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Capacity Training

Capacity Training

What’s this all about?

Bob Bowman (Michael Phelps’ Coach)- simplifying the way we think about training.

What is Capacity Training?

Bob Bowman says that it is “enlarging the size of the cup you have to pour training into”

As opposed to “Utilization Training” which is the work you do to swim fast for a specific race.

This is not a new concept.

Athletes need to (in order)

· Lear to learn

· Learn to train

· Learn to compete

You can’t skip the order as the athlete. If you do, you will become an “unrealized” athlete.

Building a Bigger Cup for the yourself

· Learn technical skills (stroke, starts, turns).

· Learn to apply your body, generate force, hold position on land and in the water.

· Develop the “ability” to train at the next level of development.

What is ability?

- It’s physical and mental

The ABILITY to Train:

· Complete a distance

· Complete a set

· Stay on an interval

· Allocate energy

· Judge your capacity and enlarge it

· Comfortable with being uncomfortable

· Working towards muscular endurance – holding strokes

· Quality strokes lead to distance per stroke (DPS), lead to stroke rate (SR)

An Example:

At a later point in the year, you expect to do some specific training to swim fast in the 200FS. This might include a few weeks of a set like: 20 x 25 FS at 200 pace on 40,35, 30,25 seconds.

• What you need to do before you can successfully complete this set?

Do What?

1. Cover the distance.

Be able to hold a stroke count over the distance.

2. Cover the distance continually.

Be able to hold a kick over the distance.

3. Cover the distance on the interval.

Have the muscular endurance to do all this in the

4. DO MORE THAN each of the above.

real 200 without a break on the interval.

5. Do it with a breathing pattern that they’ll use in the 200 free.

So...some real 200s in repetition become important.

An Example of Utilisation:

• 20x25FS at 200pace or slightly faster, with race pace breathing pattern and kick (MAYBE, do it twice a week....two total cycles through)

• First time, on 40 seconds

• Next time on 35 seconds 

• Next time on 30 seconds

• Next time on 25 seconds

You cannot do this SUCCESSFULLY without CAPACITY training first!

It’s all about PROGRESSION in all areas.

Attendance is absolutely a huge part of progression:

· Set goals: 1st 6 months in the sport-3 practice a week.

· 2nd 6 months in the sport – 4 practice a week

· 3rd 6 months in the sport- 5 practice a week

· Then –hold it right there or try to add more when you can

The next step is DENSITY


Other sports help make better athletes. It’s good to play wide variety of sports. We all know, adding more practices per week is HARD to do at that level.

Once you are averaging 5 times a week, if you cannot add more sessions, it’s time to look at another direction....and that direction is DENSITY.

The Concept of DENSITY

Definition – Density is the amount of heart-beat producing effort being done in a measure of time.

The simple and traditional way to measure this is distance covered over time.

A second way to measure is time:

How much time in practice is “” active time” with the child swimming, kicking, pulling, etc.

How much time is standing or sitting around with a lower heart rate.

How much effort in what amount of time.

Social time before and after practice, NOT in practice.


As DENSITY goes up, so has your effort to improve CAPACITY training.

If you are here today……

• 12 x 25 Kick on 40 seconds. 

• 300FS Breathing every three – finger drag. 

• 10 x 25 Kick on 35 seconds 

• 200BK with fins. 

• 8 x 25 BRS pull on 45 with buoy. 

• 200 One arm Fly. 

• 8x25fly Kick with fins on back on 45 

• 8x25fly swim with fins on45 

• 200FS finger drag drill 

• Dryland 

• In a 45minute workout. (total–2050m)

Two weeks later, we move to here……

• 12 x 25FS kick on 35 seconds. 

• 400FS BE 3, finger drag 

• 10 x 25 kick on 30 seconds. 

• 300BK – paddles 

• 12 x 25BRS pull w/buoy

• 300 fly, 25 1 arm, 25 whole 

• 8x25fly kick on back with fins on40 

• 8x25fly swim w/fins on35 

• 300FS Finger Tip drill – 

• Dryland 

• In a 45 minutes workout – 2550 

Much more dense, much more capacity built.

Capacity training prepares you for tomorrow.

Utilization training prepares you for “next week”.

When you read stories about successful elite athletes, what are you reading? The real question is, what were they doing at 10, 12, 14, 16, 18. When you are around long enough to trace it, you realize only those who DID capacity training, GET to be successful with Utilization Training.