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9/27 Practice - New thoughts on Lezak Plan

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A freakin' book on the Lezak strength training plan at the end.

Didn't want to get out of bed this morning, I was tired and had a slight headache. Showed up at the pool and the water was cloudy and at that point I had enough excuses to goof off for a while and cut the workout short.

Warm up
- 400 swim
- 50 kick no fins on back
- 300 pull no paddles
- 2x100 kick with fins on back
- 2x100 drill (right, left, catchup, fist)
- 50 kick no fins on back
Transition
- 10x25 Focus on streamline and break out
-- 6 powerful strokes off the wall, no breath, then ez
Main Set
- 5x50 on 1:00 (31,30,29,30,30)
-- these need to be 27s if I am going to break 1:50 (just an aside, not the goal of this particular set)
Cool down
- 200 ez

Patrick thinks he can (should?) break :50 and 1:50 in the 100 and 200 free while swimming a 23 mid in the 50. I think I need to be sub 23 to break :50 and 1:50. If we are both right, I wonder if that means I should pay more attention or less attention to how he trains...

Lezak Plan: I have never been a fan of the Lezak lifting plan, but as I have been thinking more and more about rest and how it can be used to enhance training, and I have come up with why the Lezak plan is generally a good lifting plan for swimmers. This time last year, I was following a fairly traditional strength building plan, where you increase your weight every workout until you fail, drop back a little and start progressing again. This time last year was I doing 5 sets of 5 reps of back squats between 250 and 300 lbs (250 being the drop back, and 300 being the max) 3 times a week. I lifted MWF and used to dread Friday because it didn't really matter where I was in the cycle for each exercise, there would be at least one exercise that would be near max combined with the exhaustion of the lifting and swimming from the week made me want to cry. Monday's were always the easiest lifting days because the weekend usually included a full day of no exercise or at least two full days off lifting.

This year, I really have not spent much time lifting seriously. I couldn't lift in Jan-Feb because I hurt my ribs, it didn't make much sense to start in Mar then leave for Asia in April, nor start after Asia with Nationals in May. Since then, lifting has been sporadic and more core work than strength building.

As a side effect, I have had much more energy in the pool. Because of this extra energy, I have been thinking more and more about rest: be it sleep, rest built into a set, workout frequency or workout intensity.

I came to the conclusion that the Lezak plan wasn't a great strength building plan a long time ago. Too many exercises, too many reps and no serious progression of weight. The limiting factor in the Lezak plan is endurance more than strength or glycogen instead of muscle break down.

So why do people keep using it, including Lezak, and why does it seem to be effective?

Swimmers are used to endurance being the limiting factor in training, and a serious strength training program would quickly lead to over training since complete days of rest are infrequent. If you tear down the muscle, but don't allow it to heal, and keep repeating the process over training happens quick.

The Lezak plan results in minimal muscle damage, because the quantity of exercises, reps and sets requires keeping weights low so the entire workout can be completed. After years of descend and 'hold pace' sets, the Lezak plan fits right in with the standard swimmer mentality for training.

The Lezak plan is taking the long road to strength, but by doing so, swim training is only marginally impacted. Slowly gaining strength and being able to train in the water at a higher intensity is going to be more beneficial to the average swimmer when compared to gaining strength fast but not being able to train in the water at a consistently high intensity.

That concludes my theory of the day.

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Updated September 27th, 2010 at 02:49 PM by qbrain

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  1. Jazz Hands's Avatar
    It's crap. The article is crap, and the program is crap. It's just a vanilla lifting routine with exercise choices justified by non sequiturs. It's popular because people choose not to actually care about strength training the same way they care about pool training, which is why no lifting routine is going to help them.

