Nick Baker is not a writer. Nope, he’s a former breaststroker that made the olympic trials and has since coached at several junior olympic and olympic games. A pretty hefty resume when he put together his training camps and now his book “The Swimming Triangle”.
To start off with there are some negatives to this book. Nick seems unsure whether he wants this book to be a polemic to tug at hearts and minds with the desire to coach in a particular way or if he wants it to be a reference book. The unfortunate result is a book that fails to be either. His three fold division is not unique in competitive swimming, but he does at points explain it well and there are numerous references strewn throughout the book with very little rhyme or reason to help you locate them.
There are definitely better books and better swim references. Here are four just off the top of my head: Complete Conditioning Guide to Swimming, Either Volume 1 or 2 of the Swim Coaches Bible, or just the simple and fun Games, Gimmicks , and Challenges.
All that being said, I do not regret adding this to my modest collection of swimming literature. Why? Because some of the information is helpful. Some of his work out plans proved useful in fine tuning my own, and quite a few of his drills are making it into my routine. The other references do not spend enough time discussing drill work that manages to stay fresh. His three category break down is not unhelpful if you haven’t thought about it before, and the psychological drills are far more relevant and useful than in any other swimming resource I’ve come across.
What’s his three fold break down? Well he calls it a holistic method, but what it breaks down into is quite simply preparing people for competition psychologically, physiologically, and technically. In other words just like every other coach he wants peoples minds to be in the race and their bodies ready to put out the force necessary with the technique to use the force the most effectively.
Like I said, not a novel concept, but sometimes it’s useful to rehear the basics.
He structured the book around those three concepts instead of the four strokes which makes it nigh unusable as a reference. Then he proceeds to list in each section mental, strength, or technique training. Sure there are useful hints and ideas, but prep a high lighter and a few sticky note tabs so you can find them again. He really needed to go back to the drawing board. I’m not sure what Positive Swimming is as a publishing house, but they should have helped him fine tune his work.
What did I learn? I learned more about starts from this book than I have from any other. Given that my situation has changed, I have to make do with much less time in the pool. His whole approach stresses quality rather than quantity which is a good thing for me to hear and repeat to myself. I tend to gravitate towards building up junk yardages sets and then bringing the speed in later, but the last couple years show that I never make it to the speed part. So, I’ve turned around and started focusing on speed and technique, and then building up. It’s all I have time for now anyways.
The breaststroke sub heading in the technique section was undoubtably helpful. Nick was a breaststroker and it shows. I’ve fixed a few problems with my stroke through the tips in this book, but I still have to focus inordinately hard. The pay off is a few seconds off on my 100 Breast. Come to think of it, breaststrokers have to think in this trifold pattern way more than the rest of us (I’m a butterflyer and distance free guy). The challenge of doing breaststroke fast undeniably the biggest of all the strokes even though he claims it’s only the second most physically demanding. Maybe this need for a three fold focus was motivation for the structure of the book?
What would I change? Keep the wacky structure, I like having it broken down into three categories. May your introductory chapter more clear and concise and into a polemic for why the training program will be successful. Cut down and categorize the tips and ideas add pictures and quotes and maybe even pre tab your book. Technique drills need pictures, strength training ideas need pictures, and dry land sections need pictures. While micro cycles are suggested with a little information, I would rather have decent picture of what your micro cycles look like for each level. Make the book a usable reference, good strong indexes and a table of contents. Perhaps use the section heading of technique with a good prologue followed by independent chapters for the four strokes and a new chapter for the dives. Did I mention how useful pictures wold be?
Nick makes up for a lot of his mistakes by having a webpage. He even adds in nutrition to the page which I think is essential, but again none of this really surprises me. I would love to have him coach me at any time. I’m even looking to go to one of his peak performance swim camps, but if he ever puts a book together again or does a second volume of “The Swimming Triangle” I truly hope he gets better at organizing a book – then it would be a truly great reference.
…. Did I mention pictures?