Weight Training, Dryland Work, and Equipment Use by Frank Busch (2004)


Coach Busch began his coaching career at the age of 16 in his hometown of Edgewood, KY. He took his first full-time position as head coach of the Northern Kentucky Piranhas age group and senior programs from 1974-78. Busch was an assistant coach for the Cincinnati Marlins from 1979-80, where he instructed current Arizona assistant coach Greg Rhodenbaugh. The Marlins placed six swimmers on the 1980 Olympic team and broke three world records. In his 15th year as head coach of the Wildcats, Frank Busch has transformed University of Arizona swimming and diving into one of the nation’s most powerful programs. With the 2003-2004 season on the horizon, Busch enters the new year with a continued commitment to bringing honor to the University of Arizona through the success of its swimming and diving programs. Since taking over the Arizona program in 1989, Busch’s teams have maintained a steady presence in the nation’s top 10. His women’s team has had top 10 finishes in each of the last 13 years, including NCAA runner-up finishes in both 1998 and 2000. The Arizona men have been in the top 10 in 11 of the last 14 years, including a current streak of six straight top 10 finishes. The 2000 season saw the UA men grab a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the best in the program’s history.



Good morning everybody.  It is always a pleasure to come to a convention like this and to be able to share some of my thoughts and some of the things that we do in our program.  It is always good to hear another person’s ideas, what they do and how they do it.  New ideas can help, even if you do not have the opportunity to do them exactly the same way because of limitations in your facility or budget.  Hopefully the ideas I share will stimulate some ideas for you to think about, and maybe help you find ways to do some things similar that will help you and your program achieve the success that you are seeking.


My talk today is about weight training, dry land training and the equipment we use.  I am going to go into a lot of detail.  I want to start by recalling a talk given a few years ago by the late Al McGuire.  He was a great basketball coach, a Hall of Fame coach at Marquette University.  Al McGuire was a great speaker.  He was speaking at a banquet honoring our Hall of Fame basketball coach at Arizona, Lute Olson.  In the process of speaking he said, “You know, people do not just get to the top of the mountain.  They are not just dropped off on the top of the mountain, but rather they have to work every day, every step of the way to work their way up to the top”.


That is a cliché we have all heard many times.  Along the same theme, I want to share a little bit about my swim coaching background.  I think it will provide hope for everybody working hard and hoping to get to the top of the mountain.  That is about the only way that I know how to say it.


I just spent the last five weeks with the most well oiled swimming organization in the World.  When you are fortunate enough to be part of a United States Staff at the elite level, whether it is at the World Championships like here in Indianapolis or at the Olympic Games, it is a well oiled machine.  Everything is done way ahead of time, years in advance.  All the preparation to become that well oiled machine, to be elite, is made in advance.  I can remember 30 years ago.  I was cooking pancakes at 7 o’clock in the morning for a bunch of high school kids, trying to convince them and their parents that morning workouts were a good thing.  So here I am, part of this incredibly well oiled machine, and I look back and think about what it was like 30 years ago cooking pancakes to try and convince kids in Northern Kentucky to swim early in the morning and year round.  At that time, 30 years ago, the only way that I could achieve this was if I told the parents I would make the swimmers breakfast.  In those early days we practiced from 5:30 to 7 in the morning and then I would cook pancakes or something for them three mornings a week.  I finally got some women to get involved with this.  Some of the mothers got involved, but you can imagine me doing this.  It has been a long journey from then to now.  You too may be struggling with things but you too can make the journey and will some day be able to look back on where you came from.


I remember that way back then I used to drive a Caterpillar D-7 tractor.  Yeah, I was driving a bulldozer.  I did that to support my habit because I wanted to be a coach and you just do things to be able to make it happen.  It doesn’t matter who you are and what you are doing.  If you have a passion you will find a way to be successful at it.  You find a way, and that relates to your athletes just as well as it relates to your life.  Sometimes when I am sitting in front of the team and I want to make a point or to get a rise out of them, especially if I am talking to the girls, sometimes I will say, “Well I used to drive a dump truck”, and they will kind of have a look like “What?  A dump truck – what is this guy doing”?  Then I will say, “Sometimes I drove a bulldozer too” and then I will kind of catch their attention.  Then when I tell them that I used to work in sewers, all of a sudden they will go, “What am I doing around this guy?  I can’t believe he is coaching me”.  Sometimes it is good to share something like that to let them know how much it takes to be successful and get to your goal.


