Thoughts on wt. trng

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    Dynamic Correspondence from M. Siff & Y. Verkhoshanky from “Supertraining”

    1. The exercise must duplicate the exact movement used in the sports skill.
    2. The exercise must involve the same type of muscular contraction as used in the skill.
    3. The special exercise must have the same range of motion as in the skills action.

    What are the key factors?

    1. Amplitude and direction of movement
    2. Accentuated region of force production
    3. Rate and time of maximum force production
    4. Regime of muscular work

    What is the primary aim for the exercises in the program?

    The questions you have to ask yourself as a coach or S & C specialist designing the program are the following:

    1. What is the intended goal with these exercises?
    2. Do these exercises fit the goals of the program?
    3. Are these exercises really necessary?
    4. Does the effort and time the athletes put in justify the results they will get? E.g. % improvement.
    5. How will the athletes’ training be evaluated?

    Here is what is KNOWN! About dryland or activities thought to help swimming.

    The neuromuscular patterning of any auxiliary exercise is different to that of the primary sport, even if the auxiliary training ‘mimics’ primary sport movements. Playing golf or going bowling does not enhance swim performance and vice versa. By the same token, resistance training probably does not improve swimming speed and vice versa. Olympic weight lifters do not swim to increase the amount of weight they can lift. Why would one modality transfer to another sport but not the other (resistance training –> swim = improvement; swim –> resistance training = no improvement. The science suggests that neither transfers)?
    The research is far from conclusive that resistance training enhances swim times. Some studies even suggest that resistance training can impair swim performance. Dr. Mullen, and expert of swimming and who sells dryland products, admits that “if you search the literature, there is not much support for resistance training in the sport of swimming”. Until the research suggests otherwise, why waste your time, as well as your athletes’ time, performing dryland exercises that don’t transfer?

    Just throwing it out there 🙂


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    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.


    Not sure I’d say totally worthless. But I think time could be better spent improving skill which would have a greater impact on improvement in performance. “It had to be more than just better technique and endurance”. I think that’s what we would like to think that it’s got to be something other than swimming fast and exploring how to get faster in the water i.e. starts, turns and underwater work. But I think it maybe be that simple. If you want to swim fast, then swim faster in all aspects. Especially in yards swimming.

    I always ask S&C coaches this question with regards to transference. If strength training helps swimmers. Then why don’t weight lifters swim? Have yet to get an answer. The core strength issue. I’d ask How strong does your core need to be? Does a swimmer after doing a 2+ hour practice 9-11 days a week which heavily involves the core muscles really need to do another half-hour to forty-five minutes of core work 3x a week? Or a swimmer than can do 1000 crunches, better/faster than a swimmer that can only do 800? Maybe better at doing crunches/core work. But we coach swimming.

    I will concede there maybe something to Power Racks and or Towers. If we vote I’d vote for Power Racks. But not in the speed development arena. But with regards to acceleration. You have to go to track studies using one of those weighted sleds to see the data. The data doesn’t show any real increase in speed from 10-20m, 20-30m or 30-60m. But it does show improvement in the 0-10m, which is acceleration. There is some data showing that swimmers that get to 15m first usually win.

    Just thinking out loud

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    I know that there are plenty of swimmers out there that improved in the weight room but didn’t translate it into the pool. I understand that the movements aren’t the same and may not match the neuromuscular patterning of swimming. The more I think about it, the more it doesn’t make sense to me why improvements in the weight room don’t translate to faster swimming.

    When kids hit puberty, they grow taller which helps swimming but they also get stronger. They can plateau in height but then start to fill out and keep gaining strength. They can neglect making technical changes and still drop time just from getting stronger.

    Men are naturally stronger than women. They are also taller on average which is an advantage in swimming but if you look at women’s elite sprinters vs. men the same height or shorter, the men still have the advantage. Men on average have a higher vertical leap than women which helps the start and 15m time. Take the time from 15-50 meters or a 100 minus the start and turn, there are still loads of men that are shorter than elite females that are faster. It’s not like men always have better technique, some of them have worse technique and are still faster. If it’s not size and not technique, it seems that the limiting factor is strength. Wouldn’t it be?

