My name is Scott McGihon. I am the head swimming and diving coach at UC San Diego. With me is Rob Mammula, who is our Director of Athletic Performance at UC San Diego and to give you guys an idea of the format of the talk – I am going to turn it over to Rob here in a second and he is going to go through just general strength training phases – kind of prep you guys on what is going to be coming up later. I am going to jump in after he is done and give you guys a brief history on strength training at UCSD because I think it is a very different history than most Athletic Departments have, and to give you guys an idea of how you can really impact your strength training and then turn it back over to Rob. He is going to take you through a typical season – what we do – towards the end we will be demonstrating some of the exercises we do. Anybody that wants to volunteer to come up to do some of them is more than welcome and the whole presentation is going to be on our website, the PowerPoint and the Strength Training Plan will be up there for two weeks. You just go to ucsdtritons.com and click on the athletic performance tab.
I am going to be giving you guys an overview of strength and conditioning terminology – obviously not all of us are strength coaches, but this is good stuff for you to know. It helps you figure out your swim plan and how it all fits together so we are talking about program design: general preparation, hypertrophy, strength, power, endurance, and power endurance.
Now swimming, as classified from a strength and conditioning standpoint, is a power endurance sport. The definition of endurance would be to be able to duplicate an activity at minimal intensity for a very long period of time. Power endurance would be to duplicate a high level of intensity over a long period of time so this is a slight difference. Endurance would be marathon runners. Power endurance sports are like volleyball, which is a court sport that we consider power endurance, swimming, crew are power endurance sport that are in the water.
The general prep is always your first phase of lifting. In off-season general prep is usually the first phase in the pre-season as well, so right before you really get kicking and then the focus is general fitness, functional training, injury prevention and muscle repair and growth. Basically, you are getting your athletes ready for more work. General prep is getting them ready for the training that they are going to do and it is essential to have that first so that they do not get injured when we are trying to call on more intense activities. It can last anywhere from three to six weeks – depending on the training level of your athletes. If you are working with younger athletes, the general prep phase should be longer – about six weeks. If you are working with highly trained athletes, you do not need to spend that much time in the general prep phase. As I mentioned, the duration depends on the condition of your athlete – two to four sets – your repetitions are high – your intensity is medium and you have minimal rest. This phase, you are always going to be going – go – go – go – go – go – circuits are really popular in this phase so you don’t need a weight room to do a general prep phase. You can do general prep with a medicine ball or body weight. We frequently do a lot of body weight exercises in our general prep phase. So it is not necessary that you have a fully equipped weight room. General prep can be done almost anywhere at any time.
The next term we are going to talk about is hypertrophy. Hypertrophy means muscle growth. So we are actually trying to increase your muscle cross-sectional area. It is considered a stand-alone phase because it can kind of fall at any point in time when you need it. Hypertrophy you usually use in the off-season, pre-season, or during the active rest period. You would generally not use hypertrophy during your season, unless you had a bunch of red shirt athletes or developmental athletes that you were trying to bring up. In the hypertrophy phase the focus is muscle growth. The theory is a larger muscle will create more powerful contractions so you can produce more force. Three to six sets per exercise. The difference here is that you are going to be doing three to five exercises per body part so a workout may not comprise the whole body – it will just focus on one or two muscle groups – maybe three tops. You are going to do 8-15 repetitions and your intensity is going to be slightly higher than what it was for general prep. This phase we don’t usually put in season because it is very hard on your body. The athlete’s muscles are going to be breaking down in this phase and they are going to do probably one body part per week – maximum of two, so in this phase we are really focusing on increasing that intensity. We get your body to think that it is going into a massive work stage – it breaks down – it rebuilds – the muscles grow, but you are going to be sore a lot in the hypertrophy phase so you are not going to want to put this in-season.
Let’s move on to strength. Strength is what I call your athletic bank account. If you have strong athletes you can do more with them. Stronger athletes will be less injury prone and they can do more work. If you had a thousand dollars in the bank and somebody else has $500, you can buy more stuff. You can do more stuff with more money – it is the same thing with strength. That is the way that I look at it. Boil it down – strength is your athletic bank account. The strength phase always follows the hypertrophy or general preparation phase. So, you are never going to get your athletes in after two, three, four weeks off and start them up on a strength phase. You are always going to run them through a general prep or a hypertrophy phase before you hit them up with a strength phase. The strength phase always comes before the power phase, always, always, always will a strength phase come before a power phase and we can get into that a little bit later. Your focus here is maximum effort and neuromuscular adaptation. Now for us right now – let’s try and get out of the traditional mindset of strength being a massive body builder type guy lifting a weight one time. Just think of it as functional strength. We need to develop maximum effort because that is what makes neuromuscular changes. If we get neuromuscular changes we fire more efficiently – the muscles are more powerful now. Let’s go to this – in three to five sets – your frequency is three to four days a week – your repetitions are four to ten. Your intensity is higher. We need high intensity in the strength phase. If you do not have high intensity, you are not in a strength phase. Your frequency is 3 – 4 days a week and the duration is 3 – 6 weeks, depending on your level of training. You generally wouldn’t go much longer than six weeks before dipping either into a power phase or back into a hypertrophy phase. And your rest periods now increase and you are going to allow enough time for almost full recovery between sets. Because of our situation and the way that our weight room is set up and scheduling and classes – we give them two minutes in between so our athletes are almost always moving. They are either spotting somebody or they are lifting. We don’t like a whole lot of rest in the weight room so we try and kind of fool them into resting while they are still working.