Getting to the topic at hand, can weight training translate to faster swimming?  I really think so.  I have no doubt in my mind, and I want to share a few things with you about my general outlook on weight training.  I know that some of you are coming from a place where you don’t have access to weight training.  Well, we are going to talk about dry land with that in mind, so I will give you some ideas that I think will make your kids stronger and help them to be better as well.  I have always felt like the majority of the time strength is a positive, always a positive.  You are getting stronger and that is a good thing.  There are some exceptions to that when we consider body type.  If you have someone that is incredibly naturally strong and muscular and maybe their flexibility is limited, I probably wouldn’t weight train with them.  If you have someone that is very strong but doesn’t have great feel for the water, I may not weight train with them.  Also, we never lift weights with our distance swimmers.  I know that differs from some programs, but everybody does what they think is best for their program.


Our program is three times a week.  We exclude working the traps and deltoids directly.  We do not try to do anything for trap or deltoid development.  This is something that I talked to Eddie Reese about quite a bit.  We just feel like building the traps and deltoids limits their ability and it fatigues them because of over-development of those muscles, so we try to stay away from that in our program.  Our overall goal is about strength, getting stronger.  Anything that we can do to get stronger, we are going to do it.  We design it by our own staff and we design it with our weight staff at the University.  Our strength program runs parallel with our season.  When I say that I mean that when we begin to rest for meets or when we begin to make changes, we also begin to make changes in how we are lifting so it definitely runs parallel with our swim season.


I will answer some specific questions about sets and reps and things like that, but with all that is on the web and with all the different publications about weight training, I can not imagine that you cannot pick up something in this area that you feel would work in your program and you are comfortable with that would make your athletes stronger.  My philosophy is that we go to the weight room for one purpose, to get stronger and it is not necessarily sport specific.  It really is not, probably not sport specific at all.  We take the strength that we gain there and then we apply that to what we do in the water and we also do that by doing some dry land.


Before we talk about dry land, I want to tell you a story about Amanda Beard.  I am very fortunate to coach her.  You know the old saying, “Talent makes you look good and I sure do know how to wear it”.  This young lady has been tremendous in our program and has just done a lot for our program to say the least.  I feel like our program has obviously done a lot for her.  Amanda is not someone that you take into the weight room and she says boy, just let me at those weights.  If you have seen Amanda, she is a very beautiful young lady.  She has been featured in a few magazines and I am sure some of the men in this room have probably seen that, so you know that she is a beautiful young lady.  She is not someone that likes to go into the weight room or who wants to be a terror in the weight room.  So at the end of last summer at the World Championships she was second in the 100 Breaststroke, but compared to the field, physically compared to the field, she was not in their same class.  So I started thinking, this is going to be an issue.  This is going to be a problem because this is someone who is primarily a breaststroker, but does not look and does not have the same strength of her competitors.  She has a great feel and she has got a great stroke, but she does not have the strength so I began to plant the seed in her head about swimming another event which was the 200 Individual Medley.  She had swum the 200 IM before, but she had never really swum it, not at any kind of international competition.  So the first big time she is swimming it, besides at Nationals, the first time that she is going to really swim the 200 IM will be the following year at Olympic trials to try and make the Olympic team.  Anyway, my point is not about the 200IM as much as it is that if I cannot get her to lift and get stronger then I think we are staring down the gun barrel, and we may be limiting her to one event and possibly one medal and that would be the 200 Breaststroke.  I felt like Amanda needed to address the issue of strength to get better in the 100 Breaststroke.  But she doesn’t like to address that so I am looking ahead thinking that we need to do something because we want to make this Olympics coming up, and I think we have a great opportunity.  She just broke the World Record in the 200 Breast at the World Championships and looking down the road I am thinking we have to make some changes.  My point here is that I looked ahead and we got involved in another event because I didn’t have a lot of confidence in her 100 Breaststroke.  She did medal in the 100 Breaststroke in Athens and she had been second at the World Championships the summer before, but I just felt like if we were not going to take on some weight training then we needed to be looking some place else in order to make the Athens experience successful.


