It is strange how having step-by-step processes can often get you out of a jam. Not only in your programming design but also when it comes to having to present to 40 kids with only 3 days' notice. This is what happened to me last week when I was called up to help out a coach that had a holiday swimming camp and needed me to "save his bacon". I was tasked with coming up with 2x 45-minute presentations for kids of a wide age group and abilities that would not only give them something to take home but would also provide them with some insight on how to apply strength training to their own programs. Naturally, I went back to my bread and butter. Something that I knew inside out and would allow me to provide maximal impact. This 3-Step process is used daily at Formidable Strength & Conditioning and can be applied to multiple situations and to a broad range of athletes from various sports. And guess what? It's so simple and easy to implement that even 10-year-olds got it. ;) Here it is: Step one: Ensure Optimal Range of Motion Step two: Joint Centration Step Three: Strengthen the Movement
Now you know the steps let's dive into them,
Step one: Ensure Optimal ROM This means we MUST make sure that we can reach optimal ranges of motion for the demands of the sport. Example: In swimming, you MUST be able to get 180 degrees of shoulder flexion. If you can not achieve this you will not be able to get your hand in an optimal position to get a strong initial catch on the water WITHOUT compensating somewhere else in the body.
Not reaching this key marker will massively increase your risk of injury and dramatically decrease your performance in the water. It will also make steps 2 and 3 redundant... Step 2: Joint Centration What the hell is that? The term “Joint centration” refers to the ideal alignment of a joint where there is maximal contact between the bones in conjunction with a symmetrical activity between stabilizing muscles. In basic terms being able to hold your joint in the optimal position. Let's stay with the shoulder. If we have our arms above our heads and reach far into the sky what happens? Your shoulder rises up, your shoulder blades lift and rotate and your arms start to pull out of the shoulder joint - joint decentralisation.
Then if we try to pull our shoulders back down we can feel the arms locking into the shoulder joint, our shoulders come back down and our scaps (hopefully) return to a neutral position. - joint centration.
This is pivotal in allowing your body to work optimally while reducing the risk of injury. And If you are unable to centralise a joint on dry land while maintaining optimal ROM, good luck trying to do it in the water. Are you starting to see why following these steps is so important for your swimming? Continuing with the shoulder, Most of a swimmer's propulsion is generated from an overhead position, if we can not achieve ROM and Joint Centration on dry land in a controlled environment, just imagine what is happening in the water. I'll paint a picture, Your hand enters the water, your shoulder doesn't allow you to get into an overhead position so you have to use your lower back to compensate or you struggled to get "onto your catch position", either way, you have massively increased your resistance and dramatically decrease your bodies ability to apply any force to the water.
Not a good start... We then go to pull the water, your shoulder is up by your ears and as your pull, it "dumps" forward and you are stuck in internal rotation with no way to generate force from your lats. Not only are you now overloading your internal rotators (increased injury risk) but you are losing all the power from the muscles in your back (see you later performance). With the highly repetitive nature of swimming, how do you think that much internal rotation will go for you... For those willing to risk it here is a link to our Performance Rehabilitation Program that you can save for later... https://www.formidablestrength.com.au/injuryrehabilitation Without establishing a solid foundation in steps 1 & 2, step 3 becomes almost irrelevant. Step 3: Build Strength in the Movement This is normally where everyone starts, but assuming you're still reading this you now understand that this is obviously important but without the first 2 steps we are really failing to understand how strength training is going to help our athletes in the water. Building strength is key to developing robust and more powerful athletes but if your mechanics are wrong and your ability to stabilise and use said power doesn't exist you are really taking up a lot of a busy athlete's time for minimal gain. But once you are at this stage and have ticked off the previous steps the magic really starts to happen! For those that have read this far, I have a gift for you! If you are interested in getting an easy-to-read PDF complete with video demonstrations and easy exercises you can start implementing today into your poolside or gym routine hit the link below to download My 3-Step Guide to Swimming Strength & Performance. https://www.formidablestrength.com.au/swimmersguidetostrengthtraining #beformidable Ryan p.s. we are looking to start holding swimming-specific strength & conditioning workshops over the coming months, so if that is something that interests you please feel free to send me a message and we can put you on the early bird list.