The Science of Swimming Fast with Dr. Jan Olbrecht

"If you don't feel the difference between 14 and 15 kilos pressure on the water, you'll never be the fastest guy in the world."

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Dr. Jan Olbrecht, renowned for his groundbreaking work in swimming training methodologies (especially lactate testing), sits down with Brett to discuss modern approaches to sprint training in swimming. His unique approach, blending science with practical insights, has influenced swimming coaching and athlete performance globally.

Dr. Olbrecht’s training philosophies revolve around a deep understanding of the athlete's individual needs, scientific research, and the practical application of these insights. He prioritizes the athlete's performance and medal achievements, emphasizing the importance of supporting coaches with scientific findings that can be realistically applied to enhance training efficiency.

They discuss the evolution of sprint training in swimming, focusing on how traditional practices have shifted towards more specialized and individualized approaches. Dr. Olbrecht highlights the progress in understanding the unique demands of sprinting, debunking old myths and presenting the latest advancements in training for sprinters.

Highlighting the critical balance between aerobic and anaerobic capacities for sprinters, Dr. Olbrecht delves into the physiology that underpins effective sprint training. He explains how even short-distance swimmers benefit from a well-developed aerobic base, allowing them to sustain high-intensity work and recover efficiently, but that you can facilitate this at relatively low volumes.

Dr. Olbrecht also offers valuable insights into the biomechanics of sprinting in swimming. Discussing the optimal blend of stroke rate and stroke distance, he explains how variations in arm movement (bent arm vs straight arm), body position, and power application can significantly impact a sprinter's performance in the water.

"If you don't feel the difference between 14 and 15 kilos pressure on the water, you'll never be the fastest guy in the world." - Dr. Jan Olbrecht

Training modalities and the concept of periodization are also thoroughly examined, with Dr. Olbrecht discussing how adjusting training intensity and volume over time can maximize performance. He stresses the importance of anaerobic work balanced with aerobic conditioning, even early in the training season, to build both capacity and power.

Dr. Olbrecht reflects on the future of swimming training, emphasizing the continuous evolution of techniques and strategies. He encourages coaches and athletes to engage in lifelong learning, sharing knowledge, and staying open to new research to stay ahead in the competitive world of swimming.


Meet Dr. Jan Olbrecht at this year’s ASCA World Clinic in Orlando, Florida this September from the 4th to the 7th.

Listen on Spotify, here.

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Time Stamps:
00:00 Hello Jan Olbrecht 02:50 Sprinting Research 05:00 Capacity & Power 10:00 Volume 11:00 Training Aerobic Capacity Outside of the Pool 14:00 Building Aerobic Capacity Through Anaerobic Work 20:12 Skills & Drills 22:00 Stressing the Central Nervous System for Sprinters 25:00 Max Power 3 to 4 Practices Per Week 27:30 Recovery 30:10 Periodization 33:30 Racing During Training Cycles 36:00 Straight Arm vs. Bent Arm 39:40 How are we getting faster? 44:00 Comparing Athletics and Swimming 49:30 How should a swim coach learn? 54:15 Differences Between Men & Women in Sprinting 57:00 Thank You Dr. Jan Olbrecht 57:30 What have we learned?