Now, power is really what you guys want to focus on. Swimming is a power endurance sport. We need to develop power with our athletes. In order to develop power though, you have got to go through a general prep – possibly hypertrophy, and then strength. If you don’t go through those phases you are not going to develop the maximum amount of power that you need. Power is the ability to generate force quickly. So, you always use a strength phase first because you want to build the force level and then call on it quickly in the power phase. You are teaching the body how to use the force you just gained, quickly. The emphasis is on speed of movement. If you are moving something slow – you are not in the power phase. Exercises are more sport/event specific so this is where we get into what people call sport specific training or position specific/event specific training, and we are more in depth in that than we are in the strength phase. Strength phase and general prep phase is just overall conditioning. Right now we are really focusing in on what your athlete actually needs for his or her event. Your optimum power is 25-45% of your one repetition maximum. So if we were doing something from my standpoint, we call optimum power like a squat jump – something where you are going to be moving your body weight – you would maybe only load that up with 25% of your maximum ability, so if you could do 200 pounds on a bench press you would put on 25 to 45 pounds. The focus, again, is to teach the body to apply force quickly. The time of the year that you will use power – in terms of pre-season, end-season and peaking – you are definitely going to use the power phase end-season. The power phase is going to precede whatever event you are peaking for. Basically, power is like getting the body revved up – getting it ready to go. Three to five sets – frequency is three to four days per week. We do three days per week in our program. Repetitions are three to six. Traditionally people use the lower repetitions, but we find that swimming athletes do not take too well to one repetition and two repetitions, so we keep the repetitions up a little bit, but we still allow for high intensity. You rest two to two-and-a-half minutes. Again, your intensity is 25-45% and 85-95% for strength power exercises. We are going to show you one of those when we do our demo. It is slightly different. You are still developing power, but it is a strength movement that develops power so you do not need to do – if you were to be able to do 25% on that, you could go forever –forever and a day, so we need to load up some of the strength power exercises and then decrease on the pure power exercises.
SCOTT: Alright I think each Athletic Department has their own way to do things with strength and conditioning. Most have a head strength coach and they kind of oversee things. They have their assistants and their GA’s. That is not the case at UC San Diego. When I was first hired at UC San Diego ten years ago, there was one guy that was kind of like helping out with all the sports, but each coach was responsible for going out and finding his own strength coach to have that person work with his team. Some of the coaches would just give that money to their assistant coach and say now you are our strength coach. That didn’t really work. We kind of had a real rough first year with strength training. It didn’t really work out because I was working with a group of the athletes and the guy that we had been using as head strength coach – he had different ideas and come to find out we didn’t have the same ideas. The next year I was real fortunate that I was able to hire a local guy that had been a swim coach and had swum as well. His name was Matt Kriss. Matt came in and he worked with our team exclusively and took over what we had been doing and refined it through the season, and that is when we started to see the big strength gains. Matt slowly began to take on other teams at UCSD and eventually became the first head strength coach at UCSD and I believe that was probably right around 2000 – 2001. Matt worked by himself for a long time. We have 23 sports at UCSD so he was working an awful lot. We were still responsible for overseeing a lot of our own strength training in the weight room because he just couldn’t be there all the time.
Eventually, we were able to hire on Rob as Matt’s assistant and then at the same time that we hired Rob, Matt and I, as we did every spring, we would review the season and we noticed three years ago that we were getting really, really strong, but it was not carrying over into what we were doing in the water. To give you guys an example, we had a guy that I am firmly convinced was the strongest guy in the Athletic Department on the swim team, but he got huge – you guys would not believe how big this guy got in about six weeks. He was a guy that liked to go to the weight room ten times a week. That is not recommended by the way, for a swimmer. And we were just getting strong to be strong – which looks great on the beach, but doesn’t help us in meets. So Matt and I went through and really refined things – creating the program that Rob just went through and is going to continue going through. We wanted to make these strength gains in swimming applicable. And that season was a huge change in what we did, and it is up to you guys to talk to your strength coach. If you don’t, have one look at what we are doing because it is pretty basic and you can do it almost anywhere. And that is where we really noticed that we were not the strongest people in the weight room anymore, but we could keep going for a really long time with what we were doing and, quite honestly, we were putting other teams to shame in the weight room and that is what we wanted to do in terms of just getting in there and getting it done.
Rob talked about circuit training – not a lot of rest – we have got what typically used to be an hour and 15 to an hour and a half weight training session and condensed it to 45 minutes. You get in there and you get it done and you get out because as you know, with the amount of time that we spend in the water, you add strength training on top of that and it is a lot of time per day that the athletes are taking away from school and more importantly just resting, and let’s not forget eating as well. So, Matt left us and Rob stepped in and took over and we kept getting better and better and I am really firmly convinced that our strength training program is one of the reasons that we are so successful. It is something that I know that a lot of recruits now are asking me up front – do you guys lift weights? And for those of you that are coaching high school athletes – that is something that they are all really interested in and I know somebody came up and talked to Rob about this. You will be able to do a lot of this stuff with your high school aged athletes. Now middle school – like Rob also said – probably not applicable to them, but high school definitely – getting them ready just for core fundamentals in the weight room and you will see you can do what we are doing almost anywhere. You can do it in this room. You can do it at the beach. You can do it in a gym. You can do it in a weight room – wherever.
ROB: Just like he said, don’t confuse strength training with “I have to have the newest piece of equipment.” I know that there are a lot of products out there and I am sure they are all really good, but you do not have to have the newest, most amazing fad to get work done out of your athletes and to make it applicable to swimming, so just get that out of your mind right now. Right now, we are just going to go over what we do in-season – give you an idea of in-season training. The season for swimming is an incredibly long season. It is the only season I think that is actually longer than baseball so we are going to go over what we do in season and how we keep our athletes in peak physical condition so that when those meets hit that we want to taper for they are ready to go. So in season we are asking the question, “why do we train in season?” Some sports train in season and some sports don’t – some coaches don’t like to train in season at all. They just want to focus solely on swimming and technique. Well, the reason you continue to strengthen in season is because of something called the de-training factor. Basically, that is a decline in neuromuscular function within two weeks of stopping your training. The motor neurons are used to a certain level of intensity; when you take that intensity – that stimulus away – they become lazy. Your body is incredibly efficient so if it is not doing that level of work anymore it is just going to adapt to the level of work that it needs to do. It is not going to keep that if it doesn’t need it, so your motor neurons either start to fire slower or they start to fire in a less specific pattern. Either way, your muscles aren’t firing at optimum speed, strength or power. Muscle atrophy – your actual loss of muscle size – has anybody heard of muscle atrophy – hypertrophy – atrophy? Anybody? Anybody ever have surgery before? You had surgery on one leg. You take the cast off – that leg is tiny and the other leg is regular size – that is atrophy. Atrophy starts within four weeks of cessation. It depends on your athlete, but at four weeks you are going to have a decrease in muscle size if you are not strength training any more. Your overall decreased performance can be seen as soon as within one week. As I have learned – swimming athletes do not like to get out of the pool. They like to have a feel for the water and if you were in season and you just told them – just take an entire week off. We got a big meet coming up – take a week off – come back – right before the meet we will warm-up and then we will go. I do not think that that would ever happen with anybody. Same thing – you wouldn’t just tell your athletes forget strength training – we are going to leave that. We have got a 52 week season, but we are not going to strength train it. We need that strength training – that extra stimulus – that keeps our muscles firing at the optimal level.
