinters maybe going two hundreds on two thirty five. We also have one group going on two forty five, and then we will have our aerobically challenged doing their set on maybe three fifteen or so.


Last year we had one of our sprinters who could not make two hundreds on the three minutes at the start of the season. He could not go six two hundreds on the three minutes and make the interval. So, we eventually had to move him. When we started the season off he would go his two hundreds on the three thirty and he could go about two fifty five. Gradually, he got so that at the end of the year he became an aerobic monster. He could do two hundreds on the three minutes and hold two twenty five. He was pretty proud of himself. <chuckle> That did not prevent him from scoring at Big Ten’s. He was 20.1 in the fifty and 44.7 in the hundred. He was not lazy and when you would check his pulse you could tell it. He just was not aerobically very gifted. We don’t get enough talented swimmers at Minnesota so you do not run anybody off. In his case, he was an important part of our team. He was on our Big Ten Champion sprint relay.


Another thing about our aerobic training is that our pace is based on lactic tests. I generally give the athletes paces that are based on lactic tests. We do lactic testing and from that, we derive some paces that we want them to hold. There are other ways to get paces. You can go the T30 or 3000 timed swim. In our case those sort of things that are really long distance did not work with our sprinters. They kind of loose their meaning to them. Can you imagine the young man I was speaking of earlier going to a 3000 for time. My battery would run off my watch while I waited for him to finish it. They just cannot get very excited about that kind of stuff and we get pretty good paces with lactic testing. Also, when we train aerobically our athletes are constantly checking their pulses. We reach a point that I know where their pulse should be. We have athletes like Martin Lewsinsky, our butterflyer, whose pulse never never goes over one fifty. I mean, no matter how hard he’s working, no matter what he’s doing, his pulse never goes over one fifty. On the other hand, we had a sprinter named Ty Bathers, who after warm up his pulse was over one fifty, and his pulse would go up into the two twenty area with regularity in practice. We are always checking pulses during practices as kind of another way of monitoring whether or not they were training too hard. We also checked pulses to make sure that they were getting the kind of effort out of the aerobic sets that we are looking for.


I would like to briefly talk about our aerobic training with our sprinters. We made it a rule never to do an aerobic set over four thousand yards with our sprinters, and we rarely went that far. Generally, we would do two aerobic sets in an aerobic practice. If we were doing two aerobic sets in practice, they both might be fifteen hundred to twenty five hundred or maybe a thousand to twenty five hundred. We would usually do two aerobic sets; we aren’t killing them aerobically. We are not attempting to make our sprinters good five hundred freestylers. The goal is to get better aerobically during the course of the season, and to really be a stand out on our quality sets.


The next thing we are going to talk about is our quality sets. I think that this is really the core of what our sprinters are doing. I made up some sample quality sets, and these are the types  of exercises that we would do in practice. These are the important parts of practice that we would do on Wednesdays. The first one is a set where they would go basically a fast fifty from the blocks, followed by a very easy fifty, and they went through that on the two point five minutes. Then they go an easy hundred. They went through that set three times; the third set is with zoomers. I wish I’d had my pencil before my secretary typed this up.


Generally, we do a stand up set. We turn on the electronic timing; we turn on the score board, and the sprinters are doing this to the score board. I just think that provides additional incentive. We also have the results of the last time we did this set posted near the starting blocks. In the locker room we have posted for the past three years all the stand up sets that we have done. We have them divided by stand up sets that are fifty’s, stand up sets that are twenty-five’s, stand up sets that are seventy-five’s or hundreds, or a mixture of stand up sets. So, they can go in and check and see what they have done in that type of stand up set in the past.


Stand up set number two includes twelve twenty-five’s fast from the blocks, followed by twelve twenty-five’s easy.  They did those in three and a half minutes. We get that all recorded. I can tell by the way I wrote this that a year ago when we did this set I announced to them twelve twenty-five’s fast from the blocks, followed by twelve twenty-five’s easy—just fast and then an easy one, and so forth, and do a fast one every three and a half minutes. Then, after we completed that set, I told them about the next set. I didn’t want them to know that afterwards they were going to be going these seventy-five’s with zoomers,   because I wanted them to do the twenty-five’s all out. So, it was kind of a little bit of a surprise for them, a little bit of excitement; they loved it. Where they went then was the six seventy-five’s with zoomers followed by a twenty-five easy; seventy-five followed by twenty-five easy on the three minutes. Usually I can pull that little trick on them, maybe three times a year; and then thereafter every time I gave them a stand up set they would say, “Is there something following this that’s going to be painful?” <laughter> So I could pull this a couple times, but not very often.


