Dryland Programming for the Club Swimmer by Keenan Robinson, North Baltimore Aquatic Club (2012)


[introduction by Mark Hesse]

For the last three years, this morning’s first speaker has served as the Director of Athlete Services for North Baltimore Aquatic Club.  And in that capacity his duties included not only strength and conditioning… creating the strength and conditioning program for the entire North Baltimore Aquatic Club team, but also working with the elite group at North Baltimore on a daily basis.  And additionally working with injury rehab and prevention in that program.  This morning’s talk is going to be about how to implement a comprehensive program throughout your club.  And I think it is going to be a great opportunity for us to learn about that.  Keenan has also served, prior to being at North Baltimore, at the University of Michigan and with Club Wolverine; and was the head athletic trainer for the 2012 USA Olympic Swimming team.  Keenan Robinson.


[Robinson begins]

Thanks a lot for having me here.  I appreciate your guys’ attention, being up early this morning on the third day of the ASCA clinic.  Like I was introduced, this talk is going to be geared more to the club level.  When I asked Bob Bowman what he thought would be most beneficial to the majority of the people attending this conference, it would be something that they could apply to a club.  Something with not a lot of supplies, not a lot of equipment; and the stuff that has transitive properties from your 10&Unders all the way up to the stuff that we use even with our elite level swimmers.


As Mark said, I started off with the University of Michigan working with their men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, as well as the Club Wolverine elite group we had their training up through 2008.  And one thing that always kind of piqued my interest was, in every year, walking through the doors were freshmen.  And whether it would be Charlie Houchin or Tyler Clary, Matt Patton, they all came in with great swimming abilities—they could do anything Bob or Urbanchek gave them.  But when we took them into the weight room, we had a disconnect.


And so I think one of the things college coaches may agree with, is that there are three things that are going to hinder our kids’ performance as a freshman.

  1. Number one, they come in and they cannot handle the training volumes or the training intensities or training philosophy in the water. We knew kids at North Baltimore could come in and could pretty much handle anything we gave them.
  2. Number two would be the weight room. Most kids are exposed to a lot of the med-ball stuff, maybe some general calisthenics, and maybe some, even, light weights.  But they are not very, very structured, or probably are geared from a trainer that probably trains football players.
  3. And number three is the social/academic stuff. And that is something that the swim coaches and academics support could not really… that is out of our realm of handling.


And so when I came down to North Baltimore, I thought that that was something that… here we are developing great swimmers.  No matter where they would go on—whether it is they stayed in the area and trained it in our local colleges, or they went on to some of the most prestigious universities and swim programs in the nation—we wanted to give them a little something extra so they came in and they had a greater impact, right off the bat, as freshmen.


So first of all I would like to thank the two coaches that probably had their greatest influence on why I am standing here today:  Jon Urbanchek and Bob Bowman. Enough has been said about those two, but enough cannot be said.  And what those guys did for me is… I came in with no Swimming experience: I had never even watched a swim practice, swim meet.  I did not even know who their great swimmers were in 2004.  But the one thing that they did is they taught me.  And I think the coaches, everybody here, should take that as a huge sense of pride.  You guys are the greatest resource for your strength and conditioning coach, or if you are just outsourcing and sending some of your best athletes around town to a, you know, a strength and conditioning guru, you guys are the greatest asset.  You know the sport; you have done it time and time again.  No matter what any strength coach tells you, you guys are the greatest asset.  You guys tell them what you are doing during your various seasonal plan, and they will go from there.


I think that was one of the best things that these guys told me, that a 50 and a 1500 are all the same.  We are not training for strokes, we are not training for speed; we are training a system, we are developing kids.  Okay?  We do not want them just to be able to do one good swim once.  We want them to be able to do multiple swims, over multiple days, over multiple weeks.  Okay?  And so I think that is really something you can take home, because it is something that has really advanced me.


