Why you Should do Strength training in the Off season.

Off season strength training; early season drilling

One of the best things that swimmers can do for themselves in the off-season is build their strength. There are plenty of exercises that can help build lean muscle so swimmers can get more power off of the blocks, length off of the turn, and speed out of each stroke. Since swimming uses all of the major muscle groups, so the suggested training exercises can be done in most gyms.


Warm Up and Get Organised

Prior to doing any type of strength training, it is always a good idea to warm up the body with something simple like riding a stationary bike. It is best to get at least 20 minutes of cardio warm-up in before you start lifting weights. It is also important not to overdue anything so you do not overwork your muscles. You are prepping for swimming, not body building. Many swimmers will use a notebook to keep track of their workouts in the weight room so they can be sure to use appropriate weights and recognise their gains.


Large Muscle Exercises

There are several exercises that are good for swimmers’ bodies. For the legs, some of the best choices include squats, leg presses, extensions, and curls. To get at the lats and other back muscles, rowing exercises like a seated row and the bent row, as well as the basic lat pull down and raise work well. As always, abdominal work with and without weights is always beneficial – especially when you get into the lower abs and obliques, too. For the arms, shoulder and bench presses are helpful and the classic dumbbell curl is a good choice.


Work Out at Home

On those days when you cannot get to the gym, there are several exercises that you can do at home to build strength. Dumbbell curls can always be done with soup cans or other weighted items. Abdominal work can always be done at home and so can any type of push up. You can also do any type of stretch as well as yoga work – since there are plenty of videos available for free online.


Get Back into the Pool

As soon as the early season drills get going, it is a good idea to get back into the pool and leave the weights behind for a while. When you start swimming, it is a good idea to focus on the technique. Since you have been building strength in the gym, you might notice some subtle differences in your stroke. Many swimmers in the early season will use paddles to keep building strength. Just like in the gym, it is always recommended to start with a warm up before you start doing any type of strength training in the pool.


Warm Ups and Start Swimming

 Start with stretches on the pool deck and, if you have a stationary bike nearby, take and 10 to 20 minute ride. Then, get in the pool and swim a few laps in freestyle until your body begins to feel like it is ready to start working harder. Since it is early in the season, it is helpful to take your time in the warm up and not push it too hard. When you first start to swim with paddles, you might enjoy adding fins to the drills. By taking the hard work of the legs out of the situation, you can really focus on the arms and upper body with the paddles. Then, to give the legs a good workout, ditch the fins and the paddles. Get a kick board out and start kicking. Of course, it is important to mindfully kick, noticing how your legs, core, and glutes are working as you move through the water.


Take Your Time in the Pool

Those early season drills should work on getting your strokes under control and getting your body stretched out. In the earliest part of the season, take your time getting back to your full speed in the pool, especially after spending the off-season in the off-season.

6 awesome reasons why you need to do backstroke.

Backstroke is one of the most under appreciated swimming strokes. Most people spend their training sessions working with freestyle because it is the preferred stroke in most races. Freestyle swimming is a good stroke to use to build strength and endurance in the pool. If you specialize in a stroke, like backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly, you will work on that stroke during your training. But most of your work will still be with freestyle. Interestingly, it is a good idea for every swimmer to include some backstroke work in every training session – even if you never swim backstroke in competitive events.


Avoid Repetitive Use Injuries

One of the most common problems that athletes experience are repetitive use injuries. These happen when athletes only work on one skill. So, athletes who play baseball often develop overuse injuries to their shoulders and elbows because they only throw with one hand. Swimmers who only swim with their faces down in the water can actually develop overuse injuries, too.


Use Complementary Muscles

Backstroke can take care of overuse issues. Because backstroke uses muscles in a different way that freestyle does, overuse gets reversed. When people swim backstroke, the chest muscles get to open up as the back does more work. During backstroke, the shoulders end up in a helpful position for improving posture – the shoulders are back and the belly is engaged. Doing backstroke on a regular basis can also reverse the pain that can develop in the neck and shoulders from arching over a computer screen.


Strengthening the Core

Another benefit of swimming backstroke regularly is the work it does on the core. The slight hip rotation helps to strengthen the core in a way the other strokes do not. The kicks also help with the core because they activate small muscles in the lower back. You might start to notice your oblique muscles getting stronger as you continue to practice this stroke.


