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Weightlifting Guidelines for Swimmers

These guidelines are taken from Section 8 of Faster Swimming. You can also purchase the Cross Training section from Faster Swimming here:

1. When the core of your training is aerobic you don’t need to lift aerobically. Lift for speed and strength.

2. Flexibility work is key especially after lifting. Stretching after lifting increases blood flow which aids in recovery. You must maintain your flexibility for swimming and retain full range of motion.

3. Large, compound, multi-joint exercises (i.e. the deadlift) should go first in a weight training program designed to improve athletic performance

4. Lift for improved performance, not to induce soreness. Unnecessary soreness will not only hinder general recovery but reduce power and speed in the water.

5. Maintain bar speed throughout your lifting.

6. Lifting is for total body strength, improved nervous system function and increased power and speed. Lifting must compliment your swim training and will improve your swimming performance.

7. Do not lift to muscular failure. 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.

8.  Distance swimmers will gain speed and power from lifting. Lifting as prescribed here is a great form of cross training that will not only help your power and speed but help in recovery from all your slow twitch swim work.

9. You must remember the key ingredient to this whole program is based on training for the exact event. Lifting for speed and strength should be the basis of any lifting program. Most coaches don’t understand how weight lifting, body strength, speed and power work to help swimmers.

10. Weight lifting is one dryland component of swim training. Deck-based dryland, active stretching, yoga or any exercise regime that increases whole-body strength can be included in your complete training program.

11. 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.

12.  I have had a handful of swimmers that came from programs that over-trained and were in excellent aerobic shape but had no speed and power or ever trained for specific events. It took about 6-8 months to get these swimmers to train with speed and power (quality for each event). This can be accomplished through weightlifting.

13. Kicking drives speed and power comes from dryland. This needs to be a larger part of practice. Add slow controlled kicking while using correct body position without kickboards as an alternate way to kick in practice.

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