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Swim Practice Social Distancing Protocol- Sets and Workout Ideas

ONE Focus Headsets are Simple to Install:


True Swim Distances (Station to Station)

We use the word ‘true’ to let our swimmers know that they will be swimming an actual distance (50, 100, 200, etc…) from their Station Marker back to their Station Marker to finish.

This video introduces the ‘true’ concept for swimmers from their stations

Here we demo a basic ‘true distance’ race process from stations


Creative training as allowed by headset usage:
Headsets make a big difference in any style of swim practices. But during social distancing they can be a life saver. As a coach the headsets will open up numerous new ways to train. Click here for an article on this topic. There are plenty of safety reasons to use headsets to ensure that kids know where they are supposed to be doing and can be re-routed and stopped when they forget when to stop or such.

Perhaps the quickest thing you will learn is that for kick sessions and pull sessions, you don’t even need to define sets in particular distances. You can just have them kick or pull ‘non-stop’ as you change their gears on set intervals. This type of training can also be done with a whistle of course but with headsets you can make sure everyone is on the same ‘page’.

Here we review how a metronome can be used in a headset to control all the swimmers at the same time.


Wall-to-Wall Races:
With everyone starting along the lane lines, racing swimming against a stopwatch or just for effort between walls is something we have to rethink a little. Since in most cases we don’t have our swimmers starting at a wall, we need to add an ‘easy swim’ to the first wall and then after they finish their ‘wall’ distance they will need to continue swimming back to their station marker at the end of the set distance. This essentially can add 50 yards to any ‘wall to wall’ race swim component.

In the video we introduce the idea of ‘wall-to-wall’ swimming to the swimmers.

Here is a wall-to-wall example of a freestyle pull race with our IM paddles and Dual Ankle Buoy.


Warm Up Open Turn Drill:

Here is a drill that we use regularly as part of our warm-up session. It addresses 4 different components of open turns. Traditional turn practices with all the swimmers launching from the red line is not really possible with social distancing. With a headset you can combine these 4 drills during normal circle swimming and make corrections in real time with the swimmers. We swim freestyle between the flags to help ensure the swimmers don’t keep catching up with each other like they would if you did Breaststroke. As the swimmers reach the flags, they stop swimming freestyle and kick into the wall while they mentally prepare for their wall drill. The first 2 walls are for the ‘approach drill’ in which they plant and ‘absorb’ (bend) their stable hand and ‘elbow their brother’ with the interior arm. They pause for 2 seconds in this position while their body remains prone on the surface. The 2nd two walls are for the ‘sit up’ drill in which they first ‘approach’ with their upper body and aggressively pull their knees up under their core, keeping their eyes on their stable/wall hand and hold that ‘sit up’ position for 2 seconds. The 5th and 6th walls are for the ‘stare up’ drill. These start with the same ‘approach/sit up’ progression and then continue with an aggressive flow of the feet completely to the wall with a slight twist. They rest for 2 seconds with their eyes staring upward. The last wall is a ‘perfect’ turn with attention to the distance of a glide off the wall. This progression should be taught to the swimmers on a regular basis of each drill and use this 200 progression as a way for swimmers to engrain their improvements just prior to each full practice.


Circle Lane Swimming:
Circle Lane swimming is what we call the process of swimming 1 direction in 1 lane and then swimming under the lane line into the neighboring lane to swim the opposite direction. This is a way to motivate a group of 3-7 swimmers to pace with their leader and have a ‘clear’ lane for their strokes. By circling UNDER the lane line, you can start all swimmers at 6-10 feet apart in one lane and have them swim under the lane line off each of their walls. This removes the need to ‘circle swim’ with things like single-arm Butterfly. It works their underwaters by forcing enough undulations to get to the center of the neighboring lane.

Here we are doing a 200 IM with Circle Lane Swimming.

In this video we Circle Lane Swim with Backstroke in one lane and Butterfly in the other. This prevents any single arm Butterfly strokes and allows the swimmers to focus on both strokes in a lane without passing any lane mates.


80 Drill (Mid-Pool Flip Turns/Undulations):

This drill is a remake of a ‘55 Drill’. During Social Distancing we have all of our swimmers stationed along the lane line and off the walls. So to revamp the 55 Drill we have the swimmers flip under the flags with a tight ball and heels close to their bum for 180 turn. They stop on their back and do 3 undulations on their back, 3 on their side, and 3 on their stomach before breaking out to swim to the next flags. This is a great cardio workout and an ideal way to work on the tempo and quality of their undulations. We like to use this drill in between timed sets or other ‘effort’ components so we can push their ability to ‘dig deep’ on the ends of their 200 races.


Individual Medley Options:
There are several ways to swim 100 IM during Social Distancing in which some or all of the swimmers start in the lane and not at the walls.

  1. They can swim 150 total yards with an ‘easy free’ as they approach their first wall and then a ‘easy free’ to get back to their station marker.
  2. They can swim 100 IM in which they swim an easy free to their first wall and race back to their station marker with the freestyle leg of the IM (this is a true 100 yard distance – just splitting the 25 freestyle into 2 parts). The same can be done with a ‘true 200 IM’
  3. True 100 IM in which they start from their lane position with the Butterfly into their first wall. This version is a ‘true 100 yard’ distance but the front swimmers may have very little Butterfly in this version.
  4. True 200 FRIM (substituting Butterfly with Freestyle) can be swam by starting with freestyle from the Station Marker, then continuing with 50 more yards of freestyle (in place of the 50 Fly), 50 Back, 50 Breast, and finishing with freestyle back at their Station Marker.


Here are some more IM methods by using 2 lanes for circle swimming.