This next set, set number three, is really a standby for us. Ten fifty’s fast from the blocks, followed by ten fifty’s easy. We’ll do that at eight, ten, or twelve fifty’s, sometimes maybe as many as sixteen; but generally ten or twelve is the number we do. Generally when we do a stand up set like this, I make them swim their specialty. If it’s ten, I make them swim a specialty straight through. So, like Martin Lewsinsky, a butterflier, all ten of those are butterfly. Maybe, if we’re going to go twelve, I’ll let him go the last two backstroke; he’s a Big Ten finalist in the backstroke, so he likes it. He wants to do a little backstroke. I don’t let them switch strokes. They stick to their best stroke, and they do all their stand ups of that stroke, if it’s possible.


This next stand up set, number four, is one that we go both ways. The way it’s written up this year is seventy-five fast from the blocks followed by seventy-five easy, easy, easy; and that’s on the six minutes. This is followed by fifty fast from the blocks followed by fifty easy, and that’s in the four and a half minutes. Followed by twenty-five fast from the blocks followed by twenty-five easy in three and a half minutes. We go through that whole cycle five times; so they get a fair amount of sprinting with that.


We have done that so we go the twenty-five’s first, then the fifty’s, and then the seventy-five’s. Our sprinters like it in this order a whole lot better, but either way they really get a good work out. A set like this, if a person has two major strokes like Martin Lewsinksy or Alex Masseur, I might let them do their twenty-five’s of a different stroke and their seventy  five’s  and fifty’s of their major stroke.


Set number five is a set that we will do three times during the season, generally. They’re six one hundreds fast from the blocks on the eight minutes. Then I have them swim some easy. We’ll have some swimmers on our team, the dumb ones, who will generally try and go fifty easy and think that’s all I want them to do. Then we have the smarter ones, who understand their body a little better, they may go a three hundred easy during that interval because it’s on the eight minutes, and they have plenty of time. I generally huff about how important it is to do easy swimming. So, you always find John Kahoy always going two to three hundred easy, and the guys who specialize in the fifty think that a twenty-five or a fifty easy after a hard hundred is enough. Low and behold, they’re building up quite a bit of lactic by number three.


The next set we defined as a broken hundred set, and it’s number six. We explained to them that their total time in this set should be faster than they wanted to go at the end of the year. That if they were planning to go 43.9 at the end of the year, they better be faster than 43.9 here, or they could kiss that 43.9 at the end of the season goodbye. They had to be faster on this than they were going to go at the end of the year. What they do is they go fifty on the 1:50 from the blocks; and then they go twenty-five on the :55 from the blocks. They go a twenty-five on the :55, my secretary has typed from the blocks, but it’s from a push. They went through that six times, and we do it on the eleven minutes. Yes. There is easy swimming after that, and I see that has been omitted as well. On something like this when it’s on the eleven minutes, I know that takes about three and a half minutes to get through that, I would give them about a three hundred easy. I try to give them enough easy so that they have enough time to get to the blocks and stand around about a minute or so before they do their next one. I try and teach them that easy swimming is better for them than standing around waiting.


This next set is a set that our entire team does together quite a bit.  Our team at Minnesota rarely practices together; that is,  our distance guys are generally doing their practices, the middle distance guys are doing their practice, and the sprinters do their practice. Rarely does the entire team do the same practice. This is one of our exceptions. It’s a set of goal fifty’s, and we do this two ways. We sometimes go eight fifty’s on the minute and a half where we devise a goal time.  After the eight fifty’s, you  do an easy hundred; and we go through that four times. Or else we’ll do ten fifty’s on a minute and a half, followed by the easy hundred three times. So, we do somewhere between thirty and thirty-two goal fifty’s.


We derive their goal time by taking their best two hundred time, dividing it by four, and basically subtracting a second. That usually makes a pretty good goal time. Once we do this set, right after the practice is done, we sit down and figure out what their goal time should be the next time—while the times they did are still fresh in our mind. We say, OK look, if this person made all thirty of them and his goal time was twenty-five flat for freestyle; and I was timing him, and I know he was going twenty-four to twenty-six; his new goal time would be :24.6. So we sit down, and we figure out the goal times right after practice for the next time we do them.


