Learn more about The PEATS Program

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Swimming eBook
We are proud to announce the publication of the first in a series of Sport-Specific Guidelines: Swimming.

swim eBook

Our core eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training details the fundamental philosophy, components and strategies of The PEATS Program.

Swimming takes you to the next level.

Read our article on the application of Critical Speed to swim training prescription










Swimming is one of the most popular sports at the big events like the Olympic Games where obtaining a ticket to watch even one session is a very difficult exercise. But swim sports go beyond the traditional events conducted in the standard 50-metre Olympic Pool. It is an integral component of triathlon events, competed over various distances, and in an aquatic environment which differs from event to event. Swimming is also an important part of Surf Sports, where the environment is usually the ocean, and athletes are presented with the challenge of a wide range of water, tidal and wind conditions. Surf swimming may be part of a multi-sport event such as the Ironman Race, or it may be a part of a stand-alone event. Still-water life-saving and water polo are two other competitive activities which incorporate swimming.

Athletes from all of the various swimming disciplines can derive benefit from The PEATS Program. As most swim training is conducted in a regulation pool, either 25 or 50m, it is perhaps the sport most suited to applying the Program.
Swimming in the history of The PEATS Program

In my doctoral dissertation, I examined the relationship between swimming and a number of aspects related to Critical Speed. The over-riding objective was to develop a field test equivalent of the laboratory-based Critical Power which I had just investigated with kayak paddlers. The study was in four parts. My subjects came from several high profile swim squads in South-East Queensland, and ranged from well-performed age-groupers to then and future Olympic champions, though not all subjects participated in all four parts of the study. They were grouped according to preferred competitive distance into sprinters, middle-distance and long distance swimmers.

The first part of the study examined the linearity of the data (see our eBook for a longer discussion of this aspect of Critical Speed). Subjects completed from five (5) to eight (8) time trials over distances from 25m to 1500m. The number of time trials was determined by the coach and what he could include in his program. Software was specifically designed for this purpose by the late Dr. Alf Howard at the University of Queensland. From this evaluation, we concluded that the distance.time-1 relationship for the time trials was linear, with the number of data points varying slightly with different event specialty. But perhaps the most important conclusion was that Critical Speed could be calculated from two data points for both middle- and long-distance swimmers. Calculation for sprinters showed evidence of some variation, and as a result, it is recommended that sprint swimmers perform three time trials to ensure greater accuracy of the value for Critical Speed.

Part 2 examined the relationship between Critical Speed and the Maximal Lactate Steady-State (MLSS). It was concluded that Critical Speed calculated from 50m and 400m time trials for all swimmers (even sprinters) was equivalent to the velocity at which the MLSS was observed. Perhaps one of the most interesting observations was that the blood lactate value at MLSS exhibited wide inter-individual variation (from 3.26 to 11.5 mmol.L-1), and demonstrated a tendency to increase with decreasing distance of swimming specialty. We found that CS represents approximately 80% and 94% of maximal velocities during 100m and 400m swims, respectively, and that it provided a better indicator of competitive performance than is provided by VO2 determined from a maximal 400m swim.

Most subjects from Part Two proceeded to Part Three where they were required to include 3 sessions per week of training at Critical Speed for seven weeks. A summary of the changes in Critical Speed and performance has been presented elsewhere. In addition, we found that the plasma lactate value at MLSS decreased and that this decrease was significantly associated with improvements in performance, while there was a poor relationship between changes in VO2 and all other measured variables.
At the request of one of the participating coaches, six subjects proceeded to Part Four. This study consisted of a short two-week training period where the number of training sessions conducted at Critical Speed was increased from three to five. The coach was interested in determining the outcome because similar sets were being recommended to coaches at the time, and the Part Four coach was concerned that the workload was too high. There were no control subjects for this Part (or for Part Three for that matter), and so the findings remain inconclusive, but there was an overwhelming observation at the end of the two weeks. All measured parameters (Critical Speed, performance, VO2, peak force, and total work performed for 60 seconds while tethered) decreased significantly after this short two-week training period, with the decrease approaching values obtained at the start of Phase Three. This has important ramifications for prescription of both training intensities and frequencies and the OverTraining Syndrome (OTS).

The major finding of this study, that Critical Speed is equivalent to MLSS, was supported by a study published very soon after this project was completed. Wakayoshi et al. (1993) reported similar findings from Critical Velocity determined from time trials over 100m and 400m, thus demonstrating the robustness of the testing procedure. Its major values are its simplicity, and ease with which the Critical Speed concept can be incorporated into a swim training program.

Our eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training, provides a core, but general understanding of Critical Speed, the physiological principles underscoring it, and how it can be incorporated into a training program. We have prepared a series of Sport-Specific Guidelines to bring these aspects closer to home for some of the activities to which Critical Speed training can be applied. The first in this series is an eBook specifically for swimming coaches and athletes:
Swimming: The PEATS Program.