    This is what I mean by "crap":

    For chest I would choose incline chest press because in freestyle the upper chest and shoulders are important which this exercises utilizes. The lower chest and middle chest do not get used in freestyle like the upper chest.
    This is completely backwards. It's the simplest lesson in strength training anatomy: muscles pull toward themselves when they contract. Lower chest pulls down and upper chest pulls up. Swimming is all about pulling down. Ugh.
  2. pwb's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands
    It's crap. The article is crap, and the program is crap.
    Jazz, as someone who seems to be predisposed to slower-twitch races and who never had a serious strength training program in my younger days, but who now WANTS to get stronger, I need a program I can follow to help me get stronger. I know you've posted on strength in many threads, but do you have a recommended program for training for the 50 & 100? I'd really love some guidance because making it up on my own doesn't seem to work. However, the one season I tried the Lezak plan, I swam better sprints through mid-distance (500). Any links to a more detailed thread where you've already answered this?
  3. pwb's Avatar
    Patrick thinks he can (should?) break :50 and 1:50 in the 100 and 200 free while swimming a 23 mid in the 50. I think I need to be sub 23 to break :50 and 1:50. If we are both right, I wonder if that means I should pay more attention or less attention to how he trains...
    Well, clearly from my results, I was wrong. I "get" not getting under 50 with only a 23.5 50 free time, but I still think if I can basically go 51 in a 100, I should be able to easily go 53/56 and put together a 1:49 200. Of course, I didn't, so I am wrong!
  4. Speedo's Avatar
    I think Jazz is right to an extent. I like the Lezak program and have been using aspects of it for a few years now. When I say I'm taking aspects of it, I mean the periodization and some of the exercises. I don't follow it to the dotted i's and crossed t's, and the exercises I have been doing have changed frequently.

    I personally don't get wrapped around the axle with my weight training- I do the biggies and some core work. The Lezak plan is appealing to me because 1) it is similar to what I remember from college, and 2) I've gotten stronger by doing this routine- that's enough for me.
  5. aquageek's Avatar
    I can't figure out how to quote your original post. You posted this:

    Main Set
    - 5x50 on 1:00 (31,30,29,30,30)
    -- these need to be 27s if I am going to break 1:50

    It might be heresy but I disagree. You can break 27s all day long but you are still getting 33 secs rest per 50 to "reload." I've never been convinced that any time in a 50 is valid for any other distance, with the possible exception of the 100. This isn't to say that folks who swim <=1:50 don't consistently knock out <:27 50s in a set like that, but I don't think it's a guarantee.

    My personal proof is swimming with two guys who easily go under 1:50. One can go sub :27s all day long and one who has some issues maintaining the :27. However, both are far better swimmers than me.

    I think the 200 is the most confounding distance there is, and possibly the hardest.

    As to weigh lifting, I just do it to delay going to work.
  6. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands
    It's crap. The article is crap, and the program is crap. It's just a vanilla lifting routine with exercise choices justified by non sequiturs.
    I agree that the logic behind it and the design are both poor, but that is what you get for reading the article.

    Just looking at the routine sans justification, it is a vanilla, Men's Healthish, training plan. It includes all the exercises people think should be included, lots of sets of lots of reps and a well defined rest period. No thinking necessary and that is probably a good thing for most people.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands
    It's popular because people choose not to actually care about strength training the same way they care about pool training, which is why no lifting routine is going to help them.
    I disagree. This plan is good for people who aren't going to put much mental effort into lifting. They will make minimal strength gains while avoiding injury and muscle fatigue that would affect swimming.

    Lifting to failure might be optimal for building strength , but it requires a mental game most people can't or won't bring to the gym ever, and then those who can, still can't bring it consistently enough to make a long term program of it. It hurts, you fail a lot and subject yourself to increased risk of injury.

    The easy success that is possible with this plan will help people stick with it.

    Do you think it would be easier to educate someone who started with this program or someone who has never lifted and you have to teach them the difference between a bar bell and a dumb bell? Tell you what, I will take someone who believes the Lezak plan is the gospel of swimmer lifting, you get Jim Thornton.
  7. Speedo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    It might be heresy but I disagree. You can break 27s all day long but you are still getting 33 secs rest per 50 to "reload."
    I tend to agree with this. That's a lot of rest, and with that much I'd be thinking about 100 pacing (but not expect 100 splits- just the tempo). YMMV
  8. Jazz Hands's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pwb
    Jazz, as someone who seems to be predisposed to slower-twitch races and who never had a serious strength training program in my younger days, but who now WANTS to get stronger, I need a program I can follow to help me get stronger. I know you've posted on strength in many threads, but do you have a recommended program for training for the 50 & 100? I'd really love some guidance because making it up on my own doesn't seem to work. However, the one season I tried the Lezak plan, I swam better sprints through mid-distance (500). Any links to a more detailed thread where you've already answered this?
    I think I've talked about it in some dispersed places. Fort's blog has some good discussion.

