Dryland Training for Pre-Pubescent Swimmers by Vern Gambetta (1997)


If you went to Dr. Matsen’s talk this morning, you can get up and leave because he did such a wonderful job talking about the background. I don’t think it’s without chance. I’ve read a lot of his stuff over the years and I think that having a Physical Education background had a lot to do with that too. So that is what we’re going to be talking about. The principles are still going to apply to your elites. That’s the irony in the last couple of years, not so much in swimming but in some of the other sports on the elite level. It’s incredible how they are near each other. I think you’re going to find the same thing in swimming. Those errors the kids make are really magnified many many times as the swimmer goes faster. So, if you can beat those correctly, at this level and many levels of foundation, that’s what we’re talking about.

I get asked this question, “What you recommend reading?” The main source of all the material I’m going to be using in this presentation today is a really good synthesis called Children and Sports Training by Jozef Drabik. It’s really thorough. If you’re more interested in depth about some of the stuff I’m going to talk about, read that. Another book is called Total Body Training by Goddard Demilia. It will actually make you think about the whole system rather than isolated muscles or movements.

[editor’s note: Drabik’s book is available from Perform Better, 1-800-556-7464. The cost at press time is $29.95.]

All of you who are my age or older know about Kiputh in swimming. This is a really old book. This is so funny because when we get into exercise in about fifteen or twenty minutes, this is what we are going to talk about — calisthenics, body weight exercises — and this book was written 50 years ago. So, the moral of the story is there is very very little that is new. I think that the advantage that we have is now I think we can understand using a retrospective view, understanding sport science and performance. I think we have a better understanding of how it all fits together. Hopefully, that’s what I’ll share with you in the next hour.

The whole area of dryland training regarding swimming at any age, is full of question marks, isn’t it? Everybody has a question. I was here this morning and I had a nice conversation with Jonty Skinner in the lobby. Everybody questions where does dryland fit in? What do I have to do? The number one thing is that I have to cut the pie in x number of hours. How much of the cut of the pie should I give to dryland training? We all realize this will change from training age to training age. Hopefully, we can answer some of the questions.

What I want to do is keep the theory part of this to no more than 25 minutes to half an hour and then kind of go through some of the methods I think you can use that are practical and at the same time give you some ideas. It’s one thing to show exercises, it’s another to determine how much, when, how often? I know Coaches get a little frustrated.

This statement is the most important statement that I’m going to make: It’s not the sport that determines the training process but the development of the child. It doesn’t matter how good a swimmer they are, it’s the developmental stage that they are. That’s what we have to become a lot more sensitive to especially at this prepubescent age which is so important in terms of formulating a lot of the basic skills.

Here’s another statement that’s important: a goal of dry land training at the prepubescent level is to improve general athleticism. I repeat again, to improve general athleticism. This is in order to lay the foundation for the development of the best swimming athlete possible. We have to realize where we are in 1997, our kids have so little activity aside from what they have with us in swimming practice or soccer practice. Our society is becoming increasingly sedentary. We need to recreate the situations that used to occur 20, 30, 40 years ago. Other countries are fast catching up with us. If you go to other countries, you see a higher activity level, although they’re progressing. The whole world will be sedentary in about 15 years. So, we’ll be starting on an equal basis.

The other question I often ask, and I want you to think about as I’m talking, is, “Have I had success in spite of the training program or because of the training program?” I’ll be the first one to admit that in my 28 years of coaching, probably about fifty percent of the success any athlete had was in spite of the training program, in spite of me. They were just very good at what they did. We would like tomake it the other way, because of the training program. We want to pick out what variables we can implement to make it because of the training program.

Now, first of all, training is the process of acquiring fit ness specific to the sport. It’s not cardiorespiratory fitness right away. Most of the pieces of equipment I have up in the front of the room are devoted toward improving balance, proprioception, and body awareness. I think that you are going to find that what you are going to do in the pool and through growth and development, if you heard that which Dr. Matsen taught this morning, the development of maximal oxygen that is going to take care of itself.

