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udes86 04-22-2009 04:29 AM

Swimmers peak performance curve?
I know there is a lot of factors that may affect a swimmers performance at a meet --- wearing a suit, shaving etc etc. but all things equal is there any hypotheses about a curve on a swimmers ability to perform at a meet?

Take for example this chart, where the -# is equal to the number of weeks before taper meet and +# is weeks after taper meet. The swimmer with this curve would have hit the perfect taper.


I am wondering if this is how the curve may appear or if it would look more rounded or if it levels off where peak performance is possible for 4-5 days. Is there any research that has been done on this subject?
I am wondering because if a swimmer can compare his practice times before and after a taper meet then he/she could more accurately predict when their perfect date for taper may have been. This may help a swimmer in structuring a better taper for future seasons. Thank you!!

terry 04-22-2009 05:33 PM

Swimming Fast Repeatedly
It may be there has been research on how the body responds to increases in work or rest. But, historically, I think that there's been an overemphasis and over-reliance on the idea of needing to peak physically to swim fast.

That idea was based on a traditional approach to training which was to intentionally bring a swimmer close to failure through heavy training, with the idea that the swimmer would "super-adapt" when given rest. This was my experience as a college swimmer 35 years ago, and it was pretty much how everyone trained back then -- and probably until earlier this decade.

The seldom-acknowledged weakness in this approach is that, while it may work reasonably well for the metabolic systems (aerobic capacity, muscle strength, etc.), neurological capacity was poorly served. A swimmer who is barely surviving workouts, because of prolonged intensity or volume, is far more likely to "practice struggle" in their movements, hurting the neuromuscular imprint needed to swim fast.

As well, swimmers are likely to get stale mentally during prolonged periods of being kept on the brink of exhaustion.

These days, the coaches of elite swimmers are far more likely to give a moderate training load, rest briefly to let the swimmer adapt to it, then give a slightly more demanding load, etc. Rather than one major peak per season, they're looking to produce a prolonged series of smaller advances in capacity and performance.

You can see this reflected in the season-long performances of college swimmers from the most successful NCAA programs, like Texas, Arizona, Stanford, Auburn, Georgia, etc. They swim remarkably fast from November straight through to February, then even faster in March -- in this case with the additional aid of high tech suits.

Also, if you observe the performances of international elite swimmers in FINA Grand Prix meets, they swim breathtakingly fast for a period of two months or more. There are two Grand Prix circuits -- a short-course meters circuit from mid-October through early Dec, and a long-course meters circuit from late spring to mid-summer. In the fall, the elite swimmers on this circuit go from city to city -- often many time zones apart -- swimming a meet each weekend for perhaps 8 consecutive weeks. Their performances hold up with impressive consistency, at a very high level, the entire time.

I think this reflects the increasing tendency for top level coaches and swimmers to train in a far more sophisticated way than in years past. They definitely focus more on neural training (i.e. tweaking and imprinting technique and exacting combinations of Stroke Length and Stroke Rate), and rely less heavily on aerobic training. Neural function should be able to remain steady at a high level for extended periods. Not so physiological function.

udes86 04-28-2009 04:16 AM

Wow, thank you so much for responding. This is very insightful and definitely helps with what I was looking for.

Do you by chance know what a moderate training load would look like for some of the top schools you mentioned like, Texas, Arizona, Stanford, Auburn, Georgia etc. for their sprint group? How many yards are their sprinters doing in a week at different points in the season. How many hours are they spending in the weightroom or doing dryland?

Thanks again.

terry 04-28-2009 12:04 PM

I've had the opportunity to observe first-hand with the Texas men's team, as I've known Eddie Reese quite well since 1978 and have visited him every few years since. I can characterize what I observed on my two most recent visits as they represented different times in the season and thus different goals and considerations.
My most recent visit was late Oct 2007. They were past the early season "base" phase, but not yet in the midst of the dual-meet "competitive" phase. There was moderate specialization, but the training was relatively standard across groups. It was quite challenging, but not especially demanding for swimmers of that caliber. The volume may have been 8k-10k SCY per day. In one set I recall, the entire team did 10 x 200 Free on 2:30, which is plenty of rest yet still aerobic. I think everyone was averaging in the low 1:50s. Ricky Berens (who made the Olympic 800 FR 8 months later) descended from 1:45 to 1:43, holding 11-12 SPL. It was gorgeous.

My second-most recent visit was in January 2006. They had just swum a weekend dual meet with Arizona. While they won the meet, Eddie felt the team didn't look as sharp as he would like, considering that the conference championship was perhaps 3 weeks away. During my visit, Mon thru Wed, I saw little volume and no "work" until Wed afternoon. Most of their swimming was at warmup/recovery pace with strong technique focus interspersed with brief, but non-fatiguing bursts of "brisk" (not hard) swimming that I thought of as "nervous system tuneups."

I think he was watching them closely for signs of "pep" and sharpness. Apparently he saw such signs on Wed morning, because that afternoon what they did more closely resembled the training most people would expect of an elite team.

I think most would have been quite surprised to see how much restorative training followed the dual meet before they increased intensity again.

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