And I think when you start to set up your dryland program you have to have a vision.  You know, when I got down to North Baltimore Aquatic Club, we had a high school sophomore who had reached some success in 2009—a kind of a unique year, as we all know, with the suits.  But Bob was saying, “We can’t be content with the fact that she had a very, very good 200 back.”  This is Elizabeth Pelton.  “We can’t be content if she had a very good 200 back.”  Here she is, a 15 years-old.  “We want her to be the most diverse female swimmer by the time she goes on and swims whatever she’s going to swim in college or if she is lucky enough to have the opportunity to turn pro.”


I think that is something we really have to refocus on, or channel our philosophies back to, as the start of the quadrennium begins up.  That we are not training for a specific… especially at our age, at the club level, that we are not training for a specific event.  We want to make our kids able to do whatever event, whatever stroke, they are going to do.  We have no clue what they are going to do.  Are they going to grow taller?  Are they going to have some sort of injury that is going to limit them from doing certain strokes?  We do not know that, the intangibles, but we know that, right now, we can train them to be the most diverse swimmer they can possibly be.  So I think you have to have a vision, and it has to be long-term.  Whether it is four years, because they are freshmen in high school, or it is eight years, an eight year program, because they are in the developmental part of your program.  Your vision has to be continual building for the future.



Step 1: Mobility

The step one with that is mobility.  I think Nick touched on it earlier in the week—I kind of read some stuff on Twitter that he had touched on it.  And I think that is something that we all have to start moving forward in.  And by mobility I mean: our athletes are hyper-flexible already—just the nature of our sport.  They can move in abnormal degrees of range of motion that most athletes cannot.  And as soon as they get hurt, you take them to the doctor, you take them to the physical therapist, you take them to an athletic trainer; and generally speaking what do they tell you?  You’re too hyperlax.  You need to take two weeks off and get tightened up.  That is not what we want, right?  Last thing you want is to take the kid out of the water.  And so you want to work on mobility.  So what that is, is getting your joint capsule moving around in different directions and increasing blood flow to the area.


So we are going to start from the ground and move our way up.  This is an ankle mobility drill that we do, starting in North Baltimore.  And so I think you have to become familiar with the ankle joint, right?  Our best underwater kickers you look at Michael [Phelps], you look at Ryan [Lochte], you look at Tyler [Clary], you look at Missy [Franklin]: they have got unbelievable mobility in their ankles.  And what they are doing… the ankle joint, you got to think, can move in three different directions.  It moves:

  • front-to-back,
  • side-to-side, and
  • then it has a 360° component, as well.


And so what we do is we put them up against the wall.  And we have them (this is a little like closer look) and we have them move:

  • five rotations right over the big toe,
  • five outside the pinky toe, and
  • five outside the big toe.

And so what we are doing is we are opening up that ankle.  We are opening it up so it can move in the greatest degree of range of motion as possible.  I know we have kind of always sat back and said: well, we need to get better at underwater; we need to have greater ankle flexibility.  What do we do?  We tell them to go home at night, make their sheets real tight, and trap their feet under it, which hopefully stretches out their ankle.  Although very good in theory, the practical application, it does not translate all that well.  You may get 1° or 2° of range of motion.  However, if you are moving it actively, you are going to open that up, and you can get anywhere between 7°-23° of range of motion.  I think when you think of that at the young level, that is going to have so much of an impact on their swimming.


Now, we are going to move up: we want to open up their hips.  Okay?  So what we are looking at, her left… Jordan Surhoff’s left hip is what we are focusing on right now.  You can tell, she already has some restrictions right now.  What I would want to see is her knee to be able to get all the way to the wall without losing the vertical posture in her torso.  I think when you look at kids often stretching, you see them trying to force the issue of opening-up their hip joint.  So they compensate by extending at their lumbar spine, right here.  What that is doing is put them in a disadvantage.  Okay?  Those L4, L5 spondylolisthesis, those low-back stress fractures, we are created them like that.  Most doctors will tell you, you are creating it because you are overtraining them; you are giving them unnecessary yardage with butterfly.  They need to do that to swim.  This, this is putting compression, sheer force, on the lumbar spine.  So when we want them to them to stretch, we want them to open up their hip capsule while moving but keeping their torso in a very vertical posture.


