Resistance Technique Overview

Nearly everything we do at ONE Swim can be boiled down to ‘Resistance Training’. For us, this term sums up 2 different forms of training that we feel are essential to swim training. The 2 forms we focus on as coaches and as inventors of swim equipment are:

  1. ‘Resistance Technique’
  2. ‘Resistance for Power’

Resistance Technique

What is Resistance Technique?

No one will ever disagree that proper technique is the most essential element of any competitive swim program. Without the most fundamentally correct technique, all swimmers are doomed to fail and quit the sport. But ‘perfect technique’ is never expected to be a definitive point in a swimmer’s evolution. Every gold medal Olympian has aspects of their technique they are still working to improve.

What we might consider ‘perfect’ for a 9-year-old that has only been swimming for a year is far different from what is ‘perfect’ at a college level. It is impossible for coaches to expect the same level of perfection between the 2 levels of swimmers due to experience, body type, muscle development, lung development, and so much more. It is this ‘never ending pursuit’ that we at ONE Swim set as the basis for our own daily coaching strategies and how we develop the products that we feel we need for our own swimmers. We start with ‘Resistance Technique’ as one of the goal elements of how we train our swimmers from their first day until their last with us.

Within a few weeks, any new swimmer begins to learn how to move through the water with less and less effort. In many ways ‘less effort’ can be equated to ‘better technique,’ but we all know that is not always the case. In many situations, less effort can mean a straight arm pull instead of a high elbow catch (EVF), or less/lazy kicking habits, etc. The evolution of ‘perfect technique’ must constantly change and evolve from their first weeks until a swimmer retires from swimming altogether. As coaches, we must constantly change the feedback and conditions that we place swimmers in. That way they are constantly feeling their own flaws and getting positive feedback as they get closer and closer to ‘perfect technique’.

The key is CHANGE.

Doing the same drills over and over can just reinforce the same flaws over time. That is where ‘Resistance Technique’ comes in. When you add technique paddles, fins, small power bags on the calves, dual ankle buoys, and such, all swimmers of all levels FEEL their technique different than they did without the resistance. Resistance such a frontal drag and lateral drag make the swimmer feel what it takes to power themselves forward. They can intuitively feel how each change to technique can be propulsive or not. You can now do the same drills they already know, but with the added resistance, they must change and modify their technique to move more efficiently.

“Resistance Technique” means we are adding equipment to make the swimmer FEEL their movements better. The goal is to provide positive feedback when they move correctly (i.e. they move faster) and negative feedback when they move incorrectly (i.e. they move slower). By adding resistance, we are able to magnify that feedback. To avoid them becoming ‘numb’ to the feedback, you need to constantly change gear, combine gear, and modify the drills so they keep feeling new feedback and making new changes to their strokes.

When to incorporate Resistance Technique?

At this point, you have likely been visualizing swimmers that have only been swimming for a year. Resistance Technique is essential for every level of swimmers including Pros. If you dig into the training programs for most pros, you will see that they do use Resistance Gear of all sorts (even if just basic fins and paddles) on a daily basis, and for the most part, resistance is used to modify and enhance their technique on a constant basis.

As swimmers progress in their training, it becomes harder and harder to focus much time on ‘technique’ as the reality is that their cardio and muscle chains quickly become their most limiting factor in their ability to get state cuts, futures or national cuts. This is the next part of ‘Resistance Technique’.

The more a swimmer advances, the more critical it is to make every second of their training count. So many teams do 30-60 min of ‘warm up’ just to get their bodies ready to swim a main set. So much of their warm-up has no technique feedback or focus and is merely focused on getting their heart and muscles ready to race. By adding Resistance, drills, and purpose to warm-ups, we can make all of their time more efficient.

Instead of 15-30 minutes of kick warm-up every day with a kickboard, change their gear every day and make them engage new muscles while forcing them to improve their technique every day. Instead of kickboard ‘social kicking,’ our team mostly kick on our back with various gear on. We use gear such as Power Bags on their calves, different type of fins, ankle weights, weight belts, PowerChutes, parachutes, single-ankle buoys, and an endless combination of all of these products.