The nervous system is going to take care of itself. But we want to tap into that. That nervous system is growing and maturing at a faster rate than everything else. And frankly folks, in swimming that’s something which you really ignore. We can help produce better swimming athletes by really working on what happens with neural adaptation in terms of the whole training process. Swimming performance is a function of the balance between the propulsive and resistive forces that are encountered over a given distance. I think the big thing is, and I’m not a swimming coach, but I have a lot of friends who are, and if I hear anything that’s going on in swimming, it’s becoming aware of technique. If you heard Jonty Skinner’s talk, one of his first objectives on his energy systems was technique. We’re talking about streamlining and being efficient. Therefore, when we talk about putting a dryland training program together, there is a period of time in the last 15 years when everyone locked themselves in the weight room and became a hulk and hoped the strength transferred to propulsive forces in swimming. But we are realizing that what we have to do is utilize streamlining and utilize efficiency. So, our goals, starting with the little ones should be to promote that.

The key thing that we have to remember is the magic of the body. Over the last couple of years, I have come to realize that the farther and farther I get away from the body and oriented toward machines or equipment or other kinds of things, the farther I’m getting away from performance. So, what we have to do, especially with these prepubescent athletes is realize they are in their skill hungry years. They are hungry for skill. Let’s not go against the natural magic of the body.

What we want to do is build on some of the fundamental movements and therefore the first principle is fundamental movement skill before specific advanced skill. That’s the first thing we want to do. We want to teach the athlete where the right hand is in relationship to the left foot. What up is, what down is. What front is, what back is. How to balance on one leg, shift your balance to the other leg. All of these things that are necessary that when you get oriented in the water horizontally, that they will be better at feeling the water andwill aware of where their body positions are. You could argue that some of this won’t translate from dryland to water, that’s a given. So, you have to be braced to transition that and you need to incorporate different types of fundamental movement skills activity within the water too. Medicine balls can be used in the water as well as other things of a more general conditioning nature to promote that feel.

The other thing that we like to do is incorporate kinetic chain exercises. The body is a kinetic chain, it is a link system. Think of movement as occurring, whether it is over ground or in the water, as from the toenails to the fingernails. I call it Total Chain Training, I wish I would have thought of that but it was someone else at a clinic I went to 25 years ago. It’s toenails to fingernails, not isolation. I don’t want to think of biceps, quadriceps, abs, nor spinal erectors. I want to figure out how all those things integrate and work together. This is why we are talking about movement pat terns and movement.

The other things we are talking about is multiplane movement. If you would go back and look at some swimming texts and you played back some old tapes you would get the idea that swimming just occurred in one plane — the sagittal plane. You face the body in the pool and you have one rigid body. We realize now that swimming occurs with all kinds of rotation and we’re trying to enhance that. You have to be aware that movement is in the sagittal plane, central plane and really important is transverse plane — that rotational movement. So consequently, things that we do on dry land are going to go through all three planes of movement. That’s the criteria in order for it to be more functional and transferred to the activities you are trying to do.

I value my friendship with Nort Thornton and I’ve learned so much from him in the conversations I’ve had with him over the years. I think he probably did as much of a job to pioneer this idea as Turetski and Popov and people like that. I am talking about the whole idea of getting the hip to the shoulder. Someone asked me this morning if I believed in doing a lot of external rotation work for the shoulder. That’s all fine and well but you know in a sense it is almost a waste of time. How many of you do those exercises, raise your right hand. Now, how many of you have shoulder problems, raise your left hand. If the isolated shoulder exercises solved the problem, then we wouldn’t have shoulder problems in tennis or swimming or baseball. What we have to do is think of how the system works together — the hip scapula, the rhomboids, the whole complex, rather than just the four rotator cuff muscles.