I bring that up only because as we are talking about weight training with individuals.  It doesn’t matter what level you are dealing with.  It just matters about the individual and how much they are going to buy into what you want to do.  Whether it is Amanda Beard or whether it is your best 12 and under swimmer, if you can do some body strength with them and I am going to talk about dry land here in just a minute, if you can do some body strength with them, they are going to get better.  Strength is always a positive and I don’t see it any other way.  Do I think that dry land can make a swimmer faster?  Yes, without question it can.


The goal of our program is core strength, to handle your body weight for strength, endurance and injury prevention.  I will say that again.  Our program is designed for core strength, being able to handle your body weight, strength, endurance and injury prevention.  We do some running in our dry land program but if someone asks the question, “Do you think running makes you faster in the water?”  I would have to say probably no.  Does running accentuate your fitness?  Yes, absolutely.  Can it help a person become lighter?  Yes.  Weight-bearing exercise, in my book, is the only thing I have seen that can take weight off of anyone.  So we use it as a complement to our program, our water program, and we usually do it for the first six weeks of the year.  We have some people that run throughout the year, but the whole team runs for the first six weeks and then we do a run for charity the first week of October.  It is something we have been doing for a while now and that is kind of how we generally end our running program.


In our dry land program we use surgical tubing.  We use medicine balls.  We do a lot of pull-ups.  We do a tremendous amount of abdominal work, and we do bands and weights for injury prevention.  That includes internal and external rotation and all the different things that you do to prevent any type of shoulder problems, or at least to try and prevent any type of shoulder problems.  As I told you before, our distance kids don’t lift weights.  I feel that with the direction we are trying to go with them, we should not do any type of lifting with them.  I will tell you a little bit more about their program on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  The whole team is on deck Monday, Wednesday and Friday doing dry land before we get in the water, and we do it for 30 minutes.  On Tuesday and Thursday the majority of our kids are in the weight room prior to coming up for practice and on those days the distance people are up for their dry land at 2 o’clock.  The dry land that we do with the distance kids on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday includes a lot of push-ups and we do a lot of dips.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we do a lot of pull-ups with the whole team.  We do a large number of medicine ball throws with 10 to 12 pound balls.  We might throw for 50, 60, or 70 straight.  We just do things mostly as body weight handling exercises and then if we do well on that then we might throw a weight belt on for dips and things like that so that is pretty much what we do with our distance people.


I think if you are going to do a dry land program and I feel the same way about circuit programs, design it to where you feel like it is going to be good.  It is going to keep your attention and you think it is going to create success.  Don’t do it to fill time.  Don’t just say oh well, we will just throw in some extra, we will do some additional sit-ups over here or we will do this over there or we will just throw this in over there.  You don’t want to do that.  You are better off just getting in the water, depending on your time.  Some of you may not have enough water time.  I know what it is like not to have enough water time so you don’t want to frustrate yourself with not being able to do something.  Just let it go.  Focus on what you have got.  Focus on the present.  Don’t worry about what somebody else has and don’t think about what you wish you had.  But whatever you do with your dry land or with any circuits, don’t do it just to fill time and space.  For example, if we work 45 seconds on and 15 off but then say I don’t want to bore them to death so I am going to create all these different things and we are going to do it for six weeks.  If you do that I don’t think you are going to get a whole lot out of your dry land program.  Our dry land program is very consistent.  We are focused and we try to measure the success of it all the time.  You can measure pull-ups obviously.  You can see how your team is doing and to me it’s the only way to go about doing it.


I am going to move on a little bit to talk about our equipment.  When I say our equipment, I am speaking of our equipment that we use in the water, and there is no doubt in my mind that the equipment that we use helps us be better.  There is no doubt and I am going to go into detail and tell you exactly how we use this stuff.  We use the following things for equipment in our program.  We use what you are going to see that Sam has out in his booth.  There is an aluminum rack.  We call it a power tower and we designed that and had those built at Arizona.  We have 13 of them on our deck so we can have 26 swimmers going at any given time and we will go into detail about that.  We use snorkels.  We use fins.  We use surgical tubing and we use ankle tubes and bands and I will go into detail and tell you what some of that stuff is.  Our goal is to make the transition of land strength to water based power.  That is what we use the equipment for.