Now, we are going to talk about how we can make sure that there are periods of growth, there are periods of maintenance, and then there is what we call a taper, but we are not always going up in the season. You have got to know when it is time to go up – when it is time to maintain. So basically we are looking to maximize performance with the minimum time requirements as Scott touched on. Your athletes have school – they have got possibly jobs, and at UCSD – school is massive. You can’t just say, well you have got school. School is like school, school, school, school … it takes up so much of their time, plus you’re swimming probably twice a day. You do not want to waste the athlete’s time – just doing stuff to do stuff. Let’s get something done, let’s make it worthwhile so you are maximizing effort with minimum time. We train three days a week – in season. The maximum I would ever suggest anybody training is four days a week and if you were going to train four days a week – you would probably do it for a couple of weeks – back it off – train for four days a week – back it off – train for four days a week – back it off – back down to two or to three. Three days a week would be fine. Two days a week – scientifically speaking – is enough to maintain. We like to do three days a week because we find that this works better with our athletes. It is just something that you have to find for your program – what works with your athletes. If your athletes are the kind of athletes that have the mentality that can train three days a week while swimming, do it.
Your focus is on sport/event specific movements so at this point we are not doing a whole lot of general training. We are specific – remember we have a goal – we are not wasting time – we are maximizing effort with minimum time requirement. Your intensity is medium to high and your volume load is low to moderate. Basically, volume equals soreness. So, if you have a high level of volume – which I put down here as sets X reps X weight – you are going to get sore athletes. Now intensity, contrary to popular belief, does not equal soreness. So with high intensity, low volume we get the stimulus we need to annul the de-training effect, but we are not putting demands on the athletes that are going to cause them to be sore because a lot of it is how they feel when they get into the water, so we want to make sure that we are covering that aspect as well. So basically we keep the volume down and the intensity up.
Obviously another huge part of coaching is injuries, and how do we work around injuries? What are we going to do and what do we do in the weight room? Somebody comes in with a shoulder problem, and it is not that unlikely in swimming – what are we going to do? Are we going to completely cut out anything with the upper body? Are we just going to do lower body exercises and swim? It is at this point that you want to make sure that you are keeping in contact with your training room. I really stress to keep your kids accountable and we are going to touch on this a little bit more, but your swimming athlete is not an athletic trainer so they should probably not be diagnosing themselves with what they can and cannot do. I really stress that you have them get into the athletic trainer so that the athletic trainer knows exactly what is going on and so that we can find the root of the problem because we need to address the injury with corrective exercises. Sometime we need to stop movement, but a lot of times we need to provide corrective exercises in order to strengthen that area that may have been defunct in the pre-season, or in the off-season we didn’t get enough training in so a big one that we see is shoulders and so we are always coming up with shoulder routines – trying to make sure they are either doing something with myself in the weight room or down in the training room every day to bring that back. Discomfort does not mean always that your athlete should stop – because you are a little bit sore does not mean that you should always just stop exercising. We do not taper for practice, we taper for the meets. So if you have a little bit of discomfort – tough – get over it – get after it.
In-season — we are going to talk about tapering. The big thing is when do I start my taper? When do I end my taper and how can I maximize performance in-season? That is basically what we are looking at. So, select the competitions to taper for before your season starts. And you know exactly which ones you are going to go and then we work back from there. We do a maximum of three competitions.
SCOTT: What we are looking at – and this is the collegiate season and this does not include the spring and the summer – we are just looking at the six and a half months of the collegiate season. We look at having a meet around Thanksgiving time, for us that is the Nike Cup now – in Long Beach; it used to be the Speedo Cup. That is where we are going to do a short rest – a short taper and basically try to get our NCAA cuts. I know a lot of teams go to different meets. I know there is a big one in Minnesota, etc. The next one would be our conference championships. Those athletes that do not have their NCAA – they are going to do their full taper for conference, because otherwise their season is going to be over. For those athletes that do have their NCAA cuts, they train right through that meet. What I mean when I say train right through is that we leave on a Tuesday and they are in the weight room that Tuesday morning. So they only get a two meet rest because very few of our athletes actually get a three meet rest – just those few that just missed it at Nike Cup and then they get their cuts at Conference. That presents a whole new challenge when you come out of the conference meet – if you have tapered for that and then you get your NCAA cuts – you have got three to four weeks. That is a real marginal time to actually get back in the weight room and that is something actually we don’t do classic weight lifting at that point. We will do a lot of dry-land exercises and Rob will go over that so – that is what we mean about the three meet competition maximum.
ROB: and we work back from the competition so you know which ones you want to taper for – you work back so that you are putting your power phase right before those competitions so everything moves off the competitions. We don’t develop the strength training and then “oh – here is the competition.” That makes it very tough to get your athletes in peak condition – if the coach came to me and were to say – hey look, we are having a meet in a couple of weeks and Johnny would really like to do good so if we could just cut everybody back that would be great. Because that has reaching ramifications on the training program for the rest of the season after that and I would suggest that you guys look at the big picture when you are looking at stuff and not just focusing on this meet – this meet and this meet. Look at the big picture. See what you want and then go back from there.
