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by Chris Ritter

November 16, 2015

Train Your Swimmers to be Average

Aim to create well-rounded athletes

I was recently talking to a Masters swimmer who had some questions about his dryland and strength training program. He wanted to know how to get stroke-specific with his program and hopefully improve more in the water.

I asked for some examples of his current program to get an idea of ways he could improve upon it. It turned out that he was very strong on squats and pull-ups (more than 20 reps!). But then I asked him about his weaknesses and he talked about his shoulders having limited range of motion and that sometimes his hamstrings bugged him.

The answer to me was pretty clear on how he could improve his program and it had nothing to do with stroke-specific exercises.

“You just need to be at least be average in everything,” I told him. He thought about my answer, puzzled.

He’d done a great job of building his squat and pull-up strength, but had neglected to ensure his shoulders could still move well and strengthen his posterior chain (back of hips and legs specifically). This is what happens when swimmers aren’t following a balanced strength program.

So the best plan for this Masters swimmer—and perhaps for your swimmers—was to just get his weaknesses (shoulder and posterior chain) to be average. Nothing fancy.

Swimmers tend to be goal-oriented and sometimes that can give way to tunnel vision. When this happens, it’s easy to forget about the importance of a balanced base of strength, movement, and fitness. If you see swimmers who are below average in any one of these areas, they’ll never be able to overcome these deficiencies by training their strengths more.

Once you can say everything is at least up to an average level, then it may make sense to look at being more specific or focusing on another area. But until that time, just set your sights on helping your swimmers become average.