Kahncept Of the Week (KOW)

March 30, 2015

Stretching (and warm-ups) Part II

Last week we introduced this topic with a brief discussion of the advantages of Dynamic stretching over Static stretching. (For a more detailed explanation of the current research on the benefits of Dynamic stretching and myths of Static stretching, watch this video.

This week, we're providing a series of links to YouTube videos that offer 5:00 or 15:00 routines for proper, yet generalized, stretching and warm-ups. Watch the videos, and in an a la carte fashion, consider utilizing the exercises that appeal to your strengths and weaknesses, keeping mindful of both your physical and time limitations.

The first link is to a website of a swimmer/friend of ours in Santa Clara. G. John Mullen is the founder of SwimmingScience.com and is a physical therapist, strength coach and researcher. He is at the forefront of bridging the gap between the scientific, theoretical, and practical world of swimming. John offers 4 Things for the Perfect Dynamic Swimming Warm-up. There is a combination of text and separate videos on this link.

Next is the second part of the first video that demonstrates a full body, dynamic stretching routine (Part 2, 5:00). The audio is inconsistent, but the video is good.

Dynamic Stretching Warm Up Exercises is another short video (5:00) from HASfit, a very popular online exercise website. This dynamic routine will help prepare your muscles and joints to avoid muscle strain and increase range of motion.

This last video offers less dynamic and different exercises focusing on increased mobility and stability. Some of these motions may be better suited to our older population of DAM athletes. Dynamic Stretching (15:00) is from a physical therapist and orthopedist, and is both a warm-up and injury prevention routine.

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March 23, 2105


Nietzsche was right; notably in exercise and specifically at the molecular level. Muscle, bones and connective tissue do grow stronger by sustaining damage. Those uncomfortable sensations from hard work and unfamiliar exercise occur mainly in the muscles where blood vessels dilate, tissue swell and warm, and your body yells at you in a totally foreign language.

Known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the sensations have always and will always afflict anyone who works out. And as everyone's been told, that stiffness and soreness can best be alleviated through stretching.

Recently the value and impact of muscle stretching before and after exercise has undergone a complete reversal. For years, it was a common comparison to say that muscles prior to exercise were like rubber bands in a freezer. Cold and stiff, they needed to be slowly stretched (static) to avoid snapping or breakage.

A growing number of studies have shown that static stretching not only does not prepare muscles for activity, it almost certainly does the reverse. Whereas flexibility, to a large degree, is genetic, the need for elongated muscles, particularly in our sport, is not as desirable as tighter, less flexible muscles that provide greater elastic energy storage and use. Think of the rubber band again. If it's overstretched and limp, it doesn't snap back when pulled and released. So, too, with muscles; if they're loose, they don't efficiently lengthen, shorten and snap back into place with each repetition.

Just to be clear, though, static stretching and warming up are not the same thing. Across the board, forty years worth of studies validate warm-ups for all activities, exercise and sports. The question now is, what constitutes a proper warm-up?

Most experts agree that a warm-up should do two things; increase the range of motion in the joints that will be used in the upcoming exercise, and literally warm up the body.

Dynamic stretching has replaced static stretching and involves moving, waking and warming the tissues that will be called upon during exercise, and it's relatively sport specific. (In the next KOW, we'll provide information on swimming specific, dynamic movements.)

Raising the body's temperature should come before stretching and is much easier to achieve. Begin with a few minutes of slow motions - running in place is perfectly fine - progressively boosting your pace to about 50 percent of maximum. Then move on to your other stretches. All this should be done before getting into the water.

Another new notion is the idea of dynamic stretching at night. Stretching for 10 minutes every evening helps lengthen out any muscles that may have shortened during your day’s activities. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulders and lower back muscles tend to tighten up easily, so focus on these primary areas for your evening stretches.

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March 9 2015

Principles of Exercise and Training (cont.)

Regardless of your level of fitness, there are seven principles that should be followed during any type of physical training or exercise program. Last week we offered the three most important; Specificity, Overload and Progression. Here are the other four basic principles of exercise or sport training you will want to keep in mind: 

Everyone is different and responds differently to training. Some athletes are able to handle higher volumes of training while others may respond better to higher intensities. This is based on a combination of factors like genetic ability, predominance of muscle fiber types, other factors in your life, chronological or athletic age, and mental state. It's of very little value to compare your training levels and fitness progress to anyone other than yourself.