Now think about it this way, and you are all swimming coaches so you’ll do it better than I, for internal rotation I’m thinking same side hip. And as I go to external rotation it is opposite side hip. Strength, mobility and flexibility are really important. If you lock on the opposite side hip or aretight or weak, like in internal and external rotation, you are going to have shoulder problems. So, when we are talking about prepubescent swimmers, they should be doing everything they can to incorporate mobility, stability and strength throughout the whole hip girdle area. If it is as important as we think it is in the activity, which I believe it is, we must address that right up front.

A lot of it is going to be subtleties, they aren’t even going to be aware of what they’re doing but that is the focus, that’s the center of the body, that’s where everything happens. The tendency always has been, even with kids, to work on the arms and shoulders, then if there is a little time left over, we’ll work on the legs but the legs just kind of hang on for the ride. If you go through about a thousand crunches then you’ll take care of the core. Folks it isn’t good enough. The core is really where it’s at. That’s the core, without being trite, that’s the center of the action. So, if we are starting a training program where we are working with kids, that has to be the center of our focus first. You will see much greater return from the center of the body out starting with seven or eight-year-old kids than you would if you wait a little longer and they’re not capable of making some of the changes.

The core is what is called the power zone of the body. Folks, this is what is important. It’s not just the abs. It’s not doing Legendary Abs, or Buns of Steel. It’s integrating the hips, the abdomen, the low back working together in flexion, in extension, in lateral flexion and above all rotation with flexion and extension. That’s a real important aspect. It is the center of the action. The function of the core first of all is to align the posture dynamically. That’s going to enable us to elongate and get the streamline effect that we need to for efficiency in the water, to stabilize the posture and above all to act as a force couple between the legs and the arms and shoulders to really get efficient propulsion in front. So, a principal here is that postural alignment and muscular balance are the balance for all training. Maybe muscular balance should be amended a little bit to say musculature proportionality. Because remember we are always going to be stronger in the front part of our body. Thatis just the way our body is constructed. But we want to try to have a proportion of development, especially upper back and spinal erectors for good posture.

There are so called sensitive periods. Dr. Matsen alluded to this morning. I’m going to go into this really quickly. This is from Drabik’s book; I really recommend that you get it and read a little more detail because I think it will help you in constructing a better program for your youngsters. Sensitive periods in human life are when the organs and systems which determine a given ability, balance, endurance speed or any other ability are undergoing intensive development.

Training is most effective when it stimulates maturing abilities rather than those that are already matured. So, wehave to identify these abilities. Each youngster is a casestudy, that’s what makes it difficult. We have to educateourselves to certain cues that could be more and more sensitive so we don’t put somebody that is biologically two years ahead of somebody else together on a dryland routine or any exercise routine because we would actually be retarding them. So, we have to try to catch those qualities and work on them as they are maturing not after they are mature.

Here is a real important point: during the sensitive ages what are the correct exercises at the correct age? What’s the answer? I don’t know. You’re going to have to determine that relative to your population. Drabik gives some good guide lines: no load is a middle load at any stage of the training and only the proportional loads change, this is one mistake that we tend to make. We say we are going to do speed, we’re going to do strength, or we’re going to do endurance. In a sense, all training is like a big mosaic, or a kaleidoscope. Remember those things from the 60’s, kids would look in them and say, “Oh wow!” You know how things change inside of the kaleidoscope, it’s ever changing, you find it challenging. So, we have to keep that mix up.

Gender differences. There are disadvantages to training together. The assumption is, and it is a correct one, is that girls are two years ahead in biological development, even at the prepubescent age. I’ve always been a big proponent during post puberty, when the hormones are going wild, which always makes it a little more fun, of training both the men and women together. But at the younger ages it behooves us to try to separate where possible. I think we are going to get better results, sometimes it’s a little less threatening, ego-wise for some of those poor little boys to get beat up on and things like that. So that is something that we have to remember in terms of gender differences.

