Swimming is a rigorous exercise that incorporates complex biomechanical movements. In order to swim efficiently a swimmer must possess technical skill, coordination & flexibility, muscular balance, and athletic ability. Swimming is unlike any other exercise because you have to use all of your large muscle groups simultaneously to propel you through the water. It takes years to learn how to do it well and a lifetime to master.
In case your athlete forgot to remind you, they work HARD in the water, chalking up some 15000 yards a week for our Gold swimmers. By the time they stand on the blocks for their last race of the Short Course Season, the top level swimmers will have swum over 300,000 yards in preparation.
As coaches, we always look to ways to increase performance and still maximise the time in the water – so for swimmers aged 10 and over, we have a dryland core strength training program. Despite the technical name, this is simply additional conditioning that a swimmer does out of the pool as a form of cross training.
The goal of our dryland program is to stretch and strengthen muscles that are used in swimming. It works in tandem with the activities in the pool, enhancing performance, creating fluidity, momentum and functional strength while maintaining cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.
As with all our training, the dryland program is broken down into key components. Typically, we start with a general conditioning exercises that emphasis cardio fitness, then move on to flexibility/strength, and finally a power phase where the focus is on generating explosiveness.
But how do these components translate to improvement in the water?
Conditioning: Builds an endurance base and increases cardiovascular fitness so that swimmers are ‘fit’ to swim. In the pool we are currently working on a distance cycle, so overall fitness is crucial to a swimmers ability to swim far and fast.
Flexibility: Good flexibility is crucial for our swimmers, and a focal point for our dryland program. Where there is joint stiffness, muscles have to work harder and the body uses up valuable energy, which could otherwise be used to swim faster. A lack of flexibility restricts the extent to which a swimmer can extend in the water for efficient stroke technique and so not only do speed and endurance suffer, but there is also the potential for injury.
By working on increasing the range of movement in the shoulder, spine and ankle joints, a swimmers technique should improve and they will be able to swim more efficiently for longer distances. These stretching exercises also prevent injuries like torn muscles and aching shoulder joints, which can be common amongst swimmers with poor flexibility.
Strength: Circuit training is a very effective to increase muscle endurance and strength. We practice strength-building exercises that incorporate the entire body because swimming is a whole body exercise.
As movement in swimming is continuous, our strength training focuses on dynamic, continuous movements using the swimmers body weight instead of weight-lifting’ in the traditional sense.
Power: Swimming requires almost as much explosive power as it does endurance. The goal of the power phase is to develop that explosiveness so swimmers can focus it on every start and turn, and to be able to turn on the gas when it counts.
For our younger athletes, we do basic core conditioning exercises. This is an important part of swim training as it introduces our stroke school swimmers to the concept of core fitness, and helps them have a greater awareness of how they use their body to propel themselves through the water.
Drills practiced during dryland translate into technical skills in the pool, enabling the swimmers to maintain their balance and body position in the water, and swim and turn more efficiently.