Over time the body becomes accustomed to exercising at a given level. This adaptation results in improved efficiency, less effort and less muscle breakdown at that level. That is why the first time you swam 600 yards you were sore after, but now it’s just a warm up for your main workout. This is why you need to change the stimulus via higher intensity or longer duration in order to continue improvements. The same holds true for adapting to lesser amounts of exercise.

The body cannot repair itself without rest and time to recover. Motivated athletes often neglect this. At the basic level, the more you train the more sleep your body needs, despite the adaptations you have made to said training.

If you discontinue application of a particular exercise like swimming 3,000 yards or bench pressing 150 pounds 10 times, you will lose the ability to successfully complete that exercise. Your muscles will atrophy and the cellular adaptations like increased capillaries (blood flow to the muscles) and mitochondria density will reverse. You can slow this rate of loss substantially by conducting a maintenance/reduced program of training during periods where life gets in the way, and is why just about all sports coaches ask their athletes to stay active in the offseason.

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March 2 2015

Principles of Training

At any age, participating in DAM swimming encourages co-operation in team sports, develops the element of competitiveness, provides a physical challenge and the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

Within that framework, great attention is spent on providing a diverse training program that increases athletic fitness and delays decrepitude. One of the pillars of our program adheres to the three basic Principles of Training.

Specificity - states that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce a training effect. The Specificity Principle simply states that training must go from highly general training to highly specific training. The principle of Specificity also implies that to become better at a particular exercise or skill, you must perform that exercise or skill. Cross-training takes a back seat here. The point to take away is that a runner should train by running and a swimmer should train by swimming.

Overload - taps the body's mechanisms that bring about the desired changes that go hand-in-hand with specificity. Improving cardiovascular fitness involves sustaining sub-maximal activities for extended periods of time. Increasing strength requires lifting progressively heavier weight loads. Sustained high levels of intensity improves the circulatory system by increasing chemical production and buffering capacities. The principle applies to duration and volume of training, as well.

Progression - implies that for athletes to improve their fitness levels, they must continually increase the physical demands to reach an optimum level of overload. It is a gradual increase either in frequency, intensity, volume or time or a combination of all four components. When considering those four variables on athletic populations such as ours (older), recent studies point towards intensity as the component of choice.

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February 23 2015


This week's KOW is a condensed version of Coach Stu's article in the October 2011 issue of SWIMMER magazine. Here is the full version of that article. 

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February 17 2015


Unlike the other three strokes, breaststroke propulsion doesn't come from arms using a push/pull motion similar to oars on a rowboat, but instead from inward and upward motions like a fan blade or propeller. Combined with a backwards push of the legs, this stroke is also unique in that overcoming resistance through proper streamlining is nearly as important as creating propulsion.

Two of DAM's top breaststroker's, Eric Wyels and Sarah Bimson, are this week's models. They were filmed recently at a morning practice at Arroyo. Please try to ignore the glare of the underwater lights as you notice the similarities of their strokes.

First and foremost, all breaststoke cycles begin and end with elbows and knees locked into tight streamlining.

The initial arm motion separates the hands on a horizontal plane outside the shoulders.

From that position, keep the shoulders and elbows up as the hands scull downwards into a vertical forearm.

The propulsive forces end next as the hands and thumbs move from upwards to forwards and back towards horizontal. The head and shoulders are at maximum height and the mouth is at mid-inhalation.

Next, the elbows are nearly locked as the timing shifts from arms to legs.

Draw heels directly towards your buttocks and then turn toes out while flexing the ankles. Keep the flexion as the knees straighten and push feet backwards.

Finish the kick with feet together as the body returns to full streamline again.

Here is a link to a looped video showing Eric and Sarah's strokes blended on top of each other for one full cycle. Notice how their arm motions are synchronized and nearly identical.

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February 9 2015


This week's KOW is a condensed version of Coach Stu's article in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of SWIMMER magazine. Here is the full version of that article.

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February 2 2015


Swimming has been called a combination of cross country (endurance), gymnastics (strength) and golf (skill). Any way you cut it, effective swimming success is built on a foundation of efficient motions. Those motions, purposeful and propulsive, provide optimal energy expenditures and are the single biggest factor in what makes some swimmers better than others.

We'd like to use one of the newer members of our club who just joined us last fall, as an example of someone that is more effective at swimming because they improved their efficiency.

