"lifting for strength (heavy weight, lower reps) will make you faster in the water if you have good technique."
Resistance training does produce changes in strength exercise performance and in the physiology of the muscles. However, its effects are specific to the training exercises and do not transfer positively to the sport for which they are "intended."
Some of the reasons for failure of land-based training are:
the resistance activities do not mimic the movement path or action speed of swimming;
muscular actions in the exercises are in coordinated patterns that have no commonality with crawlstroke swimming; and
the distributions of forces in land-training exercises are different to those of swimming.
The authors warned that land-based resistance training exercises may alter stroke mechanics.
That said, since this is a Master's swimming forum:
To thwart the decline in swimming muscle strength, masters swimmers should engage in land-strength work designed for the shoulders and arms to employ the muscle groups involved with swimming propulsion as well as tethered water swimming. The land work will likely have modest effects whereas the water work will be more beneficial.
Last sample regarding specificity: (strength is important but it has to be developed IN THE WATER so the technique adapts to the new levels of strength produced!)
Swimming strength is important. Upper body strength is a good predictor of success in swimming. If sprint swimming was correlated to power, and most events in swimming are sprints, the coefficients would be significant. Sprinters can be differentiated from distance swimmers by the power they can generate.
Using semi-tethered force measurement training responses can be monitored. After pre-season measurements are recorded swimmers typically get stronger. But then, as the training load continues to increase even more, arm power gets weaker. At the highest training loads, arm power is even less than in the pre-season state. Losing arm strength loses sprint capacity. Most coaches recognize this loss of strength with excessive training and program a taper so that power can be recovered. A taper enhances arm power recovery and performances.
How Much Training?
Costill has shown that a group of mature swimmers training once a day, when matched to a group training twice a day, recorded similar performance levels when both groups changed to training only once a day. The two-a-day group showed the classic loss of arm power and performance. At the same time the one-a-day group exhibited stable sprint performances. After taper, both groups performed similarly. What was the value in the extra work?
Does Land Strength Training Help?
Two matched groups of mature swimmers, one swimming only, the other performing dry land strength training, were tracked and measured. Both groups improved in swimming power and strength gains. The supplementary land training provided no added benefit. Costill attributes the lack of specificity in the land training to the lack of transfer. He stated: "You can gain strength by swimming. If you want to overload the muscle then do sprint swimming."
So, I am more confused as ever as to which is the best training program for me. In your opinion, what would be the best way to strengthen my breaststroke kick- without putting too much stress on the knees. Given my history of repetitive stress injuries and surgeries, I do NOT want to go there...
As for my breaststroke pull, I have adopted the same pull as King Frog for the same reason: Dr. G advised minimizing the outward scull motion, because it wasn't beneficial for either of us. (We had both had Dr. G's power testing, at different times.) I also choose a narrow pull to reduce the risk of injury to my shoulders, as I have already had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (non-swimming related injury) on my left shoulder and hope to avoid surgery on the right shoulder. So, given those issues, what would your advice be for strengthening the pull part of my breaststroke?
Thanks, 'Swim, for contributing to this thread with some great info. This is a really good forum thread for met to ponder!
First regarding "pull"...
With a narrow pull, I think you might want to consider doing a "butterfly style" catch and pull. Much like Agnes Kovacs here. (Don't emulate Soni's wide outsweep/mini circle recovery. Kitajima also has a semi-fly catch/pull, but he does a big outsweep that might bother you.)
The thing about a narrower arm motion is that it has the potential to be less "smooth" compared to a wide motion (momentum, think about making a turn in a small alley versus a wide field, in this case the shift from forward recovery to a catch) so it is very important that you go to the "catch" phase as soon as you start outsweeping (a wide outsweep person can afford to wait a little.)
Doing this will require the flexibility to internally rotate the shoulders (put your arms in front of you, level with your shoulders- then try to pop your elbows up! This puts your hand in the catch phase. This is what internal rotation is.) Unfortunately excessive internal rotation can also mess up your shoulder. Check out
Alternatively, don't think of your arms as your main source of propulsion, and work on the timing between your arms and legs. A smooth stroke with slightly less powerful limbs has an excellent chance of beating a choppy accel/deccelerating stroke of a really muscular opponent. you can do a LOT if you go down the road of trying to really learn the "wave" breaststroke. Checkout breaststroke.info for the Kurt Grote series.
Regarding your legs... I'm hoping breastroker will wander over here and put in his two cents, he has much more experience! But whether someone has a history of knee pain or not, I still don't see much purpose in loading the knees further, they are not designed to deal with torque (rotational) forces and the water already provides plenty of resistance for them. Strengthen the recovery motion (bringing heels towards buttocks) and increase the flexibility of your hip flexors (thighs = quads/iliopsoas) via hip flexor stretches. (see link below)
My current swimming project involves strengthening the posterior chain (basically the muscles on the back half of your body). I'm working from this piece, minus the serious loads. It doesn't seem to have improved the power of my kick (yet, I don't have power testing) but I am having a much easier time maintaining an open hip angle (angle between torso and thighs) during my full stroke, which equals a more streamlined body which = more speed
I've tried swimming after running with the same results. My legs get so fried from running, that they're of little use for swimming too. But a 3-500 cool down feels really good after a tough run
I do find that I need some sort of warm-up before lifting. That could be a short (20 min) treadmill run, time on the elliptical, bike, or nearly any cardio that the gym has. I guess swimming would work there, but I try to limit the number of costume changes at the gym.