Now, we also have partner-assisted makeups for these, because in our practice everybody makes all their goal fifty’s. They either make it during the set, or else they make them up after the set. This partner-assisted makeup is one of the ideas the sprinters came up with. They always find these ways to make life a little easier for themselves, but they explained to me that it was for team morale too; and they conned me into this. What they can do is, after the practice is done, if they’ve only made twenty-four of thirty-two goal fifty’s, they have eight to make up. They stay there until they make them up. The guy who holds the record was a guy in Hawaii. He stayed at the pool from our eight o’clock practice, and he got done at 1:30. We just stayed there, and I had lunch delivered, and eventually he made up his practice and got all of his goal fifty’s in. He was upset, and I just thought, “He can do it, and he’s going to do it.” And he made it up. He finally convinced himself that he could do it. Once he did that, of his last thirty-five attempts he made thirty of them and got the practice done. First he kept saying, “I can’t do it; it’s too fast; your goals are too hard, and then he eventually made it.


In partner-assisted makeups they can get somebody else on the team that has completed their thirty goal fifty’s or thirty-two goal fifty’s to swim with them. If the guy who has eight to make up makes his time, and his partner is conned into swimming with him, he gets to count it as two. So generally when our swimmers finish a set of goal fifty’s, those that have made all their times usually start to ask people who needs help to make up theirs. So somebody who only makes twenty of their thirty goal fifty’s,  he usually will get a partner to help him; and that way he only has to make up five, and the partner will make up five for him. It’s kind of a way to promote a little bit of team unity and team spirit. When you have a partner helping you make up a goal fifty, there’s even greater incentive for you to make yours. Because if you’re trying to make up your goal fifty and your partner is with you and you don’t make it, you don’t count either one of them. So, you can imagine, if you have a friend swimming with you, who is going to help you make up one, and he’s sprinted his and made his time and you didn’t make yours— he’d say, “Well, I’m done; I’m not helping you anymore. You’ve got to make it for me to sprint anymore.” So it provides extra incentive to making up their goal fifty’s.


The next set is a set where we go ten twenty five’s from a push. We do a three hundred easy afterwards, and we’ll go through that three times. The first set could be on the minute, the second set on the 1:15; the third set at the one and a half. Sometimes we’ll let them do the third set with zoomers. Our sprinters all have zoomers; they all have their own. We use them quite a bit. and we only use zoomers when we’re sprinting fast. When we’re going strong and fast we use zoomers. We don’t train aerobically with zoomers. I know that last year Alex Masseur, our backstroker, did a set of hundreds backstroke, I believe at intervals of two and a half minutes.  Swimming backstroke  he averaged forty-seven seconds. He started forty-nine and worked down to forty-five hundred backs with zoomers. The freestylers were a might angry at him, but he really flies.


The next set is a set we tend to do later in the season. It’s two hundred broken at the fifty for ten seconds, followed by two hundred easy. We’ll do that three times on the nine minutes. It will be followed by a hundred broken at the twenty-five and the fifty, then they go their second length under water. So, they go twenty-five fast on the surface, then they go twenty-five under water, and they go a fast fifty. On those broken hundreds, their second fifty has to be as fast as they want to go at the end of the year for their second fifty of their hundred. What we generally do is we have records from the previous year, so our forty-four second freestyler knows what he came back in the year before in the fifty. He knows if he wants to go faster this year, he’s got to come back faster on a set like this. At almost all of these practices, there’s a fair amount of intensity, but a lot of that intensity is put on them by themselves. I mean, most of the time they’re ready to swim well on Wednesdays, but sometimes they need some involvement on my part to motivate them. Most of the time they don’t need a lot of motivation.  Most of the time they’re doing  a good job. They can check their previous times. Then, when they have those off days, it’s necessary for me to have a close conversation with them.


The next set is a set of eight seventy-five’s very fast, then eight seventy-five’s very easy. We generally do this all stand up from the blocks. We have done it before where they can use zoomers on numbers five, six, seven and eight. So, they do four from the blocks and four from the water.


The next set is one of their favorite sets. They like this. They go six seventy-five’s. I’ll define it this way, they go a seventy-five on the one and a half, and they do six of them. They descend from their EN3 pace. Each seventy-five is followed by, oh my secretary, six fifty’s on the one and a half where that fifty is once again as fast as a second fifty of their hundred. They do a twenty-five on the one and a half easy. So they go a seventy-five, fifty, twenty-five. They follow those things for the seventy-five’s, and keep getting faster through the set, because they’re descending from their EN3 pace. Their fifty’s all remain at least as fast as their second fifty of their hundred. So, like our backstrokers are going twenty-four’s on their fifty backs on those. I know last year Alex Masseur would on those fifty go twenty-three something. He was under twenty-four; the other backstrokers were twenty-four. They precede that with a seventy-five descending from their EN3 pace. So, the seventy-five isn’t all out, but it’s still a strong swim.

