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Author: Tim Crowley

The Evolution of the Vasa SwimErg Power Meter

In 2004, Vasa created the SwimErg with a power meter, revolutionizing the dryland swim trainer industry. This allowed swimmers and triathletes to do power-based training. They accessed real-time data and feedback, allowing swim-specific training outside the water. This also allowed athletes to train time-efficiently when time-crunched or pool access was unavailable.

In 2012 the power meter was upgraded to include ANT + technology, which allowed the data to be exported from the power meter to receiving devices or to computer applications such as Training Peaks, thus allowing for data analysis and the formation of swim training power zones. This was a game changer in understanding the development of swimmers and triathletes more scientifically.

Harnessing the Power of PM3 Power Meter
The PM3 Power Meter connects with apps/devices, like TrainerDay®, Garmin®, & TrainingPeaks®, for the ultimate swim training experience.

Fast forward to 2022 with the next significant Vasa power meter (PM3) upgrade, which now includes ANT + and BT technologies. Athletes can record, store, and analyze data.  Plus, they utilize applications to create specific workouts based on their swim FTP (functional threshold power), similar to indoor cycling platforms. 

For detailed information on apps, platforms, and how to set them up, visit this link on the Vasa website

How Training With The Vasa SwimErg PM3 Power Meter Is A Game-Changer

This article will highlight how to implement some of the key features of the PM3 and how harnessing the power of the PM3 Power Meter will maximize your swim.

Most athletes and coaches don’t fully utilize many of the functions available on this power meter. I have used the Vasa SwimErg regularly since 2010 in my training and with the athletes I coach. I aim to continue learning and implementing more functions on the PM3.

One key area to identify is your compensation fatigue pattern. Compensation[TC1] [TC2]  fatigue is the pattern or habit we fall into when we begin to fatigue. These patterns generally fall into three categories:

  1. Glide-overreaching: In this pattern, the swimmer will take longer strokes and glide or pause to rest briefly during each stroke cycle. This causes deceleration of the body with a loss of momentum and speed.

Solution – Focus on maintaining your stroke rate when fatigue sets in. Emphasizing stroke rate when doing Intervals can be effective.

  1. Loss of power– Although the stroke rate might stay the same, there may be  a loss of power due to less force being generated onto the water or a lack of acceleration endurance ( )

Solution – Build the speed of your pull by accelerating from the catch through the entire pull. Listen to the “whoosh “ sound of the fan. The louder the “whoosh” sound, the more you accelerate your pull.

  1. Strength/ Strength Endurance– This is different from the loss of power. Many triathletes from a running or cycling background often lack upper body strength. The ability to build strength and strength endurance is critical for open-water swimming success. This is frequently seen in adult-onset swimmers, and it’s critical to improving your swimming.

Solution – Use a higher damper door setting (resistance) on the SwimErg and slow your stroke rate slightly. This will build swim-specific strength.  Using Force Mode on the power meter (more on that below) will allow you to monitor the workout and your progress.

Harnessing the Power of PM3 Power Meter

By unlocking some of the features of the PM3, you can take your Vasa workouts to a new level and maximize your training. The three functions below can be found in stroke mode (press and hold “shift” then press “stroke” You can then press “display” to move within the sub-modes). These are a few of the many features you can access in the PM3.

Harnessing the Power of PM3 Power Meter
The PM3 Power Meter displays and transmits real-time metrics such as power in watts, stroke rate, left/right power balance, and more.

Right left balance – Many athletes have asymmetries with their swim strokes. This can be due to flexibility or mobility deficiencies often brought on by having a preferred side to breathe on. By utilizing the right/ left balance feature in stroke mode, athletes have real-time feedback and can adjust their strokes to create balance. These imbalances often become accentuated under fatigue.

Solution – During a warm-up and within your main workout sets, take note of your right/left power. How many watts you produce on each arm will be displayed. The goal is to keep the R/L balance within 2 to 3% or 3 to 5 W. Pay particular attention to the end of the workout as you begin to get fatigued and notice how the balance may shift. This can be done in any part of the workout.

Average watts – The ability to sustain wattage with consistent force and stroke rate is critical to becoming a better swimmer. Whether within an interval or across an entire set of intervals, consistently holding power is essential to proper pacing. Learning how Stroke Rate, Force, and Acceleration of your pull affect power will teach you how to be more efficient in the water.

Solution – Observe how your wattage changes within each interval. Analyzing power, stroke rate, and heart rate data after the workout on applications such as Training Peaks allows you (and your coach) to create workouts to build strength, power, and efficient pacing.

Swimming Intervals with the Vasa SwimErg PM3 Power Meter

Measuring power on the Vasa PM3 Power Meter
Measuring power on the Vasa PM3 Power Meter will improve your swim training, testing, and coaching.

The ‘shape’ of your intervals is telling. If your intervals start with high power and then tail off, this may indicate how you race. The ability to control your power output and effort within intervals will allow you to learn how to pace correctly.

Workouts such as progressive intervals, where the power increases gradually throughout the interval, are a great way to learn how to hold back in pace properly.

Here is an example of a progressive interval workout in Trainer Day

Increasing Your Force Production

As mentioned earlier in the article, many triathletes lack upper body strength and muscular endurance. Force mode allows the athlete to see how much force they apply to the paddles (displayed in Neuton Meters). This is excellent for developing swim-specific strength. What makes this metric different than power output (watts) is that we are not concerned with the speed or acceleration of the stroke. To maintain a specific power output, you must increase the force by slowing the stroke rate slightly.

As a coach, I have worked with many elite triathletes who were speedy swimmers but did not have high force production. By improving their specific strength, we were able to make them faster in a short amount of time by doing as little as two 10-minute Vasa SwimErg workouts per week.

Working on force production is part of the strength continuum for swimmers and triathletes.  This bridges the gap between strength developed in the weight room and power production in the water.

Solution – Doing specific strength intervals at a lower stroke rate than usual with higher resistance, will help build muscular endurance and fatigue resistance. Using various damper door settings and noting the force numbers, will allow you to monitor and build the strength necessary to improve your swim power output.

The Fatigue Compensation Workout

By harnessing the power of the PM3 Power Meter, Vasa SwimErg training is not only an excellent substitute when you can’t get to the pool.  It’s also a powerful training device that will make you a better, more powerful swimmer. Combining pool training with SwimErg training is a great way to maximize the best of both worlds.

I have created a specific workout in TrainerDay that incorporates the abovementioned solutions.

Learning how to use the functions outlined in this article to get the most out of your workouts is worth taking a few minutes. Become familiar with the different modes on the power meter and Library of workouts in TrainerDay that will allow you to take full advantage of the Vasa Swim Ergometer.

Happy training, and be prepared to swim faster than ever before!

For more information about using the Trainer Day app with the Vasa PM3 Power meter, check out these videos:

How to use the TrainerDay App with the Vasa PM3 Power Meter

How to Build Custom Vasa SwimErg Workouts

Author: Coach Tim Crowley

Tim Crowley is a well-respected coach, and we are privileged to have him as a vital part of the Vasa community.  He has contributed useful dryland for swimmers’ workout and technique videos, which you can find in our Video Library.

Harnessing the Power of PM3 Power Meter

Tim Crowley
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Montverde Academy
Author: High-Performance Aging & The Powerful Triathlete