    If you take steroids and make 0 technical changes, you will probably still get faster from getting stronger.

    I’m not really advocating either way for weight lifting. I just don’t understand why getting stronger won’t help. Why can’t you get stronger in the weight room, then form new neuromuscular patterns in the pool with those stronger muscles and become faster. And if weight lifting does improve swimming, why does it work for some but not others?


    Just thinking here,
    If you are off by 1 degree in the movement from the actual movement then strength doesn’t transfer. Don’t know many coaches that can measure that. Especially S&C coaches.

    I think a lot of coaches put to much faith in VL as a whole grail. That it is a type of metric that determines what? ( I’m understand the work Dr. Councilman with VL, please say we’re not using the same paradigm that existed in the 60s-70s). The angles are all wrong with regards to neuromuscular patterning and movement specificity. If anything done on land that would have may have the remotest chance of transference it would be a “slanted” Standing Long Jump (SLJ). There is some work out there that is looking into this.

    The Peak Height Velocity (PHV) is correct. If I was a coach of age group kids and I only recorded one thing and just once a year it would be PHV. Because you can just about overlay that with performance and damn near get a perfect match. Where you start to earn your money is when it stops and volume doesn’t cure your problems of them slowing down.

    MxS is more latent occurring 1 to 1-1/2 years post max. height. I think that most guys/girls really achieve the greatest strength gains due to metabolic stress. Actually doing the activity and at a very fast speed repeatedly.

    I would argue that it is technique. It’s like track, those that can generate the most force into the ground and quicker are usually the fastest runners. I’ve thought about this now for a while and if we take track runners and turn them horizontal we have swimmers. Their feet become our hands and their hips become our shoulders and if ground force determines how fast a runner runs why doesn’t the same thing apply to swimming? I get we work in a different medium, water moves and the ground doesn’t. But it is about force generation and in swimming how do we generate the most force with out creating “cavitation” or let water slip by? Which I believe is the “feel” coaches talk about.

    Does it really work for some and not others? It’s a simple study. Divide your training group in half and half lift and the other half pays attention to technical skills and swimming fast in practice and at the end of I’d say 3 season look at the results. i.e. % improvement from year to year, etc.

    If you coach a club team in the U.S. good luck on suggesting you want to do this. I’d keep my resume updated.

    Enjoy the conversation

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    A couple thoughts:

    “General” weight training will never be beneficial to an athlete above the “recreational” status. If you swim 3 days a week and lift 3 days a week you’re probably busy with other things in life, which is fine. Equating this WT routine to an advanced athlete in the pool 6 days a week is a non-starter. Saying “core” “legs” “upper body” is the real issue. I need to design the workout to: improve endurance of the abdominis rectus using concentric contractions from slight hip hyperextension to 30 degrees of flexion; improve power and lengthen the myofibrils of the biceps femoris using eccentric contractions from full hip flexion to full hip extension; improve the endurance of the brachioradialis in a neutral grip position to facilitate a more vertical forearm during the initiation phase. Way easier to say “do core, legs, arms”.

    I’ve read maybe all the WT research with swimmers. They mostly involve bench pressing and squatting because those exercises are easy to measure performance parameters (“to parallel”) and are common in other sports research. They also need to contend with swim coaches who won’t A|B test their pool training. Isolation WT can be beneficial for some swimming movements and irrelevant for others. Researchers aren’t there yet.

    Maybe the most important exercise is the hip hinge (hamstrings) swing using a kettlebell, dumbbell, medicine ball, or plate (they all are weights so this doesn’t imply 4 “exercise variations”, just equipment available). This is your main power movement off the walls and blocks. Squats (quadriceps) are not really the main driver of this motion because squats produce most of their force from the low parallel position. Here’s the reasoning WT is more beneficial for this motion: you cannot fatigue this movement in the water because you cannot perform 3-4 repetitions in 6-8 seconds. If you push off the wall and streamline (you should) it might take 15 seconds to get back in position. As we know from USRPT articles, you need a good amount of proper reps without a lot of rest. One push every 15-20 seconds isn’t going to fatigue the muscle group in advanced athletes. In isolation, this movement will improve in the weight room.