Sensitive ages. Girl sensitive ages are shorter. Your window of opportunity is going to be a little bit shorter than the boys. So that is something that you have to be aware of. And also, to keep the two genders separate. The sensitive periods of the boys. For boys, this range is all over the place.

Balance sensitive ages in boys is ten to eleven, for girls it’s nine to ten. Kinesthetic differentiation boys is from ages six to seven and again at nine to twelve. So that’s going to tell us about what type of work we have to do and to realize that there are always pluses and minuses when you are talking about biological age. For rhythmic motion in boys it’s nine to ten, girls seven to nine. Spatial orientation boys and girls are about the same years, twelve to fourteen. Synchronization or movements with time similar, so that’s the case where you can train them together if you are doing the same type of thing at six to eight. These are all separate qualities but in a few minutes, we’re going to show you how you can incorporate all these qualities within activities to help promote them.

Sensitive periods for speed, with just single movements are basically at seven to nine and speed of locomotion again at about 14 1/2 to 15 1/2 for the boys. For the girls, speed of single movements are at seven to 14, speed of locomotion at about 10 1/2 to 11 1/2 or until 12. This is a little bit of a different development pattern than the boys. Sensitive periods for strength for boys grows in a linear manner from seven to 19 and relative strength will increase most between 13 and 14 years. The sensitive period of strength for the girls is as soon as girls reach their adolescent growth spurt but before sexual maturity. It is imperative to do strength training at this time because at this stage the androgenic hormones are at their highest level. If there is a secret, if you’re training girls, it’s to get them to strength earlier, using their body weight first, and strength train more and more often. That is just the real part that you can’t get away from. I can give you this across sports. But society is very reticent to do that. Mom doesn’t want the girl to do pull-ups because all of a sudden, she sees arm muscles. That’s something that you have to break down. That is a really important gender difference that can’t be denied.

Sensitive periods for endurance in girls. Girls should begin endurance training earlier than boys. Girls mature sooner and thus have a shorter sensitive period to develop endurance than the boys.

Structure of fitness. Conditioning abilities are going to be determined by energy sources. We aren’t going to deal with the cardiovascular. Today we are going to talk about the next two — coordination and flexibility. Coordination abilities are determined by the nervous system. Flexibility is an anatomic quality not dependent upon other qualities. Some of it is going to be determined by body structure, we have to be aware of that. The important thing about flexibility is that if we are going to develop flexibility we have to make sure we are developing stability at the same time. We don’t want to attack the integrity of the joint.

In terms of methodology there are a million different things that we can utilize to develop and work on these various things. I’m going to give you some examples. Right now, I’m going to talk about a couple of general things in terms of possible choices. A Physical Therapist that came to one of my seminars a couple of years ago and wrote this on his evaluation afterward, “If the only tool you have is a hammer then everything becomes a nail”. A lot of swimming coaches I’ve seen only have the hammer. The poor kid becomes a nail. What we want to do is go to practice with a big tool box so they’ll know how to use all the tools so that youngster can turn out to be the best swimming athlete he can be.

The other thing that we have to remember, I’m going to show you exercises but the problem is, and this is the biggest thing we have to do with kids and even with mature athleteswe work with, is have a progression within the exercises. You’re going to see things here, and say you will use them with your seven year olds but they aren’t appropriate for a seven-year-old. They have to build up to that. So, I’m going to show you simple things like progressions on push-ups. These are things hopefully you’ve thought about. But what happens is that we want to get everybody to high school but we want to forget junior high and elementary school. That’s where our first mistake comes in. So, if you can have a functional progression, we’re going to be a lot better off.

What are some of the things we can do? Free weights. How important are free weights in a prepubescent athlete? Just about of no importance at all. If you want to use some light dumbbells, that’s fine. The jury is out about the importance of free weights in the whole realm of swimming. I think at various stages and depending on the event they could be more important. But here we’re talking about prepubescent athletes. So, medicine ball is extremely important — not just because I wrote a book and did the tape. It’s just important.

