Conscious and Subconscious Training Strategies

Courtesy of Jukka Shemeikka, Head of Aquatics at the Olympic Training Center Rovaniemi, Finland. 

As a part of our Research, Development and Innovation program, Olympic Training Center Rovaniemi is running a competitive and high performance swimming development program called ‘Modern Dryland Training’. It started from a simple idea of creating better solutions to dryland training for swimmers and coaches globally. Along the way, the focus has shifted to a bigger picture. Today it seems paramount, that we raise topics that have a modern approach about the synergy of dryland and pool training.

The harsh reality of training have been called The Grind. Finding your top speed requires a lot of work, focus and dedication. The quality and quantity debate is familiar to many of us, and the right balance can give an answer to the big question; how fast can I really go? For many years swimmers have tried to find an answer to this. Some might have found it, some not. The boundaries of human performance in swimming have been rediscovered many times, and even though we are getting closer to the point of fastest possible performances, the real boundaries are still out there to be found.

While we develop in coaching knowledge, we must stay focused so that we don’t get lost in all the information. The foundation of training don’t make drastic changes. Simple is better most of the times, but there are clear signs that even quality training regimen is not enough anymore. Thru added knowledge of shaping the physics, we know that if we want to get closer to the truth, we need to add another layer to our training. It’s not just about quality and quantity anymore, it’s also about Conscious and Subconscious training strategies. As we have progressed in our RDI work, Conscious and Subconscious training is appearing to be the missing link between dryland with pool training. I hope that our research work will tell us more in the future.

Subconscious training is the traditional way of training, where exercises are performed focusing on good technique. For example, the goal is to lift a certain amount of weight or perform a certain movement. Conscious training is a way to strengthen the ability to feel the movement and correct it, not only automatically, but also tactfully. An example of this would be dolphin kick development. Just adding kick sets and doing traditional strength training don’t necessarily give a chance to control the kick in all situations. Conscious training can give a better understanding about the origin of the movement, which enables to have a better control during the performance. To be able to fully control the dolphin kick, it is beneficial to add Pilates bridges and focus on feeling the moment while performing the exercise. This way it is possible to transfer the dryland work into the water. Another popular exercise right now is hip thrusters with added weight. Even though it serves a purpose, alone it does not give an idea how to control the pelvis in performance. Pairing it with hip thrust with one leg gives an in depth idea of the movement mechanics.

Conscious Training can enhance the ability to control performance in the water and Subconscious Training can support the execution. Choosing just the other will get you to dead end. Just working hard doesn’t give you that extra something to shape the small nuances, but also overthinking your training might keep you away from progress.

I know, this is the point where you might think that I got this covered. Great! It’s just that the majority of people don’t. Our sport still have many injuries to the shoulder, lower back and knee. Muscle imbalance is still a thing, and we haven’t yet seen a swimmer that would be able to perform using all functional lines.

Olympic Training Center Rovaniemi is one of the six Olympic Training Center’s in Finland. Together with a diverse network of Universities, sports federations and associations, research institutes and other experts, we are able to offer a wide level of education in multiple fields of sports and well-being as well as in different sports. 

Santasport Swimming is a growing International development and research program for swimming. Our goal is that in the next four years we will run research on both learn to swim and high- performance swimming using our previous experience and soon to be built new aquatic center. Thru our research work, we are hoping to offer new insights on swimming development.

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