    Olympic lifts, overhead lifts, are the worst because college CSCSs say they improve “power”. Ya, power for the defensive lineman bull rushing the offensive tackle. These movements are almost completely opposite of swimming power needs. Also, everything is a “power” exercise or movement if you are trying to increase the speed of the repetition #physics. No reps should be purposely slow, that is a bodybuilding training style (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).

    Last note: CSCSs are tested in the “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning”. This is a 752-page book with a single line devoted to swimming. CSCSs have absolutely no formal training in swimming needs.



    Hallelujah! I have fought tooth and nail with the S&C Staff here. I’ve read and taken a number of the practice test on the “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning” and having read “Fundamentals of Special Strength-Training in Sport”, “Weightlifting Technique and Training”, Supertraining” and “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting” and they look at me like I’m crazy. Starting next season I will have had 3 GA S&C coaches and most of their experiences coming from Cheer & Dance with little to no overhead athlete experience. Extremely frustrating!!!! Have they never heard of “Google Scholar” search?

    Here! Here! on the Olympic lifts. I was at a conference many years ago of S&C coaches and Dr. Tudor Bompa was one of the keynote speakers. He said “if you are building your routines around Olympic lifts you might want to rethink that” I remember that close to 2/3 of the room got up and left. I could not believe it! One of the worlds foremost leading experts on lifting in sport and these guys get up and leave!

    I was so fortunate to have developed a relationship with him. We had long discussions about WT in swimming and he would say “swimming gives S&C coaches fits because our feet don’t touch the ground. It’s kinda funny (not really)that over 15 years later we’re basically in the same place.

    I apologize for the rambling. But this is about the only place that coaches really get into the “weeds” about swimming. I tried Slack and Ritter Sports Performance, the majority is anecdotally data and not worth the $29/month. The FB page “Swim Coaches Idea Exchange” waste of time. I could care less what you wear on deck or what awards you give at the banquet. of all at least the good DR. is honest with regards to what works or maybe questionable.

    Sorry for getting on the “soap box”

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    Kind of coming into the discussion late, took me awhile to find this article written by Tudor Bompa, for our program S&C follows 3 main concepts. The first being Injury Prevention or as Dr. Bompa refers to as the Anatomical Adaptation or pre-hab, second Athleticism, I classify as coordination, balance and core tension and lastly Specific In-Water such as Power Racks, sponges, etc!

    I really like how he spells out Anatomic Adaptation, here’s the link!

    ? Practice Technical Skill's and Make Fast a Habit!


    I’ve read a lot of track stuff. It’s funny that they disagree on some training philosophies too. Not as bad as swimming though. One thing that pretty much all track people agree on is that the base for a 400 and under is speed. The 400 is most similar to the 100 in swimming. Some people in swimming still believe in that an aerobic base is the most important thing for the 100.

    In track, all of the best 400 runners are better at the 200 than the 800. There are guys that come up from the 200 to run the 400 but nobody comes down from the 800 to win a major 400 competition. Primary 800 runners do not have the speed reserve to hang with sprinters. Although there is an aerobic component to the 400 and 800 runners have much greater aerobic capacity, it is not enough to close the gap. If you have 2 runners who’s best 200 times are 19.5 and 21.0 and they both take out the 400 in a 21.5, the 19.5 guy takes far less effort than the 21.0 runner and will have much more in the tank to bring it home. And if the 21.0 guy takes it out in 23.0 then he is too far behind to catch up. 800 runners simply don’t have the speed to hang with sprinters in the 400 even if they have insane aerobic capacity and don’t fade at all on the back half.

    The 800 is like the 200 in swimming. There has been a shift in swimming where less people are doubling in the 100 and 200. Some people can do it like murphy. But look at people like Schooling, Peaty, and Sjostrom. Primary 200 swimmers have no chance to challenge them because they don’t have enough speed reserve. It’s particularly obvious in freestyle. Sun yang has a mountain of aerobic capacity and can put in a good 100 but he’s not going to win a major 100 completion unless he can get more top end speed.