Tubular stretch cords. Again, now you’re probably saying, “Gosh we went to hear this talk and he’s going to tell us the same old stuff — tubing and stretch cords, manual resistance, partner types of stuff.” I know it is tough to do with this age of kid because as soon as you get 20 eight year olds together and you say, “Now I want you to partner up and do manual resistance” you have that ancient stereotype “the boss”. It doesn’t work very well. So, try to do this: it’s going to have to be more of a one on one or one on two type of situation and depending on how you’re stretching. This would be realistic to do. Neurological stimulation, realistic. We can use things like the body blade. There’s a body blade junior now that can be utilized. Closed chain type of work is just a fancy buzz word for making sure that the distal end is in touch with the ground. We can do it with the lower extremity, with the upper extremity. So, we’ll go through a lot of that. So basically, the only one not viable is the free weight mode except for maybe some light dumbbells or that.

There’s one big danger. Swim experts in this country usually they get paid a lot by equipment companies and they try to tell you it is safe to put kids on machines and that it is the safest way to begin strength training. Just be sure ASCA gives you a list of who is paying them because I haven’t seen a machine yet that is designed for a six or seven-year-old kid. Secondly, it’s not functional. When you are isolating you aren’t looking at movement. So, the bot tom line is, don’t worry about machines. The only machine I would recommend for a prepubescent athlete is probably the coolest thing, I wish they would have had them back 25 to 30 years ago, is the chin dip assist. You can buy them now for about $250. Take a look at the coil loaded kind, because it gets awfully tiring if you’re the coach lifting that poor boy or girl up a lot of times. The coach gets real strong doing itthis way. That’s the only machine you need, it’s a machine to help you use your body weight. So, there are more dangers in machines than there are positive.

Dr. Matsen talked about this earlier today: the secret of sequence for increasing volume in your workout. This is especially appropriate for the age group we’re talking about. First of all, if you remember the progression he gave you this morning it varies from year to year. The first thing is to increase the frequency of the workouts in a week. If a kid is doing two workouts a week you might want to go to three and then four when they get a little bit older. Then increase the duration. All you have to do is increase the duration five or ten minutes. You will get a pretty good increase in volume. Then increase the number of exercises and yardage per workout.

I’ll give you a little insight to something I’ve learned in the past couple of years. Pick just a few exercises where you’re going to get more bang for your buck then build on those exercises. I’m going to show you a whole bunch in the next few minutes but it’s not necessary to go home and do all of them. Pick four or five and do progressions on those exercises rather than keep changing exercises all the time. If you do too many exercises all you do is mix up the little kids and yourself. It’s better to just start with some simple ones and build on those. That is a little management tip.

In terms of workout organization: with the prepubescent is to go with two workouts on land and two in the water or if you’re going to have them for an hour, a half hour on land and a half hour in the water. I know this is not a popular thing to say but it is the way to, especially at the beginning, to build athleticism. What’s the importance? Well maybe it isn’t. That’s what you have to ask the parents and the kids and yourself. Do you want to have age group record holders or do you want to see that kid keep progressing? Now if you want to assume that nice new road of progression then that’s about what you’re going to have to do. That’s what I would think in terms of workout progression.

I think I’ll go right in to the exercises and training methods now. One of the things you have to do, if you have a good sound structure program, if you’re working with pre-pubescent swimmers, is do a good warm-up. The first time I had the opportunity to talk here was 1990 and that was one of the first things I talked about. Try to save strokes and do a good warm-up on the pool deck so that when you get in the pool, you’re really, really ready to swim. So, warm-up is preparation to swim. I’ve been influenced by what I saw in track and field. One thing that can give you a lot of bang for your buck is calisthenics. Today, we have the advantage of having read books on that kind of stuff. That’s a terrific tool to utilize right away. To promote in a five-minute period for the younger kids, ten minutes for the 9 and 10 year olds and even as much as a 15-minute period, things that looklike aerobics or calisthenics.

