Over the Christmas period our Chartered Physiotherapist Kieran Nolan took the Leinster developmental swim squad for an introduction to strength & conditioning. Athletes were taken through screening processes and introductory corrective exercises while the importance of starting on structured, progressive programs at an early age became apparent over the course of the day.
Below is a brief summary of some of the points touched on at the seminar.
The goals of strength training for any athlete should primarily be injury prevention, therefore athletes can train harder with less time missed due to injuries. Approximately 31% of swimmers at national and international level will have to sit out at least a session per year due to injury(1,2,3). Swimmers most commonly suffer from from overuse injuries; causative factors such as poor stroke, changes in technique, new equipment, change of coach can all contribute but the predominant cause is the large volume of training swimmers engage in. It is estimated elite level swimmers will have ~1.5 million arm strokes per year!
The second priority of strength training is to improve performance by increasing the strength and therefore performance of the muscles that you predominantly use in your chosen sport e.g the latissimus dorsi of a swimmer gets stronger with specific strength training leading to increased swim speeds.
The shoulder has been identified as the most common site of injury in swimmers, accounting for between 47-90% of swim injuries across injury incidence studies (1,2,3). Therefore dry land strength training should attempt to strengthen shoulder structures to allow them tolerate more load without breaking down resulting in injury and missed training.
Exercises should focus on strengthening the rotator cuff (which simply put functions to keep the ball of the shoulder in the socket) and strengthening movements of the shoulder blade (which gives a base to pull and push the water off of).
Core strength should also be targeted through your strength training, a stronger core will benefit swimmers through enhanced connection and interaction of their ‘kinetic cain’. This can be seen while swimming i.e can you hold a streamlined position while in the water? Therefore enabling you to decrease drag forces (which slow swim performance).
If you have a swim specific strength program, does it?
-have exercises that look like swimming?
-have exercises that use swim muscles in swim patterns?
-get progressively harder?
-vary from session to session?
If not you should look to address this.
Contact us for an individual assessment and sport specific program at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. McMaster WC, Troup J. A survey of interfering shoulder pain in United States competitive swimmers. Am J Sports Med 1993;21:67-70.
2. Weldon EJ, Richardson AB. Upper extremity overuse injuries in swimming: A discussion of swimmers shoulder. Clin Sports Med 2001;20:423-438.
3. Wolf BR, Ebinger AE, Lawler MP, Britton CL. Injury patterns in division 1 collegiate swimming. Am J Sports Med 2009;37:2037-2042.