Taper is always a nervous time for coaches and swimmers, and it’s not just isolated to what’s being done in the water.
If there’s a little mystery around how to taper swimmers in the water, there’s what feels like complete unknown when it comes to tapering swimmers for dryland.
In general, a good approach to take on how to taper on land is the same you’d use in the pool. But here are some specific mistakes to avoid and will hopefully clear up some of the mystery around dryland, especially during a critical time of the season.
1. Introducing New Exercises or Programming
You wouldn’t suddenly make wholesale stroke changes two or three weeks out of a taper meet for a swimmer. So, you shouldn’t do the same thing on land by introducing completely different exercises or programming leading up to a swimmer’s big meet either.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with coaches that feel like they need to all of a sudden change their approach to dryland when it comes to taper. When in fact if that’s the case you probably didn’t have a very good dryland program to begin with.” says Chris Ritter of RITTER Sports Performance.
Dryland isn’t made “more effective” during taper because you introduce some new or unique exercises. Dryland is effective as part of the whole program because it’s hopefully been allowing the swimmers to become more athletic, strong and mobile throughout the whole season.
2. Dramatically Changing Intensity
Coaches who make this mistake actually end up going one way or the other. If they try and drop the intensity they can sometimes drop it too much which doesn’t continue the training effective for the swimmers leading up to the meet.
Even worse is a coach that is excited to finally introduce “plyometrics” or other “explosive” movements leading up to the meet. This actually greatly increases the intensity and is just as bad as if they coach made the mistake of doing too little. It’s the exact opposite of what should be happening in a taper period.
As part of a recent interview with Chris Ritter for The Hive, Coley Stickels of the University of Alabama discussed his approach to dryland training and talked about how he made sure there was ample power work on land the entire season and not just during taper time.
3. Stopping Dryland Too Early
Even coaches that have a quality dryland program can fall prey to this mistake. Stopping too early before a meet is still well ingrained in the swimming world.
When in fact this is the opposite of what basic exercise science would tell a coach to do instead. The key is not when you stop dryland before a meet, but rather how well you find the “sweet spot” of intensity and volume and then maintain that trajectory until the taper meet.
Instead of lifting at 95% for example, a gradual decrease to 70-80 or even 85% for a few weeks leading up to the meet will ensure the athlete maintains all the training characteristics they have worked hard to develop, but it’s not a high enough intensity that prohibits regeneration and a season best performance to occur.
“I’m always hopeful that coaches are brave enough to keep dryland going closer and closer to their taper meet and that includes actual lifting.” said Chris Ritter. “I remember some of the Olympians I worked with had in-season lifetime bests 10 minutes after we had a lifting session. It’s all about a coach learning their athletes and then finding the ‘sweet spot’ that will elicit the best performance.”
Todd DeSorbo of the University of Virginia, whose Women’s Team just won ACC’s said in one of his recent presentations on their training program that he lifts a little closer to the meet each year because he’s seeing the results. (Watch DeSorbo’s full talk in The Hive)
The University of Tennessee Women’s team posted on Instagram that they were doing explosive and other weighted movements at the hotel during SECs. The tide may be changing on this last point but not enough coaches avoid this mistake yet.
3 Actions as a coach you can take now if you want to improve your dryland program and knowledge on the topic
- FREE – Download the SURGE Strength ebook
Get a foundational understanding of dryland training for swimmers, including all the workouts that Chris Ritter created for swimmers leading up to their taper for the Olympics and Olympic Trials.
- FREE – Subscribe to SURGE Strength Podcast – Dryland Training for Swimmers
Listen to Chris Ritter talk about dryland and strength training for swimmers on a regular basis to help your team.
| Apple Podcasts | Spotify Podcasts | Google Podcasts |
- Register for SURGE Strength Dryland Clinic (deadline to register is soon)
If you want a completely immersive experience to learn about how you can have a better dryland program you won’t want to miss this event. Registration is limited to ensure each coach has the best learning experience so don’t wait.
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