More Research on Altitude Training for Swimmers with Dr. Ferran Rodríguez

This interview is with Dr. Ferran Rodríguez. Dr. Rodríguez is one of the leading researchers for the Altitude Project, and here are some of Dr. Rodríguez’s latest publications:

  1. Rodríguez FA, Iglesias X, Feriche B, Calderón-Soto C, Chaverri D​, Wachsmuth​ NB, Schmidt W, Levine BD (​2015​) Altitude training in elite swimmers for sea level performance (Altitude Project). Med​ SciSports ​Exerc. DOI 00005768-900000000-97816.​ [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271522415_Altitude_training_in_elite_swimmers_for_sea_level_performance_%28Altitude_Project%29​]
  2. Rodríguez FA (2010) Training at real and simulated altitude in swimming: too high expectations? In: Kjendlie P-L, Stallman RK, Cabri J, editors. Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming XI. Oslo: Norwegian School of Sport Science. pp. 30-32​ [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239521844_Training_at_real_and_simulated_altitude_in_swimming_too_high_expectations]
  3. Rodríguez FA, Truijens MJ, Townsend NE, Stray-Gundersen J, Gore CJ, ​Levine BD​ (2007) Performance of runners and swimmers after four weeks of intermittent hypobaric hypoxic exposure plus sea level training. J Appl Physiol 103: 1523-1535. [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6149845_Performance_of_runners_and_swimmers_after_four_weeks_of_intermittent_hypobaric_hypoxic_exposure_plus_sea_level_training]​

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the Ferran Rodriguez, top reseracher on altitude training for swimmersprofession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

​My name is ​Ferran A. Rodríguez. I hold an MD, and a PhD and a Sports Medicine Specialty degrees and, after 25 years of sports medicine practice, I now work as a professor in the National Institute of Physical Education of Catalonia (INEFC), University of Barcelona. I have worked with swimmers ​and water polo players ​
​for more than 30 years, from beginners to Olympic medalists, and served as a physician and physiologist for the Spanish national and Olympic teams in both sports. I am currently the coordinator and PI of the INEFC-Barcelona Sport Sciences Research Group (www.inefcresearch.wordpress.com​)​.

​2. You recently published an article on altitude training. Could you explain the possible physiological benefits of altitude training?

Altitude/hypoxic training is a common practice among swimmers​, but ​its benefits are still controversial in scientific literature. While acute hypoxia deteriorates swimming performance, chronic hypoxia may induce acclimatization effects, mainly through the acceleration of red blood cell production, which could improve aerobic capacity and therewith performance upon return to sea level. Other potential benefits ​have been postulated, ​ such as improved exercise economy, enhanced muscle buffer capacity and pH regulation, and improved mitochondrial function. ​ However, back in 2010 I published a review entitled “Training at real and simulated altitude in swimming: Too high expectations?” (see references above), somehow expressing my reticence to accept the available evidence as compelling.

3. What are the various types of altitude training and the potential benefits of each?

Traditional altitude training (“live high-train high”​, Hi-Hi​) is still the most frequently used method in swimming, even though from a physiological perspective​,​ the “live high-train low”
(Hi-Lo)​ appeared​ to be more promising ​based on studies with runners and orienteers. Based on available scientific literature, there ​was no evidence that training ​at natural altitude enhances swimming performance more than training at sea level. Based on research conducted in other sports, the optimal approach ​seemed to be ​Hi​-​Lo​, in which one “lives high” (i.e. 2,100-2,500 m) to get the benefits of altitude acclimatization and “trains low” (1,250 m or less) to avoid the detrimental effects of hypoxic exercise. Training at hypoxia (as in ​Hi-Hi​ or IHT​, intermittent hypoxic training​) does not appear to provide any physiologic advantage over normoxic exercise and might even impair performance. Swimming performance enhancement by means of ​intermittent hypoxic exposure (​IHE​)​ is still controversial. However, it is likely that at least 12 h/day at 2,100–3,000 m​ ​for 3 to 4 weeks may suffice to achieve a significant increase of red cell mass. Shorter exposure to more severe hypoxia (e.g. 4,000 to 5,500 m, 3 h/day for 2 to 4 weeks) combined with sea-level training may enhance VO2max, ventilatory threshold and middle-distance swimming performance after pre-competition tapering, although the mechanisms are unclear​ (Rodríguez et al. 2007)​. In any case, there is substantial individual variability in the outcome of every AT strategy. Since none of these approaches has conclusively proven to enhance swimming performance, more research is warranted to clarify their effects and mechanisms.

