General Conditioning for Swimmer
My 14 year old daughter is joining the swim team this year.
Although she swims recreationally during the summer, this will
be her first year in competitive sports. There is no pool at
her high school. I understand they begin practice in a pool at
another school in one month. Until that time, their swim coach
has organized an after-school general conditioning class on the
weekdays where the kids will run and do calisthenics. It is not
mandatory so I'm wondering if would be better to have her start
lifting weights instead.
swimming would provide the most benefit, you could consider other
forms of exercise during your general conditioning period. See
Studies showing the beneficial effects of weight training
in swim training appear to be mixed; Tanaka & Swensen (1998)
review of the scientific literature concluded that resistance
training offered little benefit for swimming endurance stating...
- In contrast to running and cycling, traditional dry land
resistance training or combined swim and resistance training
does not appear to enhance swimming performance in untrained
individuals or competitive swimmers, despite substantially increasing
upper body strength. Combined swim and swim-specific 'in-water'
resistance training programs, however, increase a competitive
swimmer's velocity over distances up to 200 m. Traditional resistance
training may be a valuable adjunct to the exercise programs followed
by endurance runners or cyclists, but not swimmers; these latter
athletes need more specific forms of resistance training to realize
However, Aspenes et al. (2009) found that two weekly sessions
of dry land strength training improve the swimming force. The
calisthenics you had mentioned the group would be performing
should be sufficient to begin developing general strength and
If your daughter does not have access to a pool until next
month, 2-3 non-consecutive days per week of running would be
somewhat beneficial and certainly better than nothing at all
during the beginning phase of her conditioning period. Although
there is relatively little transfer of fitness (running to swimming
performance) for experienced swimmers, there may be some general
fitness improvements for those with relatively little athletic
conditioning (Tanaka 1994). See Cross
Training and Specificity
of Aerobic Training.
Even though swimming would be dramatically more beneficial
than running for your swimming goals, you may want to encourage
your daughter to take advantage of the preseason training offered
by your coach, if she does not have access to a pool at this
stage. Also, building comradeship with her peers (working out
with her teammates) can be a rewarding experience if she's up
However, running beyond 3 non-consecutive days per week may increase
her risk of injury without much additional improvement in fitness.
See Frequency and
Duration of Running Study.
Brent S. Rushall,
Ph.D, an exercise science professor at San Diego State University
explains in his Annual Planning for Swimming Fitness:
- The basic preparatory phase can include activities drawn
from sports which are related to swimming. For example, surf-ski
paddling (arm-dominant work), upper body gymnastic activities
(also arm-dominant work), and running (basic circulatory function),
have carry-over possibilities for basic swimming fitness. Such
activities usually contribute to some basic physical capacity
that is required in the sport. This phase of training would also
include the greatest amount of auxiliary training (medicine ball
work, free-standing exercises, specific remedial resistance work,
etc.). However, because such activities are beneficial for establishing
a physiological base, does not mean that they are just as beneficial
when highly specialized training is employed. At that time, they
have the potential to disrupt refined neuromuscular patterns
associated with skill.
To all intents and purposes, when a swimmer is not swimming,
the adaptations of swimming totally lack stimulation and undergo
a level of inactivity that is equivalent to bed rest. Such an
assertion may be questioned by many coaches who believe in "cross-training"
and the value of doing non-swimming activities to benefit swimming.
However, the research evidence is very clear that training effects
are very specific and for an unnatural sport such as swimming
there is very little benefit, if any, from doing activities other
than swimming (Rushall & Pyke, 1990). For example, Costill,
Sharp, and Troup (1980) concluded that swimming strength is best
achieved by repeated maximum exercises that duplicate as closely
as possible the skill of swimming. The most appropriate exercise
that they suggested was a series of maximum sprint swims.
Professor Rushall, also outlines a sample land
based general conditioning program for younger swimmers.
Aspenes S, Kjendlie PL, Hoff J, Helgerud J (2009). Combined
strength and endurance training in competitive swimmers. J Sports
Sci Med. 1;8(3):357-65.
Rushall BS (1994), Annual Planning For Swimming Fitness.
Nswimming Coaching Science Bulletin: 2(6).
Rushall BS, Marsden J, Young C (1993). A suggested program
of foundational conditioning exercises for age-group swimmers:
A manual for coaches. NSwimming Coaching Science Bulletin, 2(1),
Tanaka H, Swensen T (1998) Impact of resistance training
on endurance performance. A new form of cross-training? Sports
Progressive Preseason Conditioning
We actually have access to a pool at our local YMCA. I
encouraged my daughter to get into shape. When we
go to the Y which this time of year has been more sporadic, she
is not working out at the same intensity as her coach would have
her work. She needs someone to motivation her like in her PE
class. I agree I think it's good to get to know the other kids.
Two good friends will be on her swim team but they are not attending
the preseason conditioning classes. That's why I'm now encouraging
her to go daily to conditioning. She does a workout at the Y
but isn't pushing herself. She has only swam once or twice because
she didn't know what to do to practice in the water. I thought
about seeing if she could have a session with someone, but there
are some times I can't go get her after school.
It would be most ideal if she could start swimming in 3 non-consecutive
days, if you are able to find a way to get her to the pool. This
would be much more beneficial (and sport specific) than running
and calisthenics that she would otherwise be doing in the class
you have mentioned. An alternative approach, possibly decreasing
boredom would be swimming twice a week (eg: Mon & Thurs)
and conditioning class on two other days (eg: Tues & Fri).
Understandably, compromise may need to occur between the ideal
training schedule and your availability
to get her to the pool.
Perhaps, she can invite her two friends to swim some laps
with her at the Y as her guest, if they are not already members.
If they are already members, you could talk to the other parents
about taking turns once a week transporting the kids to and from
the Y. After they get done with their laps, then they could be
given some time to have some fun in the pool or around the Y.
If it is within your budget, a personal swim coach would be
very useful to provide her guidance, particularly with her swimming
techniques. They should have experience with the special needs
of young novice swimmers, since many swim coaches would likely
start her out with too many laps, especially in a group setting
since they are likely working with more conditioned swimmers.
Likewise, even the group lap swim programs at the Y will likely
be be too much for your daughter at this early stage. Ask to
speak with the Aquatics Director and see if she can suggest someone.
Without a personal swim coach, your daughter can begin by
doing a few laps of each basic stroke, but not too much at this
early stage, particularly without proper guidance on stroke technique.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, she does not need to be pushing
herself much at this point. Being she is not accustomed to regular
swim training sessions, even the least amount of swimming will
yield significant results at this early stage, as long as it
is consistent and progressive with adequate recovery. The training
response is all relative to her current state of fitness. All
that is required to make progress at this point is swimming regularly
at a mild intensity with subtle weekly progressions.
The most important thing is she develops enjoyment in this
process. It is very common for parents like us, and even coaches
to push kids young too hard. Then they end up never enjoying
the process and even developing ill feeling toward exercise.
Pushing herself hard will come later and it should be her decision,
as much as we would like to see her progress rapidly and succeed.