The next set is a set of two hundreds where we break at seventy-five, seventy-five, fifty. Two hundred easy. They’ll do that on the nine minutes, and they’ll do them twice. Two of those they’ll go four one hundreds, broken fifty, seventy-five. They go four one hundreds easy. It’s like the fast ones intersect with the easy hundred. Then we go some fifty’s broken. That’s just a straight strong for me and for them. This is stand up set they would hate. But they don’t always get through the stuff they like to do.


They’re favorite stand up set — we have a questionnaire for them and they can tell me what their favorite stand up set is — and invariably their favorite one is eight twenty fives on the four minutes. Surprise surprise. We do some lactic testing in Minnesota. We check the lactic levels that they’ve achieved and how high they’ve gotten their lactic levels during the set. And, sometimes if we’re doing a set of twelve fifty’s, we’ll check their lactic levels after number three, six, nine, and twelve. And, hopefully then, not only got their lactic levels high, but they held them high. And, we have some swimmers who can raise their lactic levels up pretty high to like eighteen mmls or twenty mmls and they fall off. But, the really good ones, they keep their lactic levels up really high throughout the set.


I mentioned already we use the electronic timing and score board. Occasionally we have a little surprise set, after our stand up set. After the main set, they’ll have a little surprise set to further enhance their lactic levels. And, we always post the results of our lactic for our stand up sets the following day, or maybe the day after. It’s my job to get those stats done, and sometime I’m not as good at the computer as I would like to be. But, we get that up, most of the time the following day, and they can see the results. But, most of them will come around after practice and get their calculator and figure out what they averaged on a stand up set. They themselves want to know how that stand up set compared to the other ones they’ve done. And, it is not uncommon for one to come in and say, you know, I went faster in October in ’96 then I did this year, why do you think that is? Well there’s all sorts of reasons that maybe our aerobic sets the day before a lot harder or so forth. But, they do take a lot of pride in how they swim those sets.


It would not be uncommon for an athlete to get sick during our stand up sets. That’s another item that I think is good. It can be good for total team morale is that sometimes the distant guys do not think, the sprinters are working hard enough or so forth. And, I think that when some of those guys get sick during practice and lean over a trash can, that it’s another indication that they in fact are working hard, they’re just working differently. And, we have a little system, that if they lose their lunch I give them a quarter. They don’t think it’s worth it, but I think it is.


We do lactic testing with our entire team, we just do it a lot more with the sprinters. The middle distance guys and distance guys might do one lactic testing during the year, maybe two. They might do it after a meet, after a race in a meet. But, the sprinters tend not to ever do a T30 or 3000 for time or anything like that, whereas the middle distance and distance guys get their paces both ways. And, generally we’ve found that they do a lactic swim and they do a T30, the paces that are being derived from both are very very close. We feel comfortable with it.


Power racks — we are a firm believer in power racks. We do it at least twice a week every week. And, I have my own progressive system on the power racks, it isn’t necessarily the way it’s advocated by Total Performance in San Vancura, but, we gradually build up the number of power racks that we do. And, the amount of weight they are lifting on the power racks. When we start off the season we try to develop a base for each swimmer. And, the base for a freestyler is determined by how much weight he can do and keep his time around five point five seconds. And, backstroke we look at keeping the time under six seconds, same with butterfly.


And, breaststroker under seven seconds. And, these are just times I’ve come up with. And, I don’t know that there’s any great science behind them, but I want to make sure I don’t have people on the power racks going for ten seconds. I want that sprint to be very very fast, and very very strong, and very very short. And, at the beginning of the year they might do twelve power racks. Two at their base level, minus two plates. Two at their base level, minus one plate. Six at their base level, and then maybe two more at their base plus three plates with zoomers on. And, by the end of the year we might be doing twenty four power racks, where they go three at base minus two, three at base minus one, I’m just pulling these numbers out of the air — I hope they add up — and six at base plus three with zoomers. So, they are gradually doing more and they’re doing more with the heavier weights.