Salo 50:

This is a drill we invented based on so much of the methods from Dave Salo. Like the 80 Drill, it is ideal to fit into the middle of any workout set and can work with any type of kick equipment. Here is an example of this drill with Power Bags on the calves and fins. As a modification of our normal drill, for Social Distancing with lane line starts, we do an easy free to the first wall with a strong flip turn and push off then an immediate double arm flip turn under the flags with a 360 turn. After the mid-pool flip, they ‘superman kick’ with the head above the water and the arms out in front. After the second turn, they finish at their Station Marker with an all out back kick.


Tempo Trainer Synchronized Swimming:
Using a tempo app on your phone, you can play a metronome over your headset and get your swimmers in sync with their strokes. Even though some may be in opposite positions of their stroke, it makes an easy way to see who is following the tempo and who is not.

In this video we are using ‘knuckle wrap’ with flat paddles and no straps. We grab the paddles over the front so they lay on our palms and across our wrists. This is another thing we borrow from Dave Salo and we love this for all 4 of our strokes. For Butterfly, the knuckle wrap method is great for swimmers to focus on keeping their palms facing upward as long as possible on the recovery and then be sure the paddles are flat on the surface as the hands/paddles enter the water over the shoulders.


Building Tempo with Metronome App:

Metronome apps can be downloaded on your phone and played through your headset so all swimmers are stroking in tempo together. This is an ideal way to train the power required to sustain effort through long races such as 200’s.


Dive Starts with Social Distancing:

All swimmers need to regular dive from the blocks. This is great for cardio to get in and out of the pool and of course essential to keeping their dive technique sharp. While Social Distancing, there will be plenty of problems for each team to resolve, depending on the layout of their pool and available lanes. Our pool is very different from nearly all other pools but here you can see how we solved some of the problems by using cones to mark their locations so they don’t crowd each other while in line to dive. We also have them get out of the water in order so they are not walking past each other on the deck.


Flow Drills:
Eddie Reese promotes the use of ‘on the back undulations’ (or Flow) as something he does with college swimmers for 800 yards per day. This builds the core muscles so critical to the central connection for all 4 stroke types. In this video we demonstrate using Flow with the Pro Eel-Fin (and Junior size) for 100 yards. Our swimmers warm up with this drill every day. We rotate through a range of 8-10 different gear types each day to target their technique and muscles slightly differently. We rotate between no equipment, different types of fins, Power Bags on calves, Single Ankle Buoys, FlexRights, Power Chutes, parachutes, weight belts, ankle weights and other gear.

Here is our normal 100 flow drill with the Pro Eel-Fin

Another version of swimming 25’s from Station Markers is Flow on the back.

Here is our normal 100 flow drill on the back with fins, for time.


Underwater Undulation Training:

Underwater undulation practice is something we feel is important to incorporate into practices on a regular basis. Under Social Distancing conditions it is a little tricky with everyone positioned along the lane line, but still possible. In this video we showcase one way to work on underwater with the use of our Pro Eel-Fin.


Burn-Out/Blast Kicking:
Here is a simple kick drill for us when you have social distancing and all of your swimmers are staged at Station Markers. We are using headsets but you can do this same method with a series of whistles instead. We start then with a kick-in-place ‘blast’ kick and then swimmers sculling to hold their position with a large kick. On our mark (15 sec or so) we have them race their kick to the next station marker (about 12 feet away) and then rest for 15 sec or less. When they get to the front location of the lane, they kick through their turn and back to the back of the lane position.

Here is a simple introduction into the burnout kicking from station to station.

Some more reviews of the burn-out/blast kicking method


Power Bags on Calves Then on Feet:

Kicking with Power Bags on the calves is an ideal way to improve cardio while improving the quality of kicking from the glutes. The value of the Power Bags in this situation is how easy/quick it is to roll the bags down over your feet for even harder kick sets. We don’t typically do much kicking with the Bags on the feet with our age group swimmers as it tends to devolve into slow sloggy knee kicks. We prefer to kick for short distances with the Bags on the feet so we can keep the quality up and the effort high.


Additional ‘True Swim Distance’ videos:

Here we are doing a pull only with our IM Paddles and the Pro Eel-fin on their legs.

This video showcases a true 50 yard Back kick with power bags on calves.

Swimming head-up is a great way to push the cardio and train a high catch.


Another version of ‘heads up’ is with backstroke. We like to only swim half a lap at a time to reduce the stress on the shoulder joints

Here is an example of how we incorporate various drills into our social distancing sets. This is a freestyle combo drill of the Catch Up for 50 yards and 50 years of a hesitation drill.

One of our favorite drills is to use the Brute displacement paddles for breast pull with a dolphin kick or a flutter kick. This really trains a strong catch, good body position and timing.

A drill we learned from Dave Durden is 2 backstrokes on the left and 2 on the right. The key is to focus on using the core for a powerful transition when you alternate between left and right and then from right to left.


25 Yard Swim Options:
Swimming 25, 75, 125 and 175 distances can be a bit tricky if you are keeping all of your swimmers at their home location along the lane line and away from the walls.

This video kicks off the methods for racing 25 yards when you start along the lanes and away from the walls.

In this video we demonstrate one of several ways you can swim 25 race pace distances with any kick, pull, or swim drills. In this case the swimmers in the middle of the pool will return to their same Station Marker, but other swimmers have to know their ‘opposite’ marker in their lane.

In this video we have a pull session with IM Paddles and Dual ankle buoy for 25 yard races.

Here is a 25 race pull drill with the Pro Eel-fin and our IM Paddles. Pull sessions with the Pro Eel-Fin is great to connect the core muscles and the body rotation. This is great for freestyle and backstroke.


Heads Up FR/BK Strokes:

A great way to improve on the power of the upper body is with heads up strokes. This can be hard on the shoulders of course and should be minimized to short distances and minimal yardage per workout.