Four Great Swimming Training Books

Truth be told, I never swam at a particularly high level and was leading teams (for better or worse) early in my coaching career. On account of this, I am indebted to a number of kind mentors (Chuck Warner + Richard Pointon in particular). Additionally, I have been particularly reliant on books to develop my technical knowledge base. Here are a few that had a particularly strong impact.

Championship Swim Training by Bill Sweetenham + John Atkinson

This is the first serious training book I read (gifted to me by Coach Richard Pointon). Sweethenham’s book is well organized and digestible. Beginning with macro concepts; energy systems and seasonal planning. After laying the macro foundation, Sweetenham progresses methodically to weekly planning, daily sessions and individual sets. The legendary Aussie Coach provides insights that will impact beginning coaches and will keep seasoned pros coming back year after year. I’ve used many sets this book, almost always having to adjust to make them easier for my swimmers :-)

The Science of Winning by Jan Olbrecht:

While Olbrecht touches a myriad of topics, this book is specifically a treaties on the biological side of training. A pioneer of swimming physiology and lactate testing, Olbrecht is also known for his now famous appearances at the annual “School of Thought Clinics” in Knoxville. Olbrecht divides training into four “classifications” which the coach is responsible for carefully balancing. Olbrecht does careful work parsing which of these training modes are required for the preparation of different length events. This handheld requires time to digest but those patient and dedicated will be rewarded with a depth of knowledge hard to find elsewhere. FACT: This book (gifted to me by Stef Kerska) almost never leaves my swim bag.

Developing Swimmers by Michael Brooks

Brooks’ book might be a singular resource in that it presents a comprehensive, long-term plan for age-groupers. Brooks is not a fan of drills, advocating instead for proper stroke pathway development from the outset. Once a controversial perspective, leaving out drills has since been validated by research on neural pathways. The real gem in this book is its publication of Brook’s common language keywords for technique education; a framework for quickly teaching skills in the context of training (example: “wrist, rotate, resistance” for high-elbow catch).While I don’t refer back to “Developing Swimmers” often, it had an underlying impact on my training approach and especially how I teach technique in training.

Periodization by Tudor Bompa + G. Gregory Haff

Bompa’s “Periodization” is a classic athletic training book. Spanning foundational subjects that apply to endurance sports and power spots alike, Bompa’s deep dive into training planning contains essential knowledge for coaches who plan for teams and athletes who are self prescribing. You are as likely to find this book on the shelf of a marathoner as you are a functional fitness expert. “Periodization” present both the why and the how on an impressive variety of topics including: load progression, training sequence, adaptation, super-compensation, peaking for competition (tapering) and much more. This might be the best book I have encountered regarding its coverage to the witchcraft of tapering. While I did read this book in it’s entirety when it arrived, it is unlikely to gather dust on my shelf for long.

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