Now we want to drop down, we want to open up their groin, okay.  And I think we do a great job of static stretching, where we spread our legs out, but here we are doing something a little bit unique.  The adductor, the groin muscle, is not just closing the legs together; it also works as a hip flexor and a hip extender.  And so here we put her into a position where she is moving both into that flexion and that extension of her hip, while she is stretching the groin, the adductor muscle, in an extended position.  Again, all that is doing is bringing a lot more blood flow to the area as she is warming it up.  More blood flow is going to lengthen the muscle, and prevent a lot of those groin injuries and a lot of those inside knee pain injuries.


Okay now, we want to open up that thoracic spine; we want to wake-up their glute muscles.  Here is a great opportunity… what I mean by thoracic spine: I mean from here to here, okay.  The restrictions for a swimmer do not necessarily come from this area.  This is where the injury is may be occurring, but it is because they are so locked-up in this area and they are so locked-up in their hips.  So somewhere along the kinetic chain, somewhere along the body, something is going to snap and usually it is the low back.  So with this drill, you allow it to open up and you are activating your glutes.  So we are waking them up, instead of just a static stretch—sitting them on the ground.


Now we are going to kind of open up the whole entire torso.  Now, oftentimes, kids say they have a low back… you know it is really sore through here.  What we are doing here is that we are just opening up the entire muscle group throughout the whole low back.  We have the knee trapped on the ball so we do not get any sort of cheat, where the leg may pop up.  And we really want to focus on her eyes following her hands, okay.  If her eyes do not follow her hands, she is just moving into a disadvantaged position: an area where she may start to cause some instability and some pain up in the front of her shoulder.  So: eyes follow the hands.


Posture is so important.  I kind of keep going back to that word with each one of these drills.  Technique, posture, is so important; just do not go out there and just slob through it, okay.  Great opportunity to just have them focused on their body position, their body awareness.  I mean we work on that almost everyday, right, as swim coaches?  You put them in the water, you have them talk about head position.  You have them talk about entry and exits of their hands during their strokes.  It is another time for them just to become in-tune with their total body.  They can sit and they can talk and socialize while they are doing this before practice—so they do not lose that aspect of it.  But it is a great opportunity for them to figure out where their body is, how it moves in space, and then translate it into the water.


A little opportunity here to open up the lats and open up the pecs.  We call this a yoga push-up.  So they kind of come down and they extend back.  We have seen our swimmers kind of do that, where you go to any pool deck during practice, you go to any Grand Prix, any age group meet; and you see them all lined-up against bleachers like that.  Again we are getting a great static stretch—feels really good.  With this drill, again, we are bringing blood flow to the area; they are actually moving it through a range of motion actively, not just getting to here.  Everyday, you know, they may be getting to a 110°.  With this, each day they can push farther and farther, and hopefully get greater up into their streamline.


The final shoulder mobility drill: a seated wall angel, okay.  So this one, I really like to focus on keeping their back as flat as possible to the wall.  Forearms, elbows and the back of the palms stay as flat to the wall as possible; and they are going up into about 135° angle, okay.  By keeping them seated and up against the wall, as opposed to standing.  From the side you can see if they are starting to dip into it.  If they are so tight through their lat—which inserts down here into the pelvis. If they are so tight, they are going to start getting into that low-back extension, which we are trying to get away from—we are trying to get away from.  This is actually strengthening their lat: the greatest range of motion of that specific muscle group.



