Pukie at the Pool

By Roy Wallack and Brian Nabeta

In Sports Applications

April 18, 2009

PDF Article

Brian Nabeta is the head coach and aquatics director of the Arden Hills Swim Team, which just became an affiliate.

The Arden Hills Swim Club may conduct one of the strangest swimming workouts in the world, but the kids aren’t complaining—especially after what happened to them at the Junior Nationals in Austin, Texas last December.

Seventeen year-old Katie Edwards dreamed of finishing in the top five. She did even better, winning the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Along the way, she obliterated her PRs. Her time in the 200 went from 2:19.30 to 2:11.22. And her time in the 100 went from 1:03.92 to 1:00.88.

“That took her from ‘good’ to someone who’d score a Top 8 in the NCAA,” says coach Brian Nabeta. “And she wasn’t the only one. We had kids ranked fifty-something who finished in the top sixteen. We had kids who had no chance at finals, yet got close. Out of 37 individual events, we had 33 lifetime bests.

“Other coaches were coming to me saying: ‘Oh, my God, what are you doing?’”

The answer is a hybrid that no one’s ever heard of before: CrossFit swimming.

Free Download


8 Comments on “Pukie at the Pool”


wrote …

Coast Guard CrossFitters in Puerto Rico have been leaping out of the pool between sets to flip tires, swing kettlebells, or crank out any number of burpees, squats, or what have you for some time now. Great fun, though not for everyone, are our "panic attacks" where kettlebells or bricks come along for trips up and down the pool.

My own daughter, in Grade Six, has had a successful scholastic seasons as a swimmer and runner, powered in both cases by reduced mileage and effective CrossFit training.


wrote …

Love the article, I voluntarily train a high school water polo team and a swimm team in the weight room and dry-land.

I would love to get other coach's programs for training these type of athletes.
Thank you


wrote …

In basic training we did pool PT just like this. In our combats, we'd swim 25m, do either push-ups/squats/pull-ups/sit-ups while our partner was holding a plank position or something similar, waiting for us to swim back and tag them to switch... Very fun stuff! Most of our platoon had to keep Pukie in a headlock to make it through the class!

Great training.

Thanks Coach


wrote …

Great article. Check out Journal # 37 I believe, it's got some great stuff, particularly on Swim Salo which is a lower yardage high intensity program that I used when training for Ironman and was sorely time pressed. Nowadays, in the summer at the Jersey shore, one of my favorite wods is to bike to the beach, swim to a buoy (it marks a guarded swim area), back to shore, 15 burpees, 5 rounds for time, bike home. If I'm ambitious, I bring the kettlebell and the variations multiply. Everybody in the water!


wrote …

Awesome article! This is a great example of the "Spirit of CrossFit". Functional fitness used to enhance specific sport performance. My niece is in Brian's program and I've seen her performance, personal intensity, athletic passion, and attention to her overall fitness elevate to a higher level thanks to Brian's program.
I've also seen Brian do a few workouts at CrossFit East Sacramento, he is a model of high intensity and performance. The dude is all over the leader boards, he's a stud.


James Glinn wrote …

Great article, thanks for sharing. One question I have is how much do you feel the decrease in yardage played in the success of the swimmers? It would seem to be important for coaches to realize that adding CF workouts to typical yardage might actually be detrimental?

Kudos to Brian for being willing to step outside of tradition and pay attention to science. Swimmers have been training silly for a long time! Double sessions at 8000+ seems to make no sense and has burned out many a promising athlete.

Look forward to watching the Arden Hills team into the future......


wrote …

The model that I used to lower the volume did come from studies that I did in talking to other USA swim coaches such as coach Salo at USC. Arden Hills in the past had been know as very high yardage program which produced great swimmers. But, with the athletes today it has become inportant to stimulate their minds before they get bored and lose intensity.

I have 9 set workouts throughout the week. Monday-Wednesday-Friday AM, Saturday AM, and Monday thru Friday PM. In the mornings we do CF WODs and swim technique work once we get in to the water. the kids are wasted after the wod and to get them to focus on their stroke technique is important. Their HR is also at a level that they are still gettting aerobic work sustaining their conditioning. When I take the WODs to the afternoon workout it is a little different as I usually have 1-2 wods working at once. For example; 10x 100 yard swim free w/parachutes + 10 burpees for time; 5x 200 meter row + 100 yard swim + 30 squats for time. We might rest for 5-15 minutes with light kicking and will switch groups. All times recorded.

We either go with best technique easy swimming or very high intensity swimming. NO MIDDLE GROUND. I have a mid distance to distance swimmer who got 5th at the spring junior national meet in the 1500 meter free and did not do a swim in a set over 800 yards. The set may have been 800-600-400-200 2x through, but never the old fashion way of 6x 1000 frees. I have lowered the volume of workload once I implemented CF to he workouts from 8-10,000 yards in the afternoon to 6-8,000, and the mornings from 4-5,000 to 3,000 yards. That is a significant decrease to get the results that we have gotten this year.

Feel free to post or email me if you have any questions. I want to help open coaches minds on how changing is ok and thinking out of the box is good.


Mike Reid wrote …

Awesome stuff!
I'm a new subscriber to CrossFit. I'm a PT and soccer coach and I have a son who swims to a national standard. Myself and his swim coach can see massive potential in him and other swimmers in his group and along with the journal articals, information and direction from Brian & CrossFit, it gives me a greater confidence to try things outside the box.
I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for some great ideas.

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)