With 4-5 different products for kicking at our disposal, we can offer nearly a different combination of resistive stimulus each day for 20 days of practice. It is nearly a month before we repeat any of the same combination of gear. We are getting in their kicking just like any other team, but we are changing the form of resistance so nothing is ever really the same. Their muscle chains are evolving, their technique is evolving, and they are getting warmed up, all at the same time.

How to focus on stroke technique with Resistance Technique?

That was a kicking example of how we easily incorporate Resistance Technique into our own team’s daily kicking program. We also touch on their technique for their full strokes on a daily basis as well.

As a stroking example, let’s look at how we focus on the backstroke catch technique with our swimmers. There are many common ‘catch’ problems with backstroke: starting with a straight arm engagement, not getting their hand deep enough before they engage, and not enough shoulder rotation. Once a swimmer has such engrained habits, the problems are not noticeable to them anymore. By adding frontal drag such as our PowerChute and then our ideal IM Paddle to engage from the pinky, we can constantly and easily remind swimmers of what it takes to have a powerful catch.

By adding resistance in the form of a technique paddle PLUS frontal drag with our PowerChute, the swimmer is forced to slow things down and feel how their power has to come from a great catch position. With just 150 yards or so per day, you can easily incorporate Resistance Technique methods to improve the quality of their strokes.

Resistance for Power

The most common concept for ‘resistance’ in the swim industry is to build power and swim muscle chains. We have a lot of details on our website about ‘swim muscle chains’ but in essence it means that our swim movements require a unique, but specific order of engagement of a chain of several muscles for each movement we make in the water. By adding resistance gear to the same strokes and/or drills, will magnify the force that is needed to move through the water and thus help swimmers develop their muscle chains and power.

Two very simply ways to interpret Resistance for Power, is the use of paddles on the hands and/or fins on the feet. When we enlarge our hands with paddles, we add resistance and force our muscle chains to work harder. With fins on our feet, we enlarge the size/length of our feet and make our kick muscle chains more powerful. Of course, there are limits to this. If you have a paddle that is too large, you can cause technique problems with our catch. If we use a flat basic paddle, the swimmer will often tilt their hands to release that added power and thus we can cause negative changes to our strokes. Paddles that are too large can be fine as long as we are not racing too fast that the technique is hindered, or muscles are overstressed.

The faster we are racing, the smaller the paddles should be. We like to have large paddles for slower movements in which we can improve both the Resistance Technique and the Resistance for Power aspects at the same time. Then we only use very small paddles when we are racing at max speed with paddles.

Fins can cause too much knee bend if we use them for long distances at slow paces. Instead, if we use fins for full speed race pace, we can minimize the response time for a swimmer to over-bend their knees and build a great kick with maximum power and resistance. We don’t use long fins because we don’t feel they help with technique or power. Instead, we like short silicon fins that can be used at race pace. We also use wide silicon fins when we want slow pace to power their muscle chains more.

Resistance gear has to be properly chosen based on the level of technique a swimmer has developed and their size/muscle development. For newer swimmers (of any age) that have not developed their proper swim muscle chains, resistance gear should be selected more for technique over their value for power.

When choosing resistance gear just for power, we can minimize the risk we take on degrading their technique by only using them for short distances at sprint speeds. Our favorite combination of gear we use as Resistance for Power, is a large size of our IM paddles with our PowerChute on backstroke at a moderate tempo for around 150 yards. The bend at the pinky of the IM paddle highly encourages a high catch at the engagement while engaging the entire muscle chain. The PowerChute is a no-hassle parachute that is worn on the back to add frontal drag while we power up the stroke muscle chain. If we go just a few days without this combination of gear for backstroke, our swimmers will complain when we use it again that they can feel how their muscle chains have degraded in a short time.

It proves that the right resistance gear and swim movement combined can provide huge power benefits with very little time or yardage dedicated.