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Thread: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

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    6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by Dave Salo
    What they mean to me
    by
    Coach Thomas Topolski
    A colleague of mine posted a sheet of paper that had on it: “6 points to a Meaningful Practice” by USC Head Coach David Salo. He acquired the list while attending a Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Clinic and it looked like this:
    1.) Race Pace
    2.) Varied Stimuli
    3.) Hard
    4.) Fun
    5.) Faster-Faster – More Faster
    6.) Relevance

    It immediately made sense to me and to make sure that it was saying to me what I thought it was, I looked up some articles about Salo and tried to learn something about his coaching philosophy. The two articles I liked the best are listed below and you’ll probably enjoy them as much as I did. I look at coach Salo is one of the coaches who are helping change the way swimmers will be trained now and in the future.

    http://www.rittersp.com/rittersurge/...-for-swimming/
    http://www.swimmingcoach.org/publications/11mag01.pdf
    The following information isn’t from Coach Salo, it’s from me. I’ve simply looked at his list and put into words what I think they mean to me. The first is;
    1.) Race Pace
    I use the term “Race Pace” as a baseline from which swimmers and coaches should create their training programs. I believe the most important baseline time is a push-off twenty-five (swim, kick, pull). I don’t allow swimmers to use a kickboards or allow them to scull or use any propulsive motions with their hands when they record a kick or pull time. I want to isolate their kick and pull times to gain a true account of their effort.
    If you want fast swimmers then your practices must concentrate on lowering their twenty-five yard times. If you can’t break fifteen seconds in a twenty-five yard freestyle, you are forever stuck at that multiple forever; A sub five minute five hundred – Not!; A sub two minute two-hundred – Not!, A sub one-minute one-hundred free – Well with a good start a fifty-eight (you get my point).
    2.) Varied Stimuli
    I use the term Varied Stimuli to describe the concept of measurable stress and adaptation to stress. The ability to effectively manipulate stress during a season is knowledge that both coach and swimmer must understand to become successful. The word “Plateau” is usually looked at by athletes as a painful thorn in a season but it shouldn’t be. A plateau is an important announcement that training stimuli or methods must be altered to break through it.
    These methods may include but are not limited to: taking time off to rest, increasing yardage, shortening rest periods, increasing intensity, increasing resistance, restricting breathing patterns, improving the strength / resistance baseline.
    It’s easy to increase stress but it can’t be arbitrary / subjective. If you measure everything you do and establish a baseline for everything you do, effectively varying stimuli to increase stress becomes possible.
    Most swimmers judge the success of a practice on how they feel after it. I’ve had swimmers praise the workout I gave them because it made them throw-up (it’s true). If “throwing-up” is what a great practice is all about; I told them I can make them throw-up all the time. It’s ironic to me that swimmers who tell me they had a great practice because of the pain they feel, can’t tell me the most important thing that makes a practice great.
    The most important measurement of a great practice should be improved baseline times. Pain and nausea are subjective feelings and can’t be relied on to measure the effectiveness of a practice. So, if you’re a coach and measure your practices on how your swimmers tell you they feel, you’re fooling yourself.
    Training sets without baseline times are often a waste of a swimmer’s time. Why introduce a set that doesn’t measure something? Varying stimuli for the sake of breaking monotony is almost a guaranteed waste of a swimmer’s time. If you want to break monotony, have your swimmers listen to music or train with different swimmers.
    3.) Hard
    To me “Hard” is all about measured intensity. You can make a set hard but is the intensity measureable and specific? A set of 5 x 500 on a difficult interval is hard but they don’t become necessarily intense until the set is repeated with improved times. This is where I think a lot of coaches get confused and make their practices monotonous and unproductive. Sets that don’t allow swimmers to measure intensity are simply sets that keep them busy and tired.
    This idea of “Hard” also applies to exercise and strength training. Dry-land programs shouldn’t be a list of things to do but a list of goals or things to accomplish. Attaining failure is a goal; a specific number of repetitions and then adding another repetition is a goal; adding resistance and maintaining a set standard or number of repetitions is a goal. A list of exercises needs to mean more than just keeping athletes busy. Dry-land practices that are hard don’t mean they’re intense. Get the most out of your dry-land program by setting goals within them.
    4.) Fun
    To me “Fun” is all about keeping swimmers in a caring, positive and productive environment.
    Athletes perform better when they are surrounded by people who genuinely care about them on many levels. Great coaches are great for many reasons but all of them know how to foster a positive and inclusive training environment. One of the best things an athletic program has to offer is an opportunity for athletes to make friends and friendships. When the coach creates an environment that encourages swimmers to make friends or life-long connections, fun becomes an integral part of fundamentals. A coach creates the “Fun” in a practice and it’s a refinable and incredible motivational coaching tool.
    The last piece in pursuit of fun is a component that cannot be overlooked and that component is safety. If swimmers don’t feel safe, their performance will be compromised. Coaches must do everything in their power to eliminate hazing, bullying, inappropriate rituals “rites of passage”, and inappropriate behavior in the locker room, on the pool deck and away from the pool deck. I’m convinced that attrition rates in swimming programs are primarily due to swimmers feeling unsafe in some way with other members of the team.
    When intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are given for individual training, swim meets and personal improvements / achievements, attitudes get better. If you want them to have “Fun,” establish baseline sets that measure endurance, pain tolerance, pace, speed, technical improvement (DPS), recovery, strength, and find ways to make them “Fun.”