Step 2: Strengthen the Shoulders

I think, working as an athletic trainer, the care and preventive injuries… you know I always heard, always read in school, any journal: Oh, you’re going to deal with swimmers?  They’re going to have shoulder injuries.  And I think if you take a specific approach to it, understanding what exactly the muscles of the shoulders are…  which as swim coaches is not important, I think it is just the movement patterns—that we are going to show you here—which is just more important than understanding the muscles.  And then what you do design your program.


No coach wants to see how far they can push their swimmer, to see if their shoulders give up.  Right?  That is none of your guys’ plan.  Your plan is to develop a very good swimmer.  So you take the athlete to the doctor, and they say “oh you’ve over-trained them” or “you’ve given them too much yardage”.  Well the doctor does not know; they do not know your seasonal plan.  You know your plan, and that is not your goal.  So, I think, if you strengthened the shoulders, there is very, very little opportunity for shoulder injuries.


Okay, so we are going to go through some specific shoulder strengthening exercises that they can do two to three times a week, with low repetition.  So here we go, we have a cable external rotation.  You guys can use thera-bands.  I have even used—based on our budget at North Baltimore—I have even used the stretch cords we use in the water—triple them up, tie them to a bleacher, you can use that.  And here we just use it on a cable machine.  And so I like this specific position.  We have the athlete standing, okay.  And we have them going up into a 90° [angle], right here.  So it is targeting the external rotators in a specific movement, where the injury is most likely to occur.  You also have an opportunity to see how their shoulder blades are postured: if they are creeping forward, you can retract them.  That’s going to….


On this, this is something… reps, rep, rep range, sets: not very important.  What you want to do is just touch on it every day.  But for me, I found that we go anywhere from 6-10, one set, that is enough if you are doing it three times a week.  You can see these kids doing… five days a week, they are doing 20 reps, three sets of these—that is what they are doing in the pool, right?  We are getting all the internal-external rotation in the pool, and so we are just overusing it.


A little exercise called face pulls, which is strengthening the shoulder blade muscles.  Here you just want to focus on the athlete pulling it as close to their mouth, to their face—hence the name “face pulls”.  Where they will get a general sense of feeling how their shoulder blades move on their thoracic spine, on their rib cage.  How is it moving?  Because once that translates to the water, they are going to understand [that] if it is not moving smooth or symmetrically, they are going to be able to talk to you as a coach—or if they are seeing a strength-and-conditioning coach or maybe a massage therapist, or they are seeing someone in allied health care profession—they will be able to communicate: hey it feels like my shoulder is moving this way.  As opposed to: ah, you have got a shoulder injury, let’s try to figure out what’s going on.  It makes the athlete really take onus on understanding their body.  And you will be surprised, even though they are young, high school kids, how fast they pick-up on it.


A final one to kind of strengthen a little bit of the shoulder blades and the pec muscle; we call it a dynamic hug.  Again you can use a thera-band; you can use the stretch cords that you use in the water.  And we want to go up, close to a 110°, 120° angle.  And the only reason why we do that, and with such specificity to the angle, is because that is the line-of-pull for the muscle, okay.  And, again, anywhere between 5-10 reps: that is all they need to do—that is all they need to do.  Activate, warm it up, put it in a normal movement pattern.


So here we go with a little band, with external rotation.  You will notice how she first places her shoulder blades tight against her thoracic spine, against her rib cage.  She sets it first, before she goes into any sort of external rotation.  And during this whole time, she is trying to keep those shoulder blades as pulled back as much as possible okay.  What is that doing?  That is preventing the shoulder from creeping forward.  Short-and-simple, this is how the shoulder impingement injuries occur: shoulder starts to creep forward because we are getting tight in our pec.  She is learning how to how to keep those shoulder blades pulled back.


Some exercises you may be familiar with: center the sideline and external rotation.  Here we have her using a dumbbell.  One thing we do with our 10&Unders, 10-12 year-olds.  Take a Gatorade bottle, fill it with water; we have a beach—at Meadowbrook at North Baltimore—fill it with sand.  Cheap, easy way to do it, okay.  You do not need a whole set of dumbbells.  These kids can have it; they can carry in their mesh bag.  It is just as important as their flippers and as their snorkels.  [If] They have got one of those, they can go through and do these things.


