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The Secret Weapon for Quality Dryland Training

When I first started coaching swimming, the idea of a quality dryland was to do some running and throw kids into the weight room. Since that time, we have really advanced our dryland training knowledge base. Now, instead of weights, coaches are doing everything from resistance bands (surgical tubing), bodyweight calisthenics, TRX suspension straps, Pilates, and other routines to help swimmers swim at a higher level of swimming. Two frequently overlooked tools are the Vasa Trainer and Vasa Ergometer (SwimErg), which are invaluable additions to any coach’s dryland training program.

Coach Dee Loose’s First Experience with Vasa Machines

I have been using the Vasa Trainer since it was first introduced (in 1989).  My first Vasa SwimErg was purchased between 2008 and 2010. I have coached and taught swimmers at all levels using the Vasa Trainer and the SwimErg.

The first swimmer I coached and taught on the Vasa was an Oncologist at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, WA. He hired me on retainer to help him prepare to complete the English Channel swim. This good doctor purchased a first-generation Vasa Trainer and put it in his office at the hospital. Between the private lessons and coaching, I would put together workouts for him to do on his Vasa Trainer. Between in-person training sessions, when he was on call at the Cancer Center at the hospital, he would go into his office and do one of the workouts I had given him to do on his Vasa Trainer.

He was very dedicated to his training sessions on his Vasa Trainer. These sessions immensely helped him prepare for his long open-water English Channel swim and enabled him to maintain his swimming strength and endurance even though he was on land and not in the water.

A Swimmer’s Experience with Vasa

While coaching for Tacoma Swim Club and at Woodrow Wilson High School (now named Dolores Silas High School), I had a swimmer by the name of Evan Martinec. I had him on the Vasa Trainer three days a week for backstroke. This worked on lengthening his stroke, increasing strength, and pacing (using the pulley system on that Trainer). By the time he was in his senior year, Evan had been using the Vasa Trainer every year of high school. In his Senior year, Evan went a 48.39 100 Back and 49.00 100 Fly. This earned him a scholarship to LSU in the SEC.

He broke the SEC 100 Backstroke record while swimming at LSU and scored in the top 8 at the NCAAs all four years of college, placing as high as fourth place.  During high school, Evan’s preparation work on the Vasa Trainer helped him develop his strength, technique, and endurance to go on to LSU and do some amazing things.

How the Vasa has changed Coach Dee Loose’s Swim Training

Since the Vasa Swim Ergometer was introduced, I have owned four of these great machines. When I write my dryland programs, the Vasa Trainer and the SwimErg have become the foundation on which my quality dryland training program is built. I use both swim benches to teach proper technique and work on strength and endurance. I’ve had swimmers work every one of the strokes on the Vasa Trainer and the Swim Ergometer. I love both the Trainer and Ergometer as they are the best teaching, conditioning, and strengthening machines for swimmers. These machines simulate swimming like no other piece of dryland equipment.

Hand & forearm swim position demonstration
Coach Dee Loose overseeing swimmers getting quality dryland training on SwimErgs and Trainer Pros

Coaching in Action

At my current club, Hilltop Aquatic Swim Team (a.k.a. H.A.S.T.), I have two Vasa Trainers and two Vasa Swimming Ergometers. We use both machines every day, varying the exercises and routines. Right now, I have a young man who is making significant progress. He is learning and developing very well in all his strokes and events. I attribute this quick development to using the Trainer and Ergometer because I can put him on the SwimErg and work his technique, pacing, and tempo for his 200 and 100 fly. In Spring Sectionals in March,  he went from a 2:18 to a 2:12 in the 200 Fly. In his 100 Fly, he went from 1:05.03 to 59.73.

Since Sectionals, we have added a new dimension to his Swim Ergometer and in-water training. In water, we spend time working with the tempo trainer. I have him count strokes, trying to hold an efficient stroke count at a specified tempo. For this, I usually have him do 2-3 rounds of the following:

  • S 6X25 Fly counting stroke and holding the tempo on the Tempo Trainer
  • S 1X50 Easy
  • S 2X50 Fly holding best stroke count from 25s and holding tempo all for time
  • S1X50 Easy
  • S1X100 Fly holding best stroke count and tempo for time
  • S100 Easy

Last night’s set results were:

  • 50’s 27.3 holding 6/6 strokes at 1.2 Tempo Trainer setting
  • 100 56.69 holding 8-8-7-7 strokes, and at 1.2 Tempo Trainer setting

In his second round, he improved. He went 26.8 and 25.76 on the 50s, holding 7-6 strokes at a 1.2 Tempo Trainer set. On his 100, he went 55.44, holding 8 strokes each 25 at a Tempo Trainer setting of 1.2. Swimming 55.44 for 100m is under his best time from a meet last winter when he was shaved and rested.

The Results of Incorporating Vasa Machines: Quality Dryland Training

This young man and I believe that using the Vasa machines has helped him to maintain his tempo and stroke count. As a coach, I can put him on the Vasa Trainer and work on his pacing by calling out splits and tempos. I also used the audible tempo feature on the SwimErg’s Power Meter display. Several features of the SwimErg will help every swimmer learn, increase endurance and strength, improve technique, and learn race tactics. The Vasa SwimErg and Vasa Trainer are great tools in our coaching tool kit. USE IT!