    5.) Faster-Faster- More Faster
    To me Faster-Faster-More Faster means that speed is the most elusive component in swimming and all training should revolve around it. If you can’t swim a twenty-five fast will you ever swim a hundred fast? Endurance is not elusive but speed is!
    To swim any race faster, a swimmer must improve his sprinting capability. Again, it’s hard to get fast, so don’t do things that will impede that goal. The focus on speed doesn’t mean you neglect other objectives: Pace / Endurance / Pain Tolerance / Technique – Efficiency / Strength / Flexibility. Speed should be viewed as the center of a wheel and the other components are the spokes of that wheel.
    6.) Relevance
    To me “Relevance” joins the six points. Relevance relates to yardage and sets that are clearly defined, measurable and have a specific purpose. If your practices are relevant, they revolve around the first five points and they accomplish something to help your swimmers swim faster. If the things you do to train your swimmers can be supported with objective data that in turn supports faster times, your training regimen is relevant.
    Case in point; Coaches of other sports are bewildered with morning practices and I too question the relevance of them in a majority of high school swimming programs. There are few high school sports that require their athletes to train in the morning and after school. Two-a-days should be used as a “last resort” stress-increasing method. Anytime you take away the opportunity for high school students to sleep, you risk compromising their immune systems. Science and common sense should override a coach’s rationalization for the need to subject their athletes to this sleep-depriving practice but this is another tired historical practice that will be hard to kill.
    New and novice coaches who start coaching teams with a tradition of two-a-days, will find it difficult to wean their high school away from the ritual (getting up in the morning is tough and tough means faster? -Not!). When a majority of your swimmers are improving times, an extra morning practice isn’t necessary. Increasing effective technical training should be attempted first and then other plateau breakers. A coach should only add a morning practice (s) to increase stress and it should be used as a last resort.
    All swimming coaches write and use workout or training sets. When workouts have goals that can be objectively evaluated, they become relevant. Relevance becomes a driving force in writing workouts and adds focus, motivation and fun.

    I really enjoyed Dave Salo’s “6 Points to a Meaningful Practice” and hope you do. You may look at them to gain a different perspective and I think they’ll help everyone reflect on how they run their practices. Good luck my friends. Coach Topolski

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    Active Member Mariano Mercado's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Great read thx

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Good stuff!!

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Deep reading! Good stuff to think about when I swim now! Faster - faster - faster ---- try to get AIRRRR!!

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    Paint test area ahead Michael Heather's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Seems like everything could be covered by #6, Relevance. Maybe I am just oversimplifying, but all aspects of training should be relevant to a particular goal. Everything else is subheadings.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine, not those of U.S. Masters Swimming. But maybe they should be.

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    I really like Salo's perspective. I attend a lot of clinics but seem to miss him. Is he going to be a speaker at a clinic this summer?

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Good post.
    So how do you get your 25 yd time faster?

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by tomtopo View Post
    I really like Salo's perspective. I attend a lot of clinics but seem to miss him. Is he going to be a speaker at a clinic this summer?
    Not too close to you,but he is doing an advanced breaststroke clinic in Seattle May 5.
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Stark View Post
    Not too close to you,but he is doing an advanced breaststroke clinic in Seattle May 5.
    Breaking 50 in the 100 yard breaststroke and 1:49 in the 200 Yard Breaststroke ---- Allen, I'm shocked!! These kids are super swimmers. Next... under 40 100 free and under 17 50 free (if you would have told me that thirty years ago I would have laughed.