4. What did your study look at?

Our article (Rodríguez et al. 2015) derives from the ALTITUDE Training Project​, an international collaborative research study ​on the impact of different strategies of altitude training on performance, technique and health status in elite swimmers​. We wanted to determine the effectiveness of altitude training using the Hi-Hi​ (for 3 or 4 weeks) or the Hi-​Hi​ Lo (living high ​and training ​high and at lower altitude) model​s​, in comparison with sea level training​ (Lo-Lo), as well as to ​establish the physiological mechanisms involved​ and the impact on ​swimming technique​. We also wanted to uncover any negative impact on athletes’ health and performance​, as well as to ​identify markers of individual response and adaptation to training at altitude that could help clarify which athletes are likely to respond to an altitude training swimming camp.​ ​

The project involved 65 international elite swimmers from eight nations (including China, Australia and Spain, among others) and a high-profile international group of researchers belonging to universities and national swimming organizations of Spain, USA, Finland, Slovenia, UK, and The Netherlands. Training camps at sea level were implemented in Barcelona and Madrid, and the altitude camps in the Altitude Training Center of Sierra Nevada, Spain (2,320 m).

5. What were the results of your study?

​The article published in MSSE covers only the effects on performance, VO2max and hemoglobin mass. For the first time using a controlled designed (i.e. compared with a sea level group), we carbon monoxide test for total hemoglobin mass assessment in the altitude training studyfound performance improvements after a natural altitude training intervention in swimmers. Although there were no changes –or in some cases a worsening of performance– immediately following 3-4 weeks of any training strategy, swimming performance in stroke-specific 100 or 200 m improved significantly by ∼3.1–3.7% after 1 to 4 weeks of recovery following completion of a coach-prescribed training camp conducted at sea level or at moderate altitude (2,320 m). When using the Hi-HiLo strategy (i.e. 2 weekly sessions of high intensity training at 700 m), a greater improvement in performance occurred 2 and 4 weeks after the training camp (5.3 and 6.3%, respectively). A greater improvement was also observed in 400 and 50 m front crawl, 2 weeks (4.2% and 5.2%, respectively) and 4 weeks (4.7% and 5.5%, respectively) upon return to sea level. Surprisingly, his substantial performance enhancement was not linked to changes in VO2max, oxygen kinetics or hemoglobin mass, hence could not be attributed exclusively to enhanced oxygen transport capacity.

6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

Based on ​our results, ​performance ​can be expected to substantially improve as a result of a well-implemented training camp, regardless of whether it is held at altitude or not​. However, ​a greater benefit can be expected by “living high-training high and low” (Hi-HiLo)​. However, ​we need to be careful ​not to generalize these improvements to all swimmers, since substantial individual variability was noted in this as well as other studies including swimmers performing altitude training. Another important practical implication of our results is that performance is likely to be unchanged or worsened immediately, and that benefits can only be expected to occur following 1 to 4 weeks after the intervention. This delayed response could eventually provide a time window for tapering before competition.
Monitoring individual training load and adaptation (e.g. resting, exercise and recovery HR response, HR variability, exercise perception and state of fatigue) during and after the altitude camp to avoid excessive overload or detraining, as well as assessing individual peaking performance profile, are strongly recommended before directly applying these rules to individual cases.

