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How to Swim Stronger & Better – Gain Confidence by Using 4 Pillars

Consistent quality training will prepare you to swim stronger, better, and faster.  It will increase confidence for challenging open-water and triathlon swimming, especially on race day. Whether in the pool, open water, or on land, it will improve swim-specific efficiency, technique, and sustained power.  Plus, it will build your confidence.

The Four Pillars of Athletic Performance

PurplePatch’s Matt Dixon has written about the four keys to better performance. Here we apply them to swim conditioning & training:

1) Consistency
2) Specificity
3) Progression
4) Patience

As a sports physiologist and coach, I have found those performance guidelines to be fundamental for success in sports. These “4 pillars” are essential for improving open-water swimming. Hundreds of athletes and coaches tell us that training with a Vasa Swim Erg or Vasa Trainer Pro allowed them to apply the pillars when preparing for competition.

Targeted Swim Training Breath

Let’s review each fundamental guideline as it relates to swimming training:


If you cannot or don’t want to swim 4 to 5 times per week, then consistent swim training is a problem to be solved. A prominent coach reported that having a SwimErg at home saves him at least two to three weekly trips to the pool.  For him, time is money.  Occasionally the pool has overly crowded lanes, so he heads back home to do his swim training on the SwimErg that day!


For the Freestyle swimming stroke, you can’t get much more specific on land than proper pulling on the Vasa SwimErg and Vasa Trainer Pro. Think of it as “built-in strength and power”.  Watching your stroke path on land while monitoring your power output is a real advantage.

Karlyn Pipes demonstrates a high elbow catch and a firm wrist in and out of water


Thanks to the reliable PM3 Power Meter, it’s easy to realize high-quality, measurable swim-specific training with the SwimErg. In addition to developing an efficient Freestyle, stroke power will improve, and right arm / left arm power balance will be evident.

Another thought on progression – some coaches have reported the Vasa SwimErg is an excellent diagnostic tool when teaching athletes how to swim stronger & better. They use it to make stroke path corrections, improve high elbow catch awareness, and reveal poor core stability or other fatigue factors so that they can take corrective actions. For example, suppose you are doing power intervals on the SwimErg, and your feet and legs sway side to side on the bench a lot. In that case, likely, you are not engaging the core stabilizers OR your core stabilizers are very weak and need to be strengthened with targeted exercises.


As is often said, “Patience is a virtue.” Be selective about your swim training and how you think about it whenever possible… and be patient. In the words of a great mentor, “Plan the play, Play the plan”. Trust that the results will come with persistence and diligent practice, and your confidence in open-water freestyle swimming will steadily grow.

Watch our videos on how to improve your open-water swimming.

About the author:

Rob Sleamaker is a sports physiologist, coach, author, and the founder of Vasa, Inc., the company behind the Vasa Trainer and Vasa SwimErg, both widely used worldwide to teach and train athletes how to swim stronger & better. Rob co-wrote the book SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes, which became a classic among endurance athletes and coaches.  Most recently, he co-authored Triathlon Freestyle Simplified with Ironman-certified coach Conrad Goeringer.