Use with Running and High Impact Sports

Cross-training is another way to avoid overuse injuries. For people who do other athletic activities that involve high-impact, swimming will help reduce the negative effects that come from pounding hard into the ground. Runners, especially, can benefit from any type of swimming, but backstroke is the most therapeutic. Swimming backstroke gives the feet a break while focusing on the glutes and legs. The water provides resistance and lets the body heal from all of that impact. Because backstroke is done in such an unconventional way (there are very few exercises that are performed on the back), it is the perfect cross-training option for nearly every athlete.


Build Balance

Balance is the key to success in nearly every exercise routine. No one wants to suffer from overuse pains. Since most swimmers do spend the majority of their time facing down in the pool, backstroke is about the only complementary activity that can help instead of hurt them. Of course, swimmers can add weightlifting and running to their cross-training plan, but backstroke is the only activity that can be done with little-to-no risk of further injury. Mixing up your laps can actually improve your dominant stroke because you work more muscles – especially opposite muscles. If you are unsure of how to add backstroke, try using it as a cool down stroke. Take a slow and steady, so you can really focus on the muscle activity during the stroke.


Develop Different Muscles

You will also notice that backstroke work helps you in other non-swimming exercises. Since many competitive swimmers spend time in the weight room, they will see the benefits of backstroke on their upper body. Backstroke is one of the few strokes where the arm can fully extend. This helps build strength in the upper body and the bicep muscles. You will also see the triceps get stronger, too. You will have more flexibility in the weight room and in your neck and spine.

Swimming through life. Part 1

Transition from age group swimming to university swimming

One of the keys to success for any strong swimmer is being able to transition from one age group to another. Since most swimmers stay in the same youth organisation, the transitions between youth age groups is not that difficult. Young swimmers move from group to group with their friends and often, their coaches follow them, too. Many times, the coaches are team parents, so they know most of the kids in the organisation. Even if they switch organisations, they are still in their local swimming community so the transitions are still easy to make.


Moving Away from the Local Support System

The difficulty for swimmers is moving from their younger age groups to a college swimming team. The biggest changes come from the fact that college swimmers no longer have the same support system that they had in their high school and younger years. Instead, they have the pressures of college and the pressures of ultra-competitive swimming. These pressures intensify for collegiate swimmers who are far from home, away from their families and local friends.


Sleep Becomes an Issue

Along with missing family and friends, new college swimmers often have issues with sleep. Most competitive swimmers are used to getting up early to get into the pool, but they are not used to being away from home with plenty of fun opportunities available every night of the week. High school offered a predictable schedule and parents were able to get their children to bed at a reasonable time, especially when they knew that morning practice was coming. But, college kids do not have curfews. They often have roommates who are not swimmers, so the impact of less sleep can create problems in the pool. The problems can be both physical and mental.


Nutritional Challenges Arise

Another issue for collegiate swimmers is nutrition. When high school swimmers are at home, their parents have control over what they eat (at least at home). But, this changes when the swimmer reaches college. The collegiate food options are not always the best for young athletes and not every collegiate swimming program has enough coaches to help swimmers work on their diets. Often, collegiate swimmers turn to nutritional supplements rather than eating healthy fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates. When this is paired with lack of sleep, swimmers’ skills can decline.


Working with New Training Programs

Training is another issue that swimmers have to deal with when they move from youth swimming to collegiate programs. When high school kids begin looking for the perfect swimming programs, they will look for coaches who have training programs that they like. So, many high school kids will select programs that are similar to what they experienced in their youth swimming groups. Despite the similarities in programs, many swimmers need to get used to the training programs and the college pool. Add the issues that can come from lack of sleep and less-than-ideal nutrition and the trifecta can create some difficulties for transitioning swimmers.


Learning the Ins and Outs of College Athletics

The first year of college is a big change for most students, let alone students who are also athletes. While colleges do everything that they can to help their new student-athletes get acclimated to the new environment, no one knows now each student will react. It can be difficult for kids who were big stars in their local programs to move to a large university where there are plenty of big stars. It can also be challenging for students to swim against and with some of the best swimmers in the world. While many students do make a positive transition, it can take time. Some do not succeed and they stop swimming. Others excel and take in the opportunity to work with the best.


Participating in college athletics can be one of the most rewarding programs for young adults. Coaches, swimmers, and their trainers need to work together to ensure that the athletes get what they need to be successful.

