Land Training - Strength & Conditioning

Putteridge Swimming Club are extremely experienced at running very comprehensive programmes in both Strength and Conditioning and Land Training. We have a highly-qualified team of Strength and Conditioning coaches working within the club and believe very strongly that this training is a crucial part of a swimmers’ development. The club has 3 in-house Sports Therapists, Reps level 2 and 3 qualified trainers. As a club, we have reaped the benefits of such programmes which have been reflected in high level performances. All our Land, Strength and Conditioning programmes work alongside the poolside programmes. From development squad to performance squads, dry side work is compulsory and also includes home programmes.

All of our land training and Strength and Conditioning work is led by the highly qualified Lawrence Palmer, who holds a BSc (hons), Reps level 3 (Register of exercise professionals) and has a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) qualification. He also has the added advantage that he is classed as an elite World Class Athlete, so has been part of Strength and Conditioning programmes for many years and as a swimmer understands the complexity behind the bio-mechanics of swimming which gives the optimal transference from land based work into the pool. Each stroke is mechanically different as well as the distance competed needing consideration and thus all programmes are individually tailored to accommodate these variables.

All Squads partake in pre and post pool programmes as well as attending one pre-habilitation session which includes mobility, flexibility and stability work. Land training starts as soon as possible from the Piranha stage and upwards, with swimmers attending 1-3 land based sessions per week alongside their pool training.

Useful Information regarding Land and Strength and Conditioning 

(information that Swim England/IOS has taken on board and wishes Clubs to take on as part of their training programmes).

It has been identified that youngsters today lack fundamental movement skills as society has changed over the years with the influx of technology. The common consensus within sport, and in particular swimming, is that we have to take children right down to basics. Children need to be able to perform fundamental movement skills if they are to enjoy the wide range of physical, recreational activities and sports. This is a phase that is crucial to the longevity of participation within any sport/sports. Within this developmental stage there is a focus on fundamental movement skills which are seen to be building blocks for movement.

These are the vital building blocks. Physical Literacy is the concept that children must learn fundamental movement skills (catching, skipping, jumping, and throwing) before they can learn fundamental sports skills. If this doesn’t happen, children’s capabilities can be affected later in their lives and can completely disengage from physical exercise. That Physical literacy is progressive, children should not by pass these stages and go straight into adult programs of sport, this is detrimental. Children need with the support of teachers, coaches, parents, and carers be taken back to basics and learn to play using structured games improving their flexibility, mobility and stabilisation, which is the building blocks to ultimately providing elite athlete performance and podium success.

The Athlete Development Support Pathway (ADSP) is a series of phases, based on the LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) model, which allows coaches to balance training, competition, recovery, and ongoing education processes that should positively guide, influence, and develop each swimmer’s experiences of the sport. This model provides an established, evidence based pathway that allows coaches to implement appropriate programmes across a broad spectrum of developing swimmers. When this is carried out correctly, we see a significant improvement in the swimmer’s skill development, competencies, confidence, self- esteem and retention in sport. This not only meets that objective of an increased pool of talent that feeds the high-performance pathway, but also that of increasing participation and involvement in swimming and physical activity for life.

It is important to understand that children, teenagers or adults do not pick up fundamental movement skills naturally as part of their normal growth and development. It can take between 240 and 600 minutes of instruction time to become proficient in one fundamental movement skill therefore, only a small number of skills are focused on in at any one time. Although the best time for developing fundamental movement skills is the early years of schooling, it is never too late, and if this stage has been missed it will need to be re-visited at whatever age. Therefore, what follows refers to any age – if this stage has not been passed, you need to start at the Fundamentals to develop future Skills.

FUNdamentals Stage of ADSP – Key Features

  • Physical:

    • Continued focus on Fundamental Movement Skill mastery whilst introducing more Fundamental Sports Skills later.

    • Meeting the ABCs of Athleticism: Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed e.g. Running, Jumping Throwing Catching, Passing, Kicking, Kinaesthetic, Gliding, Buoyancy etc.

    • Strength development solely through body weight activities.

    • Unstructured and structured play activities.

    • Skill learning through fun and games daily.

    • Good control (particularly of large muscle groups).

    • Need frequent rest periods.

    • Fine motor skills not fully developed.

    • Eye focus not fully developed (hand-eye co-ordination).

    • Cranium (head) still soft

    • Girls usually ahead in development, particularly fine motor skills

    • 90% right handed

    • Sampling a range of sports

    • Sport specific movement skills introduced

  • Cognitive: All Participants should experience:

    • Positive experiences

    • Learning and self -discovery through deliberate play in a fun and games manner

    • Creative and like to show initiative

    • Short attention span

    • Enjoy repetition of fun activities

    • Developing simple understandings of rules, ethics and playing in a sporting manner

  • Emotional: Within participants there are common areas:

    • Express emotions freely

    • Jealousy is common

    • Affectionate

    • Growing independence

    • Most have two “best” friends, although these may vary frequently

    • Solitary (may not be good at sharing and socialising yet)

Once a swimmer has been seen to complete the FUNdamental stage, has optimal fitness, good functional movement and range of movement (ROM) they then progress to Strength and Conditioning (strength and power gains). This is a phrase that is often used very generally. This stage of development at PSC is verified by the following process to ensure the wellbeing of each swimmer and their development.