7. Do you think the results would be different if you had older or untrained swimmers?

​We were committed to recruit truly elite athletes​ even if ​​that, particularly during an Olympic season, certainly added substantial complexity to our study. It is difficult to answer this question without experimental data, but I see no reason why these effects should not be seen in less trained or older swimmers with good health and training response capacity. However, the costs involved with altitude training (i.e. time, travel, accommodation, etc.) make altitude training a strategy mostly used by high-level swimmers. 

8. Are there any other tests you wanted to do on these swimmers?

​We would have liked to make muscle biopsies, but this was out of the question with elite swimmers in an Olympic year. As an alternative, we proposed to the coaches to run specific tests to explore the muscular adaptations​, but testing burden was already too high for the swimmers.​

9. Do you think the results would be different if the study lasted longer?

Again, it is difficult to say. We need to consider the substantial psychological and physical stress of living at altitude for more than 4 weeks. We advice the coaches to spend no longer than 4 weeks and to repeat the altitude camp several time during the season (i.e. 4-5 times in our most successful swimmers).​

This is a very compromising question! There are many excellent experts that conduct high-level research in many different places (USA, Australia, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, France, Spain, among others). Not naming all will not be righteous.
This project ​is the result of efforts from a large number of people. Anecdotally, the first time I thought of such an endeavour​ was back in the 90’s when I was listening to Prof. Being Saltin –who passed away last year– saying that any sound altitude training study with elite athletes could only be done through the collaboration of scientists, swimmers​ and ​coaches from​ different ​nations. ​
​This is what we actually did and what makes this research so special.​

12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

Prof.​ Alois Mader (German Sports University at Cologne​, Germany) was my PhD supervisor in rowing physiology and my coworker many years later in swimming. He taught me the importance of a deep understanding of sports physiology. Prof.Ben Levine ​(Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas) challenged my ideas and helped me to find the right answers through systematic research.

13. If a coach wants to do altitude training, how should they begin?

I think they should start by training at sea level…​ Seriously, our study shows that performance might ​increase about 3% regardless of whether ​a 3-4 weeks training camp ​it is held at altitude or not​.​ That means that benefit can be obtained simply by taking part on a training camp set up in a controlled environment (i.e. no school or job, good nutrition, good rest, physical therapy, etc.). A much greater benefit can be obtained using 4 weeks of altitude training, with training in hypoxia most of the time but doing high-intensity training twice a week at lower level (i.e. <1,000 m). Shorter altitude camps (e.g., 2-3 weeks) can be advised for non experienced or younger swimmers for them to “test” hypoxia and experience the effects of altitude on the own organism, as well as to gauge their short-term acclimatization.

14. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

We continue to work on the results of the Altitude Project. In parallel, we continue our work on oxygen and heart rate kinetics in swimming, energetics and nutrition ​in triathlon​, and physiological demands of synchronized swimming.​

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SSP 013: Injury Screening, Progressions and Regressions, and Dryland for Swimmers with Allan Phillips, CSCS

Hello again! For those using Apple products, the Swimming Science Podcast is now available, you can find it here…sorry for the delay!

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Allan Phillips, the Owner of Pike Athletics. Allan brings a diverse background, as a Doctorate of Physical Therapy student, Allan has worked with many athletes regarding dryland programs and injury prevention. He is also dryland contributor for Swimmer Magazine and in his spare time [hard to believe he has any] he is a Nationally ranked speed golfer!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:

  • Injury screening and prevention in swimmers.
  • Dryland progressions and regressions for swimmers of all ages.
  • How to monitor heart rate variability.
  • Implementing dryland for swimmers.
  • Mental training for swimmers.
  • What Allan thinks about the Functional Movement Screen for swimmers.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

SAY THANKS TO ALLAN!

If you enjoyed this podcast, tell Allan thanks on Twitter!

The post SSP 013: Injury Screening, Progressions and Regressions, and Dryland for Swimmers with Allan Phillips, CSCS appeared first on Swimming Science.