    The point of my little rant here is that knowledge and adaptability are the most important things. It's really no different from pool training. You do different sets every day because you would get bored otherwise. As an experienced swimmer, you get creative and write your own sets. Same deal for lifting. In the short term, picking up a written-out program can help, but eventually you need to know the process and own it.

    Q talked about the importance of maintaining pool intensity while weight training, which means avoiding crippling soreness, or at least managing it. You will get sore when you start, but if you're doing a routine that's low-volume and high-frequency you'll stop being sore except maybe when you switch exercises.

    Your particular routine is going to change, and it's going to depend on what exercises you like and what equipment is available. So I prefer giving an outline and some ideas for starter exercises.

    The outline I usually recommend has the following rules, which can all be bent:
    • Three days a week.
    • Three exercises per workout: one upper body push, one upper body pull, and one umm squatting-type-thing.
    • However many sets and reps you want, as long as the whole workout takes less than an hour and you are pushing your limits. Most sets should be between 4-20 reps.
    • More than a minute rest between sets, to ensure that you aren't going too light because of exhaustion.


    And example exercises:

    Upper body push
    Any Hammer Strength press (chest or shoulder)
    Dumbbell bench press (flat or incline)
    Dumbbell shoulder press
    Barbell bench press (flat, decline, or incline)

    Upper body pull
    Pull-ups and chin-ups, any grip (mix them up!)
    Any Hammer Strength row or pulldown
    Cable rows and pulldowns
    Dumbbell rows
    Barbell rows
    Rack chins and inverted rows

    Squat-type-thingie
    Any squat variation
    Any deadlift variation
    Lunges
    Leg press
    Updated September 27th, 2010 at 04:39 PM by Jazz Hands
  9. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pwb
    Well, clearly from my results, I was wrong. I "get" not getting under 50 with only a 23.5 50 free time, but I still think if I can basically go 51 in a 100, I should be able to easily go 53/56 and put together a 1:49 200. Of course, I didn't, so I am wrong!
    Patrick, you were pretty close. Was rest or how you split your race a factor in the 100 or 200? If so, you probably could break 50/1:50 without being faster in the 50. If not, your 50 probably has to get faster too.

    I have been 23.0, 50.0 and 1:50.0, so I would really like to break each of those and I assume the 200 depends on the 100 and the 100 depends on the 50.
  10. pwolf66's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    Main Set
    - 5x50 on 1:00 (31,30,29,30,30)
    A more realistic set might be 4x50 on 10s rest. 1st one from a dive and subtract 30 from your total time. Goal is the target 200 time (or below of course)

    Doing them on :40 is a bit too much rest, on :35 is a bit too little.

    Another good test is 2x100 on :15s between, 1st one from a dive. Same goal as the 50s.

    Then again, there's nothing like a flat out 200 at the end of practice for time.

    As in all things, the above should be used as a guide to see if you're in the ball park of your time.

    We use the following in our AG program and it's a decent yardstick but far from a guarantee.

    For a 100

    4x25 on 5s rest, 1st from a dive subtract 15
    2x50 on 10s rest, 1st from a dive, subtract 10

    200:
    4x50 on :10 rest, yadayada, subtract 30
    2x100 on :15, yadayada, subtract 15

    500:
    5x100 on :15s rest, yadayada, subtract 60
  11. Jazz Hands's Avatar
    More for you, pwb. This is a very first day workout you can try. I picked these exercises because most people can do them (except maybe the pull-ups) and they are fun.

    Set an adjustable bench to about 45 degrees. Get some dumbbells that feel light. Do 10 reps of incline press with them. Full range of motion. If it was really easy, add more weight. Keep adding weight until your last few reps are pretty slow, but not painful. Do two more sets of 10 at that weight.

    How many pull-ups can you do in a row? If you don't know, test yourself the day before. Choose a grip and do full range of motion. Pause at the bottom, and don't squirm. Divide your max by 2. Do that many every few minutes until you can't.