Musculo-Skeletal and Postural (MSP) Screening- Functional Movement Test.

As a Head Coach, I need to ensure that the activities chosen within the training programme are suitable for the level of swimmer being coached (the principle of individualisation).

Before advancing onto our intensive training programme, it is important for all swimmers to undertake a musculo-skeletal, postural screening and functional movement test. This ensures that the swimmers nervous, muscular and skeletal systems are suitable for the intense training that is part of our performance training programme. A detailed MSP screen identifies specific sites and areas of the body which are at a significant risk of injury, based on swimming performance and training. The findings of such a screening process not only identify specific problem areas, but also allows support staff, coaches and the swimmer to anticipate, develop and implement suitable injury prevention strategies. These strategies may include specific strength and conditioning work to correct muscle imbalances and weaknesses, flexibility training, recovery training, taping and the use of specific equipment and aides. Therefore, the results of the screen, along with a more specifically designed training programme, allows the swimmer to train and perform with a reduced risk of injury, increased mechanical efficiency and therefore, perform with greater success.

Who Performs the MSP Screening?

A suitably qualified sports therapist or physiotherapist undertakes an MSP screen. For PSC, this is Lawrence Palmer who assesses these areas:

– General postural overview

– Posture, flexibility, strength, and stability

– Regular Seated, Standing and Arm Span measurements.

– Swimmer questionnaire- general health, family medical history, injury history, nutritional assessment female specific

– Key aspects of Core, Thoracic and Hip stability.

– Muscle group partnership activation for instance the glute stability and core activation.

We regularly measure and monitor our swimmers, so we are able to have a greater understanding of their growth and can appropriately adjust their training programme to best suit their wellbeing during growth periods. This is done by considering PHV (Peak Height Velocity) which is crucial for ensuring successful development and longevity within the sport.

What is the Peak Height Velocity?

Peak height velocity (PHV) is simply the period of time in which an adolescent experiences their fastest upward growth in their stature – the time when they grow the fastest during their adolescent growth spurt. During the adolescent growth spurt (Peak Height Velocity), the average/approximate male typically achieves a PHV of approximately 8.3cm, and females approximately 7.8cm. The adolescent growth spurt (adolescent peak height velocity) is the most important for the exercise professionals. The onset of the adolescent growth spurt coincides with the onset of puberty and occurs two years earlier in girls (approximately 11 years of age) than in boys (approximately 13 years of age). This simply implies that males will grow more during the adolescent growth spurt than females.

Research has shown that chronological age is not a good indicator on which to base athletic development models for athletes between the ages of 10 to 16, as within this age group there is a wide variation in the physical, cognitive and emotional development (ADSP). PVH is the point in a child’s development when they reach their maximum growth rate. The average age for reaching PVH is 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Peak weight velocity normally follows shortly after PVH, as does Vo2max and strength increase significantly as a result of growth. Most girls experience their first menstrual cycle approximately one year after PVH. Using simple measurements (standing height & sitting height) PHV can be monitored and appropriate training can be set to match the swimmer’s development. Young swimmers are physically developing, from early childhood to late adolescence. This means they have different capabilities for, and adaptations to, exercise and for this reason, young swimmers training programs should not be just scaled down versions of adult training programs.

What causes the Peak Height Velocity?

Many of the body’s hormones influence growth, such as growth hormone, thyroxine, insulin, and corticosteroids (all of which influence growth rate), leptin (which alters body composition), and parathyroid hormone, vitamin D, and calcitonin (all of which affect skeletal mineralization). However, the key hormone in growth is growth hormone. As a result, the athletic performance improvements observed at the onset, during, and after the adolescent growth spurt are caused by maturity-related changes.

Bone and Muscle development.

Bones develop from a cartilage growth plate (epiphyseal plates) at each end of the bone shaft. These growth plates divide the calcified head of the bone (epiphysis) and the calcified shaft (diaphysis). The bone lengthens as cartilage is calcified into bone. At the same time, cartilage continues to grow on the epiphyseal border, so the epiphyseal plates retain a constant width of cartilage throughout. Growth ends when the plate eventually calcifies. Muscle mass increases steadily until puberty, at which point boys show faster muscle growth. In layman’s terms, during a swimmer’s growth spurt, their bones grow first, stretching their muscles, this causes a lull in their training and competing performance, they physically cannot do anything about it, they may not even be physically able to streamline. It is a time to focus on all areas of flexibility, mobility and stability. What was once their No1 stroke may not be after this has taken place. It is time for adaptation with their training, omitting particular aspects and patience.