How to Make Breaststroke Your Best Stroke


Of the four competitive strokes, breaststroke is the most unique. Unlike the other three, it is swum entirely underwater and requires swimmers to break their streamline over and over again to propel themselves forward. By focusing on preserving the streamline through all the phases of the stroke, breaststroke can easily go from being your worst stroke to your best.


Why swim more than you have to? The easiest way to preserve your streamline is during your push-off. Hold your streamline until you begin to lose momentum, then initiate your fly kick and pullout, making sure to keep your body position the same throughout. Hold this final glide until your momentum slows again, then move into your breakout.

How to train it: Double your pullouts off of each wall, and focus on keeping your eyes locked on the bottom of the pool. Prove to yourself that it works by trying a few pullouts wherein you lift or lower your head halfway through the glide and compare results!


A lot of efficiency is lost during the breakout when swimmers recover their arms underwater without thinking about preserving their streamline. Rather than dragging your bent arms through the water beside your torso, sneak your arms underneath your chest by crossing your forearms and pushing your hands forwards into your streamline. Adam Peaty (GBR) was seen doing this during the 2016 Rio Olympics, and we all know how it worked out for him!

How to train it: Do it on deck! Stand in your tallest streamline, pull your arms down to your sides and mime a fly kick, then initiate a breaststroke kick as you “hug” yourself while stretching your arms back up to streamline. Then, go do it in the pool.


Believe it or not, breaststroke kick can be made more efficient. Preserve your streamline by keeping your knees aligned behind your hips; the angle between your torso and thighs should be no less than 120 degrees. Think about bringing your heels up to your buttocks with your ankles flexed and toes outwards, then push back and down to propel your body forwards. This kick is much more narrow, reducing drag and allowing swimmers to maintain a more streamlined position in the water.

How to train it: You’re going to get up close and personal with the wall, that’s how! Get in the water, place your chest and legs against the pool wall and rest your hands on the deck. Practice bring your heels up to your hips without poking your knees into the wall, and kick! To challenge yourself, try to kick hard enough to get your chest out of the water, then finish with a push-up.


Finally, your pull can be a major player in a more efficient breaststroke. A common mistake swimmers make is taking their outsweep wider than their shoulders and pulling their hands underneath their chin before recovering into streamline. Preserving streamline means keeping all motions within the line of the body, so it would serve you better to outsweep to shoulder width, keep the elbows high, and pull the hands down only until they are perpendicular to the pool bottom before recovering into streamline.

How to train it: Sculling. Lots of sculling. Put on your snorkel, stretch your arms out in front of you, and take a look at how wide you sweep your hands outwards. Make sure that you have your arms rotated so that your elbows are at the surface and your fingers are angled downward, then switch to full breaststroke pulls. Palms should face outward during outsweep, towards you during during the pull, and at the bottom during recovery.

There you have it: four simple ways to make breaststroke your best stroke, all by preserving your streamline in every move you make. If any aspect of your stroke feels too wide, it probably is. Breaststroke is all about being as narrow and flat as possible to ensure that all movements produce forward momentum, so think “streamline” all the time.

From Sarah MacDonald

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Can Two Weeks Off Swimming be Good or Bad?

There are going to be moments when you simply need a break. When you feel like you can’t stand the sight of water or when you can’t stand the smell of chlorine. If you need the time off, take it. But, try not to stay away from the pool for more than two weeks.



Subtle Changes After a Two-Week Holiday

After a two-week hiatus from the pool, you will (hopefully) feel a renewed desire to get back in the water. But, you might notice a few subtle changes. Fortunately, recovery from the two-week break will not take long. The longer you stay away from the pool, the longer it will take to get back to the level of fitness you are accustomed to having.

First, after two weeks, you might find that you get a tired a little faster than usual the first few times you get in the pool. This might make you discouraged. You cannot let that happen. As a swimmer, you know that swimming is a mental and physical exercise. The only way to improve is to just keep swimming.


Time Off Can Help

Even if this sounds discouraging, it can be important to take time off. There are moments when the body really does need to rest, this is why sports have off-seasons. If you are swimming four or more times per week, every week, without a break – you are due for one. The mind also needs a break from all of that work. If you have been swimming that often, your body will not fall apart or get flabby after a two-week break. In fact, you might find that you swim better after the short holiday.