Let me tell you a little bit about these power towers.  We kind of developed them and the idea obviously came from the racks that were originally built.  We bought some of the original racks, but I didn’t like the fact that you could only go 11 or 12 yards with them so we took them to our welding shop and we extended one up to about 13 feet.  We added a pulley on the bottom and the top and the next thing you know we are going 25 yards with it.  The only problem, if you can picture it, was one of those blue racks being 13 feet high probably weighing about 350 pounds.  Trying to move them around on deck took everything that you had without killing yourself and everybody else around you.  I didn’t think they were very safe, but I liked the fact that you could go 25 yards with them.  You can do a lot more and see a lot more in a 25-yard space than you can in 11-yards.  We wound up buying eight of those and shooting them up 13 feet and to try to get them on and off our deck was a pain.  Plus we had some issues with the equipment exposed to the weather so I decided that after a few years of that I was going to find a way to do this and not have any weights.  You can see them upstairs.  All the weight is in the water.  It is in the bucket so all you have to do is pour it out when you are finished or just fill it up when you want more.  You just put marks on it and you can move it around with one hand.  It probably weighs 50-60 pounds so we really like them and we use them a lot.


Let me tell you some of the things that I think are great with the power towers.  First of all you can teach great technique with them because when the athletes are swimming you can put in a light amount of weight and you teach an athlete because they can find dead spots in their stroke.  You can teach them feel.  You can have them basically swim in place and they can begin to feel with their hand in whatever stroke they are doing.  When they put their hand in they know whether or not they are strong at that position or if they are losing water as they come through their stroke patterns.  They know if their strength continues or if they lose it so I think it is a great tool for that.  I also think it has kind of brought a whole new meaning to sculling.  You obviously want them to scull correctly.  You can put a little weight on someone and have them scull.  The next thing you know, you are not only sculling but you are also sculling with some power.  Talk about working on someone’s catch or a point in a stroke where they might have a weakness.  You can design whatever sculling drill you want to do with a little bit of weight on it and the next thing you know, it changes their stroke because they are feeling something they have never felt before.  When you think about it, when you break down a stroke, it starts wherever the point of entry is or the point of beginning to the end.  You want to be efficient and you can show them on film and they may say oh yeah coach, I see that.  Or you can have them do several drills and they say oh yeah, I got that.  Sure, I got that.  Then all of a sudden when you add a little resistance it makes a huge difference in their ability to spot and feel exactly what you are talking about.  I have found that to be positive.  It is just a matter of playing around with these things and we are nowhere near fully figuring them out.


With efficiency of stroke, picture this for just a second.  In order to get someone to swim faster, your goal is to get them to be as efficient as you possibly can.  It is just like measuring in the weight room.  If you want to measure how many repetitions they are doing and how much weight you can take, you can put it on and you can count the number of strokes and eventually begin to time it.  Limit the number of strokes that they take and the speed in which you want them to swim.  I mean, what better way to teach stroke efficiency than that?  And when you are doing that you are teaching them the very basis about how to get through the water quicker because they are feeling it and you can measure it.  I think, at least in our program, it works for me because I am kind of a simple-minded guy.  The more ways you have of measuring something, makes it is easier to sell to people.  So just like in the weight room the kids will ask, am I getting any stronger coach?  Well, let’s see, a week ago you were doing 10 reps with 90 pounds.  This week you are doing 10 reps with 110 and I would say, “What do you think Joey?  Do you think you are getting stronger?”  It is pretty obvious and the same thing can be done with these towers.  I feel like they are great for working with efficiency of stroke and number of strokes.