Zoomers, I mentioned earlier that we use zoomers on only intense activities. As we do underwater kicking with zoomers, under water twenty fives both yards and meters. I think the fastest interval we’ve ever had our sprinters doing twenty fives kicking with zoomers is twenty two seconds. And, it would not be uncommon for our better under water kickers to be kicking their twenty five with zoomers, under eleven seconds. If we’re going on an easy interval, which we do as well, like on a minute then we have swimmers who keep them under ten seconds. But, that’s kicking no breath. We have some people who are not as gifted under water, and they have a little more trouble, and their intervals don’t get as fast. Maybe they get down to thirty five seconds. But, we have different, you know send offs for under water kicking just like we do for two hundreds. And, some of those same people who are aerobically challenged are under water kicking challenged, as well.


We also use zoomers on fast swimming sets, of fifty, seventy five, hundreds and twenty five’s. We even use zoomers on goal fifty’s. On our goal fifty’s our sprinters know that they can do. Depending on what day it is, they could do anywhere from five to ten of their goal fifty’s with zoomers. And, to derive their goal time with zoomers, they take their goal time and they subtract two seconds from it; unless they are a backstroker. And, then if they’re a backstroker they subtract three seconds. And, then Martin Lewsinsky who is really good with zoomers, he subtracts four seconds, to hit his goal time. They know they have to do maybe at least five, and they can do as many as ten with the zoomers.


One of the topics I think I should address a little bit is tapering. I guess I’m no different than anybody else, tapering is really individual. And, in our sprint group we have tapers that vary in length from three and a half weeks to nine days. And, we have sprinters like Martin Lewsinksy who are perfectly fine with a nine day taper, that’s all he rests before a big meet. On the other hand some of our bigger sprinter guys will rest three and a half weeks. Probably our biggest guy on the team, was Ty Bathers who worked hard to keep his weight around 210 at about six three, and he felt that he only needed three weeks, I felt he probably needed a little more than three weeks. We have another sprinter who thought that six weeks was what he needed, but he did just fine on three and a half.


The way I run a taper — first of all we determine the length  of the taper and that’s usually a combination of their input and my input. And, as usual I have the final say. But, we talk, and we are both trying to accomplish the same thing — that they will swim faster at the end of the year. And, whatever the taper means, we want to get something that they’re comfortable with and I’m comfortable with. And, if they come in telling me they’ve never tapered less than three weeks, I sure as heck ain’t giving them a nine day taper. You know, I will probably give them a three week taper because that’s what they’re accustomed too.


I think that we rest in the fall as well. And, with by resting in the fall, that one of our swimmers Mat Schlesman came to the conclusion that he had been over rested all through high school. Because in the fall we just rest four days for our invitational. And, we rested him four days in the fall and he said that’s the best he’s ever felt in the water that’s the best he’s ever swum, on a four day rest. As a result we took his taper which had always been two weeks in high school, and we decided he was going to drop down to an eight day taper. He was actually in favor of a shorter one, but on eight days he swam really well his freshman year. So, we stuck with that for four years.


During the taper, I run a three day cycle. I tend to take, if their yardage is at forty five hundred, I will go forty five hundred where they do a day where it’s primarily an aerobic emphasis. Then I will go forty five hundred where there’s some anaerobic, or quality emphasis. And, then I’ll go forty five hundred all garbage. Then we’ll drop five hundred yards, and do the same thing at four thousand yards. Four thousand where there’s some aerobic, four thousand where’s there quality, and four thousand all garbage. And, we drop another five hundred and go down to thirty five hundred.


What I generally like them doing is the week prior to the meet, at the end of that week, I like them at three thousand. So, the Big Ten Championships start Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we finish the following week at three thousand, so I just count backwards and, you know basically in three day cycles. Well if they’re going to start six weeks out, you know they’d be really high, but since we’re only starting three and a half weeks out; I’ll go three thousand here, thirty five here, the week before they’re going to be four forty five and so forth. And, so we just work down in five hundred yard increments. And, I work back from the big meet.


We make sure that they are conscious that during taper, probably the most important thing they’re doing out of the pool is resting. And, we have a nice warm diving well at Minnesota. And, one of the things that I do with our sprinters is, as we’re tapering everyone wants to warm up in the diving well. I generally ask them how much sleep they had in the past twenty four hours. And, those who have the most sleep get to use the diving well. And, those who didn’t get enough sleep — and we’re to the point with the sprinters that they know if they only got ten hours of sleep in the last twenty four hours, they ain’t getting in the diving well. There’s people who got more. And, so we have some of our swimmers — we have really bought into the idea that sleep is absolutely crucial. It’s crucial all year long. We have sleep charts they fill out, and so forth. If they want to use the diving well for their practice, they know they better be getting at least eleven hours of sleep.



