Critical Swim Speed (CSS)

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mat O’Halloran 1 year, 3 months ago.

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    Anyone from Trisutto got a view on the use of CSS in swim training?


    Mat O’Halloran

    Hey Simon – thanks for your question. While CSS is a new approach, it’s very similar to what “bike guru’s” would consider to be your FTP or what runners call your “sweet spot”.

    At Trisutto, we work towards a more individual approach. We aim to take less bad strokes and more good strokes. The velocity, is not so important, especially in the early stages of adaptation or depending on the time of year.

    We also use a lot of swim toys, which help a lot with stroke correction, body position, and specific strength work. So paddles, pulls, fins and bands, will throw the CSS numbers, all out of whack. It seems like it’s best for just swimming “bare”.

    Some athletes, depending on their background, have good speed, but lack endurance. Then others, lack speed, but can keep going all day. Then some, take longer strokes, while others take shorter strokes.

    This would be, different programs and targets, regardless of their 200m or 400m time trial speed. Then for former swimmers, it would be another different program.

    While it’s great to have a quantifiable metric to target in training, it’s not the end-all-and-be-all of endurance training.

    If training was as simple as training as much as possible at a certain pace, there would be a lot more consistent and fast athletes out there 😉

    The CSS seems like an easy method to coach with. Calculate, prescribe and train away. Of which, can be a hit or miss. But an individual approach, is more work for the coach and requires more experience in swimming, but will often yield more consistent results.

    All the best in your swimming 🙂




    Thanks for the response, your comments make good common sense.

    My tri club uses CSS for swim sets but I just don’t see how its even possible for several people in one lane all with different CSS paces to swim at the right pace for them, made more complicated by the drafting effect. Seems to me the only person who is doing it ‘right’ is on the lead swimmer.



    Mat O’Halloran

    Hey Simon – you’re welcome.

    While swimming in a group has several positive aspects, such as increased motivation, peer support, better lane space and direct feedback from a coach on deck. You might also end up doing something that is not specific to your needs.

    I did some club swimming in my youth, and at the time it did not occur to me, but the program was geared towards the top swimmers in the squad. The rest of us just followed and tried to hang on!

    However, once I started working with coach Brett in 2007, is was the first time I saw a coach give multiple swim sets, to various athletes, in a single workout. Furthermore, most had their own individual swim toys wear. This is also the case at the track!

    This approach requires greater intuition and a bit more work for the coach.

    Typically, I advise athletes to do a couple swims a week with a group, then a couple swims on their own. It gives them a nice balance and more often than not, allow’s them to improve quicker than their colleagues in the swim group.


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