General Discussion Triathlon Talk » tricep fatigue when swimming Rss Feed  
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2018-10-27 7:32 AM

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Subject: tricep fatigue when swimming
My triceps very easily get fatigued when swimming, but not any other body parts. I've counted my time for 1500 m in a 50 m pool recently and got 32'27", which means about 2'10" per 100 m.

When I try to swim faster in training, my triceps always get fatigued, making me unable to hold the form over longer distances. For example, in interval training on 2'20" interval, if I start my first 100 m in 2'0", I can only swim the second in 2'3", and eventually end up at somewhere around 2'5" to 2'10"; if I start my first 100 m much faster, e.g. at 1'50" or even 1'45", I can swim the second 100 m at perhaps 1'55" - 1'57", and the third at 2'0", but eventually end up at somewhere around 2'5" to 2'10", without getting shortness of breath. My 100 m all out speed is 1'37" which will cause shortness of breath and done with anaerobic component, but if I start fresh and swim at 1'42" or more for the first 100 m, I don't feel shortness of breath, however I can't reproduce it for a second time because my triceps already get fatigued.

I also count strokes in my workouts. I generally do about 48 strokes for 50 m pool in warm up, and my main set generally starts with about 52 strokes, however, I can't keep this number and eventually go up to 58 in the later part, and go over 60 just before failure in an USRPT set. At that time I feel that I can no longer set up the EVF catch properly, and the exit is also affected. At the end of workout, my triceps are so fatigued, sometimes to the extent that I have difficulty raising my hand. (When I started swimming, the first few times I did 10 x 100 m, I couldn't put my hand up after the workout.)

Open water swimming seems easier for me because there is no interruption per 50 m which affects my breathing so much, so I can keep my rhythm for much longer.

I have heard that in freestyle swimming the most used muscle is the lats, however, I generally don't feel my lats unless my swim is more than 3 km, which my triceps have already become so fatigued and affect my form greatly. I don't feel my shoulders either. I feel that my potential is limited by tricep fatigue, especially given the large difference between my 100 m all out speed (1'37") and sustainable speed (2'10"). What's the reason of my triceps get fatigued so easily? Any amount of swimming at any speed causes triceps fatigue for me.


2018-10-27 9:26 AM
in reply to: miklcct

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Subject: RE: tricep fatigue when swimming
I would recommend having a swim coach or teacher take a look at your stroke and give you some feedback. There are also online coaches who could advise you based on a video of your swimming. (In the past people have posted videos here and gotten feedback from some of the coaches and "fish"; not sure how much response you'd get these days. I'm not a swim coach and don't think I'd be much help!) Some tricep fatigue after a hard workout is pretty normal, especially if you're doing a lot of pulling or using paddles. But they should not be the main muscles that are getting tired. To me, your times and the way distance per stroke increases as you fatigue (which again is normal, but you're already starting with a pretty high number, so it suggests your stroke is becoming really inefficient), suggests you would have a lot to gain from some help with your swim technique.
2018-10-27 5:01 PM
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Subject: RE: tricep fatigue when swimming

Originally posted by miklcct

My triceps very easily get fatigued when swimming, but not any other body parts. I've counted my time for 1500 m in a 50 m pool recently and got 32'27", which means about 2'10" per 100 m. 

There's a lot here so I'm going to break it down into separate sections.

You don't specifically say whether the 1500 you refer to was one continuous swim or intervals.  You talk about intervals a bit later on, but it isn't clear how you did the 1500.  In any case, at 2:10/100 you have some significant technique flaws that are holding you back.  Admittedly I have not seen you swim and have no idea what your swimming history is, but I suspect your biggest issues are likely balance in the water (legs dropping), body rotation, and an ineffective catch/EVF.  I base that on 50+ years of swimming experience and 30+ years of coaching experience, that you aren't feeling your lats engaged, and what you say further down about your strokes per length.  

The single best thing you can do is get with a qualified coach/instructor for some lessons.  If that isn't an option, the next best thing is contact a qualified coach/instructor for remote video analysis.  Video isn't as fast as a coach on deck, however it will yield results over a number of weeks (that would involve multiple video, analysis, correction cycles).

