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Yards: Swimming With Champions by Sevan Matossian - CrossFit Journal

Yards: Swimming With Champions

By Sevan Matossian

In Coaching, HD Videos, Sports Applications

March 09, 2010

Video Article

In the late ’50s and ’60s, future Olympic legends Mark Spitz and Debbie Meyer were knifing through the pool at the Arden Hills Swim Club. In total, Arden his has produced 31 Olympic medals, 21 of them gold. Today, prospective Olympians and top swimmers are doing the same thing—but now they’re using CrossFit too.

The mission of the Arden Hills USA Swim Team is to help athletes reach their full potential and follow their Olympic dreams, and head coach Brian Nabeta has decided CrossFit is going to help them do so. Nabeta introduced CrossFit in the fall of 2008, and he reports that he saw impressive strength gains in the first three months. Improved swim times followed. He wrote about integrating CrossFit and swimming in the CrossFit Journal article Pukie at the Pool.

Just like other top athletes, the swimmers at Arden Hills have discovered they can achieve elite performances with lower volume. The key, of course, is the intensity of the training, not the yardage in the pool. With CrossFit, Nabeta is seeing stronger swimmers who use their powerful bodies to cut through the water and drive out of the turns. Starting the day with a WOD allows Nabeta to condition the athletes before he gets them into the pool to perfect their technique.

Brian himself works out at CrossFit East Sacramento and is a Level 1 trainer, and he was also recently selected as a swimming coach on the United States World Youth Team that will compete in Spain. Since starting the program, both he and his wife Cherie have lost weight and regained their competitive conditioning, and Brian’s out-of-control cholesterol is back to normal without meds.

Nabeta’s athletes are stronger and fitter, too. Many are well on their way to scholarships and perhaps even the Olympics. Visit CrossFit Arden Hills Swimming for WODs and more information.

58min 38sec
HD file size: 2.0 GB
SD wmv file size: 735 MB
SD mov file size: 623 MB

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20 Comments on “Yards: Swimming With Champions”


wrote …

ahh, finally some stuff about swimming. thanks.


wrote …

As a college swimmer, coach-to-be, and devout crossfitter, this video is great. Many people in the swimming community have traditional influences ingrained in them. Videos like these are really refreshing.

I wonder what a swim training program designed by Brian Mackenzie would look like? Not triathlon-distance swimming like CFE, but training for specific racing events. Also, many swim programs now are emphasizing quality and anaerobic and race=pace training. This school of swim thought was started by Dave Salo, current coach of USC. I mention this because the Crossfit main site linked to an article of his sometime in 2005. Salo's program (and others like it including Cal, Michigan men, and Auburn) place a heavy emphasis on consistently swimming at or near race-pace, much as Louie Simmons trains his lifters consistently at or near maximal loads. Because swimming competition, like in many sports including Crossfit and weightlifting, is output-based I think the principles of Crossfit and WSB carry over very well to swimming.

Many in the swimming community fail to see this output perspective. Consideration of it, and of Crossfit training outside of the pool has tremendous gains to lend to the sport of swimming.


wrote …

Note: The Brian Mackenzie comment is a direct response to "The Endurance Paradigm" video and an application of that to shorter swimming races. Sorry for not being clear about that in my first post.


wrote …

Can anyone else save the HD file size: 2.0 GB?


wrote …

Great vid! I'll have my (swimming) kids watch tomorrow.
Would love to see more about Crossfit and kids sports (especially swimming, but soccer & tumbling as well.)

Also what programming do you use the most for the teenage swimmers - straight crossfit WODs, crossfit kids WODs or do you program original WODs all yourself?

BTW loved the crossfit swimming shirt one of the kids had on. Is that the same with the crossfit quote by Coach Glassman on the back? Tell me where to send the check for one.


wrote …

I dryland train a high school waterpolo and swim team and we have always followed the Crossfit methodology, utilizing various stations for time.

The kids remained intensley stronger than their competitors, especially at the end of the season when other teams were pretty much out of gas.


wrote …

As a former Division 1 swimmer, I can only wish that my coaches had access to this information 8 years ago. So many swim coaches have the "old school" mentality that more yardage is better, they create shoulder problems with high volume and overuse. As Tyler pointed out above, there are several programs that are leaning toward more anaerobic/low volume training, and those programs have been incredibly successful (Auburn, Cal, Arizona, Tennessee). It makes me happy that some coaches out there are finally starting to get it and makes me want to break out the speedo.


