By Sam Corea, Coach INT1.
Swimming is an interesting sport, where the bulk of training traditionally takes place in the pool. While this has been the standard way of thinking for the majority of swimming’s modern history, this wasn’t always the case.
Back in 1912, American swimmer Duke Kahanamoku made his first Olympic appearance at the Stockholm Olympic Games where he set a world record in the first heat of qualifiers. If Duke’s name sounds familiar is it because he is more famously known as the “The Big Kahuna” and can be credited for singlehandedly popularizing the sport of surfing. When asked about his training regime Duke said that he swam in the ocean everyday but credited other sports like water polo, beach volleyball, and of course, surfing, for keeping him in better physical shape. Granted, Duke lived during a time where advancements made in the sport were pretty much non-existent but the sentiment of his statement still remains true: the incorporation of other activities will greatly improve your swimming!
We recently had Canadian Olympian Markus Thormeyer come and share his wisdom with our Vikings swimmers. Do you remember one of the main points that he kept circling back to? He repeatedly reminded you of the importance of dryland exercises. He stressed that while he might not enjoy doing pushups, crunches, and running as much as he might like being in the pool he knew that every extra rep would make him a better athlete. His secret was that he approached every dryland activity with the same intensity as his does a swim workout. He gives all his effort and attention to his dryland works outs because he explained he has a perennial goal to be better than his competitors. In order to achieve this goal, he understands that not all the preparatory work can be done solely in the pool.
Improving your dryland efforts is the fastest and most efficient way to improve in the pool. It is not just Markus who believes in the transformative powers of dryland – we can take look at Penny Olesiak as another example. She once stated that she is in the pool for 25 hours a week, but also does a minimum of 6 hours of training outside the pool. These other dryland actives consist of running, circuit training, and weightlifting. In total, she spends a whooping 31 hours a week training but approximately 20% of her training in based NOT in the pool. That is a huge chunk of her training regime spent not in the water! If she didn’t do these extra hours of dryland, there is absolutely no way she would have attained her current level of success. Just for fun let’s compare her schedule with ours. The older groups generally train 8 hours a week, with about 2 drylands session per week. That means our dryland also makes up 20% of our training schedule. We spend the same amount of time doing dryland relative to one of the fastest swimmers on earth. Based on the quick calculations above it is fair to say our training schedule is influenced by how the elite train, but now it is up to you, the swimmer, to dedicate your dryland time towards improvement.
We’ve come to the conclusion that dryland takes up a large portion of our training but another question still lingers. WHY is dryland so important? Why does it warrant such a large part of our time? While it is true that the more your practice something, the better you become, there is a caveat to this statement when it comes to swimming. While swimming, muscle groups are not triggered enough to develop in any significant way since the water aids in easing most of the resistance. It is very difficult to build muscle through swimming alone. This is where dryland comes in. When a stress is placed on a muscle (e.g. the stress created by our bodyweight while doing a squat) our body responds with an opposing force in order to resist the downforce of gravity. The opposing force is what creates little tears in our muscles that our bodies repairs and, during the recovery process, creates more muscle.
This increase in muscle created directly leads to the generation of more power in the pool. “Explosiveness” is a concept that is very hard to learn and master in the pool but is needed during many parts of the race (e.g. dive + breakouts + turns). It is easier for an athlete to get an idea of what muscles are needed to improve their “explosiveness” on land. These on-land exercises often directly translate to the pool. For example, we do a ton of squat jumps in the stream line position. The exercises directly inform and improve upon a swimmer’s turn or, more specifically, their push-off from the wall. The more power generated off the wall, the more momentum gained while doing their underwater kicks. Fun fact: Kicking is actually faster than swimming! The fastest parts of a race are not actually when an athlete is swimming. The fastest parts of a race are the dive and push off under the water after a turn. The actual ‘swimming’ portion of a race is quite slow in comparison to these two components.
Dryland is a part of our swim lives because it is the best way to improve as a swimmer! I challenge each Vikings swimmer to attend their next dryland practice with a small goal in mind. For example, that goal could be to hold a plank for 10 seconds longer today or complete all the V-sits without stopping. Choose something small and work your way to becoming better and better with each session. It doesn’t matter what your goal is as long as it is aimed towards the idea of improving your exercises on land. In turn, your efforts on land will not go unnoticed in to the pool!