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Combine Dryland Swim Training With In-Water Training For Faster Swims

How Olympians And Coaches Combine Dryland Swim Training With Water Sessions

Vasa SwimErg coach
Olympian Joe Maloy at work poolside on a Vasa SwimErg.

Combining in-water training with dryland swim training on a Vasa SwimErg can supercharge your swim season. That’s according to Olympian Joe Maloy, who says that consistent training can make or break a season.

Dryland Swim Training Saves Time

Maloy says training on a Vasa Ergometer helps set him up for success. “Multi-sport athletes need to train so much,” said Maloy. “When you have anything else going on in life, it can be hard to make time for the training you need to do. Incorporate a Vasa into your routine and you can get a good workout using swim specific movements without the commute to the pool. It’s a priceless training tool.”

“There is a quote I love from the Little Book of Talent,” said Michael Collins, Nova Masters Swimming Head Coach since November 2000. “It says something like ‘you should only train on days you eat.’ You need to train every day to ingrain good habits. I get on my Vasa Ergometer every day I can’t get to the pool. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time, I get benefits. That 10-15 minutes of practice carries over, and I can keep my muscles engaged in the action I want them to be doing.”

Dryland Swim TrainingCollins says 10-minute Vasa sessions help him refine his pulling pattern, and that increasing resistance on the Vasa lets him build strength and stamina so his stroke doesn’t break down as he fatigues.

“Using the Vasa gives me a better quality workout in a shorter amount of time, which lets me perform better when I am at the pool, and which helps me maintain a higher level of fitness,” said Collins. “Daily Vasa sessions let me maintain a critical familiarity of movement, without breaking down. “

For newer swimmers, Collins says the regularity a Vasa Ergometer can provide is even more important. “Someone new to an activity like swimming needs more frequent touches to maintain ground,” he said.

Like Maloy, Collins uses the Vasa SwimErg to help newer swim athletes make gains. “I do drills with newer swimmers, like right arm only, left arm only, to help train them to stabilize their body better,” said Collin. “If you don’t keep your core engaged on the Vasa, you know it. If you’re doing one arm swimming you have to keep your body super tight or you’ll be wagging around on the bench.”

Focus On Technique & Correct Mistakes Through Dryland Swim Training

Maloy trains on his Vasa SwimErg whenever he is short on time. But he also uses a Vasa Ergometer to work on technique, both his own and the technique of the athletes he coaches.

“In the pool, you get feedback based on how the water feels,” said Maloy. “On the Vasa, you get numbers that tell you power, stroke rate and more. It makes it easier to coach technique. I can see how an athlete’s hand is moving. In the water that’s a lot harder.”

Dryland Swim TrainingAnother way Maloy uses his SwimErg is to refine specific parts of his stroke, like catch and finish, which are hard to session in the pool.

“The part of the swim stroke where swimmers first lose power as they fatigue is the finish,” said Maloy. “In the pool, it’s tough to repeat the finish over and over. The Vasa makes it easy to repeat very specific movements, which is the way change happens.”

Maloy does sets that combine 30 seconds of freestyle with 30 seconds of repeating the back half of the stroke only on his Vasa Ergometer. To work his catch, he does minute intervals starting with 10 catches, finishing the minute with full freestyle, then taking 15 seconds rest.

Maloy says that the feedback an Erg gives an athlete, such as power numbers, is invaluable for training and coaching. It prevents him from having to guess how changing his stroke dynamics impacts his performance.

“I like looking at the ratio of power to strokes per minute,” said Maloy. “I do some mental math and play with my stroke. I experiment with increasing turnover and watch what that does for my power, and what slowing my stroke does to my power. I play around to find the sweet spot.”

Collins says that he too uses Vasa to work on all areas of his stroke, not just the pull. “Most people finish their stroke then let their arm slide back under the Vasa’s center rail,” said Collins. “I roll onto my hips and swing my arm back over ‘the water’ so I can work on recovery on the Vasa Ergometer too.”

Work With The Water

Back in the water, Maloy works on linking core rotation with stroke.

“You can train specific movements on the Vasa,” said Maloy, “but you need the pool to put it all together. If Vasa helps you perfect the notes, the pool is what makes it a song.”

Dryland Swim TrainingWhat Vasa can’t replicate is the feel of the water. But for Maloy, training on the Vasa gives him a deeper understanding of how to best work with the water when he is in it. “It’s like you need an outside perspective to know how something feels,” said Maloy. “If a swimmer spends all their training time in the water, that’s all they know. If you go from the Vasa to the pool and back again, it gives you context. When I train using both tools, I get a better feel for how water affects me and how I can use it. I have a frame of reference that’s specific to the movement.”

Collins said he does most of his training in the pool. He believes that doing the skill you want to get better at in the environment where you’ll compete should be the foundation of training. But he too depends on his Vasa Ergometer to supplement in-water training.

“There are a lot of parts of a swim stroke that you need to hone in the water, especially if you’re competing in masters swimming,” said Collins. “The timing of breath, and practicing your turns are skills you need to work in the pool. For open water swimmers, you can only get the feel of being in a wetsuit in the water, and you need water to learn to sight.”

What The Water Can’t Provide

What Collins says the pool can’t provide is the data he gets from the Vasa Ergometer’s readout. On the Vasa, he can control resistance and see and correct his stroke in real-time.

Dryland Swim TrainingCollins puts a mirror underneath his Vasa when training so he can see his stroke. He puts stripes on the mirror so that he can see how his stroke compares side-to-side. “By pulling at different widths, four inches, eight inches and 12 inches from the center, I know where my strengths and weaknesses are,” said Collins. “If I am weaker at eight inches from the center, I know I need to do more pulls there to get stronger.”

Collins also uses the Vasa Ergometer to do 10-minute sets at or above race intensity. That’s the approximate length of his sprint triathlon swim distance. He prefers 30-second intervals with rest, or 1 minute to 1:30 intervals with rest. He says he rarely goes over two minutes per interval because on the Vasa he’s working at a higher resistance level than in the pool. Triathletes using a Vasa to train for an Ironman swim do similar intervals, sometimes for an hour or longer per workout.

“The number one thing that makes anyone better at anything is consistency,” said Maloy. “The number two thing is improving your technique. When a swimmer is only swimming once or twice a week, they’re literally just keeping their heads above water. It’s hard talking yourself into going to the pool every day. Add Vasa SwimErg training to your program, and you’ll make gains more quickly and easily.”