Strength Training's Impact on Swim Performance

In the last couple of weeks we have posted on the impact of strength training on endurance performance.  Studies have shown resistance training improves both running and cycling economy leading to faster times.  These studies add to our existing knowledge on the importance of endurance athletes balancing their endurance training with strength exercises.  The pool is no exception with swimmers demonstrating improved sprint times using strength training.  Swimming requires energy contributions from both the aerobic and anaerobic systems and athletes should aim to train their bodies consistent with these demands.  

A recent study examined the impact of 30 second training bouts targeting the major muscle groups involved in swimming.  Belfry and colleagues studies 16 male swimmers and divided them into 3 groups, two training groups and one control group (J Strength Cond Res. 2016).  One training group completed 20 repetitions of strength training exercises within a 30 second time period (consistent with a sprint performance).   The authors tried to exhaust the athlete at the end of the 20 reps, if more could be completed in 30 seconds the weight was increased.  A second training group selected a weight they could lift 80 times in a 2 minute span (similar to a mid distance event) with adjustments made similar to the first group.  Both training groups lifted 3 days a week for 6 weeks.  

The authors reported improved swim times for the 50 and 200 yard distances in the 30 second group, but the 2 minute training group only improved their 200 yard time.  This study adds to the existing literature on the value of strength training for swimmers.  For more information on how strength training can improve your swim performance contact your local Physical Therapist.