So we work back and the power phase always occurs before taper. Tapering and rest are not the same thing, okay? Tapering does not mean that you just stop exercise. Tapering is best accomplished by decreasing the volume load, and by keeping intensity high so where have we seen this before? It looks exactly like what we call the power phase – the maintenance phase – in-season – in the weight room. That is exactly what we want to do in the weight room and in the pool. Your length of your taper would be 1-4 weeks. Four weeks would be a maximum – that would be a fairly long taper. It depends on your athletes. This is where you really need to know your athletes and know what you have to work with and the way that you do that is you know what you have done in the pool. You know how they adapt to it – how they are recovering. You know how they are recovering in the weight room so you can get an idea of when you really need to start that. You know, some people we will start four weeks – some people we start two weeks. Some people are still doing stuff – like Scott said – two or three days before competition because that is just the way they work. Heavy volume swims/heavy weight week should precede the taper. What that does basically – it’s like pulling back a rubber band – increasing the volume load because what we have done is we have increased the stimulus on the body. Now the body – because it is efficient – is going to adapt to that new high level. Now I have called on a new level of volume so the body makes that adjustment. Now the body is making that adjustment while we are decreasing the swim load so now we are totally peaked up here while our rest is also totally peaked so that when we hit the water – you release the rubber band – they just shoot out of there like they are a bullet out of a gun.
So if your qualifying event is held on November 20, you would do a general prep in September, strength in October, power would be late October and then November – up to the event. After your qualifying event we would repeat that training cycle again. We always go through another GP phase because by this point in time you have got some injuries again and we want to address those injuries with a general prep phase which helps to develop that new level, that new base. And talking about recovery, we take a week off in the weight room at this point. By this time your athletes are going to be complaining about a bunch of stuff because that is what athletes do – they complain. “Dave, why don’t we do this – why don’t we do this?” You give them a week off – they get to do their own thing for a week – that gives them just enough time to get absolutely sick of it and want some structure again so then they come back and they are fired up and we go in the weight room and they want to do whatever I tell them. It works out great, plus you need that week of rest in order to let the body rejuvenate. They have just gone through 8-12 weeks of really tough training. They are in the weight room. They are on dry-land – they are in the pool – they need that rest period. Rest is part of training. And then following the season we take 2-3 weeks of active rest from the pool and from weights. Active rest, remember, is not total cessation of activity – it is just non-structured activity. So you just are not over them all the time. This gives them a time to rejuvenate and like I say – they basically get sick of what they do and when they come back they want to do what we want to have them do and they are fired up to do it. It allows for cognitive as well as physiological rejuvenation.
So now, we are going to go into some sample training and at this point we are going to want some volunteers – otherwise we are just going to start calling people out. Scott is actually going to be our volunteer on a couple of them. We are going to have some people do some other exercises, but basically the essentials or what I would consider the essentials – this is by no means a comprehensive list, but this is just what I would consider essential to almost any and every program. High pulls is a total body hip extension and coordination exercise. Bench press works on your pec major and your triceps, your serratus and your deltoids. Pull-ups is a must in any swimming program – lats, traps and rhomboids help keep the shoulder blades back. Dips work your triceps, your pec major, your deltoids, and RDL’s for hamstring and low back is a great injury prevention exercise as well.
So, the one we want to show you first is high pulls. If you guys are in a program that does Olympic lifts, which is something that is a bit of a rough issue with some coaches in swimming – do we do Olympic movements or do we not? We use what I consider strength Olympic movements that have a low degree on the learning curve. So we wouldn’t do power clean – you catch up here – there is a high level on the learning curve. If you don’t catch here you are jacking your wrists up – you can jack your shoulders up so you just cut that part out of the motion. So what we do, we get the same hip explosion and we get the same overall body power development by doing the high pull. So imagine there is weight on this bar and the Olympic plates generally are going to come down to about mid thigh. You want to have big flat back – head and eyes up – and then you are going to begin with the initial pull and then you are going to explode and pop the arms up and as we speed it up – when you have more weight on it – it is going to be explosive and he is going to almost go into a jump where your feet may leave the ground. This helps with turns and explosion out of the blocks, but this exercise is less specific – event specific and swimming specific than it is overall body power development. You cannot do this exercise and not be powerful so the main thing is that we focus on speed of movement and hip drive so your athletes are going to be pulling and throwing. It is almost like a ballistic movement and so they will throw the weight up and then drop it because it has got the bumpers and then it falls. This reduces the risk of injury when we come down here and the back bows over – we get rid of that and we just come up and drop because we have the bumper plates on.
Now the Olympic variations are the snatch, the power clean, and the power clean and jerk. You can do all of these exercises with what we call just a pull series so you could do a snatch grip or what we call overhead squat grip the same way. We generally just do the pulls because we don’t have to teach the catch. The catch is the toughest part of the movement to learn and is the part that people will get injured on the most so we just cut it out and so they will get all the benefit of the movement without the full lift. And the next one we want to show you is RDL’s. Some people may do these differently. This is how we do them in our program. RDL’s are for your hamstrings and your low back and so we will start in that same position – just lift the bar up first – just like you were doing the dead-lift positions – start in the dead-lift position – we start up tall and then as he comes down he is going to push his butt out – head and eyes up – go down as low as he can – keeping that back flat and then stand up – bringing the hips through again. I would actually like a couple of people to come up here and do this with me – if I could get two people and we won’t use the bar. Are there two people that would like to do this one or like to show this one? I am going to get this gentleman right here and this lady because she made eye contact so come on up. So I want you just to face this way – big tall back and I want you to take your hands all the way down your thighs – just like you are doing a toe touch, but a slight bend in the knee. Yeah and go down as low as you can. Head and eyes up – back flat – arch in the low back. Swimmers have a tendency to have what I call a dolphin back which is a rounded back. When you are doing it with your athletes you want to really make sure you are keeping the bar close. As the bar gets out here, our angle of pull becomes tougher on the hamstrings and the low back. The further it is out, the harder it is on your back. In closer, we are working the hammies, the glutes and the low back exactly how we want. So, we want to really be picky with the way we do this exercise. Arched low back – big chest – big back is what we always say. So, these are the essentials again – high pull, overall body power, bench press – you need that pec power – pull-ups works the back; dips the triceps; and RDL’s hamstring and low back.
