One of the dominating stories of the London Olympics in 2012 was a tall 17 year old from Colorado named Missy Franklin. Here is how a champion was made.
With her now-trademark smile and loosey-goosey attitude (exemplified in USA Swimming’s “Call Me Maybe” video that went viral prior to the Games), Missy Franklin was the breakout star of the London Olympics, winning two individual gold medals in the backstroke events—including a world record in the 200m back—and another 3 medals in the relays with her American teammates.
A year later she would make her dominance on the international swimming scene complete by winning 6 gold medals at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. She would sweep the 100-200 backstrokes, the 200m freestyle, and figure prominently on all three gold medal winning relay winning teams.
(Her performance was perhaps only surpassed by teammate Katie Ledecky, who pummeled the world records in the 800 and 1500m freestyles, and very nearly the 400m event as well.)
After Franklin’s London performance her longtime club coach Todd Schmitz of the Colorado Stars was asked by FINA to share some of the knowledge and experience from training Franklin in the pursuit of Olympic gold.
The Training of Missy Franklin
- While many elite teams and national organizations send their teams to Colorado Springs to the USOC to train at altitude, Franklin has had the benefit of training at about the same altitude since she was 7 years old.
- Schmitz and Franklin worked together for over a decade, starting in 2002.
- During the school year she only did long course swimming once per week (Sunday mornings), which should be a comfort to those swimmers who train exclusively in short course facilities.
- A majority of her training was done in a 25-yard pool during the school year (September-May).
- During the school year she trained 8x per week, during the summer 9x per week with weekends off. Average workout length for a two hour session in the pool was 6300 yards.
- Her dryland and weight lifting program was done between 2 to 3 times per week and was managed by a personal trainer. Sessions “focused on swimming movements, core strength and explosiveness.”
- The emphasis during training was on long warm-ups to have the athlete prepared for the quality work
- There was an emphasis on keeping Franklin and the other swimmers in the group focused and engaged. That meant picking practice-specific things to concentrate on (attacking the walls, crushing flip turns, maintaining a high elbow catch, etc).
- A focus on the FUNdamentals!
- Schmitz’s and Franklin’s favorite backstroke drills included:
- 9 kick/6 kick/3 kick roll
- L drill
- False lift drill
- Water bottle drill
- Pencil kick
- Human stroke
Missy Franklin’s Training: Two of Her Swim Practices
Here are a couple of the practices that Schmitz included in the presentation as well:
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Missy Franklin’s Favorite Drill: The Water Bottle Balance. Want a steadier head position while doing backstroke? Try this challenging drill that will improve your body and head positioning in the water.