    Ability to maintain speed is still important. Holding speed or slowing down at a slower rate is called speed endurance. The former wr holder in the track 200 and 400, Michael Johnson, had some of the best speed endurance ever. He still has the fastest second 100 of the 200 ever (including Usain Bolt) and the fastest last 100 of the 400. He no longer owns those world records because the 2 people that broke those records had enough speed reserve to overcome Michael Johnsons near perfect speed endurance. If there is one thing I took away from reading track stuff it is “You can’t maintain speed that you don’t have.” This is obvious but people tend to overlook this. I remember Matt Grevers saying in the year leading up to trails that he needed to make his 200 better to help his 100. If you look at his best 50 back and his second 50 of his 100, he already had great speed endurance. He needed more speed reserve to get better, not more aerobic work.

    The point I wanted to get to though is that weight lifting will do nothing for speed endurance. In the 100 breast Peaty has a 4.1 gap between his best 50 sprint and his second 50 of the 100. This is really good speed endurance. Michael Andrew is also around the 4.1. Peaty is a weight room freak and MA doesn’t lift. Van der Burgh was another big weight room guy but he could only get into the mid 4’s along with a lot of other people that lift like Kevin Cordes. Weight lifting and strength has nothing to do with holding your speed and will not improve your speed endurance.

    I’m not trying to use MA as the sole example, it’s just someone who everyone knows doesn’t lift and since most elites lift, it was hard to come up with an example. But if you look at Juniors nationals or any high level junior meet and look at the gap between 50 sprint times and the second 50 of the 100, there are lots of kids with great speed endurance. People who don’t lift can hold their speed just as well as the people who lift. Looking at the data, it’s pretty clear that lifting doesn’t give you an advantage in speed endurance.

    After about 5-7 seconds into the race you are already leaving the power system and moving into speed endurance. The real question is, does weight lifting help you obtain a higher speed in an allout 5-7 second swim. If your speed is better than that is going to allow you to have the potential for a better back half because of more speed reserve.

    The thing is, most track sprinters lift. Explosiveness and quickness are the essence of speed and that is what sprinters are looking to achieve in the weight room, not necessarily strength. They say a powerlifting coach would ruin a track sprinter real quick. There is a right and wrong way to do it. I feel like a right way to develop explosiveness with weights to hit a higher top end speed in swimming could be developed.


    Tell your GAs, with respect to weight lifting for swimming, that you are certified above a CSCS. If they push back have them:
    1. count the number of sentences referring to swimming in “Essentials” = 0
    2. Name, from memory, the most important propulsion muscles in swimming. Not groups, specific muscles. Rushall lists these. Throw in the breaststroke kick to really nail them: gluteus medius and minimus, vastus medialis, tibialis anterior.
    3. perform a swim stroke cycle. When they swing their straight arms like they are doing little kid calisthenics feel free to correct them.

    You will find out who wants to learn and who thinks they know everything based on a baseline certification.

    I coach water polo and this is doubly frustrating. “Do legs for eggbeater!” Eggbeater being as complex as a freestyle stroke and unable to provide propulsion on land.



    I look at a lot of track stuff also. An important concept in running is eccentric muscle damage/adaptation. This isn’t really a thing in swimming. I wonder if the 100, 200, 400 events differ enough (low eccentric damage, bolt almost glides over the track) from the 800+ that this is a major muscular inflection point. The longer the distance the more you are just pounding away at the muscles.

    If there was no such stroke called “butterfly” I think more swim sprinters would do the 200. The 100 fly is a higher power stroke and kinda fits into the sprinter mentality. The 3-day champ meet format also has the 100 fly the same day as 200 free…

    Phelps set the American 100 record in the leadoff of that epic 2008 4×100 free relay. So he held the 200 WR and 100 AR at one point. Lezak’s anchor was a bigger story though.

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