What's the difference between Swim Smooth and Masters swimming?

We've just arrived back in Perth from a big trip to California, running our 3 Day Coach Education course in sunny San Diego. One question we got asked all the time in the states was: What's the difference between Swim Smooth and Masters swimming?

Like most of our US coaches, Swim Smooth
Coach John Chipponeri is also US Masters qualified

Here's one of the twenty coaches on the course reflecting on the need for a Swim Smooth setup in their location:

I think that there are a lot of people in the area and surrounding regions that are looking for help in their triathlon/open water swim technique and training. There are not many systematic approaches available, so a lot of times these athletes are on their own or going from coach-to-coach to find answers, further confusing themselves. A clear, progressive technique and training philosophy, combined with a positive, fun environment is the perfect solution! A Swim Smooth program would be a breath of fresh air for many frustrated and confused swimmers/triathletes!!

As Brittany points out there, unlike most swim programs Swim Smooth is entirely focused on distance freestyle for open water swimming and triathlon. In contrast Masters covers all four strokes with a major focus on sprint events.

Most countries around the world have Masters swimming and these programs do a great job for senior swimmers racing all four strokes in the pool. The preparation required for longer events and triathlon / open water swimming requires a slightly different focus:

That's where Swim Smooth comes in, it's an entire coaching system designed from the bottom up for distance freestyle swimmers and those racing in open water and triathlon.

Whereas Masters develops all four competitive strokes, Swim Smooth's program focuses almost entirely on distance freestyle swimming. Many swimmers have limited training time (commonly swimming 2-3 times per week) and so you require maximum "specificity" on freestyle to achieve your best performances.

Fiona Ford - Richmond, London

Swim Smooth also places a large focus on developing swimmers who are relatively new to the sport. It's fair to say that the majority of our swimmers and triathletes do not have a swimming background and our methods allow for that. In this way the technique work we focus on takes account of your specific needs.
Bart Rolet - Swim Smooth Montreal

At Swim Smooth we also focus on training methods to give best performance over distances of 750m and longer. Preparation for swims of 750 to 3800m is at the core of our program with specific sessions developing you for longer events such as 5 and 10km open water swims. What does this mean in practise? Less focus on sprinting with long recovery times and a much larger emphasis on sustained-speed over longer distances with shorter recoveries. This would be far from ideal for sprinters but as a distance swimmer or triathlete delivers you break-through performances.

Fenella Ng & Annemarie Munk - Swim Smooth Hong Kong

Our focus on open water swimming means we aim to develop strokes that perform well when swimming in close proximity to other swimmers. Typically this means a greater focus on stroke rhythm and less emphasis on the kick for propulsion. You will still perform at a high level in the pool but in the open water you will really excel.

Rob Kwaaitaal - Swim Smooth Netherlands

That open water focus also means transitioning away from practising starts and turns for pool racing towards developing key open water skills such as drafting, sighting, swimming straight and mass starts. When mastered, these skills are worth many minutes in an open water swim.

Jana Schoeman, Swim Smooth Johannesburg

At Swim Smooth we are big fans of Masters swimming - in fact many of our coaches (such as Lance Ogren, Linda Bostic and Mike Jotautus - all of whom are brilliant masters swimmers in their own right) run fabulous Masters programs but also recognise the need for what Swim Smooth provides and run Swim Smooth squads in parallel for these types of swimmers.

If you are training for open water swimming or triathlon you'll get a huge amount out of a Swim Smooth Squad and as Brittany pointed out above, you'll love the camaraderie we foster - training for longer events can be challenging but we guarantee we'll make it fun and rewarding!

Jason Tait - Swim Smooth Swindon, UK

Find Your Nearest Swim Smooth Squad

As you can probably tell we're passionate about providing as many distance swimmers as possible with the perfect group-training environment. Interested in joining one of our squads? Find your nearest here:

We can't wait to welcome you aboard!

Paul Newsome - Swim Smooth Perth

Join The Movement

We have an extensive on-going program in place to find and train the most passionate coaches all over the planet in Swim Smooth's unique approach to swimming. If you are a coach and are interested in joining our movement then you can find out more about becoming a Swim Smooth Coach here:

The first step on that (significant) journey is to join our Coaches Network:

Don't delay - remember procrastination is the dream killer - just start!

Dying to get to work on your swimming: November 2017 San Diego Coach Education Course

Swim Smooth!


Jonas said...

