Friday, May 30, 2008

To Swim Faster, You Must Train Faster

With runners, they must train fast to become faster. Current research shows that the same is true for swimmers. Long swim training sessions actually inhibit power development.

Physiologist Dave Costill says:

“Most competitive swimming events last less than two minutes. How can training for three to four hours a day at speeds that are markedly slower than competitive pace prepare the swimmer for the maximal efforts of competition?”

To optimize strength and power, swimmers need to follow an exercise program out of the water that closely mimics their actions in the water. In other words, swimmers need to go workout in the gym too!

Research has proven that there is no speed advantage gained by swimmers continuing to do high-volume swim training (long practice sessions).

Swim coaches continue to do high-volume, low-intensity training no matter what research has proven.

The disadvantages of high-volume swim training are:

1. Depletion of glycogen muscle stores which hampers performance.

2. Fatigue and depletion of fast-twitch muscle fibers which reduces force production.

Sport-specific strength training should be combined with high speed swim training to improve swimming times. Here are some strength exercises for swimmers:

Arm pull down exercises:

Cable rotational front and back pulls: boosts forward propulsion by training the internal rotator cuff muscles by replicating the arm ‘pull down’ through the water.

Rear pulls: promotes balanced strength around the shoulder joint by training the external muscles. This technique avoids shoulder injuries and helps train your core stability skills.

Medicine ball single arm overhead throw: develops the power of the latissimus and pectoral muscles to improve the rate of force production in the shoulder by accelerating the arm hard. The focus is on producing the power from the shoulder and pulling across the body as you do in the crawl.

Swiss ball body pulls: helps to develop core and shoulder strength. A closed kinetic chain movement where the moving limbs remain in contact with a fixed object, it is regarded as functional for sports performance. Uses the stomach muscles to support the spine, using a strong pull of the shoulder muscles to raise your body back to the parallel position.

Leg kick exercises

Hip extension and flexion kick: each leg is worked independently to increase the specificity for swimming. Mimics the upward and downward phases of the swimmers kick action, where the glutes and hamstrings extend and the hip flexors flex the leg at the hip.

Dive start and push-off turn: The dive start and push off turn involves dynamic ankle, knee and hip extension.

Barbell squat jumps: improves vertical jump performance by involving dynamic extension of the ankle, knee and hip joints and trains the calf, quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Helps you generate peak power by adding weight to the squat, so when you perform the jump squat with body weight only, the jump will be very fast and high.

Swimmers can also benefit from using sprinting exercises on the running track. A more diversified swim training program will improve swimmers' competition times.

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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