I am really kind of emphasizing technique here.  So she is going right across the line of her chest, okay.  So that is the line of the pull of the posterior rotator cuff muscles.  When she is going up, her thumb is up; when she is going down, her thumb points down.  So replicating the movement of how that muscle was created to move.  We are keeping it in a specific position.  So as you can see, if we try to tell her to do 3 sets of 20, something is going to fatigue.  And if she is doing this before practice, and she maybe gets 3 sets of 20 perfect, when she gets in and starts doing your practice something is going to give.  That is why I say the reps do not need to be as high as often prescribed.


One great thing that I would do for most swimmers, anywhere from the 18&Unders, is when we start doing push-ups, we do it with their feet elevated.  So here her feet are up on a bench—you can put them up on a starting block, put them up on the bleachers.  And she is going through a normal push-up, where at the very top she is pushing out again.  This is strengthening her a little bit in the pec, the main emphasis of a push-up.  But we are also teaching her scapular movement patterns, okay.  If she learns, again, how that shoulder blade is supposed to move normally, she is going to be able to translate that to the water.  She will be able to know how to keep her shoulder blade in a good, healthy position.  And by keeping the feet elevated, it takes a ton of pressure off the AC joint [acromioclavicular joint], off the collarbone.


The final one: pulling on a diagonal.  And what this is doing, it is finally teaching the very, very last part of our shoulder-blade movement patterns.  It is pulling the tip of the shoulder blade down towards their bottom, okay.  So we are doing it through a movement pattern.  Again, you can use thera-bands; we are using a cable system.  If you do not have access to that, use your stretch cords.  And what we are trying to do is just teach her how to pull that shoulder blade down towards her bottom to prevent this movement.  This movement, this disadvantaged movement.


Okay I am moving down and we are training in the trunk—such a vague word in the area of strength and conditioning.  You could line a panel up of coaches, a panel of strength and conditioning coaches, and say: define the core, define the trunk.  And if you had five up here, you would get five different definitions.  So I am going to, kind of, present how I would define the trunk, and how we train it.


Briefly, the philosophy, the way I have gotten to training the trunk, training the core—whatever you want to call it—has been a work-in-progress and will continue to be until I stop working with athletes.  But one of the things that I got the most benefit of, is watching the Boomer chronicles.  I know they are out there on DVD, I got mine from USA Swimming.  He [Bill Boomer] did it probably in their early ‘90s, and it is one of the best ways I have heard explained the human body as it goes from land into water, and all their body positions.


And I thought it was really interesting in that he talks about how we are uncomfortable when we are put in the water.  And water is an unstable surface.  And here we are in the, you know, probably late ‘90s and still to the current day, the big thing is putting them on Swiss balls, put them on bosu balls, put them in suspension apparatuses.  So you are continually making their environment unstable; they train in an unstable environment.  So if you are training them both ways in an unstable environment, something is going to give.  And I found the motor pathways when you put them into the water, if you have trained them on bosu balls, Swiss balls, those things, outside the land, it does not translate all that well because you are not training them as specifically as you are.


So what we do on land is a lot of body position and trying to keep the thoracic spine, lumbar spine and the hips in line.  You will hear him talk about that in his Boomer Chronicles, and you will see through this.  So it is not… you do not see a lot of movement in what we are doing.


First thing we are going to do is that when I say core, you have always got to include glute medius okay.  All your medial knee pain, all your low back issues, 85-90% of them come because they have weak glute medius.  So here you can use a Swiss ball, you can use a med-ball: anything that they can do to press up against the wall, and they have to go through flexion and extension, is training, specifically training, the glute medius.  Pretty effective here, because we have them in a position that they are going to be in, in the water, okay.  But we just isolate those movement patterns.