David Vidmar, age 54, swam as a youth, but hadn't had any coaching for three decades. His freestyle was a product of the '70's and he came to DAM with an 'S-shaped pull, a 2-beat kick and a shoulder problem. He was taking about 22 pulls per length and getting tired quickly. We worked on lengthening his stroke and increasing his kick contributions. During his One Hour Swim he held 12 pulls per length and reached nearly 4300 yards.

The biggest changes he made were to his PATH (linear), PITCH (backwards) and PRESSURE (accelerating). We filmed him recently and asked him to demonstrate his old and new strokes. All of the folowing images show his new style on the left and old on the right.









It's apparent that his hand and forearm are pitched backwards much longer than before, and he's stopped slicing back and forth under his torso. 

The three most specific keys to his change were to:

1) Swim by rolling less and using a more catch-up like stroke with continuous kick

2) Keep his shoulder and elbow closer to the surface throughout the pull/push

3) Hyper-extend his wrist during his tricep extension.

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January 20 2015


One of the many unique aspects of the DAM program is that our swim practices are held in small pools with large numbers of bodies. This condition occasionally results in crowded lanes with swimmers of slightly differing abilities. As much as most problems are always solved there are instances, where due to lack of awareness, people get left behind or let out.

Please keep these following points in mind when sharing a lane and swimming with others

  • Introduce yourself to your lane mates during the 10 minute warmup.
  • Know the DIRT on the set (Distance, Interval, Repeats and goal Time) before shoving off.
  • If entering a lane after a set has begun, wait in the right corner until your presence is known.
  • Know the number of swimmers in your lane and count them while circle swimming.
  • Anticipate when others will catch you and pull over at the wall for faster swimmers.
  • Leave five seconds apart, not on each others feet.
  • '3rd or 4th Person In' means first swimmer leaves when that swimmer touches.
  • 'R:10 or R:15' means everyone in the lane gets at least that amount of rest.
  • '#1 + :15' means the time of the first swimmer determines the interval for the entire lane.
  • When finishing a repeat, touch and move to the left, allowing those behind to touch as well.
  • If stopping during a repeat, stay in the right corner, allowing those behind to turn on the left.

Editor's note: see these USMS articles on lane etiquette: 

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January 12 2015


Our sport is the only competitive activity where the same medium (water) provides both the platform for propulsion and the force that resists its progress.  In a later KOW, we'll address RESISTANCE but this week the focus is on PROPULSION.

Before strengthening propulsive forces, one must feel them. This ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion and equilibrium is known as proprioceptive awareness. At practice, those stimuli are often challenged in drill and pull sets created to compare, contrast and correct feel for the water. With an advanced awareness, swimmers, using a properly sequenced combination of arms, hands, legs and foot motions, can generate greater propulsive forces to propel the body forward.

In swimming, the essence of feel and forward propulsion has been linked using many different terms and images, and this week, we'd like to add another. We're going to start talking more about a “virtual wall of water.” In order to move forwards, water must be angled backwards. And the sooner it's directed backwards, for the longest time, with the greatest pressure, the more thrust will occur.

In all of the four strokes begin feeling and thinking of how soon you can effectively position the hand against a relatively solid surface (water is 800+ times thicker than air). This “virtual”wall also accurately represents the total backward hand motion as it changes form the pull to the push in all but breaststroke. Pulling, or swimming, with hand paddles enhances the “wall” feeling, maintains the hand perpendicular to the direction of travel and increases forward propulsion.

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January 5 2015


Before it evolved into the Romance Languages, Latin was spoken throughout the Mediterranean and many European countries. Along with French and Old Norman influences, Latin contributed a significant number of vocabulary words (80,000) to our English language. Many of those words retained their original meanings but some, over time, morphed into similar or different meanings. COMPETITION is one that has changed.

The early Latin word, competere, meant to 'come together' with another, or team up. Later Latin evolved to mean 'strive together' with another to reach a goal. Either way it was a union of forces.

Whereas the older Greek word for competition, Agon, related to a struggle or contest, the early Romans truly understood the benefits of working with another person and not against them. The best way to strive forwards is not by yourself but alongside someone else. Unfortunately, modern culture has bastardized the Latin and now sees competition as fierce efforts towards an opponent. Nowadays one can only win by making another lose.

That's not how we see things on this team. We want to create bonds and connections. Our goal is to help everyone feel welcome and part of our club. DAM is one of the premier Masters swimming programs in America, renown for both its team size and legacy.

Come join us and participate. Set a goal; meet a fellow athlete. Competere.

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