Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Erik Hochstein: German Swimming - Under Trained and Over Analyzed?

I can't believe I am linking to Timed Finals but this article is to good to pass up. Here is a snippet: "... The German swimmers in general simply do not train enough yardage. I am not a proponent of mega-yardage training methods, but swimmers in Germany simply do not put in the time in the pool. I would estimate that there are no more than 100 swimmers in all of Germany training 18 hours or more in the pool every week. [...] Even if one believes in quality over quantity, you have to put in 9-10 workouts a week at 1.5 to 2 hours per workout. Personally, my yardage increased by about 50% when I came over to the United States (and my times got slower, but that’s another story). [Link]

Erik also discusses how he trained while swimming for the German team or when the German team was a true powerhouse with people like Michael Gross.

Where is Michael Gross these days?


Scott said...

As I’ve become more involved in masters swimming I’ve naturally acquired some thoughts on today’s training methodologies. I really do believe today’s coaching is not all that different from what I experienced over thirty years ago. . . more sophisticated certainly, with a better understanding of the body’s underlying mechanics and related hydrodynamics, and definitely a quantitative improvement in the ability to custom a program to an individual swimmer’s needs: but overall what we see today is clearly grounded in past coaching practices. I have little doubt that a George Haines or James Councilman would quickly adapt to today’s new realities. For myself I’ve decided to concentrate on my aerobic conditioning and build up my conditioning base before concentrating on anaerobic and interval work for all out speed – a long term approach to swimming fast. Of course what I consider high kilometrage training is a walk in the park for elite swimmers, but in terms of overall speed during the endurance/strength conditioning phase of training the end result is the same. You slow down at first. A well known U.S. college coach on Floswimming talked about upping his swimmers yardage by 17% one season and found it too much. Now he limits any season’s increase to 5%. No wonder Eric Hochstein found himself floundering after seeing his yardage boosted by half. I really do believe, though, that because our sport is conducted in a different medium from what we live in the more time spent in the water the better the body moves around in it. The age old concern of quality versus volume will always be present of course, but to my mind when it comes to swimming the rule-of-thumb is ‘more is better’; and this becomes truer the farther away you find yourself from the elite swimming ranks.

Trev said...

My sophomore year in college, with the blessing of my coaches, of course, I halved my yardage in the pool for the bulk of the season. I'm primarily a sprinter, so perhaps it didn't affect me the way it might affect a distance swimmer, but I dropped more time -- and made more qualifying cuts -- that season than in any other season before or since.

Of course, every swimmer is different, and I do beleive a good foundation (base yardage) is necessary for decent results later in a given season. But for me, less (but more intense) time in the pool translated to one of the best seasons in my career.

Scott said...

"But I dropped more time - and made more cuts - that season than in any other season before or since"

This result is entirely consistent with what we know about peak performance; where 'resting' or 'tapering' before a big race is widely accepted practice. What Trev is recounting is the 'macro' approach to this technique which can result in increased performance over an entire racing season. Michael Gross referred to it "maintenance training". Of course how long the benefits of ultra low volume training lasts is entirely dependent upon the size of the base the swimmer has built up over the years. Bill Sweetenham figures it takes around ten years of training to acquire a sufficient foundation for elite training. Of course once you've drawn against your base conditioning you have to rebuild it so you can repeat the process - the so called four year cycle. Nothing good comes free in this world.

Tony Austin said...

Scott, when is somebody "in shape"? Would that determine what sort of workouts or premise?

Scott said...

That's where coaches come in, and what's considered in shape is highly subjective. Hochstein would smile at what you or I would think as 'fighting' fit; and there will be those who can watch Eric swim and say to themselves, "Well he must have been really good in his day". There are so many variables involved such as intended racing distances, age, natural talent, and the swimmer's conditioning base, that makes broad generalizations impractical. It comes down to what the swimmer and his coach think is best given the desired targets. For the older swimmers, though, preparing for any distance beyond 200m becomes problematic because of natural deterioration of our aerobic capacity as one ages: even if we could put in the 60,000 meters per week elite preparation calls for. That leaves us with the sprints where our strength doesn't leave us so readily. Technique, of course, stays with you forever once gained (or as long as you remain flexible enough). But in concept you want to have established enough training to be comfortable with a significant reduction in volume while still allowing you to cover the necessary day-to-day drills and speed work. This allows the body to rest and build up its energy even while training - and thus makes for better racing during this time.

Tony Austin said...

So apparently it is all about arbitrary or relative benchmarks. Is swimming 10x100s on the 2:00 in shape?

For you or I it's laughable unless we are going all out on each 100 than it torture. for 56% of inner city youths it would be incomprehensible.

Perhaps the benchmarks become internally mathematic in that the Vo2 max measurement etc. if all that could quantified, then that is when workouts will be tailored around maintenance and nuance.

Scott said...

You're right Tony. My team's coach is a twenty year old university student who not so long ago was a junior national in the 800, 1500, and backstroke. Sometimes he gets confused about just who he's coaching and throws in a scm set like 3X [50 fly@0:50; 50 free@1:00; 50 free@0:35; and a 50 free@1:00]. Now there are a few on our team who can make the intervals for all three - unfortunately I'm not one of them. He figures because he eased up on the fly interval and halved the number of sets it becomes at least twice as easy as when he swam it. Hey, for all I know he might have eased up on the free interval too. I explain the set calls for a forty five fly followed by a thirty free and for me I'm not going to make the second 0:35 interval. Guaranteed. That's inexperience in a coach. If you put in a lot of effort you probably could develop the appropriate algorithms for practice workloads based on existing conditioning, but thankfully we have coaches to do this for us. The better, more experienced ones will intuitively know when to push their charges, when to pull back, and what their limits are. It's difficult enough when you're coaching relatively homogenous groups swim teams normally organized around. Almost impossible, however, for a masters swim team whose members can range all the way from purely recreation/fitness swimmers through triathletes to former Olympians looking to pick off a few masters world records.