Matt Deminico wrote …

Having zero interest in competitive swimming myself right now, nevertheless I absolutely loved this video. It was a really really really good production, I can't explain what I liked so much about it, but it really was a great video.


wrote …

A big thank you to Sevan who was able to take the time to come up to the club and see what we do in SacTown. Thank you to Adam and Rob for getting Cherie and I started and to Justin and Travis who started us on the Kool Aid that is keeping us going strong.

Tyler: I have been playing around with WOD's that are event specific as to the time it takes. We do Wod's that put the swimmer in a uncomfortable situation such as 50 sec of max wall ball to see what output they would have knowing that their goal swim in the 100 yard free is 50 sec. I have taken a portion of the CFE workouts and have made adjustments to some that have been alot of fun for my swimmers. ie. 10 min swim for distance, recovery for 10 minutes, then 2x 5 minute swims for distance trying to swim further than half of the 10 minute swim. It has been a blast so fat. My distance guys have been swimming great. Nick in the video last summer was 15:40 in the 1500 meter free, 8:13 in the 800 meter free, Michael was 8:18 in the 800 m free. I have been friends with coach Salo at USC, Dave Marsh at MAC, and Dave Durden at CAL for some time and they all have some great ideas.

Jeff: email me at and I will get a shirt out to you. I have only limited amount but Ill see what I have.


wrote …

AWESOME!!! Let's see more from these swimmers, and more videos like this!!!


Herona K wrote …

theres an interview on crossfit radio with Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion swimming.

Imagine we had 7 kilometer swim as the first workout to thee crossfit games, that'll be narly.


Jay Ashman wrote …

very interesting.... I am working with a girl swimmer this Saturday actually and I plan on using a lot of CF-inspired workouts (with sport specific moves) to enhance her flexibility, power and stamina so when she is in the pool she has more physical ability to match her fantastic skills.


replied to comment from Jay Ashman

Keep up the good work Brian! You've got a lot of supporters and seeing you and your swimmer in Spain is a great payoff.

Keep 'em functionally fit!


Justin Riley wrote …

Way to get recognized by the community. What you do with these young athletes is revolutionary. We here at CrossFit East Sac are greatful to have you and Cherie as part of our clan.

If you all want to get an idea of what types of WODs Brian is using with his swimmers, check out his blog at


wrote …

Scott, It has been a great run so far with the kids. I enjoy talking CF with the other swim coaches (Chris/Sage CF Moxie) on the pool deck. We will only make our swimmers better athletes and we know that most of our best swimmers can no almost anything that we toss at them.

Justin, Thanks for all your support at CFES and the other coaches Travis, Brooke and Chris. We all have had a part in developing these swimmers in someway or another.


wrote …

Dude, this is an awesome piece of work. I really don't think the community as a whole understands how fortunate we are to have someone with your talent producing this kind of content vehicle.
That is a video that you could show to anyone, (CrossFitter or not) and they would be intrigued. Great work bro. Keep it up. You make the community so much richer with your gift for storytelling and video presentation.
I'm a big fan.


wrote …

Sevan...i love this video for two, it makes swimming look like art work (which it is) ...and two, it brings to light another great match of crossfit benefiting/enhancing performance in another sport and/or daily life.

i coach youth and adult swimming and have been using crossfit movements and philosophy with the swimmers in our dryland training program. we have seen huge improvements, not only in swimming, but in basic mind/body coordination that some swimmers can lack.

we need more awareness like this in the swimming community. As with most movements in sport, and daily life,...swimming relies heavily on the core to extremity concept. crossfit is ideal for developing this awareness of movement and carries over to the four strokes very well.....

the translation for mental capability from the wods to pool racing is also extremely valuable. (like brian stated in the video)

thank you so much!! it would be great to see more of this. i am absolutely going to show the video to my kids.....maybe they won't hate me so much for putting them thru the wods if they see others out there doing the same thing!!

great filming sevan!!!! i love all the shots of the swimmers who are still and in movement ....and thanks for sharing brian


wrote …

Awesome video - awesome couple! Thankyou.


wrote …

Awesome video. Great coach and great kids you have to work with. I don't even like swimming (probably because I suck donkey b***s) and this video makes me want to stop avoiding it and go find a swim coach.


wrote …

Thank you to those that left feedback. I am trying to document as much information and improvements in my swimmers. All I can say is that do not be afraid to try movements out at the pool. When the weather improves it is alot more fun outside.

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