Reply To: Thoughts on wt. trng
Strength in swimming is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. I think strength plays a role but not as big as people think, especially upper body strength.
Here is a good way to visualize it. Say there are two 50 freestylers that go the same time, are the same height and weight, and have the same identical pull, catch, and acceleration though the pull. Let’s just say that from the beginning of the pull to the end is .5 seconds with and identical acceleration though the pull. Since they are the same size and have the same pull time and acceleration, they are producing the same amount of force. You don’t need to know which swimmer is stronger in the weight room to figure out the force here.
Using the same two swimmers above, let’s say that over the next season, swimmer B decides to hit the weight room super hard because he wants to get faster and swimmer A doesn’t improve his weight lifting numbers at all in the next season. Swimmer B adds 80 pounds to his bench, can do weighted pull ups with 3 45 pound plates, and do heavy overhead press. He can now bench 285 and swimmer A can only bench 185 and do less on weighted pull ups and overhead press. At the championship meet they both pull at .5 seconds with the same catch and acceleration. The pull force is the same. Swimmer B is a lot stronger, but how is he going to go faster if he is pulling with the same catch and acceleration? An identical technique with the same pull time and acceleration is the same amount of force whether you can bench 100 pounds or 500 pounds.
If you look at a men’s elite 50 meter race. It really comes down to technique because they are all pulling at really close to the same speed. Anthony Ervin probably can’t lift as much as Flourant Manaudou or Josh Schneider.
It’s the same on the women’s side. The strongest girl doesn’t always win. Penny Oleksiak before Rio could only do like 3 pull ups. Allison Schmitt could barely do 1 when she set the 200 free textile WR.
I don’t know if weight lifting is totally worthless though. I think an increase in core and leg strength in the weight room may transfer to the pool. A lot of kids don’t lift in high school and in college when they start lifting they get better at everything but it seems like the get a lot better at the leg dominant activities: starts, underwaters, and breaststroke. You can definitely do things in the weight room to improve vertical leap which will in turn help your start. If you look at Dressel’s high school 18.9 vs 18.2 now, a good chunk of that time drop has coming from a better start and under waters. His surface speed has improved but it’s possible that his kick is stronger which gets him higher in the water giving him more buoyancy.
There was a picture somewhere of Will Licon squatting some crazy amount this past year. He dropped a ton of time from high school until the end of college and I feel like strength had to have played a factor. It had to be more than just better technique and endurance.
A lot of the weight lifting for swimming studies are so broad and not well designed. I’d like to see some more specific and isolated studies like only lifting legs only vs people doing lower and upper body. Or just doing weighted pull up’s and seeing if there is a correlation in swimming pull force as the swimmers max weighted pull up increases.