We also use the towers a lot for kicking, both under water and on a board.  Again, it is the same thing.  You can measure a person’s improvement and tomorrow in my talk I will talk about our program and what we do.  There is a workout on Monday afternoon.  Every Monday we try and measure success and it comes off of a day and a half of rest since we had one practice on Saturday and then we had half of Saturday and all of Sunday off.  We kind of get back into the groove Monday morning with a practice that just gets us back in the routine, and then I feel like I can measure our kids’ success.  They like that because it is kind of like a grade report.  They see how they are doing on a week-to-week basis and you can make some judgment calls as to how they are doing.  You can tell a lot and you can tell them a lot just by what is going on.  Anyway, we have done some great kicking with these things and both under water and above.  We are going to talk a little bit more about kicking because it is something that we have increased the last couple of years.  But anytime you can do something that, if you can imagine tying a kid up to a rack or anything else like that, and have them do some kicks under water or kicks on top with the board and time them, even for age group kids, it is a great thing to do.  If you can’t do that, can you put something on them that creates a little bit of drag?  You can be very creative.  We just happen to have some money and we happen to have a design and we can do some things.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do it and you have the space and/or time and/or money to do that.  I think that probably the best thing about those racks that we use is the transition.  I don’t think that there is a better measurable tool than these things in terms of measuring a person’s land strength to waterpower.  I know that is a pretty strong statement and it is not because they are upstairs or anything else like that.  I just found that with these things the improvement that we have had with some people has been amazing.  And we don’t even know how to use them completely yet, but I feel like it is been amazing how we can measure and go from land strength to swimming power by using this tool.  We really think it is something special.


We use snorkels a lot.  At first I was kind of against snorkels.  A couple of years ago I thought it was just another gimmick.  At first I did not want to use them.  We now use them and from what I have seen, I think it is the single best freestyle training tool from a stroke correction and training perspective.  You can let your mind wander on the many uses of a snorkel.  One of the things that we do with snorkels is that we tape up about 2/3 of the hole. Duct tape works great.  I don’t know exactly how we got into that, but one day we were watching them swim and decided that maybe that might be a good thing to try.  The coaches that I work with are all so passionate about the sport and they all look for ways in which we can get kids to be better.  We were just kind of watching them swim up and down and one of our coaches says, you know, I wonder what it would be like if we put something to close that hole off a little bit.  We started thinking oh yeah, we could cork them or could we do something different and I think it was Rick Demont that said “How about some duct tape”.  So sure enough, we got the duct tape out and we grabbed a couple and said let’s try this.  So we just taped them up and it has been phenomenal.  It has been absolutely phenomenal.  We started this a couple of years ago.  When we started, I was surprised.  We started taping the snorkels up and it just sort of worked.


You come to these points with what you do and how you design stuff and what you think about.   I can remember when I was a young coach.  I probably shouldn’t say this publicly because maybe somebody will come back and slap me with a lawsuit after the fact.  Anyway, I had our kids doing some kick sets and I remember using things to make it harder to breathe.  I tried ping-pong balls in their mouths so they couldn’t get a whole lot of air down, and then I was worried that they were going to choke on them.  Then I tried racquetball balls so they were just kicking hard, breathing through their nose.  I was just one of those crazy coaches like every single one of you in here. I was just trying different stuff at different times.  You know, you just try and be creative with either nothing or something.  I am not a physiologist so I don’t know all the details about things, but most everything we do is just a bunch of theories anyway.  We are all trying something different, something that is going to make us a little bit better.  Whether it is balls in the mouth or it is tape over the hole, we try stuff.


I threaten them sometimes.  Someone told me a story that about forty or fifty years ago some of the Tour de France riders used to smoke and they would smoke while they were riding.  I am talking about during the tour and this is the truth.  The idea was that smoking cigarettes, particularly when they were going up the incline helped them climb better.  Now think about that for a minute.  Smoking while you are on a bike climbing in the Pyrenees is going to make you better.  A lot of them were doing it.  I didn’t believe it at first, but when I did a little research the fact was that they were doing it.  So every once in a while I threaten our swimmers that I am going to stick a lit cigarette in the top and make them swim. So I would not only make them swim with only a third of a snorkel open, but with a lit cigarette in the top.  And don’t let them do any flip turns so they can’t put it out.


So what I like about snorkels with freestyle and it can be done with other things as well is, especially with young kids, but with our kids too and we have some pretty fast freestyle swimmers is that every time they take a breath they become inefficient.  They either get out of line or they roll too much.  The next thing you know is that one shoulder is dragging too deep under water.  When I say they become inefficient, I am even talking about some of our fastest kids so I really see it as a great tool.  Just put it on and they do not have to worry about taking a breath.  They can stay more efficient and you can work on their catch, on keeping their kick steady, on their hip roll, on their shoulders or whatever.  You can do so much when they don’t have to worry about taking a breath.  When some of them take a breath, it is like the lights go out momentarily and their stroke falls apart.  So for us, they have been great.