    Grab a barbell. Do overhead squats with just the bar. See how many reps you can do If it's over 20, try adding 5 lb. plates to each side.
  12. aquageek's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pwolf66
    A more realistic set might be 4x50 on 10s rest. 1st one from a dive and subtract 30 from your total time. Goal is the target 200 time (or below of course)
    Excellent post. I agree with this approach to a 200, very nice. I'm going to write it down and do it (whenever I get back to caring about the 200 free).
  13. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    It might be heresy but I disagree. You can break 27s all day long but you are still getting 33 secs rest per 50 to "reload." I've never been convinced that any time in a 50 is valid for any other distance, with the possible exception of the 100. This isn't to say that folks who swim <=1:50 don't consistently knock out <:27 50s in a set like that, but I don't think it's a guarantee.

    My personal proof is swimming with two guys who easily go under 1:50. One can go sub :27s all day long and one who has some issues maintaining the :27. However, both are far better swimmers than me.
    Geek, If I can't go a :27 in practice then I can't go fast enough to break 1:50. To me, being able to go :27s is a pre condition to breaking a 1:50. We will see this weekend, but if I had raced a 200 all out this morning, I think I would have barely broken 2:00 if I had gone even that fast.

    I think 10x50s on 1:00 holding 200 pace is a common set to practice pacing for the 200 and holding that pace should actually be easy given the rest, and that the set is usually reserved for taper.
  14. Jazz Hands's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qbrain
    Lifting to failure might be optimal for building strength , but it requires a mental game most people can't or won't bring to the gym ever, and then those who can, still can't bring it consistently enough to make a long term program of it. It hurts, you fail a lot and subject yourself to increased risk of injury.
    Proper intensity doesn't need to mean lifting to failure. I'm doing a routine right now where I specifically avoid it. There's a lot to be said for avoiding that kind of stress. There's even some science behind it! Wouldn't Jimby love that...
  15. aquageek's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qbrain
    Geek, If I can't go a :27 in practice then I can't go fast enough to break 1:50. To me, being able to go :27s is a pre condition to breaking a 1:50. We will see this weekend, but if I had raced a 200 all out this morning, I think I would have barely broken 2:00 if I had gone even that fast.
    What's the magic of the 1:00 interval? That's max rest. It's a nice little speed set but not really relevant to 200 training. I think you are over emphasizing the :27 and under emphasizing the interval. I believe wolf has some much better 200 training ideas. With your race this weekend I don't know if I'd do another blow out this week but maybe for your next meet incorporate that into your training plan a few times.
  16. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    What's the magic of the 1:00 interval?
    Are we talking about the 10x50s on 1:00 holding 200 pace? That set is specifically to teach pace. The last time I did it*, the goal was the hold 28s, and I could have probably popped off 26 high 27 low given that rest, but by throttling back to my 200 pace, in theory, I would learn the pace of the last 3 50s of my 200.

    Paul's broken races have a prediction quality and are swam all out. That doesn't do much to teach control.

    * I was 16.
  17. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz Hands
    Proper intensity doesn't need to mean lifting to failure. I'm doing a routine right now where I specifically avoid it. There's a lot to be said for avoiding that kind of stress. There's even some science behind it! Wouldn't Jimby love that...
    I think lifting to failure is the mentally most difficult thing you can do in the gym, the Lezak plan is at the other end of the spectrum and there are a bunch of programs in between.

    I think you have convinced me to switch to the Lezak plan, I am tired of thinking.
  18. aquageek's Avatar
    I was talking about your 5 X 50 @ 1:00. I don't think it has value for 200 or control. If you are only doing 5, screw control, go all out, especially on that Sally rest.

    I don't really get into what people did when they were 16. That's half your life ago, and longer for me.
  19. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    I was talking about your 5 X 50 @ 1:00. I don't think it has value for 200 or control. If you are only doing 5, screw control, go all out, especially on that Sally rest.
    Yeah, I added a note to the original post that the "27s" comment was just an aside. It has no predictive power nor any real beneficial training power. That was only half the set, and there was another main set that I skipped today.

    Did you miss this?

    at that point I had enough excuses to goof off for a while and cut the workout short.
  20. The Fortress's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aquageek
    What's the magic of the 1:00 interval? That's max rest. It's a nice little speed set but not really relevant to 200 training. I think you are over emphasizing the :27 and under emphasizing the interval. I believe wolf has some much better 200 training ideas. With your race this weekend I don't know if I'd do another blow out this week but maybe for your next meet incorporate that into your training plan a few times.
    10 x 50 @ 1:00 is not a "speed" set. Maybe @ 3:00.
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