Dryland Training: Does Strength Training Increase Swim Speed?
By, Mark Wine CSCS; NASM PT, PES, CES
Creator of The 12 Pack Abs Program
Swimming performance relies on numerous factors, including technique and physiological characteristics. In order to increase or enhance swim performance / speed, swimmers should focus on increasing their physiological condition. Dryland strength and conditioning training offers physiological benefits that cannot be matched. Strength training has provided swimmers who swim distances from 50-200 meters with the greatest results . However, swimmers whom swim numerous distances have shown significant results as well, especially during major development years within the sport.
Dryland training programs must integrate total body strength and power work. Through the utilization of specific total body movements, such as the dmbl front squat press , swimmers can use dryland strength training to become better coordinated within the water. This coordination is essential to staying connected during the stroke because it allows an optimal transfer of power from the lower to upper extremities. Each stroke performed while swimming involves different musculature. Breaststroke incorporates higher levels of lower body muscular and the freestyle, back stroke, and butterfly incorporates higher levels of upper body muscular.
Studies have shown that swimmers who engage in upper body dominant strokes, such as freestyle, have a greater ability to propel themselves faster through the water faster if they have higher contractile traits in the upper body . The propulsion of the swimmers body through the water is greater because the upper body muscles concentrically contract at a higher output. Although the lower body musculature is involved, the lower body does not account for a high degree of propulsion during the stroke.
Breaststroke, on the other hand, requires a high degree of contractile output from the lower body. This stroke involves a high and dangerous degree of torque on the knees and hips because of the kick. The high degree of torque can results in knee and hip flexor injuries, both long and short term. Thus, it is essential that the lower body muscles associated with breaststroke (the quadriceps group, abductors, adductors, and glutes) are properly strengthened during a resistance training program. Any successful program must incorporate strength and power movements that focus on these muscles. Through specific dryland training, swimmers can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury. Exercises that should be incorporated into a program for breaststroke are medicine ball burpee jumps, squats, power and hang cleans, one arm dumbbell snatch and hang snatch, box jumps, depth jumps, and many others .
How Important is Core Work in Dryland Training?
Core training might be the most important facet of dryland training for swimming. Performing a simple movement analysis on the dolphin kick and streamline, under water of course, will provide athletes with a greater understanding of the need for core training. Although it is important to involve flexion and extension of the spine, especially for those who perform butterfly, it is equally important (if not more important) to engage in core stabilization training. The cores number one function is to stabilize the body during movement. Through stabilization training the core will be capable to transfer power more efficiently, thus leading to greater performance. The lordosis position, lower back slightly arched, should be the spinal alignment maintained during dryland movements. Lordosis must be maintained during exercises like mountain climbers and planks . Incorporating core stabilization work into every workout and exercise is critical. However, core training isn’t limited to core exercises. It is often greater for swimmers to engage in movements, such as the single leg squat or one arm dumbbell bench , to trigger core stabilization training.
Dryland strength training has shown significant results for enhancing stroke length. Stroke length is vital when swimmers are looking to decrease the amount of strokes taken during a race. Decreasing the amount of strokes taken can result in decreased times; and with swimming being a technique driven sport, every stroke counts.
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Mark Wine, CSCS – NASM PT, CES, PES
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