Finishing the Freestyle Swimming Stroke

Take Home Points
1) Several factors determine the optimal exit point in the stroke.
2) Coaches should rethink the old adage of “finish the stroke mid-thigh”.
3) Proper cuing may help swimmers organize individual factors.

One of the old adages in stroke pedagogy is that the hand should finish all the way to mid-thigh during the freestyle swimming stroke. This makes logical sense, as you would not want to cheat a swimmer out of any propulsion during the stroke. But is it optimal for swimmer to attempt to finish the stroke as far down the leg as possible? Though once thought to be gospel in swimming, this cue has been increasingly challenged in modern stroke teaching. (For additional discussion see How to Swim Freestyle)

Despite a lack of published evidence on the topic, high speed motion capture has allowed leading stroke analysts to dissect the realities underwater. As Russell Mark of USA Swimming recently posted,

“The hand finishes at the hip not the thigh. Lead the finish with your elbow. Keeps forearm and palm pushing water back. It’s ok to release water early. Snapping the hand out the back is easy to freestyle swimming strokedo, but can lead to over-rotating and compromise the catch. Most importantly it can also put the shoulder at injury risk.”

As to the injury component, a fully outstretched arm at the finish of the freestyle swimming stroke can put the shoulder in a position of internal rotation, adduction, and extension. This is not the most dangerous position for the shoulder, but with repetitive use it can contribute to injury, especially when paired with suboptimal trunk and hip movements.

The “thumb to thigh drill” remains popular for many in stroke teaching, though has fallen out of favor with some. Remember that both the freestyle swimming stroke length and stroke rate matter. Extending the finish may improve stroke length but may cost too much in stroke rate. One theory is that practicing this drill may cause motor confusion, as it bears very close resemblance to the full stroke.

Another potential factor is interference drag, which is the turbulence caused by different parts of the body upon one another in the freestyle swimming stroke. Prolonging the finish to the stroke may cause drag between the arms, trunk, and legs. As Maglischo writes, “It seems reasonable to assume that unnecessary, vigorous, forceful movements of any body parts should retard forward speed through the mechanism of interference drag.” Though the arms obviously have a job to do and can’t exit the water too early, excessive time in proximity to the thigh could cause unnecessary drag.

Both Maglischo and Prins recognize this factor remains hypothetical based more on theory than firm evidence. Yet in an interview for this site, Prins offered two non-freestyle examples noting “ Soni’s breaststroke pull (rounding out early) could be one way to minimize interference drag. Lochte’s arms exiting the water sooner in backstroke may be another way to minimize interference drag.”

Finally, if the goal is to extend the finish in the freestyle swimming stroke, one strategy may be to cue the swimmer about the result, but let him/her self-select a movement strategy. Going back to the idea of External Focus cues, the cue of “push the water back longer” may be a better cue than telling the swimmer to “brush the thumb to the thigh.” The former reminds the swimmer to maximize propulsion at the finish; the latter focuses on body parts and may force the swimmer into a suboptimal pattern for his/her own body.

Conclusion on the Finish of the Freestyle Swimming Stroke

Remember too that lengthening the freestyle swimming stroke at the finish inevitably has consequences elsewhere. As both Russell Mark and Dr. Prins have observed, excess rotation is another common flaw tied to traditional adages (“swim on your side”). Lengthening the finish, as Mark notes, may contribute to excess trunk and hip rotation. Yet despite these critiques, remember that most of these concepts remain unproven at the highest levels of evidence. Still, coaches should be reminded to not accept adage as gospel and can utilize technology evaluate stroke changes as underwater motion capture becomes more commonplace in the field.

Reference:

  1. Maglischo, E. Swimming Fastest. 2003

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

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Each week we aggregate recent swimming journals and blog posts relating to swimming biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, psychology, etc. If you wish to add, please add an article to the weekly swimming round-up in the comments section.

