The early months of the long course season (April and May) give you time to learn new exercises in your strength training—whether it is a progression for a new lift, a more challenging core movement, or anything in between. Like most things in sports, doing the same exact strength training you did last season may not help you improve. To continue to get better, you need to challenge your body to learn more complex movements. If you normally lift weights (mainly collegiate programs), keep up your regular exercises while adding in new techniques. For example, if you did well with squats and dead lifts last season, begin the progression to learning Olympic-style lifts like power cleans. You should start simple by learning the mechanics of a lift without much weight. It may take several weeks to progress from the bodyweight movement to a full exercise with weight, but the resulting impact on your body will be greater strength in a number of dimensions that will translate better to your swimming.
If you do not lift weights, you can improve your strength training by progressing to more difficult bodyweight exercises, such as pullups, and adding plyometrics, like box jumps. You may also increase your resistance training using tools such as elastic bands in dryland or stretch cords in the pool. The critical part of adjusting your strength training is learning new patterns of movement. In the most general sense, repeated presentation of a stimulus will cause a decrease in reaction to that stimulus. You cannot get the same positive physiological effects by going through the same strength exercises all year. This window of time in the early season allows you to explore new exercises that not only develop your athleticism but also keep you mentally engaged in your training.
In addition to expanding your repertoire of strength exercises, be consistent with your strength training throughout the summer. With a short season and meets closer together, it can be tough to have a regular schedule of strength training. Especially prior to entering college or in between collegiate seasons, it is important to maintain muscle memory for the movements you do during season. This is a large component of injury prevention when you get back to college in the early fall.
Swimmers want strength, not necessarily accompanied by muscle bulk or excessive weight. With strength training, some weight gain can occur because muscle tissue is quite dense. With the intent to improve your efficiency in the pool, you want to strike the strength to body weight ratio in your strength training. Having lean muscle mass means you have enough strength to pull your body through the water with the optimal size for your body. Each swimmer builds muscle differently from the next; check in with your coach about how your strength training is affecting your body, and try to use exercises like pull ups to test how well you can support your own mass.
Swimming strength and conditioning must be geared toward developing athleticism in the pool. First and foremost, you need to build cardiovascular endurance in the beginning of every season. Your strength training will improve your power and explosiveness in the water, giving you the fitness and speed to have successful racing.
BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.
Nick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology.
The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.