Endurance Weakens Slightly

Some swimmers notice that their aerobic endurance weakens slightly when they return to the pool. If this is the case, just keep swimming because your endurance will pick back up after a few workouts. Some swimmers notice a reduction of endurance up to 20% after two weeks of rest. You might have to start slowly when you get back into the pool, but it won’t take long to get back to where you want to be.


Negligible Strength Differences

On a positive note, your strength will not decrease to a noticeable difference. Younger swimmers will not notice much of a difference in muscle tone, but older swimmers might. Since swimming is an endurance exercise, muscle tone should not change much since most swimmers have lean muscles rather than bulky ones. It should take more than eight weeks away from swimming before any change in muscle tone becomes visibly noticeable. Again, if you feel weak when you first get back into the pool, it’s ok. Your body and mind need to get reacquainted when it comes to swimming and coordination, but the whole process of getting back to your regular strength won’t take very long.


Swimming Will Feel Good Again

If you have been training in the pool for a long time, your will most likely notice that you have taken some time off – but it might not be very evident. If you are not a regular swimmer, you might not notice right away. The big difference will show up in the pool after the hiatus. The fit swimmer will get back to normal quickly, whereas the occasional swimmer will need to swim more to get back to normal. Those losses will plateau and then even out, so the recovery will not take long.


In order to get back to normal, it is helpful to do some high-intensity interval workouts in the pool. With quick bursts and minimal rests, your aerobic endurance will improve dramatically. After two weeks off, it will feel good to get the heart rate going and the water moving. Use paddles, kickboards, and pull-buoys to get the muscles working hard.

Should Olympic Swimmers Speak out?

Doping is a big deal in professional sports. To keep the playing field level, most athletic organisations have developed rules and regulation to prevent their athletes from wanting to cheat. In an individual sport like swimming, doping can make a big difference in the number of wins and losses and since big wins equate to big money, swimmers are easily tempted to dope to get ahead of the pack.


Whose job is it to speak out against doping? Should elite swimmers like Lilly King and Michael Phelps do this? Or should someone else get involved in talking to the media about the problems with doping?  Now that the Olympics are over but still on people’s minds, the elite swimmers are getting the job done.


Spotlight on Lilly King

Young 19-year-old Lilly King made a name for herself not only by her gold medal in the 100 breaststroke, but by calling out her Russian competition, Yulia Efimova. King beat her and pointed out Efimova’s drug history. The Russian swimmer has tested positive twice for drug use. But, despite her doping history, she was beaten by a swimmer who has always tested clean. This finger wave that King gave to Efimova proved that swimmers do not need performance enhancing drugs (PED’s)to be successful.


Michael Phelps Encourages Natural Training

Michael Phelps also spoke out about doping. His complaint was about how swimmers who use PEDs hurt the sport and what it means. His words make sense, because competitive sports are about athletic ability, not about using a drug to get better. Cheating reduces the quality of the sport all the way around. Olympic competition should be clean. No ifs, ands, or buts.


The best voices to speak out against using PEDs are the elite athletes. These are the faces of the sport, so they are recognizable by people all over the world. Instead of men and women in suits, those who actually participate in the sport should speak out to keep their sport real. Of course, the elite athletes should be supported by those who wear the suits and make the policy, but the athletes will get the message across the best.


Social Media Can Bring the Message to the Local Level

Since today’s world is dominated by social media, even the amateur swimmers can speak out against doping. Swimmers in high school and college could actually face opponents who use PEDs. Those users harm the sport just as much as professional athletes who dope harm the sport. When amateur swimmers see their idols like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky speaking out and creating buzz about doping, those amateur swimmers will be more comfortable talking about doping with their coaches and teammates. They will also be more confident to train without using PEDs.


This is how the ethics of sports changes at the local level. And as the local level changes, the larger levels of the sport will change, too.


Banning Athletes Who Dope

Unfortunately, some athletes will always feel the pressure to do everything they can to survive the competition. This is why some nations continue to support their athletes who prefer to use PEDs rather than train naturally. The international organizations that support the competitions need to get serious about keeping the doping swimmers out of the pool, no matter what and in every situation. Sponsors need to stay away from these athletes and the clean athletes should feel free to expose them.
Doping actually weakens the foundation of sport which is why fighting it is vital to continued success. Elite swimmers and elite athletes in other sports should be the voice that encourages young, amateur athletes and their fellow professional athletes to stay away from the performance enhancing drugs that create an unfair advantage.

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