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Old 04-09-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default How Backstroke can Help Freestyle sets

I'm copying a portion of a thread on the Freestyle conference to here because it focuses on Backstroke.

Originally Posted by ScottMT View Post
I noticed that in Terry's sets he is balancing his free yardage with his backstroke yardage. I recall where some "expert" on shoulder problems recommended that the #1 thing that a swimmer could do to avoid shoulder problems is to swim as many yards of backstroke as free, every time. #2 was to stretch the chest and front shoulder muscles.

Terry, is that your reason for balancing your yards front/back or is there another one?
You're very perceptive. I've long enjoyed mixing BK with FR in practice. At first I didn't try to analyze why. Once I thought about it I realized it was for reasons pretty close to what you read. Backstroke seems better suited than any other stroke as a complement to Freestyle.

While I sometimes swim BK sets primarily for the purpose of improving that stroke, because I'm a freestyler, I do it more often to help my FR practice in some way. Most often, this means using BK for Warmup or Recovery.

When I use BK for Warmup I'm taking advantage of the fact that BK offers less mechanical advantage than free. Here are the two main contrasts I see:
In FR I can use upper arm rotation to recruit powerful muscles in the back.
In BK, reaching overhead and behind means you rely on relatively small muscle groups.
Propulsive Power
In FR you can draw power from the weight shift right from the start of the stroke, while your hand is still well forward of your head.
In BK, weight shift doesn't come into play until your arm is past your shoulder. Until then, you're reliant only on arm and shoulder muscles.

Those differences make touch and finesse far more critical to BK. This makes me keenly attuned to 'caressing' the water to avoid letting a molecule slip away. When I switch to free, I retain a noticeable amount of that improved touch.

Then there's the reason why BK is ideal as a Recovery stroke during intensive FR repeats or sets -- which relates to what you read about stretching the chest and shoulder muscles.

We use very similar muscles in BK as in FR. But we move our arms in the opposite direction. So muscles which contract forcefully during high-speed Freestyle, are stretching during restful Backstroke. Moving those muscles both gently and eccentrically is a bit like giving them a massage between efforts. My experience is that I feel better as I begin my round of FR repeats if I swim EZ Back for active recovery than if I (i) swam easy FR as recovery, or (ii) spent an equivalent amount of time in passive rest at the wall.

My practice on Friday Apr 7 is an example of what I describe above:
Set #1
4 x 50 BK
2 x 100 BK
1 x 200 BK
Set #2
4 x 50 (25BK25FR)
2 x 100 (50BK50FR)
1 x 200 (100BK100FR)

I used BK above to prepare for a planned main set of higher-intensity FR repeats. In both sets, I held same SPLs throughout set and endeavored to keep my pace the same as I progressed from 50s to 100s to 200.
E.G. My 4 x 50 BK were 53-52-52-50. My 200 BK was 3:25 -- all at 15SPL.

Set #3
5 x 100 FR on 1:30 Descend @ 15-16SPL
50 EZ BK
4 x 100 FR on 1:35 (Descend faster)
50 EZ BK
3 x 100 FR on 1:40 (Descend faster still)
50 EZ BK
2 x 100 FR on 1:45 (Ditto)
50 EZ BK
1 x 100 FR (Fastest)
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

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