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"You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
Yes, he's the one! I went through his testing at SwimFest, this year, and it was quite helpful:
I included his comments in the description
Thanks for the links and for your feedback; I'll check out the articles. As for the hip flexor stretch, it is already in my stretching repertoire! I learned that stretch (and several other excellent ones) in physical therapy years ago and have been stretching ever since.
For my shoulders, I do these before each swim, as well as in the gym:
I'll take the 30+yrs of anecdotal evidence and improvements across just about all sports including swimming over one or two studies anyday.
There's probably a tipping point where the extra strength isn't worth it versus the extra added weight, but I doubt most people whose main activity is swimming get there without any lifting.
If for no other reason, here is one good reason for swimmers to lift weights: HELP PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS.
So, we can debate forever which is better; lifting before swimming, swimming before lifting, doing one in the morning and one in the afternoon, whatever... But, the bottom line is this; especially if you are female: Swimming is not the best exercise to prevent osteoporosis. This reason alone is enough to get me in the gym lifting weights, regardless of how or when I do it, because a bone density test revealed I was borderline osteopenia, more than 15 years ago.
I realize that for most of the game, it's pretty routine and can get "boring" to some people. Home runs seem to be the highlights, and the players are trying to take the shortcuts to get on the highlight reels each night.
"Don't be upset by the results you didn't get with the work you didn't do." - K.A. Benthin
Inland NW Top Ten & Records Chair, and Web-Dude
"Swimming is not the best exercise to prevent osteoporosis" (actually, swimming is not an exercise to prevent osteoporosis at all. No load on the bones= no reason for your bones to ossify.)
If you're looking to improve your bone density, then weight training will help you. Doesn't matter whether you're a swimmer or not.
If you're trying to swim faster, dryland training will not help you swim faster (unless you're a new athlete in which case doing any sort of exercise will help you.)
Here's a non-Costill Study
Muscular strength is not related to sprint-swimming performance.
Even Dr. G found this when he studied olympic trial qualifiers from 2000.
Dryland helps you if you have muscle imbalances, and you're looking to balance your muscle stabilizers to ward off injury. (Particularly in the rotator cuff). This is an important goal! But one should not confuse corrective exercise with activities that help you improve your times (note that evening out a muscle imbalance could enable you to have better range of motion/ stop a muscle from inhibiting its activity, see Janda's reciprocal inhibition theory).) But this is different from improve your maximum capabilities!
"In just about EVERY sport, the time spent in the weight room has gone up while the time spent "doing the sport" has gone down among the elite.
I'll take the 30+yrs of anecdotal evidence and improvements across just about all sports including swimming over one or two studies anyday."
Do you have any evidence for the first statement? Even if that is true, is their improvement due to spending more time in the weight room?
What makes the studies inferior to "what peopel have been doing"? Particularly when they have a sound physiological explanation for their findings (namely, the principle of specificity.) Those who are gifted in swimming do well in spite of faulty coaching practices that are the product of armchair theorizing rather than concrete evidence. Classic example is that of the swimmers in the 40s, 50s, and 60s rolling their bodies despite being told to swim as flat as possible.
If you're dead set on doing lots of dryland, that is your business, and I hope your times improve. I cannot help those who are unwilling to consider that something they have been doing is right just because they have been doing it for a long time. People are wary of change, and rightfully so. But I urge the open minded to consider why exact is it that strength gains in the weight room do NOT transfer to the water.
For those who unsure, I advise you to consider what exactly you are trying to improve in the weight room and not have some abstract concept of being "stronger" or being able to plank longer. If you have the option of training 6 times a week but there is 1 day where you have no chance to swim, go ahead and lift. Some exercise is better than none. But if you have the option to swim, please do so. It will have infinitely more value for your body than lifting.
-Steroids help people recover faster. Reason why East Germans were so successful in the 80s was that they could go race pace every practice and recover faster and from deeper stress curves than their opponents.
Improvement comes from recovery, not training. If you overdo 1 component (training or recovery), make it recovery. With recovery, you have a little extra in the tank. If you overdo training, you get an overtrained person who mysteriously plateaus. Not a popular concept for coaches to grasp with maximum yardage philosophies, but it's one that must spread if we want kids to stop quitting due to overtraining plateaus.
Last edited by swimBRCT; December 25th, 2011 at 09:31 PM. Reason: adding steroids comment
Well, Swim, I was being a bit sarcastic when I said swimming was not the "best" exercise to prevent osteoporosis. But, I would like to think all those turns training in a 25 yard pool are doing my bones some good, when I try pushing off the walls so hard!
Since I am at risk for developing osteoporosis, spending at least some time in the gym each week is a must. But, the bottom line, after pondering this entire thread discussion, is that I don't want to give up a swim day to spend a full session just in the gym. I think I will stick with my current schedule of doing some weights after my swims, because it is what works best for me. I enjoy swimming too much to cut out a day in the pool, and I would be foolish to cut out weights and risk my bone health.
