Coaches – please remember when the core of your training is aerobic you don’t need to lift with an aerobic agenda. Your swimmers are raising their heart rate a lot more than you think while lifting so just lift for speed and strength. Make sure that your swimmers maintain flexibility after lifting. Stretching after any lifting will increase blood flow which aids in recovery. Your swimmers must remain flexible in swimming and maintain your full range of motion.
Always lift your larger muscle groups first when organizing your work-out routine. Basic Guideline: Day 1 Back with biceps and one leg exercise and 15 minutes of ab work. Day 2 Chest with triceps, finish with legs. Take one or two days off or do Legs and Abs on the third day and not with day 1 or 2. Remember that you don’t have to be sore to increase your power and that definitely hinders speed.
Example of how to work thru set (chest exercise):
Let’s say you begin doing flat bench warm-up with 135 lbs. Begin with 2-3 sets warm-up with this weight doing +/- 8 reps, now let’s begin. As you increase your weight you must maintain the speed of each lift, for example, if you increase your weight to 155 lbs and did 5 reps total and 4 of them maintained speed and you struggled with the 5th rep you should have stopped at 4 reps. Now increase the weight and try for 2-3 reps maintaining your speed. Remember that we are training you for power and speed, working your fast twitch muscles. If you are more of a distance swimmer this will only help your training.
Lifting is cross training and is essential for full body strength, power, and speed. It is old school to lift aerobically if you train 2-6 hours a day aerobically in the pool. You eventually reach an aerobic threshold and then the rest of your training is useless. An example of aerobic lifting would be 3-5 sets with 10-15 reps or circuit training where you spend 30 seconds or more at stations, sound familiar? That type of training has a purpose but not when you are getting your aerobic training from swimming, maybe pre-season for starts.
Make sure your athletes aren’t starting preseason training for another sport when you are trying to taper them for Championships. The only time to really worry about cross training will be when you are resting for a meet or in the taper phase or your season for the season end championships. Example, don’t start running during a taper especially if you are in conditioning phase of another sport or throwing if you are in softball or baseball. Things to consider as they will impact your swimming performance greatly. Start other sports after championships.
Understanding how to rest legs through weight training and kicking is key to performance!
Distance swimmers gain from lifting for speed and power. When training for the mile your coach is preparing you in the pool. Lifting as prescribed is a great form of cross-training that will not only help power and speed but help in recovery from all the slow twitch muscle work.
There is a local team that over-trains swimmers and forces bad weightlifting mechanics upon its swimmers. I was asking them about their weight lifting program and he told me that they push multiple reps to ultimate failure. Does any coach even old school, train that way? HOPE NOT! Do coaches ever give hard swim sets where swimmers don’t finish to the wall and complete the set? Do your swimmers ever pass out or sink to the bottom? Then why would you train that way in the weight room?
Each person has a certain muscle make-up that helps pre-determine success for particular events and if a coach doesn’t try to recognize individual differences then true success or full potential will never be known. In short, there are fast twitch and slow twitch muscles in everyone and each person has a different percentage of each. The hard part on coaching is trying to recognize the tendencies. Long distance training or over yardage will reinforce the slow twitch muscles and slow down the fast twitch fibers of that swimmer and the swimmer that is predisposed slow twitch will reach his or her full potential. Weight training correctly will help maintain the fast twitch fibers thru-out this type of program. Remember there is no need to lift aerobically as you are getting all you need and more in practice. There is an aerobic threshold for each swimmer and program that each coach needs to recognize for each training group. What is that yardage number is yet to be determined and hasn’t been studied enough yet? Once this yardage figure is reached the remainder of practice aerobically is useless. I would place the figure to be around 7,500 +/- yards per work-out. Once a swimmer is in aerobic shape and this can be determined by max heart rate sets based on time after the set is complete for a full recovery. The faster the recovery to resting heart rate the better shape the swimmer is in aerobically. The heart rate set must be completed using a set that is a slow build in speed that utilizes slow twitch fibers as they recover faster due to their size and energy demands on the body. Now if a swimmer is predisposed to fast twitch you may begin his or her training. I have developed a 9-week weightlifting program that would start during the finish phase of getting swimmers in shape aerobically and continue thru the sprint phase of training or as some prefer to say the beginning of taper and finish with a 4-week speed work taper that all finishes with the championship meet. You must have some sort of speed work in every practice even if it for 10 minutes at the end of each practice or trailing warm-up. You can’t let the fast twitch of any swimmer to be detrained at any phase of your season.
Coaches please remember the key ingredient to this whole program is based on training swimmers for the exact event. Most coaches still believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare you for the 500. I believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare them for the mile and hurt the speed needed for the 500. I said speed for the 500 and speed and power are part of each event. Training for the 50, 100 and 200’s take more speed and power but it one of the important components of training after a swimmer is in shape aerobically. Please remember that while you are in the aerobic phase of training that speed work must always be worked in the work-out and the basis for your lifting program.
The Faster Swimming Strength program and support videos will help you taper lifting with your swimming for Championships!
Good Luck at Champs!