The other thing that I really like about them is kicking in a streamline position.  There is a lot of discussion as to where the proper head position is now.  Most everyone in this room is old enough that when you began swimming, you were taught that the water line was supposed to hit you at the hairline.  That has changed a lot.  It has changed a lot because we got smarter.  It has also changed a lot because of how a person’s body rides in the water.  So when we do kicking with the snorkel, just streamline kicking, it is pretty interesting to watch the height of the snorkel with different athletes.  Sometimes you barely see the snorkel out of the water because we just have the standard one and sometimes you see the snorkel substantially out of the water.  They can learn to play with their head position with this and it makes a big difference in their balance and how they ride in the water.  So if you are in a long course pool or even if you are in a short course pool, you can just start off by kicking.  Let them figure out where their head position is best and then allow them to begin to stroke.  Doing stroke drills with a snorkel is also great because again, they do not have to worry about interrupting the drill with a breath.  We do what we think works.  Try taping up the snorkel.  Everybody has got to try that if you have snorkels.  Some of the stuff isn’t cheap.  Snorkels are expensive.  They are 30+ dollars apiece I think, but it will be the best 30 bucks you ever spent.  Not only that, you can really terrorize your kids by threatening them with that duct tape and a lit cigarette.  I will tell you that it works.


We use fins quite a bit.  I think one of the great things about using fins is also maintaining body position.  I am speaking mainly about backstroke, butterfly and freestyle.  Think about it.  If you are going to teach someone to swim a certain way, you want to teach them to maintain better body position.  By just having that little bit of oomph, that little bit of extra speed that the fins provide helps you get your point across a lot quicker.  If your athletes are anything like mine and mine are a little dense, it takes them awhile to figure out exactly what you are trying to work with and what you are trying to get across.  Fins are great tools to elevate the body and get them in a place where you can make better corrections so that they can feel things a little bit better.  I also feel like they are great for ankle flexibility.


I will tell you a quick story about Ryk Neethling.  He is a South African who was a nine time NCAA champion and he just anchored the World Record 400 freestyle relay at the Olympics.  Ryk was a distance swimmer.  The guy did some incredible things when he was in college.  Right after he left college he finished off and he stopped swimming for about six or eight months.  He really missed it and wanted to come back, but he said coach, “I don’t think I can continue.  First of all, I don’t think I have the time and I don’t think I have the drive to continue being a distance swimmer”.  Many of you coaches have heard that story before and probably would think this is going to be a disaster.  This is somebody that doesn’t know what else to do with his life, so he wants to come back into swimming but transform himself from a distance swimmer to a sprinter.  You scratch your head and say to yourself um, chances aren’t real good here.  Well, I responded, you have been such a great athlete and you have been incredibly loyal to us, sure we are going to give this thing a go.  Let me preface this by saying he had been on our 400 freestyle relay at the NCAA meet.  That was on the same day that the mile was swum.  He would swim the mile the very first event and then about an hour and a half later he would anchor our 400 freestyle relay.  He did a great job.  So I had seen him swim this, and I actually believed that this transition could be made so I don’t want to downplay it too much.  But the biggest weakness in Ryk was his inability to kick.  He could not kick at the level that the greatest sprinters in the world kicked so we spent a tremendous amount of time kicking with Ryk over the last couple of years.  One of the tools that helped us increase his flexibility was fins.


Fins are great because of the position of flexion that they force your foot into.  This can be done vertically or horizontally.  Sometimes vertical is better.  Both ways, they assist you with flexibility and they make a difference.  Obviously you can use them for speed.  There is nothing like trying to get a dead tired swimmer to go fast, but if you tell them to put fins on, they all of a sudden perk up in a hurry.  They think this is great because they know they are going fast.  They can generate more power with the larger surface area, so it is a great tool to create speed.