Potential growth related injuries.

The change in female body shape during the growth spurt has its particular injury risks. The hips widen, placing the femur at a greater inward angle. During running or walking, this increased femur angle leads to greater inward rotation at the knee and foot. This rotation can result in an injury called chondromalacia patella, which occurs when the knee-cap does not run smoothly over the knee joint and pain is caused at the front of the knee. Appropriate preventive training to avoid chondromalacia patella would be to strengthen the vastus medialis muscle, the lower abdominals, oblique’s (side of stomach), hip abductor and hip external rotator muscles.

Traction injuries are another type of injury associated with bone growth. They are caused by repetitive loading while the tendon is sensitive to stress as the bones and tendons are fusing. Traction injuries occur at different sites at different stages of growth. The only cure for these traction injuries is rest.

• 10 to 13 years of age – at the heel (Sever’s disease)

• 12 to 16 years of age – at the knee (Osgood Schlatter’s disease)

• late adolescence – lower back and iliac pain

A common kind of epiphyseal plate injury, and the one coaches must take care not to cause, is called epiphysis’s. This is a repetitive-strain injury that occurs when excess loads are placed on the tendons that attach to the epiphysis, causing an inflammatory response, the most common in swimming, is swimmers’ shoulder. In extreme cases, this type of injury can result in a separation of the epiphysis from the epiphyseal plate. Exercise will neither stunt nor promote growth in terms of height but it does thicken the bones by increasing mineral deposits (Wilmore & Costill, 1994) Growing bones are sensitive to stress so repetitive loading should be avoided. The epiphyseal plate is susceptible to injury and therefore a fracture to the epiphyseal plate prior to full growth could be a serious injury as it could disrupt bone growth.

Why is Peak Height Velocity important for Swimmer Development?

Before, during, and after PHV there appears to be certain periods in time in which young swimmers are more sensitive to types of training (e.g. strength, speed, hypertrophy). These periods of accelerated adaptation have many implications for our training programme e.g. training content, intensity, volume, frequency, periodisation, coaching style, and training group. It is believed that calculating a child’s onset of PHV can enable the strength and conditioning coach or sport scientist to tailor the training programme in synchronisation with the swimmers’ biological age as opposed to their chronological age – this is seen to result in a better suited and more effective programme.

Youth Strength and Conditioning

This has experienced a significant rise in interest for multiple reasons such as: increased sporting focus on young swimmers, improved understanding of the safety and physical potential of youth swimmer strength training. Using the maturity offset PHV-growth spurt protocol, monitors development and enhances performance both safely and effectively. Sports scientists have concluded that it can take anything from eight to twelve years of training for a talented athlete to achieve elite status. Hence the necessity to use athletic models, as they identify appropriate training aims at each stage of the swimmers physical development.

Our Coaching responsibility therefore is to ensure:

• young swimmers are accurately taught and advised by a suitably qualified Coach (skill development)

• young swimmers undertake a well- controlled yet progressive program (planning)

• young swimmers joints are not subject to repetitive stresses (injury prevention)

Strength and conditioning

To use exercise prescription specifically to improve performance in athletic competition. It helps athletes with injury prevention and proper mechanics within their sports performances.

“Strength and Conditioning is about more than lifting weights – it encompasses the entire development of the athlete and what is needed to improve physical performance.

This includes plyometrics, speed and agility, endurance and core stability with strength training being just one piece of the jigsaw.” (EIS- English Institute of Sport)

To perform at the highest level, swimmers not only need to have the technical skills involved in the movement but also the specific strength qualities which underpin it. Our Strength and Conditioning programme bridges the gap between the theory of training and the application of it.

It helps swimmers become faster, stronger, and more flexible whilst building their muscular endurance so they perform better and remain injury free.

Our well-constructed programme adds to the rehabilitation, speed, agility, endurance, and strength of the swimmers, it increases the swimmers’ tolerance to training and decrease the likelihood of injury.

Each programme is individual as not one swimmer shares the same technical and physical strengths and weakness. Once the specific qualities have been identified, they are measured and tracked to ensure that the strength and conditioning programme is being effective and achieving the set goals.

Research has demonstrated that not only does Strength and Conditioning training improve performance; it also shows, that incorrect training can cause decrements to performance.

It is always important to have good form in the gym. Our Land work is, like our pool work, emphatic with our recovery techniques.

You can see how this information has been presented to the Sport of Swimming in the Youth Physical Development Model of Training.

An effective swimming specific land warm up is vital if you want  to perform to your best in the pool. Lawrence has devised PSC Pre-pool and race warm-up but you can use this reference as a tool if you forget, the fundamentals are the same. Click here.