The next thing we are going to talk about is core training. Has anybody heard of core training? You see people when they just slap core training on anything. Let me just help remedy that. Core is the mid-section of your body. It encompasses your abdominal muscles, your glutes, your low back and your hip flexors. Hip flexor muscles are a series of about 7 muscles. So, your core training is going to be geared toward that. Core training is important for a transfer of energy. Almost everything comes through this area of the body. If you have a stable core you become more efficient. For instance, if I was running and I had weak abdominal muscles, instead of going forward I would be moving side to side because I do not have the strength to maintain stability while increasing mobility. Basically what you are looking for in core training is becoming stable while mobilizing another part of the body because again, this is your root. This is your foundation so if your foundation is weak and your foundation is moving, you are not going to be able to transfer the same amount of energy. Imagine if you had a house on gelatin it would never be very stable. Stability equals increased power in our stroke and our kick. Body integrity or our ability to hold a position is directly related to our core strength and injury prevention because a ton of muscles connect in this portion of your body right here. So, if this portion is weak or inflexible – you have a myriad of problems that can occur between low back, hip flexor, and hamstring. The low back is probably the biggest problem that we find and a lot of it has to do with a weak core.
Now, here are some additional exercises that we can do with the emphasis on core: the first is a one arm dumbbell bench press. What this does is that it creates instability on one side so now you have got to activate these muscles in the core to maintain stability, otherwise I am going to turn this way and we do not want you to turn that way. You are going to stay here nice and flush so that you are not moving and that creates core stability, but we are still getting the work of the pec major so you do not have to sacrifice major muscle work for core work.
Squats: we would do overhead squats which are a great exercise for your glutes, your entire leg development and your butt. We don’t really do them that much with swimmers, but we will do overhead squats because we get a great level of core training in while we are also strengthening the legs and also the other point to this is that you can’t really load up overhead squats too heavy so it is not going to become a soreness exercise for the legs. You take a wide grip – you want the bar about six inches above the head. The arms stay straight. That is probably one of the #1 keys you will find with your kids – arms stay straight and the elbows are back by the ears – as he goes down his hips are going to go back – he is going to drop down and maintain his heels on the floor – chest up – big back – big chest – all the time. Some other variations: sometimes we won’t use the bar, we will just use hands overhead – biceps by the ears and also you can use a streamline position – and what we are looking for is to keep the chest completely straight up and down. One of the first mistakes that you see people do is they come forward with the knees a lot and we want to make sure that they keep their butt back – we are stretching out the hamstring group which connects into the low back by raising your arms you are stretching out your latissimus group which also connects down here in the lumbar spine so you will find that people that are inflexible – either in their back or their core area – their hip flexors and their hamstrings – will not be able to keep their arms straight, nor will they be able to push their butt back and that is why we come forward. On overhead squats – I like them to go all the way down – if they can bottom out on the ground – do it, again, because you are not loading that exercise. You are going to be able, at maximum effort, to do maybe 60% of your squat MAX – that would be a massive overhead squat. So if they are good with the bar then you can begin to add weight – that is what I would do.
You have military press exercises – we would do shoulder press-ups. I have the mike on, so military press would be just traditional pressing exercises which has a tendency to create what we call a bit of an impingement here with your athletes if they any inflammation. It is a great exercise for building up the delts, but also your supraspinatus muscle. A lot of times our athletes are just freaked out about doing overhead lifts so it is best to not even fight that battle because we can accomplish it this way with shoulder press-ups. I am going to go down like I am in a pushup position. All I am going to do is rock my butt back up high and I am going to stay in this position. I am going to come down on my forearms. I am going to rock forward – I am going to press back and up – I get the same deltoid – same supraspinatus exercise, but now I am activating my core. What you will find with athletes that are a bit weak in their core is you will get this number right here, because it is easier to do because you do not have to fire your abdominal muscles. You do not have to keep your belly button tight to the spine. So you will find that they will do this number to get up and so I tell them just think left arm. If they are coming up on their right side, I say think left arm. Do not think about anything else – just push with your left – push with your left – push with your left. If you just tell them to think that one side they will begin to fire and it begins to become a smoother effort. So again, we get the shoulder building, but we also get the core exercises.
Lunges are a great exercise for the legs, the hip extensors and the hamstring groups. We do the dumbbell overhead lunge – again – I really love this overhead position. It creates shoulder stability strengthening because you are isometrically contracting the shoulder in this position, but you are also stretching the lats and the hamstring hip flexor groups.
Now we have some other specific core exercises that I am sure we are all a little bit more familiar with. We have plank and side bridges. We have side bridge leg raises – some people might call them ab exercises. We do not call them ab exercises. We do very little crunches or bicycle crunches – that sort of thing. We try and activate this whole area in our exercises. Remember when you are training core you are training for stability with mobility in other part of your body because if your swimmers just can maintain stability here, but nothing here – that really doesn’t help you out. They just become weights at the bottom of the pool if they do that so they have got to be able to move while being stable.
We are actually going to get quite a few people up here to do some of these superman/hyperextensions, pushup arm raise, leg raise and then stability ball exercises. The very popular apparatus, called a stability ball – some people call it some other names, but we are going to show you quite a few exercises on this. It has become very popular because it is an unstable platform so it really makes you work your core in almost any exercise you do. What I would just say to you is be careful of over-using this apparatus. A lot of times core training is synonymous with “let’s just throw our athletes on something unstable” or “let’s put them on some dynadisks” or “let’s throw them on the stability ball.” It is good and it has its purpose and its place, but let’s remember – that we also need to get some “over-allogists” – what I call brute strengthening in some cases so be careful of overusing the stability ball.
