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5 Swim Practice Habits That Will Help You Swim Faster

1. Chunk your workout.
Dedicate a specific distance to specific technique elements, speed, or effort level. For example, swim a set of 10 x 25 yards fly focused on keeping your head motionless at the surface of the water on the non-breathing strokes.

2. Commit to an improvement plan.
Set a short-term goal and determine how you will measure progress. For example, establish a base line stroke count for 25 yards/ meters and figure out how much variability there is in a given workout. Work on stroke count consistency before setting improvement goals.

3. Construct bottom-line instructions for each set.
Plan each training set using DIRT – distance, interval, repetitions, and time for each swim. Then, practice deliberately by following your plan for each set.

4. Focus on single technique adjustments.
There are two reasons for this. First, it is very difficult to maintain technique when fatigued and second, many elements of technique are complicated and must be learned in sequence. For example, a swimmer must control head position before addressing arm motions. Once one technique element is mastered, another can be added.

5. Give your body the time and fuel it needs to recover.
According to Dr. Joel Stager, Director of the ‘Doc” Counsilman Center at Indiana University, improvement happens with recovery – not stress, killer workouts or thought-free yardage. Dr. Stager is also a firm believer in the benefits of chocolate milk immediately after each practice to help the recovery process. (Learn more:

By | November 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

5 Scientific Concepts Behind Optimal Technique

Do you know the real effect science has had on swimming? Here are 5 of the most important scientific concepts behind today’s most competitive swimming technique.

1. Swimming forces are composed of both lift and drag.

Why is this important? Research on lift and drag forces made it possible to determine optimal angles for the hand pitch and the hand path that would maximize propulsion.


 2. Hand speed must increase throughout the underwater motion.

Why is this important? During the underwater motion of all strokes, a swimmer should continually increase hand speed. Hand acceleration is critical for faster times.


 3. The Index of Coordination (IdC) quantifies the relative positions of the arms during the stroke cycle.  

Why is this important? When a swimmer is completing the push phase with one hand, he or she should immediately begin the pull phase with the other hand. This technique adjustment (creating a positive IdC) produces a more continuous source of propulsion resulting in faster times.


 4. The Law of Levers applies to the strength of different arm positions.

Why is this important? Applying the concept of leverage (i.e. the Law of Levers) makes it possible to determine how best to position the arm throughout the stroke cycle.


 5. The Drag Coefficient quantifies the impact of technique changes.

Why is this important? An accurate measurement of technique provides valuable information that allows both the coach and swimmer to evaluate the benefit of any technique improvement.

By | July 21st, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Unconventional Backstroke Start

Racing starts can vary from swimmer to swimmer, but there is one constant: the desire to start the race as fast as possible. Based on biomechanics, we’ve got a take on the backstroke start that you may not have seen before. When executed correctly, this small change helps swimmers begin their race with maximum propulsive force.



Swimmers typically swing their arms above their shoulders on a backstroke start. This motion causes the swimmer to distribute force at a more downward angle on the wall—sometimes even causing feet to slip.

A swimmer will have less chances of having the feet slip on the wall and will be better able to generate propulsive force if the arms swing back below the shoulders and into a streamline.




Give it a try on your next backstroke start!


By | June 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fly Stroke Counting Exercise

If you’re reading our blog, you’re at least a little interested in swimming biomechanics and our science-based approach to technique. One question we often hear from coaches is, “Where do I start?”

It’s a good question: How do you begin to introduce this new approach to your club?

We suggest that a great way to begin is with numbers! In fact, we believe that quantitative data is the most valuable feedback you can give your swimmers. Happily, stroke counts provide quantative data that can help identify a swimmer’s strengths and weaknesses.

The stroke counting exercise below will help you gather quantitative data from your swimmers and use it in a meaningful way.

In a set of 25’s fly on an easy interval (like 1 minute), have swimmers count their strokes at increased levels of effort – 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% and 100%. Record the counts. (Make sure their push-off is consistent and they move their arms continuously.)

  1. Look at the variation with perceived level of effort. (Overall, each swimmer’s butterfly stroke counts should not vary more than 1-2 strokes in any effort level.) It is typical to see swimmers with low stroke counts for lower effort levels, and much higher counts (around 5 more) for higher effort levels. It is natural to move your arms faster when you want to go faster, but an increase in stroke count indicates that technique is suffering as a result.
  2. Working with your swimmers individually, identify what element of their technique is failing at higher effort levels. Maybe their breathing becomes exaggerated, or the arms are not completing the push phase. Discuss with the swimmer and make suggestions for improvement.
  3. Repeat!

Implementing this stroke counting exercise on a regular basis can help you track progress and skill mastery. And it gives you a clear way to add data – and science – to your workout.

By | May 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Phelps vs. Manatee

Just for fun, we thought we’d take a look at how the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, compares to a few familiar aquatic animals. You might be surprised at the results!

By | May 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Triathletes: Losing your race on the swim leg?

The competitors beating you in the water aren’t faster because they spend more time in the water. They’re faster because they have better technique.

Many triathletes stand to make substantial time drops in their swimming leg by making small changes to their freestyle technique. And here’s the best part—technique changes (even drastic ones!) are best done in SHORT, focused training sessions. A 15-30 minute swim is plenty of time to concentrate on technique.

1.       Consult with a coach or technique expert on your personal technique strengths and weaknesses.

2.       Train with short swims (25yds are best) at a slow stroke rate where you are not getting fatigued.

3.       Concentrate on technique as much as possible during every training session. Don’t worry about swimming fast. As changes become more ingrained, you can slowly increase speed.

4.       As with any sport, swimming technique often gets worse as the athlete becomes fatigued. More reps done focused on technique when not fatigued, means more permanent technique changes.

Additional resources:

Sample Chapters of Approaching Perfect Freestyle E-book

Three technique elements you can’t swim well without

Video on freestyle head position


By | March 27th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

4 Things to Look for in a Swim Camp

Swimming World recently posted its annual listing of swim camps. For any swimmer or parent considering which of the available camps to attend, we have a few suggestions.

4 Things to Look for in a Swim Camp

  1. Low swimmer to instructor ratio. If you’re working with one coach and 40 other swimmers, chances are you will receive very limited personal feedback. You’ll get more out of the session if you receive individual attention.
  2. Emphasis on technique over conditioning. Conditioning is important, but a week of intense training will not have a long term impact on your physical fitness or your speed. To the extreme, over training can cause injury and technique usually gets worse with fatigue.
  3. High level of instruction. Check the credentials of the instructors and coaches at camps you are considering. If you’re serious about swimming faster, look for a camp that offers more than white board workouts and someone to call out the sets.
  4. A positive overall experience. Keep your goals in mind! Whether you want to swim faster or just have fun and meet new people, there IS a swim camp out there for you!
By | March 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments