Link sets: A new concept for linking drill sets to main sets
After two years of working with coache in Australia at all levels, I have concluded that there are both many differences and similarities between their training programs. Some feel high mileage programs are very effective; others feel that low mileage is the way to go. Some believe passionately in weight training; others are just as passionate about not having weights included in their program.
Whatever the philosophy, though, all coaches do agree on one thing: they want to help their swimmers achieve the best. To achieve this, each coach must use his or her experience, skills and knowledge to answer one question: How do I most effectively improve the performances of each individual swimmer in the shortest possible time while never compromising on their long-term development?
If, as Sweetenham suggests, “swimming is a technique-driven sport,” and good stroke technique is a common element shared by all great swimmers, then the question could be rephrased as: “What is the most effective method of improving my swimmers’ stroke technique?”
One common element in most swimming programs is stroke technique development or refinement through the use of stroke drills. Most coaches use some form of technique development in their training programs, commonly using sets of drills to develop or correct strokes.
The key to the effectiveness of any drill is its ability to improve the whole stroke. The process from learning a drill to whole-stroke improvement could be summarized in three steps:
Learn the drill;
Master the drill;
Link the newly mastered drill to an improvement in the performance of the whole stroke.
In a training situation, this means that a key aspect of the learning process is the effectives of the transfer of learning from the drill to the whole stroke.
An example of a simple workout design for age group swimmers might include a warm-up, drills, main set, kick, HVOs and a swim-down.
In more detail, the workout might
be as follows:
400 easy/400 IM easy on 1:50/200 easy as 50 back/50 breast
6 x 50 one-arm freestyle (concentrating on shoulder and hip rotation/rhythm) on 1:30
24 x 100 freestyle on 1:45, holding max heart rate at less than 50 beats (MHR-50)
8 x 100 free kick, first 50 steady pace, second 50 each 100 fast (timed and recorded)
4 – 8 x 15 meters
600 easy as 4 x (100 reverse IM/50 back)
It can be suggested that in this simple example, the jump from 50 meters one-arm freestyle drill to 100 meters full stroke at pace in the main setwithout a deliberate, methodical linking process (or linking set)-limits the effectiveness of the drill and minimizes the transfer of the learning effect to the whole stroke.
Now, let’s rewrite the workout to link the learning/stroke development drill set to the whole stroke, utilizing a link set:
400 easy/4 x 100 IM easy on 1:50/200 easy as 50 back/50 breast
6 x 50 one-arm freestyle (concentrating on shoulder and hip rotation/ rhythm) on 1:30
6 x 100 freestyle on 1:45
75 drill/25 swim
50 drill/50 swim
25 drill/75 swim
100 free conc and hip rotation/rh
25 drill/75 swim
24 x 100 frees ing max heart ra ts (MHR-50)
8 x 100 fr first 50 ste ce, second 5 each 100 fast (tied recorded)
4 – 8 x 15 meters
600 easy as 4 x (100 reverse IM/50 back)
In this linked workout, the swimmers work on particular aspects of freestyle in the drill set. The learned and refined freestyle skills are then linked to the main set through a progressive transfer of learning from the drill to the whole stroke over a link set of 6 x 100.
At each rep in the link set, the coach is able to assess how well the drill has been learned and how well the swimmer is able to transfer the freestyle skills to the execution of the whole stroke.
The first rep (100 drill) allows the coach to determine if the swimmer can maintain stroke technique for a full 100 meters (the distance of the reps in the main set), and at main set pace. The second, third and fourth reps progressively decrease the drills component and increase the whole stroke component. The fifth rep in the link set is 100 meters of the whole stroke at the same pace required in the main set, giving the coach a final chance to assess the impact and effectiveness of the drill set. The sixth rep then incorporates 25 metc of irill to reinforce the key elements of of drills prior to tht main set starting. (Of course, the effective coach will also continue to mornitor technique throughout the main set and provide cnstant and immediate feedback to the swimmers.)
Following is a second example of a basic workout:
600 easy freestyle on 9:00/16 x 50 reverse medley order on 1:10/200 easy as 50 fly/50 back
5 x 200 desc. 1-4 on 4:15. (Fifth one timed and recorded with target under 3:00)
10 x 50 breaststroke arms/fly kick, concentrating on rhythm and even kick on 1:15
4 x (100 breast swim/50 breast kick/50 breast swim) on 4:30/200 back steady on 3:15
800 easy swim as 2 x (300 free/100 IM)
Now, rewritten as a linked workout, insert the link set between the drill set and the main set:
4 x 200 (rest as necessary) as:
100 drill/50 swim/50 drill
50 drill/50 swim/50 drill/50 swim
25 drill/25 swim/25 drill/100 swim/ 25 drill
50 swim/50 drill/100 swim
As in the first example, the drill set ( 10 x 50 breaststroke arms/fly kick) is linked through a progressive link set to the main set. Each rep in the link set gives the coach an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the drill set in its relation to the whole stroke and provides the opportunity for constant feedback to the swimmer during the learning process.
There are as many variations in the design of link sets as a coach’s imagination. General guidelines, however,
Link sets must provide a direct link between the performance of the drill and the execution of the whole stroke. There should be a gradual reduction in the drill component and a gradual increase in the whole stroke component over the link set.
The coach should use the link set as a mechanism to assess how well drills are being learned and how well the swimmer is able to transfer this learning to the whole stroke.
Link sets can be used before or after the main set. The purpose of doing a link set before the main set is to aid in the transfer of learning. Doing link sets after the main set allows the coach the opportunity to reinforce the aspect of the whole stroke learned during the workout under fatigue conditions (i.e., those conditions which closely simulate those experienced in competition).
For senior swimmers, link sets should include the key elements of pace, stroke count and stroke rate as well as the skill elements of the drill itself.
Although the two sections of this article were written independently and present the linking argument from two different perspectives, the aim of this article was to get coaches thinking about technique development and the use of drills in training.
Drills have little to do with easy swimming or “fillers” between swimming sets. If anything, the concentration and control required to perform drills with a high level of precision and accuracy makes the performance of drill sets the most demanding of training activities.
Whether using simple one-arm drills with age groupers or advanced stroke cl!tines at pace with senior swimmers, technique development through the appropriate use of stroke drills can make an enormous impact on the swimming performance of swimmers of all ages and levels.
Linking stroke drills to the execution of the whole stroke maximizes the impact of technique work and makes the coaching process more timeeffective and efficient. -By Wayne Goldsmith
About the Authors
Bill Sweetenham is Australia’s National Youth Coach. Wayne Goldsmith is the sports science coordinator for Australian Swimming.
Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Apr-Jun 1998
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