The first one we would do would be what we call the hamstring series or a triple threat – where your feet would be on the ball – your shoulder blades and top of your back on the ground – your hips start up and then we call this just straight leg bridges where he is going to dip his hips and then raise his hips – just keep them straight. We always combine this with what we call leg curls which would be come up in the top position and curl the heels into the butt and then back out. Heels into the butt and back out – so this is working the hamstrings, low back and glutes. One of the keys is you are on a stability ball so you can’t be throwing your self up and down. Basically, we are taking out the degree of momentum. If your athletes decide to create momentum on this – they are going to be down on the floor very quickly. Let’s just try this exercise and plant your elbows down into the ground. So start with your heels – your feet a little bit more on the ball – right about there. Okay, now just raise your hips up and just hold that for a second for me. We could also just hold this position – straight leg bridge – if you do not have a stability ball, you can just do it on the chair. Now – relax and come back up for me and let’s do hamstring curls or leg curls so you are going to come back up in the hip raised position, yup and now you are just going to curl the heels to the butt – good, try and keep your butt moving up and back so as you curl in – keep those hips moving –we want a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Come in one more time – now raise your hips up as high as you can and back down.
Next on our stability ball is the exercise that Scott really likes to use for the backstrokers so it works the obliques a lot. So his shoulder blades – top of his back is going to be on the ball – hands up in front as he twists from side to side. He is going to make sure that he maintains his head position straight up and down.
So those are our core exercises on the stability ball. Just be careful not to overuse the apparatus and then let’s go to the next one. We are going to shoot through dryland really quickly. Dryland – everybody does it. The way we do it – we do stadium training. I like stadium training because we have a stadium and it works really well. We do a lot of plyometric exercises which I feel again, are excellent for swimmers because they develop overall body power. They may not be specific to swimming, you probably are not going to jump very much in the pool, but it carries over to other activities. I like it because it is also specific to take off on wall turns. It is easily modified for endurance athletes, and it is a great combo of strength and power work.
We cycle two weeks of dry-land training with one week of games, just to keep our athletes – we throw them a bone – they come back – they are fired up again. Also, cognitive physiological rejuvenation – remember, rest and recovery is a big part of it. The main thing that I would say is if you are doing plyometrics with your athletes you really want to watch them and make sure that they are landing in great position – knees facing forward – head and eyes up – big chest – big back. That is the only downfall to plyometric training. And then we also incorporate what are called toughness days so we may do this with a game day or something. It could be one of our dry-land days. Basically, we will throw this in – it doesn’t need to be specific. You are looking to get work in – in a competition type atmosphere. So one of the things it helps do is team bonding – again – it is good physiological and cognitive rejuvenation. You are not in the weight rooms, so it is like you get a game day, but you don’t really get a game day. It is kind of our way to fool athletes into doing a lot of work in a setting that they like. And again, it helps them – they get fired up – they help each other out. They are cheering each other on – we think it helps with the team atmosphere.
Scott: I prefer to have them swim first and then lift. It is very difficult for them to come in to do a hard day of lifting and then get in the pool and do any kind of high intensity training. Having said that, we have had a lot of success during winter break training time – when who cares if they are not getting enough rest because that is the whole goal of winter break – having them come in and lift for 45 minutes to an hour and then come down to the pool and instead of doing any type of high intensity swimming, we might do some hypoxic work. We might do some 25’s fast which they can do because their bodies are firing – it is when they do that turn and they get tired. But more specifically, we will do a lot of drill work. We will do a lot of starts, turns, relay starts – a lot of explosive type things – working on breakouts – little things that as swim coaches, we kind of tend to overlook and that makes a big difference – especially swimming yards. But during the regular week – the academic week – we have had a lot of success with them swimming first. They get warmed up – the joints get lubricated. I have known a lot of programs – not swimming programs, but other sports where they will come in and they will lift weights at 6:30 in the morning. Their athletes a) are not used to being up at that time of the day so their bodies are not used to working and b) their bodies just aren’t ready. You guys know how tired and creaky you are when you roll out of bed at 4:30 – 5 o’clock in the morning? Try putting a load on your athletes in the weight room. It is just not going to work then. So, we swim; they are tired from the pool, but they are looking for another challenge and that is what we give them in the weight room and that is when we have had some of our greatest lifting days – when they have been completely broken down from being in the pool – they will get in there and they will actually discover they can test their limits even further and that goes into the toughness training aspect of strength training.
ROB: Let’s just do the last two slides with balance and coordination with them and then we will have questions. I think the key to success for your program is balance – train for balance in your athletes and if you have an extremely powerful athlete who is prone to injuries – we need to focus more on injury prevention and less on power. We want the athletic traits in the right proportion. John Wooden had a pyramid of success – everybody kind of has a pyramid where you want your base that is basically fundamentals, and you have strength and power, and then you have peaking or whatever is the essential thing that they really need to work on. It varies with different athletes, but make sure that those are in the right proportion – otherwise your pyramid is out of whack and the athlete won’t realize his or her potential.
The last thing is cooperation. Cooperation. Cooperation is the big thing. I am not a stand alone department; it is my job as a strength coach to help teams become better. If you have a strength coach, it is their job to help your team become better, so it is my job to get on pace with what Scott believes – his mentality, his vision for his team, and then find out how I can help that. At the same time, I need to also tell him what I think is going to be best for his athletes because I may have some insight, which hopefully I do as an expert at strength and conditioning, to what they need. We just want to make sure that our pool work, our dry-land and our weights are working together and we are not just doing work just to do work. Let’s make sure everything is coming together and going in the same direction because if you are trying to go straight ahead and you are moving this way – it is not going to happen as fast as you want it to. All aspects of training should be working together toward a common goal which means some sacrifices are going to need to be made in order to accomplish this goal. Scott is probably one of the best people to deal with, but the swim coach doesn’t always get exactly everything they want. The strength coach doesn’t always get exactly what he wants – there has got to be a little bit of give and take and remember it is about your athletes. It is not about what you want or what I want or you know my agenda – it is about your athletes and getting them better, having them realize their potential.
Do we have questions? I am not going to go over that one – you can see that one. You need passion. If you don’t have passion, nobody is going to follow you.
