There are many reasons for learning and developing your ability to swim the 3 other competitive strokes within your swim training. If you are well versed with the FC technique and looking for new ways to spice up your training this might help. Just like the Flip Turn article from last month, this does not suit all and many will not need it as FC tech continues to develop. I am sure many people will baulk at the idea while still struggling with FC, so this is not for all. A little time spent in the ‘off season’ working on the other strokes (Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly) will help your training, your enjoyment of training and its usefulness immensely. With the other strokes at your disposal, training sets will become infinitely more variable and interesting. These are of use during a post main set swim down to help relax the shoulders through a different range of motion after a big FC block. Obviously this is not for all. For some who have needed to ease the FC burden of tired shoulders or struggled to get HR up during regular FC swim training, it offers some other movements to aid your swimming.
Contemplate how the following version of our old friend the 400m swim is broken up with some added variety. Incorporating the other strokes really helps pass the time compared to swimming straight 400m swims, as it keeps you concentrating as to when you insert the other stroke at the right time. It will also elevate your HR as you switch between muscle groups and focus on maintaining forwards propulsion through different pathways of the hands. Finding propulsion through other similar hand pathways can heighten your overall feel for the water during FC swimming.
1L FLY or TRIFLY (FC arms with FLY legs see below for how to), 3L FC
1L BACKSTROKE, 3L FC
1L BREASTSTOKE, 3L FC
1L fast FC into 3L FC to finish
(400m). Rest between 100m blocks if necessary but ideally swim it straight.
Your overall feel for the water will improve as you work on new pathways of the hands when attempting the other strokes. The risk of overuse injuries will also reduce as new movements from the other strokes redistribute the workload of the arms and shoulders. Adding Backstroke at the very least would be a great addition to your stroke repertoire. Backstroke is a natural stroke to use to help unwind the shoulders from the vast amounts of FC we swim as triathletes. It also helps build lots of aerobic fitness, very useful if you are still getting the timing and breathing patterns in place on your FC. Swimming alternate 25m lengths within a 200 as FC and Backstroke will generate a natural Fartlek swim as you are able to relax a little more on the FC but naturally work a little harder performing backstroke (the kick and core work a little harder as they tend to drag more due to the position of the head and lungs compared to FC.)
For a few years now we have been using the other ‘stroke variations’ to our TRI fitness swim sessions for those at the right stage of their swimming. These Medley Alternates are promoted as a kind of X-training which has helped our swimmers come on very quickly. The following are derived from the other strokes but you will not have to completely learn the other strokes to take advantage of how they can help your FC swimming. They are listed easiest too hardest.
Medley Alternate Swims: https://youtu.be/hGil1wIWkkE
1 Breaststroke Arms with FC legs is a nice variation for practicing a continuous leg kick. The first part of a Breaststroke Pull is also not too dissimilar to the way we scull the hand into the FC catch. Optional fins.
2 Double Arm backstroke with a pull buoy. A great way to stretch the shoulders and chest muscles through a different range of motion after a lot of FC.
3 FC arms with FLY legs, (at SWIMFORTRI call it TRIFLY) a tough one to perfect that takes a lot of concentration due to the way it affects your timing and co-ordination.
The other strokes when combined into the Olympic race sequence is known as The Individual Medley. This Ironman event of the pool made famous by the duals between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte starts with Butterfly, transfers into Backstroke, before turning onto Breaststroke and then finishing with FC. The 400IM is perhaps the hardest pool event due to the positioning of the lung busting underwater Breaststroke pullouts on the 3rd 100. We can introduce this to your workouts a little easier as follows:
Sprint Distance Competitors:
Odd 100m swims
1L FLY (or TRIFLY) 1L Backstroke, 1L Breaststroke, 1L FC. Rest 40sec
Even 100m swims
100m FC PULL, rest 20s
Repeat for 8x100m. 800m main set
Mid Distance Competitors:
25m FLY (or TRIFLY) 50m FC, 15s rest
50m FLY (or TRIFLY) 75m FC, 30s rest
75m FLY (or TRIFLY) 100m FC. 40s rest
Swim 4 sets of this 375m set. The first is Fly as above then add back, breast and FC for 1500m.
8 x 250m swum as follows:
ODD 250m are 25m TRIFLY, 50m BACK, 75m BR, 100m FC
EVEN 250m FC. Rest 30s in between each 250m
Total distance =2000m
If you don’t have time to commit to learning how to do the other strokes, then you can use the Medley Alternates as some further options and alternatives to FC. To be able to add Medley Sets to your sessions will suddenly add great variety and interest to otherwise fairly mundane swim sessions. I promise you your time in the water will pass a whole lot more quickly as you need to start counting more accurately for the ‘changeover’ and to keep in mind the new techniques needed. For a guaranteed HR elevator as you mix different muscle groups and affect the timing as to when you can breathe, I guarantee you will feel hard work like you have never experienced on FC alone. The added benefit of reducing the amount of FC stress to your shoulders should also be factored in and considered well worth the effort of adding these new strokes as we lower the risk of injury.