We don’t do any formal lactate training in our program, but I learned something over the time that I have watched some of the kids that may have had shoulder problems.  Believe it or not, some of our Olympians had shoulder problems during training camp and couldn’t swim and they would put fins on and do some quality sets.  Maybe they were supposed to do swimming with fins on.  Looking at the lactate readings from that, we can see that fins will drive it way up.  So if you think you are getting the most out of the speed work that you do, if you throw some fins on them, I guarantee that you are going to take it up another level.  I didn’t know that until I saw it and saw the blood test readings after they did the pricks on them and saw how it would elevate the readings.  That is a good thing that you can work on and it is a good thing that can help you to train your kids even a little bit better.  The last thing that we do with fins is we throw paddles on too and we swim with fins and paddles.  Fins and paddles work at any distance, but I think it works great in 50 meters, in a long course pool.  You can spike the lactate more.  In a long course pool, you have more strokes without an interruption of a turn and it allows them to reach speeds and power that obviously they cannot reach without having any type of equipment on.  We do some very serious speed work with fins and paddles at certain times.  You can’t do it all the time because it is very, very difficult.  It really trashes them, but doing it 50 meters and doing a high lactate set of 50 meters makes a big difference in the kind of power that you can generate.  It is a great tool for that.


We also use surgical tubing.  For most of you that is probably a little bit more realistic and a little bit more practical.  Most of the surgical tubing that we do since we have these other pieces of equipment is speed assisted.  We will be pulling people and they will be coming with the cord to increase their speed and increase their feel at going at a greater speed that they can generate by themselves. Most of the time the surgical tubing is done speed assisted.  We do use it as resistance as well.  You can use it lots of different ways.  You can use it in a regular set.  It doesn’t have to be limited to pulling it down and then swimming back.  You can do 200’s with tubing if you have a couple of people in a lane.  They each take a side.  They can be pulling it out and coming back with it.  You can do a longer or shorter distance with them too.  I think it is great.  I don’t know how long surgical tubing has been with us, probably thirty years or so.  I think it is a great way to assist in teaching.  You can do the same thing with it as far as letting someone go out and swim against resistance, but not go too far and not swim too hard.  Once they get a little bit of tension on it they can begin to feel dead spots in their stroke.  They feel where they are strong and where they are weak.  It is the same thing that can be done with the rack.  Since we have the rack I feel like that it is a little bit better tool for teaching.  I think using tubing for speed-assisted swimming is a great idea all year long, not just when you are starting to rest your athletes.  When your kids are tired or when you want to generate some excitement in practice, start doing some things where you time them coming back with the tubing.  It just kind of perks them up.  There are lots of different ways to use it.  Let your mind be creative.  You can figure out ways to make it work for you.


In the water we also use a little tube that goes around the ankles.  It is an inflatable tube and we have been using this for a long time.  It is mostly used with the distance people.  Some of you might use parachutes and things like that.  We have never used those so I cannot make any comments about them.  For us, swimming some long distances with tubes on is a great way to increase strength endurance.  We usually pull with paddles, a pull buoy and a tube around their ankles.  With your other kids, not just distance people, you can shorten the distance and you can do some power stuff with those things so that is something that we have used a long time.  I use it primarily with the people that do not do weight training.  The days when the other people are lifting in the weight room, we are doing something with the distance people.  We are doing some other things in the water to try and gain strength, endurance and that is one of the tools that we use.


The other thing we use is a regular black band around the ankles.  Your mind can kind of run wild on stuff like this.  When some of the kids first put it on, if they don’t have anything else on, they will probably say something like, “Coach how do I keep my legs from sinking”?  Well, you probably need to pick up your tempo.  It can be a great tempo elevator.  If their legs are low, the only way that they are going to get up on the water is if they get some tempo and they get some forward movement.  I like to use it for that purpose.  It is great for tempo and it teaches them to pick their tempo up without losing any feel for the water.  They can pick their tempo up and generate some speed forward without any other kind of power.


When you are working with your club, your university team or your high school program, I want to close with a couple of comments about the facility that you have.  Make sure that you don’t feel that you are being inadequate with what you have, for lack of a better term.  You can’t get frustrated by the things that you don’t have.  I have gone to some places that have incredible facilities, lots of things and gadgets and big budgets, but that does not necessarily dictate success in my mind.  If you have a pool you can be successful.  How you use your pool is the most important thing.  If you have equipment you can be successful.  If you don’t have equipment, you can still be successful.  What matters is how you use the stuff that you have.  Make sure that you stay in the moment.  Focus on what you have and don’t get carried away with what you don’t have or what you wish you had.  All that does is to create frustration and it will take your eye off the ball.  What is going on right in front of you is the most important thing, so I hope that in the course of your careers you never get too carried away with the things that you can’t do or that you don’t have because that is a needless waste of energy.  Make sure you stay focused on what you have and take care of the kids that you have in front of you.  As long as you do that, you are going to be successful.  You are going to have some sort of success.  Always be open, be open to anything.


