Why do we do land work?
There are 2 reasons for doing land work
- To help prevent injuries. If nothing else, you should perform maintenance exercises to prevent many common swimming injuries, including swimmer’s shoulder.
- Strength and conditioning can enhance performance. Swimming requires a balance of endurance and power – and strength training can develop both of these attributes and improve your in-water performance. If you are not engaging in some type of strength training, you are falling behind your competitors who are. This two-pronged approach to training improves performance when strength and conditioning is appropriately integrated into an athlete’s overall training plan.
The importance of strength and conditioning becomes even clearer when you reflect on the demands of swimming.
- Competitive swimming events range in distance from 50 to 1,500 metres and last anywhere from 20 seconds to over 15 minutes. Consequently, swimmers will draw on various energy systems to fuel their performance depending on the length of the race. Strength training and conditioning will help you train the energy systems you need for the races you swim.
- Swimming is a full-body sport and requires the coordinated activation of muscles in legs, the core, and the upper body with virtually every stroke that is taken. A breakdown in any one area can have negative consequences—that is, it can result in injury and poor performance. Strength training will build core stability and develop coordination between the body segments that will reduce drag while improving propulsion.
- Even though swimming is a non-weight-bearing sport, and the legs do not take the pounding they do in other sports, the repetitive nature of the swimming stroke can lead to overuse injuries, such as swimmer’s shoulder and breaststroker’s knee. Strength training can address strength and flexibility imbalances and reduce the risk of injury.
- Swimming places unique demands on the core of the body that are unlike those seen in any land-based sport. Because you need to generate force and propulsion by pressing against a fluid surface, you need to be even stronger and more stable through the core than other athletes. Strength training, particularly exercises done in the water, can improve your feel for the water and improve your stroking and kicking power
- Training sessions can last 2 hours, and some swimmers engage in multiple sessions a day. Competitions have shorter periods of high-intensity activity, separated by periods of warming up and cooling down. Making intelligent choices about warming up and cooling down, two important components of training and conditioning, will facilitate recovery and keep you primed to swim at your best all the time.
- Swimming encompasses four distinct strokes that use different muscle groups. Stroke-specific exercises will help you build the strength, power, and flexibility required in your particular events. Take all of this into account, and you can quickly understand how swimming performance is dependent on so many factors.
- Swimming alone will build strength and power, but only to a point. A well-structured strength and conditioning programme, one that prepares your body for the demands of the races you swim, will help you achieve those extra gains that will set you apart from your competitors in the pool.
Any time the topic of strength training is mentioned in the same sentence as young swimmers, several questions related to safety typically come up. Though it should be a concern of any coach or parent, in actuality, the risk of injury associated with young swimmers engaging in a strength training programme is very low. While every exercise and activity carries with it some level of injury risk, both the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued position papers that state that youth strength training can be safe and effective if the following conditions are in place:
- Proper technique is taught and required in every repetition of every exercise
- A coach who is skilled in programme design and exercise technique supervises every training session
A well-designed strength and conditioning programme can enhance performance, even for young swimmers. While young athletes will not build large muscle mass, they will see improved strength and coordination, increased bone density, improved self-image and self-confidence, and a greater potential for preventing injuries. All of these should be appealing to young swimmers.
We have poolside land work directed by coaches who have attended land conditioning work shops run by Scottish Swimming. In addition to this, the club has engaged the services of professional fitness coach Chris Bowman, who delivers a tailored strength and conditioning programme to a number of swimmers in the gold and silver elite squads.