View Full Version : Strength & Conditioning For Swimming

05-19-2007, 05:18 PM
One of my cousins is an All-American high school swimmer. She's a rising senior right now and she'd really like to make the Olympic Trials and such. I was talking to her a little about it and she mentioned she had never really done any "Strength and Conditioning" or worked with a coach with any kind of similar qualifications. Her best stroke is butterfly and most her races are 50-200m. She's pretty solid in freestyle/backstroke as well.

Anyway, I think this is a real issue and I'd like to help her out. I've got a few questions, though:
(1) Is it likely that strength/conditioning training would make a profound effect on her times?
(2) Ideally, how should she be training? (I was guessing essentially the same as a 400m sprinter after she established a base?)
(3) She's looking at colleges across the US. She was offered a full ride from (I believe) Ohio State, UC-Santa Barbara, USC, Tennessee, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Hawaii and several others. I'm guessing she'd be in the running for a few more. Do you guys have any idea what schools have very well-recognized strength/conditioning coaches (don't limit to this list)? Are any schools on that list notoriously bad? How about swim coaches?

Any other advice?


05-19-2007, 06:15 PM
1. It could, if done well.
2. In a lot of ways, training swimmers is more complex (maybe I should just say different) than training track athletes. You can't really compare a sprint swimmer to a, for example 400m runner, because a typical short-distance swimmer swims events of durations anywhere from about 20sec. to 2mins.

There are a lot of "fish out of water" issues that an S&C coach will have to deal with when working w. a group of swimmers. I'm guessing that your cousin isn't one of them, but many swimmers are very lanky, weak and uncoordinated on dry land.

Off-season "dryland training" is usually a little easier to organize and implement than in-season work. The problem is that elite swimmers are pretty much in-season year-round. If you're planning something for your cousin, it would be a good idea to have some kind of strength/flexibility assessment to see where her needs are. Generally, with swimmers, you can't go wrong with shoulder/scap/rotator cuff stability work and core development. Find weaknesses and shore them up.

3. Swim coaches are EXTREMELY slow to change... If you read current literature, there is STILL debate over over the role long-slow-overdistance training (aka 'base training') should play in the overall training scheme - they were debating it when I was swimming in the 80s. Weight training is, more or less, the same - most coaches know their swimmers would benefit from intelligent S&C work, but have no idea how to implement it and (often justifiably) have a distrust of S&C coaches who give them cookie-cutter programs designed for football or basketball players. Unless your cousin is extremely diligent in her search for a cutting edge S&C program, IMHO she would be better served in trying to find a good DI coach who has a proven track record of developing athletes, not just recruiting already successful athletes. You'd be surprised at how many DI swimmers spend a lot or all of their college careers plateaued out.