Q: In the weight room? The way I set it up is basically we have what is called a heavy day which would be basically your test day. We do not devote an entire day to testing – say testing the bench press. But what we would do is we would have them go through the workout and say bench press that day is going to be your heavy day. You are going to work exactly like you would and on that last set we are going to take it up as high as we can. I am going to mark down that weight so that is what we call a working test. So we get the same aspect of a test out of them, but they still get in the work and I feel – they may actually be ten pounds or twenty pounds higher on the bench press, but it doesn’t matter. It is all about getting them good in the pool and do I know where they need to be for their training. The test just allows me to know what percentage they should be working at.
SCOTT: and something I want to add to that too – understand that in order to be successful at coaching swimming and strength coaching or strength training – and combining the two – a lot of times you have to think outside of the box as Rob was talking about; don’t just think it is a test day. We do a lot of different kinds of testing days that go along with that toughness training. For example – a week from today we are doing 52 card pick-up at the beach. That is a tradition that we do. We go through a deck of cards. Each suit is a different exercise and we go through it as fast as we possibly can. And it is not easy. At the end of winter break training – right before school starts back up again for the winter quarter – we do what we came up with about six years ago – feats of strength. We will get in the weight room and each year it changes a little bit, that is why I say it is not necessarily a test – it is just a team bonding thing and we are testing their limits, but just doing it differently each time. You can test your athletes in so many different ways – it is incredible. You can sit there and have them do core holds. See how long they can do core holds. But again if you are going to do that – please keep an eye on your athletes – we will have people that will rupture a disk because they won’t give up so keep an eye on them and think creatively.
Q. I will – yeah – that is a good question. To sum it up – do I change the exercises when I change the phases? There are variations of those exercises that we do. For example, the pull from the floor might start out with just a dead lift which is non-explosive right here. That may be the first phase and as we progress towards the power phase we will move the high pull in. So to answer your question – the exercises will change. I change exercises each phase and I also change the rep scheme. Now, in your strength and power phase – you do not need much variation in your lifts – you are just going to need to implement some power activity. So let’s say you have bench press in your strength phase, if you are going to have bench press in your power phase (which is fine), add a set of explosive pushups right after your bench press so that gets your strength and your power. Power endurance is basically your power phase and you just adjust it during your end season. So, what I showed you with the 25 to 45% on pure power – you would use that scheme more in your power endurance phase. You still want to get a strength exercise in so let’s say we were doing pulls – pulls from the floor would be our strength power exercise for that day and then we would do squat jumps and instead of doing six of them which would be pure power, in the power endurance phase we are going to drop the weight down a little bit and do 12 of them, but we are going to do squat jumps for 30 seconds or we are going to do stuff with a medicine ball – 30 seconds – as many reps as you can get in 30 seconds – doing it with great form and increase the time. In the power endurance phase it is really a variation of your power phase and it depends on the program the strength coach has and that is why it also changes for your sport. That is why I didn’t throw up kind of a general power endurance because it changes so much because volleyball is what we consider a power endurance sport, but volleyball has a massive rest period compared to swimming. By that I mean there is not a rest period when you are in the water – you are going so it just changes and you have just got to be cognizant of that. Be careful on the power endurance phase moving towards endurance. You are better off staying towards power than you are staying towards endurance
Q. The adaptations come really in the weights so obviously we do not have a blanket statement that you bench press 135. You bench press a percentage of your weight which is how it becomes specific to the sex of the athlete. Now if the ladies cannot do them all, then they will just get a spotter for the rest of them.
SCOTT: I think a better way to answer that question too is there are differences between the events that the athletes do, which is more where we get our differences. It is not a gender base – it is a physiological base and what they are capable of doing and what their events are. Obviously a 50 freestyler and a miler are two totally different animals … a 50 freestyler and a 400 IMer are a different kind of person. A 400 IMer and a miler might be the same – then again, they might not be the same. It is up to you – working with your strength coach and observing your athletes to determine what is best for them.
ROB: Q. One really easy way is to say – I number stuff so I say #1: hands up above your head – biceps by ears. That is #1 everybody knows you do not get to #2 unless you go through #1. #2: butt back so I will have them do just this right here, they may do 8 times and this is as low as they can go – come back up until they can begin to – and then I look at that and I will screen that and I will say – okay – excellent. Now I want you to drop down another two inches and while they are doing that – we can grab Stacy – Stacy works with us as well so while they are doing that I may just put my hand just like this in front so that they get that cue to keep that chest up as they drop down. That is one way and then another way that really helps out is have variations of box heights so if you have say a 30 inch box and then step them down so they are doing squats onto the box so they only have to go down this low and then you can decrease the height of the box as they go. Yes, my personal style is not to stop them and have them do a stretch routine, but it’s to take them through that active motion and just shorten up the range and then try and get them to go a little bit further, a little bit further, and a little bit further and that seems to work very well with us.
Q. SCOTT: that is a wide open question. I am going to go back to looking at what each of my athlete’s individual needs are. For example, our school record holder in the 50 freestyle – he wants to train middle distance so what are we going to do that is going to be best for him, both mentally and physiologically? Mentally, he thinks he needs to train middle distance so he can finish his hundred. For those of you that swim the 200 free I know that sounds really sad, but at the same time, what is going to be best for him physiologically? Is it going to be put him in middle distance where he is going to get beat down as a sprinter, or is it do we work a compromise between the two and say, “Okay here is where you are going to do some more middle distance base training and this is where you are going to do more of your sprint-based training” so he is in a good spot – both physically and mentally and then we carry that over in the weight room. In the weight room he is going to go towards more of the power aspect of the lifting because that is what he does and maybe you take that as his sprint-based training up to a certain point and then you get to taper time. That is a whole other animal. If he trains middle distance all year, do you rest him as a middle distance swimmer? Maybe, maybe not … it depends. Everyone goes three times a week, there are a few athletes that come in four times a week, i.e., my swimmer that was going 10 times a week – we pushed him down to only 4 times a week. It is really important and I should have mentioned this earlier – a lot of your athletes are going to fall in love with the weight room. That is good, but it is dangerous at the same time, because you will find that some of the athletes get in there and take an hour and a half to do a 45 minute workout. That is wonderful that they want to devote that much time, but I am not sure what that is going to do for their academics. That also means they are not doing the weights the way they are supposed to be done with the short rest cycles, so that is where it is important that a member of the coaching staff be in the weight room with them whenever they are lifting – whether it be the strength and conditioning staff or from your personal staff. Along those lines as well, I find it is very important that you, as a head coach, get up to the weight room one time a week at least. You show up, even if you are just in there doing your own workout – they need to know that weight lifting or strength training – excuse me – I have got to get away from weight lifting – strength training is an important aspect of your program because if you do not put any value on it – they are not going to put any value on it and your strength coach is going to be beating his head against a brick wall.
