Category Archives: functional movement

Strength Training for Swimmers: An Integrated and Advanced Approach

The purpose of this article is to discuss the benefits of strength training and the factors that need to be considered when designing a program for a competitive swimmer.  We will also discuss a functional approach to strength training and show you how it can be incorporated with a more traditional approach. IHPSWIM’s philosophy is that each style of training has its benefits and therefore should be integrated together.  This article will conclude with an example of one our daily strength programs.

Strength training provides far too many benefits to simply just throw together a program full of random exercises with no rhyme or reason.  Just as swim coaches plan, periodize, and vary intensity and volume, the same should be done for their strength program.  With a well designed strength program athletes will see great improvements in strength, power, an increase in muscle mass (if desired), core strength, and most importantly you will see less overuse injuries.  Overuse injuries tend to happen because of muscle imbalances.  A good strength program will include exercises that address these imbalances as well.

For the purpose of this article, let’s first start by defining what traditional lifts are.  These are your standard barbell squats, bench press, lat pull down and machine exercises (ie. Nautilus) that are more oriented towards muscle isolation, a fixed range of motion and single plane movement.  These types of exercises are great for developing growth in lean muscle tissue and increasing strength and power.  What they lack is the ability to increase core strength and are restrictive when it comes to performing exercises that include multi-limb and multi-directional movement.  Exercises that are multi-limb and multi directional in nature and movement oriented have been labeled “functional training” by some of the leaders in the fitness industry.  This type of training is based on the idea of training movements (multiple muscle groups working together as a unit) and not isolated muscle groups.  Integrating traditional and functional exercises into a strength program provides the benefits from each approach.  The obstacle that coaches may face is getting all of this in with only a limited amount of time set aside for training done out of the water.  The sample workout in this article will demonstrate a very easy way to make this work.

Shown below is an example of an upper body power phase workout when training in the weight room 2 days a week.  Day # 1 focuses on upper body power and Day #2 focuses on the lower body power (not shown).  Every workout contains a traditional, functional, core and rotational exercises.

The power phase typically lasts 4 weeks but can vary depending on other variables.  Please note that the power phase is only done after a general conditioning/hypertrophy phase (high volume, low to moderate intensity) and a strength phase (low volume, high intensity) are performed at some point in almost all cases.

The first circuit on Tuesday starts off with the Lat pulldown. Perform 5 reps and then take a 45 second rest period followed by 5 medicine ball slams.  This combination is a version of complex training, a type of strength training that is used to develop power.  Every circuit will start with a variation of this combination which is a traditional lift  followed by an explosive movement (after a 45 second rest) that is similar to the  movements and muscle groups performed in the traditional lift.  The 3rd exercise is the diagonal cable chop (Figure 1) which is a great exercise for the strengthening rotation in the core. The 3rd exercise represents a functional or core exercise. This circuit will be repeated 3 times.


The 2nd circuit of the day starts with a traditional machine row followed by an explosive recline rope pull (Figure 2).  We use a very thick rope that is looped over monkey bars.  This movement needs to be fast and should result in there being slack in the rope at the top of the exercise.  This is followed by a 1 legged squat which is great for developing leg strength, hip stability and requires no equipment.  Progress this exercise by increasing the range of motion, as long as control and proper technique can be maintained throughout.  Never perform exercises that are out of control and sloppy.

 

The 3rd and final circuit of the day begins with a 1 arm Dumbbell Row.  After the 45 second rest period an explosive pull – up is performed.  The objective here is to perform a fast pull – up and slightly catch air.  The regular pull up MUST be mastered before doing this. This is a very advanced exercise and should only be performed by athletes that have above average pulling strength and no shoulder problems.  The 3rd exercise is the T – stabilization push – up which can be performed on an incline if to difficult to perform properly on the ground.  This exercise is a great core and shoulder stabilization exercise.


At the end of all 3 circuits we usually do 3 fast rope climbs for time.  Depending on the level of strength, we can perform this with the assistance of the legs, no legs, and finally the hardest version, which is starting from the seated position off of the floor.

There is no one style of training that is the end all be all.  Limiting yourself to only doing traditional exercises or only doing functional exercises is limiting the potential of you and your athletes. These circuits make it easy to integrate everything together and get the best of the different training methods out there.  Our goal at IHPSWIM is to help swimmers and coaches organize and implement a solid strength and dryland program.

For more information on our training philosophy check out our DVD titled LAPS:Functional Dryland Training for Swimmers or email Grif at Grif@ihpfit.com. I hope this article will help you meet your goals and get you the results you want!

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Ten Day Dryland Training Cycle – Some Thoughts from Coach John Leonard

Dryland Training Cycle

This is a ten day cycle. On the 2nd ten day go-round, on the odd numbered days, add a heavier med ball to the routine. On the 2nd go round add WEIGHT to each exercise. Same on the 3rd go-round. Same on the 4th go-round. After 40 days of training like this, we should adjust the routine to incorporate some changes and new material.  You’ll start out needing 30 minutes a day on the first couple of days, (outside of running, which can be done in the same session or at a different time of day.  But it will rapidly increase to about 45 minutes/1 hour per day towards the end of each cycle because of the increase in numbers.

