Competitive swimming requires you to go through different types of exercises that will enhance both power and speed. Different intensities, duration of workouts as well as methods can increase your stamina to endure longer laps and improve your overall time and speed. Do exercises designed to strengthen the muscles you use most when stroking and kicking in the water, as well as your lungs and mental focus.
Do the first active warm-up by putting your arms at the sides of your body. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, your hands closed and directed to the front. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, slowly rotate your arms so that your right fist faces as far to the right and your left fist faces as far to the left as possible. You should feel your shoulder blades pinch together. Be careful not to strain your shoulders as your rotate. Hold this for five seconds and then return to your original position slowly. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.
Sprint swimming, which covers a shorter distance and more vigorous strokes, should primarily focus on intensity and power, not yardage. To improve sprint swimming performance, do sprints covering 12.5 yards only for 60 sets on four consecutive days and then 10 sets only for the fifth day. Rest on the weekend then repeat the regimen for 16 weeks. Reduce the work by 50 percent two weeks before and by 66 percent the week before the swimming competition to let your body rest and regain power.
According to a 2012 article by Peter Reaburn, PhD, in "Masters Athlete" magazine, heavy strength training at low volumes will help improve your strength and respiratory muscle power for competitive swimming. Perform swim-specific movements, such as lat pulldowns, for one to five repetitions for a total of three sets. Focus on the push or concentric phase of the movement and lift as heavy as possible. Sprint swimmers significantly improve their strength by using a perforated bowl or elastic tube to provide resistance.
A good workout for competitive swimmers involves resisted and assisted sprint training using elastic surgical tubes. Do three sets of six repetitions maximum for muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings, calves and buttocks. You will significantly improve leg power and overall performance, thereby giving you good results on your stroke mechanics too. Leg-kick training can improve propulsion and endurance while respiratory muscle training can boost lung capacity and overall conditioning. High-volume training does not show to have any advantage compared to low-volume training performed at high intensity for competitive swimmers.
Caveats and Risks
Despite a good training season for competitive swimming, a number of factors can lead to a decline in performance and overall conditioning, such as detraining, or taking a break from swim training, and one's initial performance level. According to research published in the" Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology," competitive swimmers perform better when exercises focus alternately on boosting lung volume and endurance in terms of frequency and intensity. Elite swimmers should give more emphasis on training for higher intensity because at this level, power and speed are most important.
Deterioration and improper form when stretching can also lead to strain, injury and pain in related muscle groups like the shoulders, back and legs. Stretching exercises -- such as putting your arm against a wall or firm surface then pushing your chest forward to stretch the frontal part of the deltoids -- can lead to strain and pain in the anterior capsule. Putting your right arm across your chest then pushing your right elbow with your left hand to stretch the rear deltoid can also cause strain in the posterior capsule. Do the stretches alternately on water and on dry land.
- USMS Swimmer: Warm-Ups and Stretches for Competitive Swimmers
- Swimming Science Journal: Training for Swimming: Ultra-Short Training Is Beneficial
- Masters Athlete: What Swim Training Methods Work? Here's What the Science Says!
- Sports Medicine: Exercise-Training Intervention Studies In Competitive Swimming
- Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology: Effects of Training on Performance in Competitive Swimming
- Team Unify: Shoulder Stretching for Competitive Swimmers: Helpful or Harmful?