Functional Training for Swimming Heather Sumulong, BS, CSCS re you looking to gain the competitive edge over your opponents? Developing a strong core, along with functional training for swimming, may be exactly what your program is lacking. Too many programs focus only on the numbers in the weight room, forgetting that swimming is a 3-dimensional activity, and therefore giving their strength gains minimal practical value to improving skill. Functional training can increase the body’s ability to generate power from the core. You will often hear the core (abdominal and back muscles) described as the power center of the body. This is because when trained correctly, these muscles act synergistically to dramatically improve sport performance. This doesn’t mean that you need to do thousands of crunches per day. It simply means that you must train for specificity, and practice like you compete. These exercises will help you transition weight room strength to movement-specific strength for swimming. When evaluating an exercise for a specific sport, it is important to make sure the exercise will transfer to the activity at hand. The drills to follow will mimic swimming in order to transfer the strength gains to performance. With time being most people’s biggest constraint to their training program, it becomes critical to choose your exercises wisely. There are two common problems that occur among swimmers that can be minimized with this type of functional training program: postural imbalances and overuse injuries. A postural defect can cause a swimmer to swim much slower than they are able, or fatigue more quickly trying to swim at the same speed. Proper body alignment in the water can actually reduce drag and increase core power, enabling you to swim faster with less effort (decreased heart rate) and greater efficiency, for a longer time period. Poor head and body positioning or weak core muscles can contribute to lower back pain both during and after workouts. Another common injury is Swimmer’s Shoulder. This is an overuse injury caused by instability in the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint), leading to inflammation in the rotator cuff muscles. Proper stroke mechanics play a key role in preventing this type of injury. Mechanical flaws are most often seen with fatigue, or inadequate flexibility, causing increased stress to the shoulder, both of which can be prevented with proper training. The stronger the stabilizing muscles are, the longer an athlete is able to train at a high intensity with proper technique. Studies have shown that even a four-week interruption in training dramatically changes the metabolic characteristics of a swimmer’s muscle 3 . With a four-week break in training (common with any overuse shoulder injury), the ability to generate power during swimming is significantly reduced, while
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- Spring '16
- Physical exercise, Weight training, Performance Training Journal