Some of you have some questions.  I will be happy to answer any questions about what we do or about our weight training or anything.


Yes, we have a preference for a type of fin.  We like a fin that is a little bit more flexible because it generates a little bit more speed.  You could say that a stiffer fin will make you go faster through the water.  It will, but you can’t stay with it very long.  It will either tear your feet up or it would fatigue you.  We use a variety of brands, but we look for one that is going to have a little bit of flexion to it and that is a little bit softer rubber.


Share one of our secrets.  You got it.  We do some kick sets with these bands around our leg.  I told you we were kind of freaky in Arizona.  We put a band around and we kick freestyle and backstroke with this band.  Again, it was just one of those things.  We were sitting on deck one day and one coach says hey, I wonder what it would be like to kick with a band on.  Of course everybody looked at him like what the heck are you talking about?  We started talking a little bit more and said yeah, let’s try that and see what happens.  We put the bands on and of course all the kids thought we were going to pull and we told them to get their kickboard.  As usual when we try new things, they thought we were nuts.  We like to see their initial reaction when we try new things.  We feel like kicking in the cylinder is huge.  We always want our kids to kick in the cylinder.  We don’t want our kicks to get out of the cylinder.  As you roll side-to-side or anything else, we do not want to kick outside of the cylinder.  That is important to us.  So we decided to put these bands on and have them kick.  It not only keeps the kick in but it causes them to really work the hip flexors.  You can imagine when you can’t get too far extended one way or the other.  You would be surprised what the kids will say at the end of that.  It is a great teaching tool.  It has been great.  We don’t do it a lot, but we do it as a teaching tool and sometimes we do it for short periods like 25’s to teach the legs to go quickly.  What do they say?  Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then so we found one in that.  We think that it is a good tool, but I am going to talk tomorrow about our program and how we integrate kicking into it.


The question is about the tubes around the ankles.  They are actually inner tubes, but they are very, very small.  They are not twisted.  For a big person to get both feet in there gets a few four letter words flying around because it tears the hair off their legs but we just say be quiet and put it on.  We are having a hard time finding them without the valve stems.  That is not a very pleasant thing.  Maybe one of the companies here would like to start making tubes again without the valve stems.


We have never used the really short fins.  We have always gone with regular fins.  I don’t know why.  We have just never been into cutting them off or never used much of the Zoomers.  We feel like if you put a fin on, you want to go fast.  If we just want to kick hard we can take the fins off and we can kick a lot so I feel like short fins defeat the purpose of what we want to use the fins for.  We try to generate some speed with it.


It’s different with different people.  It is hard to get some guys out of the weight room.  It is not just guys.  Some athletes just kind of fall in love with the weight room, and they think it is the place to be.  I cannot deny them the opportunity to get stronger, but yes, we pull them out anywhere from six weeks in and we try and make the transition by maintaining their strength by doing some dry land work like push-ups and some dips and a few things like that.  We also increase some of the use and we might increase the weight to make the transition better with our racks.  You just have to find the right mixture for your athletes and for their body type and make sure that they get enough rest.  The last thing you want to do is show up on the deck of the big meets and be under-rested.


Let me clarify about lactate.  We do lactate type training in our program.  Pardon if I misspoke earlier.  We just don’t do lactate testing.  We don’t have the equipment or the time to do that.  Whenever I am fortunate enough to be around USA Swimming and they are doing testing or around someone that is, I try and pay attention so I can gain as much information as I can and try to use that in our program.  But we don’t have the access, time or money to do that.  Tomorrow I am going to talk about our program and how we train and what we do with that and with the mental approach because I feel like that is a huge part of swimming that we have not really tapped into enough.  We will talk a little bit more about that tomorrow.


Thank you very much for allowing me to talk to you this morning.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news