[If] You strengthen this, a lot of your back pain, a lot of your knee pain and lot of your hip pain that come from breaststroke—and this girl is one of our breaststrokers—will go away pretty quickly.  Instead of: every time they get to a certain point where you think you can start training them a little bit harder I.M. or breaststroke, and their knees flare up.  You send them to the doctor; doctor says: no breaststroke for three weeks.  Strengthen their glute medius.  Do this twice a week: it will keep it strong, it will keep it active, it will keep them out of the doctor’s office.  So that is glute medius, okay.


Now we are going to move up.  I know we have seen… this is Allison Schmidt—I tried to keep it as much club, but I think she does a great example here.  You notice that we do not have her on a bosu ball, we do not have her on a Swiss ball; she is on ground.  And the reason why I like that is that I can sit there and I can look to see if her back at any point in time is starting to creep-up into that lumbar extension area.  It is great because we are moving their extremities away from the center of their body, much like they will do in Swimming, regardless of stroke.


And you can see, by moving one extremity at the time, where maybe they may have a soft-tissue dysfunction, okay.  So if she is moving her left arm, and she is going into extension and we start to see her back start to pop up—or maybe her opposite knee starts coming to her face—we know that there is a soft-tissue dysfunction.  Maybe refer her out, get her to see someone in the massage therapy area.  But it is way, way more specific.  She is not… her brain is not firing a million miles a minute, because she is on an unstable surface.  She is doing a specific movement pattern, keeping it very, very stable.  And you can sit there and you can see if she is going into any sort of lumbar extension.


And the great thing about that is once you teach your kids, when they partner-up, they can see it and can say, “hey, your back is creeping up”, or “your knee is creeping up”.  and they could communicate that back to you.  So, again, you are kind of putting the onus on the kid; helping them out, being a good teammate.


A little something called the palov press.  We are using a cable system, again; you can use whatever band you want.  And you see Allison has probably got… if we drew a line from her earlobe down to her knee, she is as straight as possible.  That is the greatest amount of lumbar control, core stability, as possible.  She is taking an implement [and] moving it away from her center of gravity, which is forcing her to activate every muscle in her core.  Her butt, her abs, her low back, her shoulder blade, her pecs: everything is active.  And she is staying in the most symmetrical body position possible.  There is very little sway through her, and that is what we want when we swim freestyle, or any strokes for that matter, right: we want good body position.


If we put her on something where she is moving every different way, she will never, ever learn, a hundred percent, how to keep good body position.  But here, she is learning it; and then she goes into the water and it allows Bob a wonderful opportunity to say: “work on your rotation of your head”, or “watch your arms as they move away from your center of body”.  And it is not as challenging because we have not taught her something differently in an unstable environment outside the water.


Another thing here we got is reverse crunches.  Another thing here that we are really looking for too—and Chase’s, Chase Kalisz’s, hoodie is kind of covering up his low back—but this is… we are looking at: is he coming into lumbar extension?  He was a little bit at the end; probably should have stopped him a rep or two soon(er).  Coming into a little bit of lumbar extension.


Also: how are his ribs moving?  Are his ribs popping-up in order to get these activated to move it up.  We use the foam roller under his legs because it shuts-down the activation or the assistance from his hamstrings.  He has got to really turn those on so the foam roller does not pop out of his legs.  Now, he cannot use those to cheat to get to the movement.  It completely isolates his rectus abdominis—his six pack muscle—while also focusing on keeping good, low back posture.



Step 3:  Developing Athletes

So the final thing is we are developing athletes.  I do not know if many of you guys were at the National Team Coaches Convention up in Colorado Springs about two years ago.  But B.K. [Brian Karkosa], the strength and conditioning coach at Auburn, said that his greatest challenge is that kids are coming in and they have even lost the fundamentals that we learned in gym class.  So we do not even have the athletes we need to be swimmers.


