Fitnesswise: Strength training in swimming pool full of benefits

Workouts in the swimming pool can revolutionise fitness sessions, helping athletes build their athleticism to reach peak levels of fitness.

Beneficial: Chest-deep water is great for interval and power workouts as well as some plyometrics.

Beneficial: Chest-deep water is great for interval and power workouts as well as some plyometrics. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Workouts in the swimming pool can revolutionise fitness sessions, helping athletes build their athleticism to reach peak levels of fitness.

We have all heard about swimming pools being used for various purposes — from therapy for prehab and rehab to recovery.

Many coaches would be surprised to know that the swimming pool can be a suitable arena for high-intensity strength work. Still many have yet to explore the many benefits of it. Workouts in the pool can revolutionise fitness sessions, helping athletes build their athleticism to reach peak levels of fitness.

The effectiveness of strength training in water has been demonstrated by the benefits it has provided athletes from various disciplines that I have trained over the years: Indian cricketers, F1 racers, Indian tennis players, Indian table tennis players, and others. It has made them adaptable and intelligent athletes, helping improve their performance and prevent injury.

Strength and conditioning coaches need to understand the science behind it and not just randomly follow what others are doing or what is trending. Athletes must pay attention to detail to bring out the effectiveness of the training module.

ALSO READ - Fitnesswise: The many benefits of fitness testing

Training in the swimming pool is not a new phenomenon. If I recall correctly, Muhammad Ali would train under water way back in the 1960s. Later, Pete Sampras would perform his racquet drills under water. I am sure many other top athletes have trained under water — and continue to do so — to improve their fitness levels. If you are looking for a new way to prepare intense workout sessions that do not lead to soreness or injury, then water workouts are a great idea.

WHY WATER WORKOUT?

Buoyancy is the only natural force against gravity. Therefore, its benefits to athletes are many.

When standing in the pool with the water reaching up to the chest, an athlete weighs only 10 per cent of his/her normal body weight. This reduction of the body weight means athletes can work out at higher intensity levels than normal for several days in a row. It wouldn’t cause much wear and tear on their joints or contribute to muscle soreness. Not many strength coaches would allow athletes to do two high-intensity sprint workouts on consecutive days in a normal setting, but when working out in the swimming pool, an athlete could do two or three intense workouts in a row and not worry about sustaining injuries.

Moreover, water is 12 per cent more resistant than air because there are no gravitational forces. The harder you push or pull through water, the more resistance you experience naturally.

Water also forces athletes to work their muscles both eccentrically and concentrically. This allows for strength and the reciprocal contraction and relaxation of muscles to be in equal proportion.

Programme Design

The FIIT principle can be followed when water-based programmes resemble land-based training programmes. There are lots of options to design training programmes for specific purposes.

Depth of swimming pools can be used for specific exercise and movement needs. It can be done in a large or small pool, depending on the depth available.

ALSO READ - Food for thought: Technology and sports nutrition

Such simple tools as bands and hand paddles can be used for training. Alternatively, equipment for the specific sport and skill can also be used and adapted for the purpose. Deep water is best for cardio work, while chest-deep water is great for interval and power workouts as well as some plyometrics. Most of the exercises done on land can be done in water.

Determining the proper form and body position is important to prevent the body from slowing down.

Here are a few suggestions that can be incorporated in water-based training programmes.

Warm-Up routine — To increase the heart rate, an athlete may swim two lengths of the pool using any stroke, or do calisthenics such as jumping jacks or high knees in chest-deep water.

Strength work — squats or lunges can be done in chest-deep water: forward, backward, and side-to-side.

Unilateral or bilateral work can be done in all directions and resistance can be added to the legs to increase the intensity of the workout. Bands or water dumbbells can be used, and paddles can be added for scapula area, rotator cuff and many of the shoulder exercises at different angles.

Plyometrics work — varied jump routine can be incorporated into the workouts by keeping weighted boxes or stools in the water. For example, depth jumps can be performed in the water by placing plyo-boxes in the pool at varying depths. Jump off the box, land soft, and jump up and out of the water as high as you can. To prevent any chances of injury, athletes would need to wear an old pair of sneakers or sturdy aqua shoes.

Load monitoring tool — Strapping the monitor helps in understanding the physiological parameters needed to measure each session. It also helps in understanding the acute and chronic variables in load monitoring process.

Running work — Both speed and aerobic fitness can be incorporated in the training programme. Running technique drills such as skip bounds, a-drills, and heel kicks, etc. can be done effectively. More explosive movements like arm-support-drives and harness runs, too, can be done in chest-deep water. Using dumbbells, ankle or wrist cuffs, and bands is also a good option in developing speed strength work.

Some strength and conditioning coaches and athletic trainers feel limited with pool workouts. With a little bit of imagination, you can usually adapt your land-based training sessions for the swimming pool. Adaptation is key for any athlete to succeed.

‘Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win’ — Max McKeown

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :
Download Sportstar App
Download Sportstar App
 Episode 13: David Gower
Connect With Us