P.S. Swim, I noticed your links are from studies done at SDSU (San Diego State University), my alma mater.
Have you seen Phelps improvements in sprint free since 2007? Coincides when he started doing weights. Did you read Ryan Lochtes comments on how he injured his leg I think in 09 and then his improvement since then, when he could only really lift for a while as opposed to just swim?
And when it comes to the women, the benefits are even more dramatic. (Dara Torres, East Germans (no, your rationale is not entirely accurate, strenght advantage was another reason) etc. etc. So one study shows that it doesn't help female swimmers. Look at overall improvements in time, look at the impact of steroids in swimming (if you think it is not also increase muscle mass/less body fat % you are simply nuts) and look at how much more people are lifting (and how many more are lifting heavy weights like powerlifters/bodybuilders) If an elite female sprinter about 5'10" like many female sprinters juiced up to have the same muscle mass and bf% as a man, do you really think she would not dominate every other woman out there? Are you crazy?
A real study would be to put a group of swimmers on a 2-3x a week of light swimming program with considerable weight training for at least several months, enough time for them to make real significant improvements in muscle mass and strength not just learning how to do perform the exercises versus a group that swims 6x a week and then compare the improvements in their sprint performance.
This coincides much more to the anecdotal evidence from real life, where we see improvements over the entire world of sprinting more or less where dry land has gone up and swimming time has gone down. It also is much more relevant, as the factors that are most important to swimming between individuals are probably height and technique, but what matters for whether or not a swimmer should lift is whether or not it will improve THEIR OWN swimming speed.
Lastly, as I mentioned before, it is possible and probably likely that the returns of strength training are asymtotic (sp?) and that some swimmers, perhaps those with a history of lifting or good genetics have already reached the plateau of where they are strong enough that strength gains are unlikely to have much benefit. However, this is much more likely in men and there is I would say, ZERO likelihood that women can get to that point or EVEN CLOSE without lifting, and probably they cannot even get there without steroids. (Hence part of why women at the elite level are slower than men at sprints, and why the impact of steroids is more dramatic for women in swimming and just about any sport)
I've only been lifting more seriously (still not even near my max potential) for 2 years. My times have dropped with more serious drylands. I know others with similar results. Your sport specific strength movements notion is what sounds antiquated.
Agree with Gaash on your non-Costill study. It proves nothing without a prior history of sprint times and lifting and a relative before and after comparison of each test subject over a meaningful amount of time.
If all you want to do is swim, then swim. But adding more yardage in the pool is not "infinitely better" (I'd like to see the substantiation for this) and will not necessarily make you faster. Maybe you should try some squats and plyos to see if your starts and walls improve.
Last edited by The Fortress; December 26th, 2011 at 11:16 AM.
What? How exactly?The authors warned that land-based resistance training exercises may alter stroke mechanics.
No, you can't. To gain strength you need resistance. Water does not provide enough resistance to develop max strength, period.Costill attributes the lack of specificity in the land training to the lack of transfer. He stated: "You can gain strength by swimming. If you want to overload the muscle then do sprint swimming."
Those studies are also quite laughable, for reasons that gaash already explained.
Lochte, Phelps and all serious swimmers are doing it. You should too.
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Last edited by androvski; December 26th, 2011 at 06:50 PM.
"Think of your breaststroke as a jewel: You never hammer it, you only polish it."
I used to lift before swimming,but to avoid a noodlers class I had to lift after swimming a few times and found it works better for me.
Lifting after swimming seems to have less effect on my lifting than lifting before swimming had on my swimming.I go straight from the pool to the weight room(stopping to dry off and change of course.)which means that I get to the weight room a little tired,but very warmed up.I think being really warmed up has helped me be less prone to injury.
I have tended to agree with swimBRCT on most things,but not on this.We have had several threads on swimming only vs swimming and lifting.I know that I have tried both and that I have gotten better results with adding lifting to my swimming.
"To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
I agree with King Frog on this point. I detour to the locker room for a quick shower, but it's a hot one; great for keeping my muscles warmed up. And, I make sure to chug my chocolate soy milk on the way in, to get some protein.
If I do it this way, I can immediately hit the weights. Otherwise, it just takes too long to get my muscles warmed up on the treadmill or elliptical before I can hit the weights without pulling or straining a muscle. When I look back to my gym-only days, those were the times I had those types of problems. Since I have been hitting the weights after swimming, I have not had one injury.
What's with the dude posting bits and pieces of someone else's literature review? Really bizarre behavior...
Swim then lift (7): Swimosaur, jaadams1, ElaineK, knelson, nkfrench, aztimm, Allen Stark
Lift then swim (8): The Fortress, gaash, dadis, slow, Chris Stevenson, ande, _steve_ (?), androvski
It's about even. Sorry if I miscounted or misrepresented someone's preference!
This is mildly suprising to me, because at the local Y where I spend two-thirds of my time, it seems that "swim then lift" is much more popular (in my unscientific observations).