Chris Ritter: Full Capacity

Chris Ritter is a former college swimmer at Cal State-Bakersfield, and is the founder of RITTER Sports Performance. He has trained two Olympic Gold Medalists along with numerous other national and international level swimmers. He has used his educational background (a degree in Exercise Science) and swimming experience to develop the RITTERFAST, RITTERLIVE, and RITTERSURGE training systems. Follow him on Twitter at @RITTERSP.

To read more of Chris’ writing, click “Ritter Sports Performance” underneath the title at the top of this page.

Full Capacity

For the past three weeks I’ve laid out the foundational training philosophy of RITTERSURGE. You first develop efficiency. From there you move to speed. And in this final week I’ll discuss the most common but also the most misunderstand focus area in your training – capacity.

What exactly is that? You don’t hear that term thrown around the pool deck very often. When your focus area in training is capacity the goal is maintaining both technique and velocity. It’s the skill of combining two, seemingly opposite characteristics – speed and efficiency.

Capacity focused training is when a swimmer experiments with how best to combine swimming speed with swimming efficiency.

The goal isn’t a single dimension such as increasing volume. It’s the culmination of maintaining the efficiency you’ve developed along with the speed you’ve recently discovered. And now it’s the fun part of seeing how long you can hold your new stroke.

This is the most logical way to train in the water. If you’ve worked hard trying to re-learn motor patterns with a new stroke. And then pushed yourself really hard to achieve new levels of speed. It only makes sense that you want to keep both of these changes to create your new stroke. The last part of training is just seeing how long you can hold it. Your goal to maintain it longer and longer with great consistency is the obvious thing to do.

I really believe this order of training works best in the big picture. And unfortunately this is where many in swimming put the cart before the horse.

USA Swimming is classified by the USOC, in Colorado Springs, as an endurance sport. Not because of the actual nature of the sport. It’s a result of how the majority of coaches and teams actually train. Reread those last two sentences and ponder that for just a second.

I’m not proposing that you shouldn’t do any endurance training. Please don’t jump to that conclusion.

My position is though that coaches often misapply endurance training with their swimmers. In addition this training is too narrow in scope. It’s usually because of a lack of basic physiological knowledge. (Check out Build Your Foundation for a quick 101 lesson.)

The question I have for many in the sport is simple when they tell me they’re in an “endurance phase” or “building phase.”

What are you building?

What racing quality are you trying to endure longer?

Many swimmers are working really hard trying to maintain a swimming quality that they never trained in the first place. This is result of narrowly focusing on endurance first. Before efficiency and speed.

This is a big light bulb moment in training: understanding that if you want to develop endurance you first need some quality you wish to endure.

If you were to go right to endurance training first and go backwards much of the work you’d do at the beginning is wasting your time because you haven’t developed anything new in your stroke yet.

This is why capacity is more than how many yards you can cram in a session. And even more why you should train in the water with this philosophical order.

It’s about using the racing qualities you’ve developed and molding them to fit your events as a swimmer. You get the opportunity to truly construct your own stroke for your own race. Isn’t that what your training should really be about?

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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