Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pyramid Training

The concept of Pyramid Training is derived from a weightlifting concept where an individual performs multiples sets of lifting weights, starting with low weights and high repetitions, and progressing gradually to higher weights and lower repetitions.  For example, a typical pyramid scheme for weight lifters is performing ten reps, then eight, six, four, two, and finally one.   Each set is performed between periods of rest with increased amounts of weight.  Whether this is a bench press, dead lift, squat, etc., Pyramid Training remains an enduring example of how to build strength, endurance, and definition in the gym.

Applying the Pyramid Training concept towards on the water training sessions can do wonders for sailors looking to build their strength, endurance, and speed, especially in heavy air conditions.  Once the wind picks up to a point where you are hiking, give this drill a try:

1. Hike for FIVE MINUTES as hard as you can; stop and rest
2. Hike for FOUR MINUTES as hard as you can; stop and rest
3. Hike for THREE MINUTES as hard as you can; stop and rest
4. Hike for TWO MINUTES as hard as you can; stop and rest
5. Hike for ONE MINUTE as hard as you can; stop and rest
6. Repeat as desired

The drill helps break down a lot of sailing into smaller, focused sailing repetitions.  This enables individuals to quickly learn something new during each individual piece of the pyramid, and then apply it to the next piece of the pyramid, all the while increasing their overall hiking strength.  Whether you go out to practice by yourself or with a group, the concept of sailing until you can’t anymore when it is blowing 17 knots is often daunting and can seem like a chore.  Furthermore, when you start to get tired and there is no end in sight, you will end up checking out mentally and physically.  This will result in you getting very little if anything at all out of your training session.  By engaging in shorter, defined periods of time where you are hiking, you are both more capable of hiking as hard as you can for the entire period, and more focused on what is happening with your technique, sail trim, and overall speed.

This drill is ideally performed in either single person or small group sailing sessions where you are trying to build physical strength, improve boat speed, maintain focus, or keep a group of sailors together.  Performing this drill at least twice in a training session with a buffer in between pyramids, where you push yourself in a ten or fifteen minute downwind sail, will make sailing a few upwind legs on a long race course seem like a walk in the park.  It will also increase your confidence sailing in heavy air.

Here are a few l tips on how sailors of all levels can get the most out of this type of training:

1.  If you or your students are not yet capable of hiking as hard as possible for a full five minutes, try a mini-pyramid starting at three minutes and working your way down from there.

2.  Remember, this drill is just as much about building boat speed as it is about building strength.  Use the breaks between reps not only for rest, but also to analyze what needs improvement or what you want to try differently on the next piece of the pyramid.

3.  As you continue to improve and get stronger, start by decreasing the amount of rest you take between reps.  As you continue to make the drill more challenging, add additional, longer reps to the pyramid (e.g. start at six minutes and work down from there), or just add more pyramids!

4.  Always try to challenge yourself, and never be afraid of getting better!

See you on the water,

Zim Coach

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