Whether your goal is to build full-body fitness, swim-specific strength, or to improve stroke technique, recent pool closures have magnified the need for swimmers to find a way to replicate a swim at home. After a few months out of the water due to pandemic pool closures, dryland swim training at-home has proven to be a crucial training consideration for swimmers seeking a successful future in the water.
No matter what your reason for swimming, something was lost when pools (and the world) shut down in March. For swimmers who are used to being in the water multiple times per week, there was an inevitable panic. Closing gyms is one thing: athletes can still get a decent strength workout with nothing more than your own bodyweight or some heavy items laying around the house. To replicate a swim at home, it can be nearly impossible without the proper tools. Many swimmers around the world are left wondering how much of their swim fitness would remain when pools finally reopened.
Those with a Vasa Trainer Pro had considerably less cause for alarm. Nothing on dryland can truly replace the sensation of water, but the Vasa Swim Trainer Pro offers a swim-specific strength workout unlike anything else on earth. The Trainer Pro makes it possible for athletes to maintain — or even improve — their aquatic aptitude, replicate a swim at home experience and maintain swim specific strength when you can’t get to the pool or open water.
Full-Body Functional Fitness With Dryland Swim Training At Home
“Athletes like to go hard when they’re short on time,” says Dan Daly, a swim coach and personal trainer in New York City. “If you only have 20 or 30 minutes to work out, you want to get your heart rate up fast and feel that immediate burn. I’m able to do that with the Trainer Pro, and it’s all in a swim-specific movement that translates directly to the water.”
For trainers like Daly, he’s able to use the Trainer Pro as the centerpiece of a full-body workout for clients looking to improve swim fitness as well as overall conditioning. With nothing more than a Trainer Pro and some kettlebells, he’s able to build a full-body circuit that improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
“Whether I’m training myself or my client, it’s typically 1-2 minutes on the Vasa, followed by a lower-body movement, like a jump squat. Then we transition into an upper-body push and pull exercise, and then finish off each circuit with some kind of core workout,” he says. “You’re getting a full-body workout while developing swim-specific strength, and you’re able to really drive the heart rate up. And the best part is you can do it without a gym or pool.”
One of the most unique features of the Trainer Pro versus the Vasa Swim Erg is that it can do double duty as a Pilates training tool too. If you don’t have space or budget for a Pilates reformer in your pain cave, a Trainer Pro is the next best thing. Not to mention that it costs about a quarter of most reformers.
“It was surprisingly easy to transfer what I’d typically do on the Reformer to the Trainer Pro,” says Cheryl Alden, a Pilates instructor, and triathlete. “The way the pulleys and bench move are extremely similar. Some of the nuances are a bit different—but in a good way. It makes a lot of the movements even more challenging. A Reformer is all about building stability first and a lot of the movements aren’t really muscular in nature. On the Trainer Pro, you’re not working the stability as much as you’re working on brute force. So I think the two can complement each other very well.”
Boosting Swim-Specific Strength
For many lifelong swimmers, simply maintaining general fitness during a pandemic doesn’t cut it. And while it may seem impossible to improve swimming form without a pool, it’s possible through dryland swim training at home with the Vasa Swim Trainer Pro.
Bob Mitera is a triathlete, coach, and a former Division I swimmer who never envisioned spending five months out of the water. But when his pool locked the doors on March 11, he knew he wouldn’t be in jeopardy of losing the swim form he’s spent decades building — he’d just have to spend a lot more time on the Trainer Pro he’s been using for the past 17 years.
“I used the Vasa three to five times a week for anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. Some days I’d break it up into two 10 or 15-minute sessions,” he says. “I knew all along my strength would be fine, but my bigger concern was what would happen to my aerobic conditioning with all this time out of the water. Starting in May, I began finishing each session with hard intervals on a lighter band/weight combination. My focus here was all on high turnover and form. I ended up faster in August versus March after not swimming for nearly five months.”
For his favorite test set — 10 x 100 yards on 1:30 — Bob went from holding a 1:17 average in March to 1:12 in August, without once getting in the water in between.
For the rest of us, getting faster in the water in 2020 is a bit far-fetched. The once unfathomable idea of spending a few months away from the pool has caused most of us to pause and reset. So while you shouldn’t expect to be setting records the moment you ease back into the water, now is a great time to improve technique and work out any stroke imbalances, and the Swim Trainer Pro is the perfect tool to help do just that.
Fares Ksebati of MySwimPro.com has found that the Swim Trainer Pro can do a lot more than just improve swim-specific strength; it can actually help fix bad habits in a way not possible in the pool. It’s nearly impossible to simulate a swim stroke with other forms of dryland training, and that’s especially true of the early stroke motion in freestyle—what Fares refers to as the “early vertical forearm.”
It’s what makes swimmers like Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps more powerful than the competition with each pull, and it’s something even the most experienced swimmers don’t do very well. We get lazy with our pull and seek the path of least resistance. That results in a straight-arm pull, instead of pulling with the arms closer to the surface to create maximum resistance and power.
“It’s not so much about the amount of resistance you can pull with on the Trainer Pro; it’s about the positioning of your arm when you’re applying that resistance,” he says. “You can feel it on the Vasa in a way that you can’t in the water. It becomes apparent right away if you’re pulling with a straight arm versus a high elbow. Once you’ve perfected that on the Vasa, you can begin to make that change almost immediately in the water.”
The Vasa Swim Trainer Pro offers experienced swimmers like Ksebati the chance to improve technique in only a couple of sessions, whereas it might take months in the pool to truly change the way you feel and pull the water. So even if your swim fitness has taken a hit during all this time away from the pool, 2020 can still be the season where you improve technique for years to come.
About The Author: Brad Culp is an endurance sports journalist and lifelong swimmer. He’s previously worked as editor-in-chief of Triathlete and LAVA magazines, as well as media manager of the International Triathlon Union. He’s a graduate of Miami University with degrees in journalism and psychology and resides in Geneva, Illinois. (Note: This is the second of a three-part series exploring how Vasa athletes are maintaining fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read Part 1 now and keep an eye on our VasaBlog for Part 3!)