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    Paint test area ahead Michael Heather's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by tomtopo View Post
    if you would have told me that thirty years ago I would have laughed.
    You might not have been alone. Coach Peter Daland of USC predicted the continued lowering of records in the 1970s and (incorrectly) theorized that the 50 free would approach zero by the turn of the century. This was after a rash of new records in that distance throughout the decade. I won't be a bit surprised when the 50 finals at NCAA have a wave of 17.8s. The real question is what is the absolute number at which the combination of human strength and swimming technique will no longer result in faster times?
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine, not those of U.S. Masters Swimming. But maybe they should be.

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by tigerchik View Post
    Good post.
    So how do you get your 25 yd time faster?
    Begin with realistic goals and then go from there. Please read on and good luck.

    I would like to take the mystique out of what coaches are calling Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) or for short High Intensity Training (HIT). HIT is not a new idea and in fact is a concept that exercise physiologists have used for decades, even before the Doc Councilman era.

    HIT, requires following the same truisms that are at the core of all successful sports training. These sports training maxims have and will always revolve around specificity, recovery, regularity and progressive overload. The difference of HIT from past and current training is the laser focus it has on specificity. The way coaches habitually train swimmers is the way their swimmers will perform. HIT coach’s habitually train their swimmers to acquire speed. The most important measuring parameter is a twenty-five sprint push-off time (25 SPOT).

    Every season should begin with goal setting and every swimmer should have a set of short-term, seasonal and long-term goals. Once these goals are established and written down, swimmers should know what their twenty-five yard, sprint push-off time is for every stroke and at every distance.

    HIT does not ignore the importance of skill sets that improve, endurance, pace, pain tolerance (lactate tolerance), strength / flexibility (becoming a better athlete), pulling pattern and stroke efficiency, mental acuity, as well as other nuances. With that said, improving SPOT is the primary focus. Until SPOT times are acquired, skill sets like lactate tolerance sets, endurance sets and pace sets take a back seat to training (not to be ignored but to be emphasized much much less). Until a swimmer’s twenty-five yard time is fast enough to reach their end-goal, everything else is a mute issue. To solidify this point, a swimmer who has a SPOT time of 15.3 seconds cannot break a five-minute five hundred until they that time becomes a 14.9 ( very little room for debate, right?).


    Speed is an elusive skill set a swimmer can only improve upon by specifically training to get it. Here is the mystery, during the age of Mark Spitz, coaches espoused specificity training but did just the opposite and trained their athletes around “yardage” and more was always better. Today, a majority of great coaches still train swimmers and most of them will swim less that one minute per event, with miles of swimming and much of it at threshold race pace times. Training swimmers to drop times by adding recreational yardage sets throws speed specificity training out the window.

    On the other hand the yardage using USRPT / HIT or speed specificity training is likely to cut yardage in half or more because it all but eliminates redundant or recreational swimming (long monotonous and arduous sets with little relevance). At a Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Clinic, head Coach David Salo from USC, talked about “6 points to a Meaningful Practice” and I associate them with specificity speed training, they are: 1.) Race Pace
    2.) Varied Stimuli 3.) Hard 4.) Fun 5.) Faster-Faster – More Faster 6.) Relevance. Specificity speed training uses all of the six points he emphasized in his talk.

    Dropping times using specificity speed training is the most effective way to train and I hope you use it. Good luck swimmers and coaches.

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Thank you. That is a much better description/rationale than i could have given,
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Very good explanation. I tried asking several months ago, what specifically people were referring to as USRPT and I never got a very satisfactory answer. I didn't start swimming seriously until 67 and will be 70 shortly. A 5 minute 500 is so far from my capability that we may as well be talking about a different sport. I would like to tailor my workouts to an 11 minute 500y, and adjust both volume and rest periods for my age. My best 50y was about 51 sec., but doing multiple 50y repeats I cannot keep them consistently under 60, and after 8 or 10 of those, my arms would fall off.

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Very interesting and inspiring article. I'm in the middle of reassessing my training again and a few of these points hit me smack between the eyes. Thank you!
    "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it." - Jonathan Winters, actor and comedian

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by flystorms View Post
    Very interesting and inspiring article. I'm in the middle of reassessing my training again and a few of these points hit me smack between the eyes. Thank you!
    Do you or your swimmers now their SPOT?
    By Coach Tom Topolski

    I would like to take the mystique out of what coaches are calling Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) or for short High Intensity Training (HIT). HIT is not a new idea and in fact is a concept that exercise physiologists have used for decades, even before the Doc Councilman era.

