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Rotation affects everything about my stroke... from my catch to my kick. It also sets my rhythm.
I have a big rotation that’s driven from the hips. So it’s the speed of the hips -- and not the speed of my kick or the speed of my arms -- that sets the rhythm for my stroke.
I’ve done a lot of tempo work, experimenting with different rhythms, and I’ve found that what works for me is a tempo that’s a little slower than some of my competitors. But, for me, it’s more important to be slow and powerful as opposed to fast and rushed.
The reason I have a slower tempo is because I’m extremely powerful throughout my rotation and throughout my catch.
Every swimmer has to find the tempo that’s right for them, and it will usually be different for the 100 and the 200. I think your body naturally has a tempo or a pace where it operates best -- and your coach can help you find it.
A lot of it is just experimenting and having someone watch and tell you at what point you’re NOT being efficient. If you have to watch yourself, you have to feel for when you’re losing efficiency.
One way to test your efficiency, and to work on finding your best tempo, is resistance training. Here I’m working on a parachute.
I’m experimenting with different tempos and seeing how far I get with a certain number of strokes.
Swim tethers are another way to find your best stroke and your best tempo. If your arms are slipping, it will show up right away on the tether.
When we do resistance work, it’s not about going hard. It’s about slowing things down and really thinking about what you’re doing. On the tether, I try to be extra precise.
My coach calls this perfect swimming. Because you’re going slower, you have to be more powerful and more connected.
It’s the same thing if we do pulleys. Instead of loading up the weight to see what’s humanly possible, we go with a reasonable weight and try to maintain great technique.
In practice, we do a lot of stroke-count sets that focus on swimming perfect strokes at your ideal stroke rate.
These sets are mostly aerobic, so it’s like slow, perfect swimming, working on all the technique things you’re supposed to work on, but within a certain number of strokes at your ideal tempo.
A lot of times, we’re doing a stroke or two less than what you’d naturally want to do. So you have to really think about what you’re doing -- good pull... good kick... you have to put all the pieces together to hit the count right on target.
For me, this kind of focused swimming, working on ideal counts and rhythms, is the same as doing drills.
The key is focus. Whether you’re doing drills or resistance work or stroke-count sets, the idea is to slow down a bit and keep everything precise. Never let it be slow, sloppy swimming.
Find your perfect rhythm, and then practice it every day, in every set that you do.