ROB: Yeah, that is a very good point. They are all doing the same program essentially, but there are what we call microcycle changes that we make. So if we are all training at the same time – sprinters here, mid-distance here, and endurance athletes over here and then we are asking them to do the same exercise five more repetitions. Now, you have got to be careful because you have 60 athletes – depending on the size of your program so you have got to use your resources wisely too. For us it is one person for a lot of kids, so we just try and get the best that we can in and then let’s say we can’t make changes for endurance – everybody does the same thing in the weight room. When we go dry-land, endurance does something different than sprints and mid distance so they can get in that variation that way. One quick point: endurance athletes training strength is not going to hinder them like it would if you take a power athlete or a strength athlete and train them for endurance in the weight room. Endurance has a negative effect on strength. Strength has a positive effect on endurance or no effect on VO2 MAX so you are not going to decrease endurance by training strength, but you will decrease strength by training endurance.
SCOTT: I am going to follow that up too by saying if you have your athletes that are pure endurance swimmers – they are the milers and they shouldn’t swim anything but distance freestyle. Get them out of that mindset in the weight room because they get locked into that – kind of being alienated and you know – we are kind of by ourselves – two or three of us and we are together all the time and we pretty much get sick of each other and no one loves us – put them in with the middle distance kids. You can increase their strength and like Rob said – that is going to increase their ability to swim fast. Everybody can do with more power on the turns – especially if you are a miler. Everybody can do with more power off the blocks – even the miler so that is a great opportunity for them to escape and show everybody – “hey, we are not just the distance guys who keep going forever – we actually have some strength in our bodies” and they will get into it. They will love it and they will be really excited that they are out of being type-casted – you know – the distance guy.
ROB: Yeah, that is an excellent point. We find that a lot of times with endurance athletes. They really get excited about the weight room.
Q. What specific tests do you like to do to check their core? Once again, we do like a toughness phase – so we will do planks. Planks are my favorite exercise ever. And it is a qualitative test – you have got to look at people and say, “where were you when you started? Where are you now?” And that is basically how we take a look at that. What was the second part of the question? Scapular stabilizers – I wouldn’t say we have a specific test to look at scapular stabilizers, but again, when you are doing overhead squats – overhead dumbbell lunges – those sorts of things – you can get a qualitative idea of where they are.
SCOTT: One thing too, in general, about strength training and swimming – be very conscious of what is going on with your athlete’s shoulder capsules. It is very easy, as we know, for swimmers to blow out their shoulders or get all sorts of impingement – rotator cuff – tendonitis – whatever all the itis’s are. We are very fortunate, we do not have very many shoulder injuries, but that is because I am very conscious of what is going on in the weight room and what is going on in the water – especially in the general prep phase – do not use paddles in the pool. That would be the first thing I would say. We hardly ever use paddles as it is, but especially in the general prep phase. I know what they are undergoing in the weight room, as well as the volume of training they are getting in the water – they do not need that extra stress laid through their shoulder capsules. That is where the communication aspect of being a successful program comes into play. You have got to know what is going on up there. How are you going to know? Talk to your strength coach – get up to the weight room – talk to your athletes. I mean – it is all communication and that is how you are going to avoid a lot of issues.
Q. We have basically a 45 minute session. The way it is set up at UCSD is there are some extraneous variables that you have to take into account – we have an hour for each team and you have got to be out on the hour. They come in at 8:30 – they are out at 9:30. So 8:30 to maybe 8:40 is warm-up. That is the warm-up period – even though they just came from the pool – I am still going to take them through a warm-up and then we are going to go through training and in our general prep phase they are going to go through a series of mini-circuits in one, two, three spots. They have got three of four exercises in each spot and they have 4 minutes to do them. If they complete them in 2 minutes they get 2 minutes rest. If they complete them in 4 minutes they get zero minutes rest and they move to the next station and they start. At the completion of that they will get 2 minutes rest. The workout takes 42 minutes exactly. When they are done with that they will clean up the weight room and then we will stretch and we will stretch for about 5 minutes so it takes about 59-60 minutes in the weight room so we are almost always going. If they are strength training they are with a partner and I will partner them up and you always have two exercises at each station. You have your main exercise and then your unloading exercise and that is just something that I do because if you just have one exercise and you rest them for two minutes, that is a lot of time sitting around. So for example they will do bench press, then they will do dumbbell rows so 1 and 2. They have got 2 minutes to do those exercises. It generally will take them a minute 20 – they will get 40 seconds rest and then their partner will start as soon as 2 minutes is up so partners loading their weights on – unloading weights – they are spotting the bench press – the other person is doing dumbbell rows. They are loading the weights – they get a couple of seconds to jaw for about 30 seconds and then it is go time again. I like to keep a clock on everybody so that way everybody does and nobody spends time jawing. Does that help out?
Q. if you can whip through the next few cycles – your sprint phase is 2 minutes per station – what happens when you get a power? Same thing. We will go 2 minutes per station and it may be a little looser – I would be a little bit looser on the clock. But I am on two minutes and I am watching them. That’s where you’ve got it – that is where the coaching comes in. You have just got to watch them and say to yourself, “am I getting the power output that I want to see?” If the answer is “No” take a little bit of extra time. They do not know what the watch says because I am the only one that has it.