Long course versus short course. I’m not the strongest proponent of long course swimming for all swimmers. And, I know that some people probably think that’s heresy, but we have had swimmers who clearly don’t benefit from long course swimming. So the result of that at Minnesota, we do all long course swimming in the morning time and all short course swimming in the afternoon. That’s the way we run during the school year. There are some exceptions, in the spring time we do a lot of short course meters. We tried that last year and it was really popular with both the people who like short course, and the people who like long course. They thought that was at least a good compromise.


The reason I am opposed to all long course swimming is that for a sprinter he generally is going as fast as he goes when he pushes off the walls. So, half of his training, if he’s swimming long course, is slower than he ever swims the short course. And, so if we’re trying to do an aerobic set, he’s constantly training slower aerobically. Moving at a slower velocity in the pool than he does short course. And, I think that clearly for distance swimmers and middle distance swimmers, and even some sprinters who can train aerobically, that that is not the case. But, for a lot of sprinters it’s not a question of wanting to train long course, they just can’t train long course. And, one of the things that we’ve done with our sprinters is we tried to make them feel that not being able to train aerobically is not the end of the world. You know, our aerobically challenged swimmer Brannon Schindler, I mean I took a great deal of time all fall to constantly reinforce that he was doing just fine. He was doing superb. And, you know, boy you just went a set of four hundreds under seven minutes and you kept them all at five thirty. That’s fantastic, good job. And, keep letting him know that he’s not a worthless human being because they’re not good aerobic trainers.


Now we have some people in the sprint group who can train really well aerobically. I have seen Alex Masseur go sets of two hundred backstroke on the two thirty and you know, work his way down under one fifty. But, you know that he’s an exception. Most of them in the sprint group aren’t great trainers, and they really don’t have to be great aerobic trainers to be a good fifty and hundred freestyler, even two hundred. As a general rule, the sprint group supplies two members of our eight hundred free relay. So, that there’s enough to do enough aerobic training and they have enough speed that they can do a decent two hundred. A few years ago, one of our best sprinters Del Surney, who was fifty meter national champ, and Big Ten champ in the fifty free. He swam on our eight hundred free relay, he had to give up swimming the hundred free at the NCAA’s, to swim on our eight hundred free relay — he anchored our eight hundred free relay. And, he was one thirty seven low which was amazing. It was even more amazing because he was out from forty five two. So, he was out a little quick and died. But, they can still muster out a good two hundred.


I mentioned earlier that I never scored points at the State High School Champions, when I was coaching at Burnsville in the fifty free. And, the difference between what I was doing then and what I am doing now, when I coach sprinters, is I am actually coaching sprinters. As before I was coaching two hundred freestylers and expected the sprinters to survive in that program. And, they couldn’t. And, so now we are actually coaching sprinters as if they are sprinters and that they aren’t just swimmers who can’t train, or are lazy or don’t want to train. They are in fact are sprinters and they want to do things differently. And, they don’t succeed in a distance program. Most of them don’t succeed in a distance program. Just like most distance swimmers wouldn’t succeed in a sprint program. And, you have to provide them the kind of diet and the kind of training that they’re going to succeed on.


I gave you our weekly schedule, and that’s a typical weekly plan. There are times when we deviate from that, at least twice during the year, we’ll do stand up sets on back to back days, for instance. We’ll do stand up sets on Wednesday and Thursday, so that when they come in on Thursday — and they will know about it ahead of time — instead of having a recovery set, they will have another stand up set. That was just an idea that dawned on me a couple years ago. When we go to big meets our athletes are expected to get up on the blocks and sprint for three days in a row. Yet, I’m coaching them and they never have to sprint more than one day in a row. I mean, they do more sprinting that day. So I want to come back and do quality some times during the season on back to back days.


That weekly plan I mentioned, if we’re training during the course of the season of a twenty six week season if we’re training twenty one weeks hard, we’re following that plan on probably seventeen to eighteen weeks out of the twenty one. We deviate from it a little bit. But, when we go on winter training trip we’ll train every day that we’re there. But, we usually go a double double single, double double single, double double single, and our sprinters do weights on the double days. So, they may do an hour’s swimming in the morning of just easy swimming, an hour of weights on two days, and the next day we just do a single and they’ll swim for two hours.




