First reference these previous two posts:

Let me explain a bit about the SPL (or Stroke Length) Development Process:

Step 1. Reach SPL range.

In the first stage you are developing the ability to reach appropriate stroke length- the first goal is to simply be able to swim in our SPL Sweet Spot range. This is hard work and requires time and concentration to get there. I have outlined the process above.

If the Swimmer is currently at 22 SPL but estimates an appropriate SPL Sweet Spot of 16-18 SPL, then he needs to work his way down into that range.

Example Set:

Choose 3 Focal Points: A, B, and C

  • 4x drill with Focal Point A
  • 4x drill, then 4-5 whole strokes with Focal Point A
  • 4x 25 whole stroke lengths, with Focal Point A

Go through the set again using Focal Point B, and again using Focal Point C.

The goal is to use the drills to carefully form your best stroke, then form a series of these best strokes, and then use that stroke to go an entire length. Keep working your way toward your SPL goal by refining your stroke detail by detail, taking time to imprint each one.

Step 2. Hold SPL consistent.

Then you are developing the ability to hold appropriate stroke length over distance, starting with shorter and varied work/rest intervals and working toward holding it over the total distance without rest. Once you can hold SPL on one length, it is time to work on extending that to longer distances to imprint it in the brain and build muscle memory. This is the process where, over time, it starts to feel easier (more natural) to hold the chosen SPL.

Example Set:

  • 2x 25 active rest drill/swim with Focal Point A
  • 2x 25-50-75 with Focal Point A
  • 30 second rest with careful visualization of your stroke and Focal Point A
  • 100 holding your chosen SPL

Go through the set again using Focal Point B, and again using Focal Point C. Add challenge by combining Focal Points AB, BC, AC, and ABC, and increase distance of the work intervals.

The goal here is to memorize in muscle what every part of that stroke feels like in order to repeat it on each length. And to memorize in mind the exact Focal Point details you need to keep your attention upon in order to achieve it.

Step 3. Shift SPL like gears.

Then you are developing the ability to shift stroke length on command within your SPL Sweet Spot. This is the stage where you start to memorize and automate the feel for each distinct SPL count – it becomes natural. The swimmer can, from lap to lap, switch from 16 to 17 to 18 and back like clicking the gears on her bicycle.

Example Set:

Where N = your lowest SPL in your SPL Sweet Spot

3x (25-50-75-100)

  • Round #1: N
  • Round #2: N+1
  • Round #3: N+2

2x 75

  • Round #1: N, N+1, N+2
  • Round #2: N+2, N+1, N

3x 100

  • Round #1: N, N+1, N+2, N+1
  • Round #2: N+1, N+1, N, N
  • Round #3: N+2, N+1, N, N+1

Those are three ordered steps to take in developing control over stroke length. The path will require the Swimmer to discover and refine skills for balance, stability, streamline to get there because imbalance, instability, and poor shape are the very things restricting him from achieving those stroke counts. Those body control skills will be his foundations for speed later on when he is ready to build up Tempo.

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So when can you add the Tempo Trainer?

First get yourself able to actually use the SPL in your SPL Sweet Spot range. Then you can increase the challenge on your stroke once you reach a level of ease with them – being impatient in this process will actually slow down your progress not speed it up. Let me explain how this works a bit more…

The path to improving stroke skill is this:

  • Put the skills in proper learning order (TI has done this for you)
  • Develop the skills one-by-one, in order
  • Then gradually combine the skills and work on them together

Then increase challenge on your stroke length abilities by:

  1. Use multiple Focal Points
  2. Increase distance
  3. Add comfortable tempo control with Tempo Trainer
  4. Add challenging tempo control on the slow end (this further challenges balance and streamline skills)
  5. Add challenging tempo control on the fast end (this challenges timing skills)

Recognize yourself moving through these Stages Of Ease of imprinting before considering whether to add more challenge:

  1. It feels Impossible
  2. It feels Difficult
  3. It feels Tiring
  4. It takes Focus
  5. It feels Easy
  6. It feels Unconscious

The discipline here is to impose only one carefully chosen challenge on your brain and body while Stage 1, 2, or 3. I suggest that a swimmer consider using a Tempo Trainer after he has walked through the 3 Steps outlined above, and do it up to Stage 4 Ease, where it starts to feel normal, though she has to focus carefully on it. Then he can consider adding a comfortable Tempo to that to build up his skill further.

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