Probably good to take a 2-3 day Break from dryland at the end of each 10 day cycle.

JL

#1 – Run 30 minutes steady, easy

Med ball – standing – 25 chest passes, 25 overheads

Med ball – standing – 50 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 10 each partner.

Med ball situps – 4 x 25 sprint speed with ball.

Pushups – normal position – 3(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 120 total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 25, from side 25 left, 25 right, heavy ball.

#2 – Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 30 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 10

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 30

Pullups – 5 x 5

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 3×30

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 30 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 3 x 50

Swim Bench – 75 recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#3 – Run 30 minutes – 20 steady, 10 sprints.

Med ball – standing – 30 chest passes,  overheads

Med ball – standing – 60 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 15 each partner.

Med ball situps – 5 x 25 sprint speed with ball.

Pushups – normal position – 4(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 160 total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 30, from side 30 left, 30 right, heavy ball.

#4. – Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 40 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 15

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 40

Pullups – 5 x 6

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×35

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 40 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 50

Swim Bench – 100  recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#5 – Run 30 minutes – 15 steady, 15 sprints

Med ball – standing – 40 chest passes, 40 overheads

Med ball – standing – 70 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 20 each partner.

Med ball situps – 6 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (125)

Pushups – normal position – 5(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 200  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 350, from side 35 left, 35 right, heavy ball.

#6. Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 45 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 20

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 50

Pullups – 5 x 7

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×45

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 50 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 70

Swim Bench – 125  recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#7 – Run 40 minutes – Steady

Med ball – standing – 50 chest passes, 50 overheads

Med ball – standing – 70 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 25 each partner.

Med ball situps – 7 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (175)

Pushups – normal position – 6(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 240  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 40, from side 40 left, 40  right, heavy ball.

#8.  Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 50 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 25

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 60

Pullups – 5 x 8

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×50

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 60 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 80

Swim Bench – 2 x 75   recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

#9 – Run 40 minutes – 20 steady, 15 sprint, 5 steady.

Med ball – standing – 60 chest passes, 60 overheads

Med ball – standing – 80 figure eights – change direction half way.

Med ball – “hikes” – 30 each partner.

Med ball situps – 8 x 25 sprint speed with ball. (200 )

Pushups – normal position – 7(10-9-8-7-6) 40 per set, 280  total.

Med ball wall throws – Overhead – 45, from side 45left, 45  right, heavy ball.

 

#10. Planks – 4 positions – 2 sets – 1 warmup 15 seconds, 1 full at 55 seconds.

Pushups with feet on med-ball – 30

Situps with feet on exercise ball – 70

Pullups – 5 x 9

Pulldowns with light weight on machine – 4×60

Dumbbell alternate arm flings – 70 each arm.

Bam-bams with med ball – 4 x 100

Swim Bench – 2 x 100    recovery strokes – Turned around backwards.

Dryland: Stronger Shoulders for $2 and 6 Minutes Per Day

Grif Fig, of IHPSWIM.com, recently posted a great article on shoulder stability and prehab exercises.  Prehab – rather than rehab – is the coined term for sports injury prevention – i.e., make the body strong and mobile with functional and sport-specific exercises as a way to prevent overuse/overtraining injuries down the road.

Grif’s post shows a demo of these exercises using a flexibar.  A similar piece of equipment is the Bodyblade.  I don’t know much about the flexibar, but a Bodyblade will cost you somewhere between $50 and $150, depending on the weight/size you want.

Use is simple:  You push and pull on the pipe (basically waving it back and forth), which produces the oscillation or flex of the pipe, which then require force output from you to neutralize the speed and movement of the blade. You have to start, stop and change directions of your own body while controlling your mass.

Your athletes can get the same effect – at a much cheaper cost – through the use of PVC pipe.  Here’s what I’ve had my athletes do:

1. Go to Home Depot/Lowes/any sort of hardware store that sells PVC pipe.

2.  Purchase 1/4 inch PVC pipe at a length somewhere between 7 and 8 feet (long enough to be flexible; short enough to be manageable).  This will cost you less than $2.00.

3.  Bring to practice.  (Obviously, it’s much easier if you can store these at the pool, once acquired.)

4.  Daily, incorporate a prehab routine into your practice.  There are a multitude of routines you can follow, but I’ve had my athletes on a very simple plan that took us about six minutes per day.

– 30 secs left arm/30 secs right arm — arm extended overhead

– 30 secs left arm/30 secs right arm — arm extended in front of body

– 30 secs left arm/30 secs right arm — arm extended out to side – palm forward

– 30 secs left arm/30 secs right arm — arm extended out to side – palm down

The benefits are enormous – athletes increase core stability, shoulder stability and improve their overhead and lateral range of motion.  And incorporating these exercises with some regularity and self-discipline really does prevent shoulder soreness, pain and injury.

So, if you want less whining and “stretching” on the wall, and/or stronger and healthier athletes with far less susceptibility to injury, start some shoulder prehab – all you need is $2 for PVC pipe and 6 minutes per day.

(Note:  Although the shoulder prehab routine described above is a bit different from typical use of a Bodyblade, click here for a video if you need a little more insight as to how it all works.)