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by Chris Ritter

May 18, 2014

Fitness, strength, and mobility training work together for improved performance

Athletes who compete in endurance sports, such as swimming or triathlons, put a great deal of emphasis on aerobic or cardiovascular fitness. Often, the majority of workouts are geared towards improving fitness for specific events.

Although fitness is an important component of athletic success, it’s not the only one. Strength and mobility are equally important.

To explain how fitness, strength, and mobility training work together, let’s use a car analogy. Your fitness training in the pool (or even on land) is largely responsible for how fast your car (your body) can go in a race or practice. Winning the race is dependent upon your top speed and how long you can hold the pace at or near your top speed.

Strength training complements your fitness, and therefore speed, by increasing the size and power of your engine, so you can get to a certain speed even faster. Strength training also gives you the ability to go faster while using less of the engine’s overall power. This can prolong the life of the engine—by preventing you from breaking down before the end of your race. By becoming stronger, you also have a greater speed reserve to use at the end of your race.

Mobility is a newer term that includes flexibility but also encompasses how movements interact and affect other parts of the body. To explain why mobility is important, let’s carry on with the car analogy. Mobility is like the brakes and suspension on a car. A lack of mobility—like a lack of brakes or suspension—will only show up when you most need it to work. That is, when you go to hit the brakes and you don’t have adequate stopping power, it will likely create a major problem. Having a really fast car with a big engine is great, but if it’s unable to handle tight corners or stop on a dime, it’s not very useful.

Balanced strength training helps improve mobility over time. This happens when you train safely controlled movements through your full range of motion while aiming to slowly increase this range over time. The worst thing to do is just focus on increasing strength through a small range of motion.

Just like cars, when it comes to performance, athletes are usually drawn to just focusing on improving speed while overlooking other important aspects of athletic performance. Be sure that your training program encompasses all of the main components: fitness, strength, and mobility. Succeeding in swimming is not just about how fit you are but also about how strong and mobile you are as well. Experience what your body can do when it’s at its peak in all three components.


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