Dale: I refuse to let our swimmers to use pull buoys, for instance. I think a pull buoy is more than a crutch than anything else. We do kicking sets. And, we’ll do sometimes just an aerobic kicking set, just like you would have everybody else do. And, sometimes we do kicking sets where it’s just an all out strong kicking set, with zoomers even. And, sometimes without zoomers. Like they might go kicking set of eight one hundreds on the two minutes with zoomers. But, we also do kicking sets with the sprinters where they’re going eight one hundreds on the one thirty or one thirty five whatever interval they can handle. So, we really mix it up a lot on our kicking.


Dale: The red flags go up when I see an athlete who’s unable to make a normal customary interval and he is still having a high pulse. Last year when we had this transfer student. I had never seen anything quite that slow in practice. He couldn’t make hundreds make hundreds on the one thirty. This guy, wasn’t even in the ball park. We did a lactic test with him at the beginning of the year, where he swam a four hundred free to get his pulse and to get his lactic pace. He swam a four hundred free and he went five thirty five free style. And, his lactic level was over six. We immediately realized he had to do different distances, different intervals, and the fact that you can’t have a person swimming that slowly and not feel badly about himself. I mean you can’t have his self-esteem particularly high when he’s unable to do what everybody else is doing. And, people are swimming breaststroke faster. So, it becomes a full time job to positively reinforce him constantly.


Dale: When we do our lactic paces we do a four hundred for time. We sometimes do more, if we don’t get close to four mmls, we do more. You know, but it’s kind of my belief, if they score really high on their first one, then I don’t bother testing them that day again. Because, the next test is going to be invalid. So, we’ll maybe test him the following day. If they test a little low on the first one, and they get a lactic level of two point eight, then we re-test maybe that day a little later. We do a lot of easy swimming and we’ll re-test again that day. We try and zero in on a lactic level of four point O. Most of the time they’re not exactly four mml, but when they finish and their lactic level is four point two, we’re comfortable that we can then guestimate what their four mmls speed is. Also, we know where they were a year ago, so we can give them a pretty good line.


Dale: This is college athletes. When I coached high school we did weight training as well. But, I wouldn’t do weight training, younger than high school.


Dale: We would put in a weekly plan. We would put the guy with no aerobic background in our one program where he did weights four mornings a week and he swam only in the afternoon. And, we would take the person with great aerobic backgrounds and they are in our group two, where they swim in the morning. And, these groups that we put them in, they’re not set for life. We have some people in our sprint group at Minnesota, who are in our sprint group because that’s where they want to be. Martin Lewsinksy, our butterflyer, he could train easily in our middle distance group. He could handle it, he’s aerobically just fine. He just doesn’t like swimming that much. Before he signed to come to the University of Minnesota, he made me make a commitment that he would get to train in the sprint group for four years. And, I coached Martin in Club, and I know that. And, so we made that agreement. One day, during his freshman year, when we had lost our pool, we had to go over to Cook Hall in a six lane pool and we had to make some adjustments. And, to balance lanes out,   I put him in the middle distance group. We had a meeting that day, after practice. He hung around and had a meeting. And, he wanted to know if this was going to happen on a regular basis, was I going to keep my word. And, I said, it will never happen again.  And, it’s never happened again.


So, there’s some differences, we have some sprinters who are sprinters because that’s where they want to be. And, some that’s where they have to be.


Question: How do you get your guys to feel comfortable at the prelims or the big meets, if they’re not in the water for morning workouts at all during the season.

Dale: Well, first of all, they’re in the water Saturday’s. Because our Saturday morning practice is at 10:00. And, that’s the first thing. And, we also swim meets during the course of the year at 1:00 and 12:00 so they’re accustomed to racing at that time. It is not uncommon for our athletes to come in on Sundays and swim around noon. We encourage them to do that, especially as the season is coming to a close, to get into the water and swim at that time. And, then also, it would not be uncommon for us to do some quality work, like on a Saturday practice, so they get accustomed to doing some speed work at that time. But, that reminds me, we once had a swimmer from Germany who was going home for the German selection meet. He wanted to do his swimming and everything at the same time that he would be swimming at home. And, so he just re-set his clock in the dorm, to German time. And, he was getting up every morning at 2:00 in the morning, because that’s what time it was in Germany. He was running his whole life on a German clock, and he did that for three weeks, prior to going home. I was amazed. He did everything. He arranged it with instructors to take tests early, and all this kind of stuff. And, he went home and swam like crap. So, all those things sometimes don’t pay off worth a darn.


Question:  How far into taper do you drop weights.