Originally posted by miklcct

For example, in interval training on 2'20" interval, if I start my first 100 m in 2'0", I can only swim the second in 2'3", and eventually end up at somewhere around 2'5" to 2'10"; if I start my first 100 m much faster, e.g. at 1'50" or even 1'45", I can swim the second 100 m at perhaps 1'55" - 1'57", and the third at 2'0", but eventually end up at somewhere around 2'5" to 2'10", without getting shortness of breath. My 100 m all out speed is 1'37" which will cause shortness of breath and done with anaerobic component, but if I start fresh and swim at 1'42" or more for the first 100 m, I don't feel shortness of breath, however I can't reproduce it for a second time because my triceps already get fatigued.

It seems regardless of what you do, you end up right around 2:10/100 which tells me that's pretty close to your threshold pace.  While you are sorting your technique out, you might try reducing the interval length and increase your rest interval.  During your workout, you want to strive for PERFECT technique (I know, that's a challenge if you don't have perfect technique).  Your technique is further breaking down as you fatigue.  By shortening the repetition length (maybe 50's instead of 100's) and increasing the rest interval for a few weeks (at least 20" between reps) you will recover and be able to swim longer with proper (or at least better) technique.  You might try something like 30 x 50 @ 1:25 send-off with a target pace of 1:05/50.  That will give you 20" rest after every rep.  Once a week, throw in a set of 4 x 100 @ 2:30 with a target of 2:10.  Can you hold your pace during the 4 x 100 when you do that?  If you can, then you can start alternating 100's one day and 50's the next day.  You DON'T need to be doing long continuous swims.  In the long run, you will be better served doing intervals.  Occasionally you can do a long continuous swim if you feel you need the confidence of having completed the long swim.

Before you say you want to swim faster than 2:10/100, consider this.  You've already said you can't hold anything faster than 2:10/100 for more than one rep.  The reason is you are going anaerobic when you attempt to go faster - your body is essentially not letting you swim faster.  The path to getting faster and swimming at a pace quicker than 2:10/100 is to reduce your swim threshold pace.  You do that by training at or near your threshold (the reason I said target 2:10/100).  In a fairly short period of time your threshold pace will begin to come down.  Once you have good swim fitness and good technique, then you can add in some intensive endurance sets to work on top speed.

Originally posted by miklcct

I have heard that in freestyle swimming the most used muscle is the lats, however, I generally don't feel my lats unless my swim is more than 3 km, which my triceps have already become so fatigued and affect my form greatly. 

If you don't have proper body rotation, you won't be able to properly engage your back and core muscles.  This goes back to my earlier comment about multiple technique issues that need to be addressed.

Originally posted by miklcct

I also count strokes in my workouts. I generally do about 48 strokes for 50 m pool in warm up, and my main set generally starts with about 52 strokes, however, I can't keep this number and eventually go up to 58 in the later part, and go over 60 just before failure in an USRPT set. At that time I feel that I can no longer set up the EVF catch properly, and the exit is also affected. 

I am not big on strokes per length.  That said, it is an indication of your stroke efficiency.  There is no "right" number.  Why?  I'm 6'5" tall.  My "wingspan" - the distance between my hands when my arms are outstretched - is over 7-feet.  I've also been swimming close to 50-years.  If you compare my strokes per length to someone who is 5'5" that's been swimming 1-year, you'll see a SIGNIFICANT difference in our SPL's.  That said, while there isn't a right SPL, I know when it's too low and yours is way too low - meaning your stroke is inefficient.  That's likely a combination of drag and an ineffective catch/EVF leading to an inefficient propulsive phase.

The short answer is that your triceps fatigue isn't the problem, rather it's a symptom of the problem - specifically your technique needs some work.  As I said, the best thing you can do is get with a qualified coach/instructor for some lessons/analysis.

Hope that helps.

2018-10-30 11:28 PM
in reply to: k9car363

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Subject: RE: tricep fatigue when swimming
I joined a lesson last night, and planning to do it again once a week until the lesson stops operating in December.
2018-10-31 2:45 AM
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Subject: RE: tricep fatigue when swimming

Originally posted by miklcct

I joined a lesson last night, and planning to do it again once a week until the lesson stops operating in December.

Your swimming will thank you!

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