Vasa Ergometer: Swim training without a pool

Looking for a way to augment your swim training? Vasa's Swim Ergometer is a fantastic way to enhance your swim training, allowing you to work on your stroke and keep track of your power and efficiency.

| January 11, 2017 | TRAINING

As a triathlon coach I am often asked by my athletes about workouts they can do to improve their swimming that don’t require them heading to a pool. For the most part I tell them that there really is no substitute for swimming.

That statement, though, is not entirely true. I have a tool down in my basement that I will use with athletes I coach to work on their stroke and as a swim substitute for days I can’t get to the pool. It’s called a Vasa Swim Ergometer and it can be an excellent way to work on your technique or allow you to get a full-fledged swim workout done in the comfort of your own home. (It’s can also serve as an excellent strength training bench, but we’ll talk about that in another story.)

The concept behind the Vasa Swim Ergometer is simple. The adjustable airflow system simulates the resistance you’d experience while swimming in water. You lie down on a bench and work through the swim motion so you’re developing swim-specific power and endurance. The higher-end versions of the Ergometer even have a power meter, so you can use it to help you dial in exactly what you need to do with your stroke to increase the power of each stroke. Using the power data, you can also test yourself on a regular basis to make sure you’re improving.

Thanks to the Ant+ power meter, you can constantly analyze your training to measure and analyze your progress. The computer provides info on time, stroke rate, power (watts) and left vs. right arm power information.

That’s for workouts, but I like to use the Vasa as a tool to work on an athlete’s technique, too. Ever had a coach tell you to keep your elbow higher in the water during your pull? (Yeah, me too.) I find that when I have an athlete work on their arm position on the Vasa Erg they really get a feel for what we’re trying to achieve.

One of the athletes I coached last year substituted Vasa workouts for swims once or twice a week due to his busy schedule – a half hour workout on the Vasa is more than a little taxing – and still managed to improve his swim times through the race season.  

In terms of workouts you can replicate virtually any workout you might do in the pool, but you’ll probably want to shorten the duration of those workouts on the Vasa Ergometer.  

Here’s an example of a more advanced set I have had athletes do on the Vasa Ergometer:

  • 200 m w’up
  • 5 x 30 seconds hard/ 30 seconds easy paced recovery
  • 5 x 100/ 30SRI – increase stroke rate after first 50
  • 100 m cruise
  • 5 x 50/ 15SRI – increase stroke rate after first 25
  • 200 m w’down
  • This set will work out to be about 1,600 m on the erg, but will feel like a lot more.

While there are athletes who do a lot of their swimming on a Vasa Ergometer, I really see it as a wonderful way to augment your swimming as opposed to replacing your time in the pool. If you’re struggling to figure out how you can get a third or fourth swim every week, the Vasa trainer can be a great way to help you up your game. Many swim coaches have embraced the ergometer for just that reason – it’s a great way to add a bit more swim-specific training to a program.

So, can you improve your swimming and never get in a pool? Probably not. Can you improve your swimming and spend less time in the pool? Vasa actually guarantees that you can – they actually offer a 90-day improvement guarantee. If you don’t see a performance improvement in three months, they’ll refund the purchase price.