Definition of speed, according to Ian Ratz, training consultant to the USA Swimming National Team: "Reaching your optimal performance by maximizing your propulsion and minimizing drag."
Ratz warns that dry-land work alone will not transfer into swimming speed, so he uses a harmonious balance of dry-land and in-pool training. Incorporate age- and event-specific dry-land routines into your workout three to four days per week, but know that speed enhancement requires water—basically in-pool work particular to the distance of each event you do. Borrowing words from Dave Salo's book, SprintSalo, Ratz says: "Why train slow for thousands of meters to race fast for a couple hundred?"
Ratz outlines three types of in-pool training you need:
Paced/Sprint Swimming Drills that require all-out effort at race pace for given distances
Walls/Turns Work that demands swimming fast from flags to the wall and from the wall to flags
Starts Exercises for explosion off the block, including clean entry into the water, powerful underwater kick with tight streamline and solid breakouts.
Two Ratz-recommended in-pool drills that combine the three areas are Flags to Flags and Squat Jumps to Sprint.
Flags to Flags
• Start underneath one set of flags to prevent pushing off wall
• Upon coach's signal, kick as fast as possible for 5 meters
• Finish drill by sprinting to flags at other end of pool
Sets/Reps: 1x10 with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Focus on tight streamlines // Use powerful flutter kicks off start and throughout sprint // Do not compromise form and technique for speed // Accelerate while swimming with little concern about time
Benefits: Teaches swimming-specific movements // Develops explosive zero-to-full-speed power without any wall/block assistance
Squat Jumps to Sprint
• In shallow end of pool, stand in streamline position
• Squat down so knees are bent 90 degrees
• Explode out of water while maintaining tight streamline position
• Return to start position; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 10x5 with 15-20 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Maintain tight streamlines // Feet should be hip-width apart as if pushing off wall // Get as high out of water as possible
Benefits: Explosion off blocks and walls to carry through the sprint
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