You have to take time to plan to structure and organize it to use immediately. Here are a few guidelines that you might want to consider. For flexion-extension types of movements standing, sometimes seated but preferably standing because you get the hips involved. Some rotational pelvic movements, bilateral movements. They might be something different like a jumping jack and if you want to watch brain cramps start to happen, when you do this with little kids, is start out with a jumping jack, and then a half and then make one arm go back and one leg forward. That’s a really really complicated movement for eight and nine-year-old kids. The thing to do is keep in mind the movement. To demonstrate it and teach it you just walk through it like that. Another thing that you can utilize in this way is music so that you have rhythm. The hardest part for me is to tolerate the kind of music they want to listen to but that’s a concession to motivating the youngster.

Here are some other hints: try with eyes closed or one eye closed. So, if I have my left eye closed then I have to do stuff with just my right side, that’s going to heighten awareness and then try it with the other eye. The kids kind of chuckle a bit but what I’ve found doing these little movement classes, you see the concentration increase and they really key into their bodies a lot more. Same thing with vestibular, sense of balance. We’re going to be talking about that and you know how important that is. Just have them quickly look down and then up, look down and then up. Do this in combination with opening and closing their eyes, they have to reorient the body. I’m not going to give you a specific pattern, I think you can work out one that’s for yourself. You can also work speed of movement in. Take one speed to start out and then say a little faster, speed it up, reverse it, then add a rotational component with a short type of movement and then a long type so they become sensitive to where all parts of the body are. I never thought of this when I was made to do jumping jacks at age nine or ten. We’re not going to do that. Just because I have a military haircut, that’s not what we’re trying to do. I think we now understand, as I said earlier, the role that all these different movements play in terms of heightened awareness. The key thing is to make it dance like, emphasize rhythm. Make it fun, without being serious.

The other thing that I have become infatuated with over the last six months are these things here called the stability ball, the Swiss ball, the physio-ball, or whatever you want to call it. I was at a workshop with Betty Ray. Angie Calder is here from the Institute of Sport in Camden, she’s giving a talk tomorrow on recovery and I highly recommend you attend. We all know how to work but we don’t know how to recover. She’s had a tremendous influence on my thinking over the past couple years. I was down in a training camp in May, and another workshop was done on that. About aweek later I got a phone call from a coach who said one of the things we needed to think about was that we’ve gone as far as we can with strength training. We need to come up with a better way to promote the streamlining, the aero dynamics, and so on. I said, “Well, I think there are some things based on what I saw down there and I think there is some stuff you can do with the physio-ball that you’re going to get more bang for your buck, in terms of stabilizing and utilize the core.” You want to use a ball about the same sizeas the athlete. Learning to inflate the ball is important also. Now this one here is not as inflated as it should be for thesize of the ball. So, in a sense, it’s a little less stable. But if you could do a few simple things and I’ll show you what I do and progress it. You just take a simple exercise like this, sitting on the ball and rolling right, left, forward and get a little rotation and backward. Now if I want to lock my hands behind my head, see how much the amplitude of movement is increased. Now I’ll just put my hands overhead and take a medicine ball and sit on it, you can see I’ve taken the same exercise and changed limb position as well as make it more complicated. I can have a partner with a stretch cord seated. Now seated isn’t necessarily the most functional position. But you have to have a starting position to help the youngster get a feel for what the ball is like. There are a lot of sensory receptors back there, I guess that helps if they are as big as mine. One thing that you can do is simulate more of your prone and supine positions like you’re going to have in the water with resistance and assistance.

