The following comes to us from swimmer and coach Josh Hurley, who put together a research paper on dryland training and its specific application to swimming. We’re splitting the bulk of the paper into a series, but you can see the full paper (including abbreviations, a comprehensive glossary, and a bibliography) here.
Full intro in document linked above
The purpose of this report is to identify the key aspects of training and how best dry land training can supplement all strokes and areas of a competitive swim; including starts and turns. A portfolio of information from academic research will firstly be considered and after analysis and interpretation of the information a conclusion will be drawn as to how best to maximise performance.
Swimming is a high performance sport in which consistency of training is key. Swimmers cannot afford to be injured as every session missed is a lost opportunity for athletic development. Training volume is very important when in the pool so a dry land program should supplement this, not take away from this.
Swimming involves a series of repeated movements which when fatigued puts strain onto muscles that are not designed to carry such loads; which can result in damaged joints and muscle tissue. Resistance and dry land training can be used to develop underdeveloped muscles and to build against fatigue lessening the chance of injury.
High strain is experienced on the knees and hips throughout multiple stroke patterns.
Grote et al. recorded 296 competitive swimmers who all stated they experienced hip adductor injuries. Grote et al. explained that at the final stage of a breaststroke kick the peak adduction speed can reach 245 degrees per second. High velocity and such angles show a clear vulnerability in the hip adductors (Grote, 2009).
‘a combination of high angular velocities and excessive tibial external rotation relative to the femur was a significant contributor to overuse movement patterns in hip adduction and the knee joint’ (Bishop et al. 2013).
Therefore strength training programs should include the use of hip adductors (working dynamically in a full range of motion).
‘Swimmer’s shoulder’ is an umbrella term for many possible problems that arise in the shoulder joint. When the elbows drop in the propulsive phase of the underwater arm pull, falling from 90 degrees, there is increased external rotation of the shoulder: ‘external rotation and abduction endurance ratios showed a signifiant correlation to shoulder pain in competitive swimmers’ (Beach et al.1992). This then puts the swimmers propulsive phase at a mechanical disadvantage and will result in less force being exerted on the water and a lower total velocity therefore internal rotation is needed to maximise the athletes potential velocity.
A series of causes include trapped nerves and scapular dyskinesis (SD) – deviation of the position of the scapula. SD and rotational imbalances; caused by exaggerated internal rotation can both be targeted during dry land training. Inclusion of such exercises is essential for the longevity of the swimmer’s shoulder joints.
Due to the demands upon internal rotators of the shoulder, swimmers often experience ‘rounded shoulders’. Thoracic kyphosis involves the angle of the thoracic vertebrae. Greater than 40 degrees it is hyperkyphosis. This condition can be exaggerated by lumbar lordosis of the lower vertebrae.
The ‘proximal part of the lordosis depends on the thoracic kyphosis’. (Clément et al. 2013)
This shows that when training the internal rotators for high performance, the swimmer should also train antagonistic muscles; helping posture and in turn allowing more effective dry land training; as the athlete is not hindered by limited movement, there will also be an increase in joint health: preventing injury in the long term.
Up next: Training science & application
About Josh Hurley
Josh Hurley is a qualified and practicing Swimming Teacher as well as a Fellow of the Institute of Swimming in England, he is currently training to become a swimming coach following his experiences as Club Captain of a British swimming club. Josh is also studying dentistry at King’s College London and uses his understanding of human biology to research innovative methods of coaching future generations of swimmers.