Dale:  It’s individual.  And, some of our athletes have known   to go into the weight room, the Monday prior to leaving for Big Tens. So, that week of Big Ten’s, they’ve been in the weight room. A majority of them don’t lift the week of the meet. And, some of them will lift Monday Tuesday of the preceding week, but everybody lifts the week before that. So, we lift a little longer than some people. Our weight program training is a very very important part of our sprint program. We have some very strong swimmers. We’ve had sprinters that can bench for instance, over three fifty, squat over four hundred. They’re comfortable in the weight room.


Our weight program isn’t based on lots of benching, it’s based more on doing cleans and things like that. They get to be very strong and they’re very very comfortable in the weight room. And, they like lifting weights.


Dale:    Well, first of all, if I have a chance to see them swim, I’d like a swimmer who’s tall, who’s big. I’d like a swimmer who has a nice feel for the water and I can see that.  You want  a swimmer that, and these are in a perfect world, who has gone fast. I mean the most important thing is the time they’ve done because, the proof is in the puddin’. If they’ve been twenty point five, I don’t care what they look like, we want them at Minnesota. You know, hands down. You know, if they’re twenty two, then there’s some other variables. We just recruited a kid out of Michigan who was a high school soccer player. And, we kind of liked that idea, a soccer player who did lots of activities. He had been twenty one one. We think, there’s some gift. This other sprinter, the one who is aerobically challenged, he played high school basketball. Well, to me that was a plus. He never swam high school swimming. He was from Country Club swimming in the summer time. And, to me those were all things that meant he had some more to go. You know, ideally a big swimmer beats a small swimmer every time, in a sprint event. They’ve got a good feel for the water.


Dale: I’m not quite in step with United States Swimming, to think that they have to be aerobic monsters. But, I do believe that developing a strong aerobic base is important for all Club Swimmers. But, I think there can be some time spent on some of the technical aspects of racing. I don’t think you have to spend a lot


of time on starts, but some time on starts and turns. And, I think it doesn’t do any program any harm to do a once in a while to do a quality oriented practice. So, that they get a feel for what it is, to actually build up some lactic during practice when they’re in high school and that. There are some people who in club programs around Minnesota who never do quality. I mean never. It’s all aerobic training. And, I think some quality is good once in a while. A little weight program doesn’t hurt either. For us we find that the people who have the most difficult transition to our sprint program, are the people who have never lifted weights before.


I put up a list of the times that the sprint group has done, and we don’t have sprinters at Minnesota who go slower. And, I mean they don’t go slower. I mean that’s a general truism, with our entire team. But, you know we can look up here and say you know Ty Bathers dropped over a second in the fifty free style, at Minnesota. Jeremy Reeds dropped over a second in the fifty free style. Lewis Lopez is down a second. Brannon, it’s his first year at Minnesota, but his best time was twenty point nine, part of this season he went twenty point one. Even our athletes that came in as gifted strong athletes, Martin Lewsinksy who is our butterflyer at forty six seven, he in high school just missed the national high school record. He was, I think forty eight one. And, his freshman year, he went forty seven four. His sophomore year he went forty seven flat. And, this year he went forty six seven. And, Martin is about five eight, about five eight. So, he’s not a very big guy.


I’m not an advocate that there’s no such thing as good distance training going on. I use to coach all of our distance training at Minnesota. I use to coach distance in high school. But, I think there’s a place for sprint training as well.


Dale: If we’re going four thousand yards, they’ll go four thousand yards and maybe two thousand of it will be a warm up. And, then we might do a set, which they love to do, which I call a social kick. And, they’ll just swim a six hundred. They’ll kick a six hundred. And, they use the kick boards and I talk with them. Then we might do a drill set, and maybe we’ll do a set where they’ll swim a five hundred where they’ll work every third turn, or something like this. So there’s not a lot of energy output. And, what we also do, and I didn’t mention it during our taper is, that as we go through the taper on the aerobic day, the aerobic day is always a little easier aerobically than the previous aerobic day. And, the quality or anaerobic day is always a little easier than the previous quality day. So, like the first time they’re in their taper, if it’s a long taper they might go twelve one hundreds as their aerobic set. And, the next time they might go nine one hundreds. The next time they might go nine seventy five’s. So, it really isn’t too much aerobic. We have some sprinters who think that maybe they should work their way down to ten twenty five’s aerobic. You know, they may call it aerobic but it isn’t really. For them some of these guys, for Brannon a warm up is aerobic training.

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