Here’s another interesting tool which has been around for a while. It’s called a power ball. They used to be called tether balls. This eight pound ball is about as much resistance as you can use. You might want to do a two pound and a four pound. I can get into an arched position down here, press overhead, which will be kind of easy, keep my feet spread wide apart, or I can move my feet closer together and do the same movement now I have to stabilize even more. What you are going to find is how much more work you get out of all core area than you would if you just did what people traditionally call core work.

An exercise you can do with the smaller medicine ball is to put it between your knees, squeeze it and have the athlete stand up, sit down, walk forward in that position trying to keep the face straight ahead. This will be important for breaststroke.

The ball can be used for push-ups. Progressions can be built into it. There are limitless things you can do. What you have to do is pick an exercise, and if it is too complex for your age group, develop a progression to that exercise.

You could incorporate these exercises into every training session. The balls are easy to have on deck. You can use them in the beginning or end of each training session.

In terms of promoting core strength and core stability, you can incorporate some aspect of this medicine ball work.

Another thing I can do is start out in the kneeling position and do a back-extension type of move and come out of it a little longer and get another back extension move, a cross crawling type of thing, left arm, right leg and that. Any number of variations.

You can play catch with the ball. The thrower can strategically aim the ball over the catcher’s head for reaching, or to either side.

You can combine the body board with the fitness ball. You can use some of the same movements like rotation, changing hands, and things like that which will give you the desired core stability.

This can begin very simply, so that a youngster can do it, and continue in complexity. You can essentially take the same type of exercises and use them as the athlete progresses through their career. You will still get just as much of a training effect out of it.

Now in terms of how much to do. People always want sets and reps. I know a guy named Gary Grey who is an excellent Physical Therapist up in Michigan. His theory on this is, instead of saying three sets of 20, go until you get abnormal compensation. I’d rather use the word compensation, than failure. Go until you get abnormal compensation, that is when the athlete starts doing weird stuff and then you say it’s time to stop. If it goes on and on then you have to go to the next step in the progression because they have been able to master that stuff.

Question: Can you use a basketball in that exercise when you have the athlete walk with the ball between their knees?

Answer: Yes.

Question: If you are using a medicine ball and reclining on your back and you were using a bench type move to throw it to another athlete, you say that if you are using a fitness ball you are finding and developing the core much more so?

Answer: Yes. I recommend that you come and try it. You can do it on a bench. Some good athletes could do 20 reps with the heavy ball. You take them out here, and they want to grab the same ball but they can only do about half of the reps and they are toasted. They can’t do it anymore. You are bringing in all the stabilizers.

Now in terms of using the Medicine Ball in overhead throws, for prepubescent youngsters you must progress toward this. Roughly 20% of the kids can’t even do this.

They should not even try unless they have very developed core strength and stability. We are promoting core strength rather than limb strength. They aren’t going to swim very far with their arms over head. They’ll get tired and stop. To summarize, about 90% of the exercise should be done from the shoulder down, then as you progress up, you can begin to do a little bit more overhead. There are so many things that you can do, in terms of rotation, side throws and passes, seated, standing or kneeling. You can well exhaust these before you go ahead and work on overhead throws. This gives you something to work toward as they become more mature.

Regarding weight of the ball for prepubescent swimmers— use a two and a three-kilo ball. To increase the intensity, you increase the distance between throwers. Try to get a ball that bounces opposed to one that just stays there because this gives you more versatility.

The other thing that I like is closed chain activities. Just have them crawl, really stretch out when they crawl, go sideways, backwards, cross-over crawls. All the things we used to do when we were kids. As the kids get older maybe you can have them go up a couple of steps, down a couple of steps. This will get hip to the shoulder. If their butt is really high or their middle is sagging when they do the crawling then they need to work through the core so that when they crawl get everything on a level.

With veloci-training, standstills, that is a good thing because it is body weight. Kids have fun with that. When I worked for the White Sox, I used to have one and the player’s kids were like magnets to it. They loved it. You can get a lot of success, you can do pull ups and so on.

