Reply To: additional thoughts on weight training for swimming

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I’m for “weight lifting”. However, Rushall loves specificity, I’ve learned to obsess about specificity, the “Essentials of Strength and Conditioning” promotes specificity that CSCSs immediately forget when they begin creating a training plan for sports other than football. If we could adjust the density of water in practices we wouldn’t need weight training at all.

With all that said, very specific exercises will improve “isolated biomechanical power specificity” (a single joint movement) with the goal of improving “complex biomechanical power specificity” (the full stroke).

The most important weighted exercise swimmers and water polo can do is the hip hinge swing: This is because it’s hard to improve this motion during practice in the water. Starts and turns.

Research that attempts to link weight training to swim performance succumbs to one fatal error: researchers allow swim coaches to create the swim programs and these coaches have been programming training incorrectly.

Here is a beautiful example:
The results indicate strength training improves swim performance. However, if we look at the control group we should be asking “How can a coach have athletes swim 250K yards and show no improvement?” Since a 50m sprint relies completely on stored energy (including oxygen already in the bloodstream) we can look at the result a couple ways. 1) general weight training increased the availability of stored peripheral energy in specific muscles, some of which were used to swim the 50m and 2) the 250K of swim training did NOT increase the availability of stored peripheral energy in the specific muscles used to swim freestyle.

Note, the weight program was probably too short to induce myofibrillar hypertrophy so the weight group probably induced mostly sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. But, you could easily say that the swim program, which was longer, did NOT promote myofibrillar hypertrophy. A case could be made for improved neuromuscular activation but, again, how do you induce swim-specific neuromuscular activation performing weighted, isolated-joint motions in the gym?

I’m off to coach!