Body Posture and Force are the Focus of This Workout of the Week

Jun 21, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Start of heat two of the Women's 50M Freestyle during the preliminary heats at George F. Haines International Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

By Ronald Hehn, Concordia College Head Coach

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 9. THIS workout is designed to increase overall velocity by increasing the athlete’s efficiency and force in the water. Efficiency is increased by proper body posture; force is increased by overcoming inertia.

The “Force” component increases the athlete’s ability to accelerate, which increases overall force. The athlete must make technical adjustments that increase force while maintaining efficiency. In order to counteract force achieved at the expense of efficiency, the athlete must re-establish proper body-alignment during the “Posture” component.

During the “Turn” component, the athlete must utilize proper posture during turns, push-offs, streamlines, and stroke technique.

The “Warm-Down” introduces the athlete to sub-aerobic swimming (i.e. the heart rate stays below 140 beats per minute); the body may utilize lactate generated during the “Force” component for energy.

*Intervals should not be the primary focus of the workout; feel free to adjust intervals in order to prioritize maximum technical efficiency. Remember: Increased power correlates with speed only if technical efficiency is maintained.*

“Roberts” – Proper “Bobs” – The athlete must fully submerge underwater and exhale before returning to the surface. In water, the lungs must release air with enough force to displace water; on land, the lungs do not encounter such resistance. The athlete must focus on utilizing the diaphragm to forcefully exhale. A complete diaphragmatic exhale clears out “dead” air that settles at the bottom of the lungs. A strong diaphragm is important to effectively breathe in swimming; it is a muscle that can be conditioned and strengthened. Strong diaphragmatic respiration is beneficial to maintaining proper body posture while breathing.

Proper Posture: Head: Have the athlete attempt to make a double-chin in order that the head rests comfortably on top of the spine. Shoulders: Swimmers often have anterior over-development which causes their shoulders to roll forward (i.e. hunched shoulders); the athlete may draw their shoulders slightly backward to align with the rest of the body. Pelvis: The top of the pelvis must be tilted backward in order to remove the curve in the athlete’s lower back. The athlete may imitate a dog that tucks their tail between their legs. Legs: It is acceptable for the feet to be slightly in front of the body to prevent the back from arching. However, the athlete must strive to create a straight line from the top of their head to their heels.

*Body alignment should be established first on land then transitioned to the water. Have the athlete place their heels against a wall, then attempt to flatten their entire posterior body on the wall.*

Warm-up: During the Warm-Up, the athlete must establish proper posture. During rest, “Roberts” are an opportunity to exercise the lungs and diaphragm. The rest interval is measured by executing 5 Roberts per 25 yards / meters swum (i.e. 5 per 25, 10 per 50, etc.) Yards: The athlete must complete one round per stroke in reverse IM order (i.e. Freestyle, Breaststroke, Backstroke, Butterfly). Meters: The first round is the athlete’s choice of stroke; the second round is the athlete’s specialty stroke.

Force: The most explosive exercises must be done early in the workout while glycogen stores are high and lactate levels are low. While some swimming workouts are designed to increase power, force is often neglected. Increased force is a precursor to increased power (Power = Force x Velocity).

The athlete is to begin from a motionless float at mid-pool. For example, if the pool lies North and South, the athlete must perform 2 stroke cycles North, 4 cycles South, 6 cycles North, and 8 cycles South (i.e. 20 cycles total, the equivalent of approximately 50 yards / meters swum). The athlete must change directions using an open or flip turn with an absent wall, reaching peak speed in as few stroke cycles as possible. The athlete is encouraged to experiment with different strokes.

Consider the equation: Force = Mass x Acceleration. Inertia (i.e. an object at rest stays at rest unless acted by an outside force) must be overcome in order accelerate. The greater the acceleration, the greater the force. However, increased force does not result in increased overall velocity unless efficiency is maintained. Thus, the athlete must strive to increase force while maintaining technical efficiency.

Posture: First, the athlete is to descend with proper posture to the bottom of the pool by exhaling completely and forcibly. The athletes should strive to sink as deep as possible before returning to the surface. Although it may be uncomfortable to fully submerge and exhale, the athlete must strive to maintain proper posture during the descent. Core strength is essential to successfully execute this exercise.

First 25: Upon resurfacing the athlete must push off the wall horizontally and streamline as far as possible without assistance from the kick. The remainder of the length may be done with a horizontal scull (i.e. head-first or feet-first). The body should be as parallel as possible with the surface of the water. For pools without a deep-end, the athlete may scull the entirety of the 25.

Second 25: The athlete must scull with the body in a vertical position with eyes facing forward. Feet may be kept slightly in front of the body lest the back arches due to frontal resistance from the water. For pools without a deep-end, the scull may be performed with legs crossed underneath the body.

Turns: The athlete must begin each repetition facing the nearest wall from a float beneath the backstroke flags. Next, the athlete must overcome inertia in order to accelerate and execute a proper turn at a BEST Effort. Following the turn, the athlete must execute the remaining 25/50 with efficient stroke technique.

The following 50 (yards) /100 (meters) is to be swum at a “cruz” effort; the turn (i.e. within the flags) must be swum at a BEST Effort. The athlete must balance power and efficiency in order to achieve maximum overall velocity.

Warm-Down: The Warm-Down is an introduction to sub-aerobic training. The athlete must monitor heart rate following each repetition. If the athlete’s heart rate exceeds 140 beats per minute, do not begin the next repetition until the heart rate drops below 140; monitor the heart rate each :30. For sub-aerobic sets, the heart rate determines the interval rather than time.

Ronald Hehn is entering his second year as head coach at Concordia, and is the founder of the DakotaSota Swim Club in Fargo. Hehn had an impressive collegiate career as a All-American at Indiana University, and also swam at both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. To see more from Hehn, check out his swimming workouts Facebook page.