A push up routine. Start kids with a push up type of move or against the wall. What I started to do on the, let’s say with a nine-year-old, is one rep on the left arm, one on the right arm, then butt up then put one hand back, do one repeat. This would comprise a set. They build up sets instead of saying try to get up to 20. They can do all these on their knees if they have to or on an incline.

In terms of stretch cords and tubing and so on, usually people use too much resistance. With the youngsters start with it facilitated. It should be eccentric movement. Here’s a demonstration of shoulder protraction and retraction with someone holding the other end of the cord. Now we change it by putting a hip into it, people think this is cheating but it isn’t. We want them to learn to utilize the big muscles, the hip. Here’s external and internal shoulder rotation with the same and then opposite side hip. It’s a lot more dynamic. It gets a lot more of the body involved.

These are some of the tubing routines. What I would recommend, is that each kid have their own torso tubing and have it with them in their gym bag. They just need tolearn how to do this on their own. You can also use rubber bands. This will make them all a little bit more sensitive to their own body in terms of putting things together.

Question: Are you familiar with Randy Reese’s wheel? Does it affect the core?

A: The answer to both is yes. It does effect the core greatly. If I remember correctly, you don’t get much rotation but you do get a lot of core stability. I think it is fine. I don’t think you will find many kids in this age group that will be able to do this. It will help the shoulders, but I don’t think this is good for this age kid.

Question: What about hand placement?

Answer: I will leave that to you. I’m not an expert there. I’m more of a generalist. I look at the whole movement. I look at what is happening at the core. I feel the coach should teach the nuances about the hand.

Question: How can you assess hip flexibility?

A: There’s a book Lower Extremity Function which I don’t sell. It goes into a non-profit fund for research. We won’t have time here but briefly I’ll tell you that there are about four tests which I recommend you start with your kids, even the little ones. There’s a hip excursion test. It is a simple measure, in fact you can paint it on the pool deck and assess whether they are getting looser in the hip flexors over a training period. To promote hip mobility, you can have the kids do hurdles over a bungie cord stabilized between two objects, at about thigh high, this would be relative to the height of the child.

Question: What about jump roping or platform jumping?

Answer: Jump roping is good if the surface is correct. Jumping rope barefoot on a pool deck is not good for anybody. It hurts your feet when the rope hits and when your feet hit. Platform jumping, just jumping up onto something, if it is a play type of thing, then once a week, ten reps, that’s fine. But if you are talking about doing formal plyometric training with this age group it is not necessary. Play games. Play hopping and jumping games. Jumping down off something is not necessary either. Basically, try to think of what that age child would do for play and try to recreate that. Dryland training should be about half of what you are doing.

This is from Madsen’s book, in terms of strength training, what we’re talking about for this age group is general strengthening and general muscular endurance in the nine to ten year olds. With general strengthening you can get them to handle their body weight in all different situations, using all the different modes that we’ve talked about.

The criteria for progression is go from easy to hard, simple to complex. Don’t try to generalize down from theelites. Start from this end and go the other way. That’s the mistake we make, we take the most complex aspect of the exercise and try to water them down for little kids. You should take the simple and build it into complex. That’s probably the best advice we could have.

A lot of this stuff can be done, and as you start to do more and more in the water, more specific swimming type stuff, this can be put in the area of warm up and preparation to swim. That’s the area I think we tend to lay off. We say warm up and stretch and be ready to swim in five minutes.

We could structure that and gain a lot as the kids get a bit older.

One of my pet peeves is setting a level of achievement based upon expectation. I do believe that even though they are youngsters we should still have expectations for them. Just because they don’t move a lot doesn’t mean we can’t get them to move in the hour that they have. The neat part about this age group is that they have a lot of enthusiasm. It’s tough to get them tired. The objective isn’t so much to train them as to help them develop. We should call it Fundamental stage. We’re going to build fundamentals in a playful and game like manner. Try to recreate the types of situations we had as kids. This is before a lot of television and Nintendo.



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