And I think the common misconception when I talk to the people is “Oh, they’re swimmers; they’re not athletic on land.”  And I do not… I completely disagree with that.  If you have ever tried to do a back-to-breast turn in the I.M., that is pretty athletic.  If you have ever swam a really, really good butterfly, that is pretty athletic.  And so I think that so many people sell swimmers short by saying, “Oh they’re too clumsy; they can’t do it on land.”  If they could do it in the water, they can do it on land.  If you make them more athletic on land, it is going to translate to better athletes in the water.  So I think we have got to move away from just training swimmers, to training athletes.  Because they are wonderful, they are phenomenal athletes.  And I think that they are selling short.


And there are some things that can be simply done.  Number one: jump rope.  How simple is it to teach kids how to jump rope?  You would be surprised: when I got to North Baltimore, not too many kids could do jump rope.  Just a regular jump rope like this.  The other great thing about this is it strengthens your external rotators of your shoulder, so you are kind of killing-two-birds-with-one-stone.  A very, very fundamental or functional—I do not know if that is still a huge keyword, functional—training.  But here, I mean, Gillian Ryan is a phenomenal swimmer—she just had a great Juniors.  But you can see it is tough for even her to even go 30 seconds without screwing up, just doing a regular jump rope.


So you can start that at your youngest age.  Jump ropes are pretty cheap; you can usually get 10 of them for a pretty good price.  And it translates all the way from your 10&Unders all the way up to your old people, your Michael Phelpses—he is still doing jump rope.  And it develops athleticism.


Once they get that, that becomes pretty easy, you take them to another progression.  You have them changing their feet, so now they have got to use one foot on the ground each time.  Creating a little bit more athleticism.  The great thing about this is you can make this, kind of, an anaerobic-type dryland.  So if you want to try to produce some lactate on dry land, you want to get a touch into that anaerobic phase; you can work this into a circuit.  You get them doing this for 30 seconds, 40 seconds “on”, their heart rate will get up, you are developing athleticism, you are developing total body strength.  We are touching the ground, we are going all the way up to the head.  It is a great way—great way.  Something simple, something everybody can afford.  Something that does not take a specialist or it does not take your eyes off if you having to coach another group, you can do this.


And then you could kind of bring them down to the final third one: double unders.  Where he is going twice under at one time.  That is pretty athletic.


So you can take them through those three progressions.  You have trained them.  You have strengthened their shoulders.  You have made them become better athletes.


The next one I want to talk about is a little bit of power.  So we talk about power and age group, and everybody says, “Oh, you know, I just saw something on SwimSwam, you know, that Nathan Adrian is cleaning.  I need to do clean, or I need to do a snatch.”  And I am not so sure that we need to do that with these kids at this age.


But here, it is un-weighted, it is multi-joint, it is power, and it is explosion.  She happens to be a breaststroker.  If you look at her sideways, it replicates her kick-out in the breaststroke.  Pretty low chance of injury.  And if we need to weigh them down, you can have them use light dumbbells, hold them in their hands, have them hold a med ball.  So the stuff that you can… there is stress you can apply to it.  But we are teaching a multi-joint movement, explosion, without selling them short.  If we have Jordan Surhoff cleaning and deadlifting an exorbitant amount of weight as a 16 year-old, how much are we going to get out of her, when she gets into college because she has already gotten that little piece of the pie?


So now just some different things we can do with med ball.  You know, I think one of the best packets out there is Joseph Nagy’s Barrowman med-ball stuff—it is one of the best ones.  But here are some different ideas.  Again, when we are talking about posture, body movement, we are moving in all three directions.  Right here, I am just trying to make sure she understands that she is moving… she is keeping her spine straight and she is moving using her actual core muscles to move.  We are strengthening her legs—so we are getting some leg strength there.  Right here, this is early season—this is four days after Juniors.  So we are just re-teaching body movement.  You notice her knees are not caving in.