I'd say Swim Smooth focuses on open water swimming especially for triathletes. That's why Swim Smooth doesn't really teach you how to swim if you want to race in the pool. For the pool you need a very good ankle flexibility, but you don't really need it for racing in open water. And more importantly: swimming and running are incompatible as for swimming you need ankle flexibility but for running you need ankle stability.

Unknown said...

Hi Swim Smooth, love your work and agree with the post but just need to correct a few of your statements about Masters Swimming (in Australia, at least). You state that Masters swimming is for "Seniors" but in Australia, Masters swimming is for those 18 years and over, and it is not uncommon to find current Australian and Olympic contenders competing at the top Masters carnivals. In our club of 25 (Coffs Harbour) we have 3 swimmers in their 30s, 1 in their 20s, and the youngest is 18.
Secondly, you state that Masters swimming is about sprinting over short distances in the pool. This is only part of the truth. Masters has a strong Endurance program that most clubs run. It involves swimming multiple timed events throughout the year (in all 4 strokes and IM if you want) over 400m, 800, 1500, 3000, 5000, plus continuous swims of 30 mins, 45 mins and 1 hour (except for butterfly and IM which are limited to 800m). Somewhat different to the impression you give. It is true that most of the competition carnivals have events up to only 200m, but there are also short course and long course long distance championships and next year for the first time the Pan Pacific Games will include a 1500m event.
I am 61 years old and a sprinter, but the Masters Endurance program has encouraged me to get into distance swimming. I can now do 1500m backstroke, 3.4km in the 1 hour continuous freestyle swim, and hold a number of top 10 national rankings across the Endurance program. Not boasting, just saying what the Masters Endurance program has done for me.

Mike said...

This article seems a bit off mark. Here in the US, Masters is over 18 too. My local Colorado US Masters group consists more than 50% triathletes and the coach is a 3x Ironman Hawaii World Championship finisher. The workouts accommodate freestyle and those who want to swim stroke. On long course Fridays the lane lines often get taken out and some buoys put in at either end to allow triathlon style pack swimming practice and getting used to all that entails!

Patricia Filteau said...

This was a very helpful article addressing many questions and issues I have wondered about for more than forty years. Having joined many Masters clubs over the years, I tend to drift away from them and eventually quit but I never stop swimming distance and in open water when the season and access permit. I love the open water experience, not only physically but aesthetically and spiritually as well. It feeds my soul. I would just like to swim a little faster. I’ve never not finished a swim, regardless of the distance but I am often the near to last swimmer or even last one to complete the distance. I used to fantasize about being the middle of the pack. Solo swimming readily addresses that seemingly unobtainable objective. Ha! I’ve consistently been told that my speed will increase with sprint training. Oh my, I’ve come to recognize that I hate sprinting. So what to do when I want to shave off some time. Currently, I swim 1 km/30min. I would be happy getting it down to 25 min/1 km. I swim about 11 km a week in the pool. Open water weeks tend to be more like 16- 20 km mostly because I’m not so limited by time. Patricia Filteau Ottawa - Gatineau, Canada

Cyndy said...

Patricia glad you are so passionate about swimming. I can hear it come through loud and clear in your writing. I would suggest a trip to see our coach in Montreal - Bart Rolet website: swimsmoothmontreal.com, phone: +1 514 703 0577, email: bart.rolet@gmail.com. Book a 1-2-1 with him or attend a clinic. Check him out on his website. If that is not feasible then I would suggest checking out swimsmooth.guru. Sign up for a subscription and choose a plan to follow. It will help correct any swimming faults you may have. There are loads of videos to watch on how to do all the drills correctly. Getting you on a training plan will help with that speed you are looking for. A good weekly mix of technique, CSS and endurance training is what you need. The guru is a monthly membership and can be cancelled at anytime. Sign up and you can drop us any questions you have so we can help along the way.

Anonymous said...

Having completed a handful of open water races, and followed Mr. Smooth,
I can pretty much guarantee I am the only one bilaterally breathing and consequently getting 1/2 the air everyone else gets doing single side breathing and now fully believe that is why I finish so far if not all the way back. Who bilaterally breathes in a race? NO ONE. Just watched the Nationals prelims. NO ONE BILATERALLY BREATHED. NOT a single contestant. Why is it promoted for racing? Fully understand it is probably better for preventing overuse injury, but why would you put it in the animation? Or is it just the conditioning required to maintain speed with bilateral breathing double what it is for single side breathing and only wimps single side breathe? Hard to understand. Is that the first lesson? Single side breathe when racing?

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