    HIT, requires following the same truisms that are at the core of all successful sports training. These sports training maxims have and will always revolve around specificity, recovery, regularity and progressive overload. The difference of HIT from past and current training is the laser focus it has on specificity. The way coaches habitually train swimmers is the way their swimmers will perform. HIT coach’s habitually train their swimmers to acquire speed. The most important measuring parameter is a twenty-five sprint push-off time (25 SPOT).

    Every season should begin with goal setting and every swimmer should have a set of short-term, seasonal and long-term goals. Once these goals are established and written down, swimmers should know what their twenty-five yard, sprint push-off time (SPOT) is for every stroke and at every distance. The only reason a swimmer does not know their SPOT, is that coaches do not measure it often enough. Coach must test for SPOT’s often, record them and post them.

    Speed specificity training does not ignore the importance of skill sets that improve, endurance, pace, pain tolerance (lactate tolerance), strength / flexibility (becoming a better athlete), pulling pattern and stroke efficiency, mental acuity, as well as other important facets needed to become a faster swimmer. With that said, improving SPOT is the primary focus of USRPT / HIT, and to me, that is the difference between what coaches do now and coaches who use speed specificity training.

    Until SPOT times are acquired, skill sets like lactate tolerance sets, endurance sets and pace sets take a back seat to training (not to be ignored but to be emphasized much much less). Until a swimmer’s twenty-five yard time is fast enough to reach their end-goal, everything else is a mute issue. To solidify this point, a swimmer who has a SPOT time of 15.3 seconds cannot break a five-minute five hundred until they that time becomes a 14.9 ( very little room for debate, right?).

    Speed is an elusive skill set a swimmer can only improve upon by specifically training to get it. Here is the mystery, during the age of Mark Spitz, coaches espoused specificity training but did just the opposite and trained their athletes around “yardage” and more was always better. Today, a majority of great coaches still train swimmers and most of them will swim less that one minute per event, with miles of swimming and much of it at threshold race pace times. Training swimmers to drop times by adding recreational yardage sets throws speed specificity training out the window.

    On the other hand the yardage using USRPT / HIT or speed specificity training is likely to cut yardage in half or more because it all but eliminates redundant or recreational swimming (long monotonous and arduous sets with little relevance). At a Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Clinic, head Coach David Salo from USC, talked about “6 points to a Meaningful Practice” and I associate them with specificity speed training, they are: 1.) Race Pace
    2.) Varied Stimuli 3.) Hard 4.) Fun 5.) Faster-Faster – More Faster 6.) Relevance. Specificity speed training uses all of the six points he emphasized in his talk.

    The question I get most from swimmers is; how can I get faster? I tell them, become a better athlete and focus on dropping your SPOT, everything else will come together after that. So, improve body type (weight and strength), ankle flexibility, pulling pattern effectiveness (Timed DPS), lactate tolerance (pain). As coaches create a baseline of objective measurements, that are accumulated and recorded, swimmers should be responsible for following the prescribed course of action given by the coach. When a swimmer is doing everything the coach is telling them and they are not dropping time, the responsibility for finding an answer as to why a swimmer is not improving now falls on the shoulder of the coach.

    Dropping times, using specificity speed training is the most effective and fun way to train and I hope you use it. Good luck swimmers and coaches.

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Quote Originally Posted by Sumorunner View Post
    Very good explanation. I tried asking several months ago, what specifically people were referring to as USRPT and I never got a very satisfactory answer. I didn't start swimming seriously until 67 and will be 70 shortly. A 5 minute 500 is so far from my capability that we may as well be talking about a different sport. I would like to tailor my workouts to an 11 minute 500y, and adjust both volume and rest periods for my age. My best 50y was about 51 sec., but doing multiple 50y repeats I cannot keep them consistently under 60, and after 8 or 10 of those, my arms would fall off.
    Jack,
    If you want to see significant gains, I'd try experimenting with different pulling patterns. Straight arm pull underwater, S- shaped pull, EVF pull, a combination of patterns. Hold your breath and see what your arms are doing. Open the hand and stiffen it up. Extend more, front and back (mirror images of each other). Have someone video you and then post it so you can get some suggestions. Most importantly, make your experimentation, FUN! Have a great day Jack.

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Good luck!

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    Re: 6 Points to a Meaningful Practice by:

    Always wonderful to connect with you! Have a great summer Allen.

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