So right now, we are just teaching her fundamentals, teaching her body movement.  When she gets comfortable with this, and we know that she can do this, we can add it into a metabolic circuit.  Right?  So then we start getting her heart-rate up, we start getting reps, and it becomes a little bit more difficult; so there is a progression right there.  We are teaching her how to rotate her spine without compensating in the lower lumbar area, injuring that area.  She is actually focusing on using her ab muscles to move.


Here we have another one, where she is learning to approximate, keeping her rib cage tight.  Going multi-joint levels.  At no point in time do I want to see the ball move forward, her out of the streamline position, or starting arching her back, okay.  Just giving her some visual cues.  And now she has got to actually step-up and move.  Not that heavy of a load.  If you have got different med balls—this is only a 3-kilogram med-ball.  If you have got some exceptionally strong athletes, or once this becomes easy, obviously you can add up a little-bit heavier med-ball.  If you have used a kettlebell, you could use a bar, you can use dumbbells.


But the first thing, first and foremost, if you look at her, every joint of her body is in the healthiest position.  Good ankle range of motion.  Knees are not caving in.  Good control as she descends back down, and you can see how flat in posture she is.  And this, right here, in no way is she going to get hurt doing this.  And, again, once she becomes comfortable with this, you can add it into a metabolic circuit, maybe increase how fast she is going.  But not until she can do this multiple times, and be comfortable in keeping a good body position.


So now some linear power.  What we are trying to get here is we are trying to open up her lats, her thoracic spine, while staying long and tall—long and tall is a good cue.  You know she is not hinging at her hips much; she is getting all power, generating all her power, from here up to her upper extremities and throwing it on a diagonal pattern.  You know, if you go to most clubs throughout the country, these kids are just ripping the med balls.  They are not having any sort of idea of how their body is moving.  Teach them how to move, generate, truly generate, the power from the hips up to the upper extremity and leaving [through] that implement.  Again, it has great transitive properties into the water, right?  We want to generate power from our hips to upper extremity to our lower extremity, without sacrificing body position.


Again this is one of the greatest developmental techniques you can use for once kids get to college.  A lot of colleges are going the way of the Olympic [weight] lifts.  Here we have taught her how to deadlift, we have taught her how to clean, we have taught her how to snatch; all with a 3 kilogram med-ball.  With great body position: hinging at the hips, bending the knees, getting good ankle mobility, and firing up and controlling that weight at the very end range of motion.  She has got to activate her glutes, her low back, her abs; so she does not go into that lumbar extension.  She has learned out to hinge at her hips, keep her back flat, chest up; all with a very, very low load.  There is no way she will get hurt doing this.  And if she has done this for four years in your program, if you send her on to another college, she will be able to pick-up what they are doing on the Olympic lifts right away—she will not be set-back as maybe some of her teammates may be.


A final one is another linear rotation movement.  So I want you to focus on the way her ankle and her hip move.  Oftentimes we tell kids to throw med-balls up against the wall; they are just doing it right here—doing it right here.  Well that is just grinding, grinding on that L4/L5 region.  So what I am doing… if I allow her to continue to do that, all I am doing is creating that low-back injury that so many swimmer see.  If we get her moving, and using her hip mobility and her ankle mobility, that is where all her power is coming.  So this area is healthy and she is able to get some linear force translated up from the ground while keeping her back in a safe and healthy environment.


So I just want to thank you guys for allowing me to come here.  I am hopeful that I showed you guys some things that you can immediately take back tomorrow morning, Monday morning [laughter].


Some of our sled work: poor Chase has got to pull Allison along the beach.  You can see we kind of have gone up and up.  But again this is a simple piece of equipment, you know.  It is a couple of PVC pipes on a board, just screwed together.  You can use it on concreted or ground.  But just something I wanted, you know… Allison wanted to say goodbye to you guys.  So thank you very much for having me.



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