Training for Speed Swimmers
Donald A. Chu, Ph.D., PT, ATC, CSCS
Plyometric training for speed swimmers? Are you sure? Maybe
for explosive starts, but what is the best way to train fish
on dry land? A "complex" training program with a variety of
plyometric exercises, strength and endurance work is an excellent
way to train speed swimmers for any distance. Complex training
is a workout system that combines strength work and speed work
for an optimal training effect. Speed swimming demands an explosive
start, powerful push-offs the wall during turns and sprint finishes.
The format that I have used with elite, national and international
speed swimmers is a one-hour, dry land workout three mornings
a week. These workouts consist of medicine ball trunk exercises,
a medicine ball squat series, circuit weight training and plyometric
push-ups. This article will discuss the former three. Plyometric
push-ups have been covered in previous articles. The key to
achieving results with this program is the "coupling" of plyometric
training with resistance exercises. The effect is improvement
in both strength and power. No other system improves the muscles
ability to generate explosive strength like "Complex" Training.
balls (medicine balls) provide a resistance that can be adjusted
on an individual basis based on the weight of the ball and number
of repetitions performed. Because most medicine balls are relatively
light (6-20 pounds), it is necessary to perform a high number
of repetitions. Typically 25-30 repetitions per exercise is
not unusual in the execution of a single set. Plyo balls TM
can be found in heavier weights and are used as the individual
adapts to the exercises with lighter weights.
Yet another method of training aimed at developing overall body
tone and endurance is to perform combinations of these exercises
in one-minute sets. Choose 10-12 trunk exercises and perform
each one for one minute. Suggested exercises for swimmers include:
your back. Hold the Plyo ball at your chest and crunch
upwards bringing the ball to your knees. Extend the arms
so that you reach forward.
||Begin by holding
the Plyo ball between your knees. Lean back at a 45 degree
angle and bring knees up towards your shoulders.
||Begin lying on your
back, holding the Plyo ball overhead, crunch upwards touching
the ball to your knees.
Crunch with alternating toe touches
as pullover crunch with alternating to touches with a
bent or straight knee.
to a straight leg
||Lie on the back,
holding the Plyo ball over the head with straight arms
so that the ball rests on the floor. Raise a straight
leg, and pull the Plyo ball over to reach and touch the
toe of the extended leg.
||Assume the same position
as in the above exercise. Pull the Plyo ball over the
head and bring both legs up together to form a "V" with
the body. Return to the ground and repeat.
||Sitting up with the
Plyo ball placed at the lower back. Turn both shoulders
and rotate the trunk to one side. Pick up the Plyo ball
with both hands. Turn the trunk with the Plyo ball and
set it down behind you on the opposite side. Repeat the
||Lie on your back
holding the Plyo ball between your knees with your hips
and knees bent to 90 degrees. Rotate from your torso,
touching alternate knees to the floor.
||Lean back on a 45-degree
angle; holding the Plyo ball with straight arms that are
parallel to the thighs. Rotate the entire trunk and arms
through a full trunk rotation, repeat side to side.
with a flutter kick
||Lie on your stomach
with the Plyo ball behind your head. Lift both feet and
shoulders off the ground, flutter feet while maintaining
squat series with a medicine ball will develop strength and
endurance in the lower body. The series includes jumps to work
on explosion and power. Most of these exercises can also be
performed in one-minute sets. Jumps are usually performed in
sets of 10-15 repetitions. Concentrating on maintaining proper
form during these exercises will decrease the chances of injury
during dry land conditioning.
a 20-30# Plyo ball behind your head, squat to a thigh
Squat to a Push Press
the Plyo ball on the chest. Perform a parallel squat and
accelerate the ascent pushing the Plyo ball overhead in
one motion. Lower the ball to the chest and repeat.
your legs apart (front to back) so that you have a large,
but comfortable distance between the feet. Keeping the
torso erect, lower your hips straight down until your
rear knee almost touches the floor, then return to the
start by pushing with the legs to lift your hips straight
the ball on the ground in front of you. Bend at your waist
to place both hands on top of the ball. Raise one leg
out to the side until it is parallel with the floor. Alternate
Fire Hydrant Jumps
the same position as stated above. Begin with your feet
together. Jump up, straddling the legs and bring them
back together for the landing.
* You can also perform a breaststroke kicking motion and
land feet together.
the Plyo ball on the ground in front of you. Place both
hands on the ball with your legs bent. Explode upwards,
placing hands above your head in a streamline position,
as if pushing off the wall.
* To make this exercise more difficult, place your hand
on the side of the Plyo ball or on the floor.
The weight circuit
is meant to focus on muscles that are vital to an elite swimmer's
performance. The circuit emphasizes strength in the back, trunk,
shoulder and scapular stabilizers . Each exercise is performed
at approximately repetition maximum (RM) for 8 - 12 repetitions.
The athlete performs one set and moves on to the next exercise.
The circuit is performed 2-4 times. The circuit includes machine
weights, free weights, medicine ball throws and hurdles.
Arm Lat Pulldowns
(Elbows held high)
Overhead medicine ball throws to a mini-trampoline or
Backwards throws at a solid wall
x 5 times through, per circuit rotation
height of these depends on the ability of the athlete. Line
4-6 hurdles in a row. Begin standing on a 12-36 inch high box.
Step off the box and jump over the hurdles consecutively.
This method of training enhances trunk stability as well as
increasing endurance and strength. The variety of exercises
offers a fast paced workout for swimmers and other athletes.
beginning any exercise program consult with your physician.)