Journal Weekly Swimming Articles

  1. Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Cycling With Motivational Self-Talk Compared With Neutral Self-Talk.
  2. Changes in naïve and memory T-cells in elite swimmers during a winter training season.

Blog Weekly Swimming Articles

  1. More Information on High Intensity Swimming Training
  2. Exercise of the week: Unilateral band pull apart w/ perturbations
  3. #Nutrition | Efficacy and consequences of very-high-protein diets for athletes
  4. SSP 012: Correcting Biomechanics, Louisiana Swimming, and Swimming Mentorship with Braden Holloway
  5. Strongman Training for Swimming Dryland Workouts: Part II

The post appeared first on Swimming Science.

More Information on High Intensity Swimming Training

This interview is with Dr. Nikolai Baastrup Nordsborg. Dr. Nordsborg has done extensive research in swimmers, particularly with high intensity swimming training adaptations. Here is the complete article which we discussed below.

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

I used to swim from age-group to junior level. I later obtained a one year competitive swim-coach education followed by five years at university studying exercise & sports science. During this period I also coached age-group and junior swimmers and was affiliated with the national Danish swimming federation.

In my professional career I obtained my Ph.D. related to muscle fatigue in 2005 and now hold a position as associate professor in exercise and sport science. One branch of my research activities is related to swimming.

2. You recently published an article on high intensity swimming training compared to traditional training. First, what does the past research suggest about these forms of training?

In the past, only few studies have attempted to systematically interfere with training intensity and volume in swimming. I think one of the most interesting studies is that of David Costill from 1991 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2020277) in which it is demonstrated that a dramatic increase of training volume for XX weeks did not improve collegiate male swimmers endurance – but actually compromised their sprinting ability.  More recently a well conducted study of 9-11 years old children demonstrated that five weeks of high intensity swimming training vs. high-volume training resulted in performance after the high-intensity period (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20683609). Additionally, a four week intervention also demonstrated equal effects of high-volume and high-intensity training in competitive swimmers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18418808).

In recent years, high-intensity training has received a lot of attention in untrained populations as well as in runners, cyclists and football players. The majority of studies demonstrate high-intensity low-volume to be a more efficient paradigm in order to improve performance.

Based on these observations, it appeared contradictory that swimmers (often competing < 130 s) should be doing a type of training with very high volume and not so much high intensity swimming training. Some of the arguments for the high volume was: The volume is important when the duration is longer than 6-8 weeks and the response will be different in a group of high-level swimmers.

3. What did your study look at?

In our study, one group of swimmers halved their volume and more than doubled the high-intensity work whereas the other group maintained their normal training for 12 weeks. The intense training was completed as 6-10×10-30 s maximal effort interspersed by 2–4 minutes of rest. All testing was done in freestyle whereas in training all strokes were allowed.

Before doing the study we wondered if the protocol would either benefit the high intensity swimming training group – or possibly reduce performance due to the lower total training volume.

4. What were the results of your study?

We found that the intervention did not affect the swimmers despite the training being very different (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0095025).

5. How did you choose your swimming training methods and what do you think would have happened if the swimmers did more repetitions High Intensity Swimming Trainingwith a shorter rest (20×50 @:20 rest) or less repetitions on a longer rest (4×50 @5:00rest)?

The high intensity swimming training intervals were designed to allow maximal effort at every swim. If the resting is reduced then the recovery between sets will also be reduced and the metabolism will be more aerobic along with a reduced type 2 fiber type recruitment. Thus, it will resemble classical “aerobic high-intensity training”. There are studies in cyclist showing that performance can be improved by various forms of high-intensity training (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095414). However, these athletes are not as used to high-intensity training as swimmers so they may be more responsive to inclusion of IT. If the recovery period is increased the training response would potentially be the same but there is really no reason to prolong the period between repetitions.

6. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, younger or untrained swimmers?

We just completed a swim training study in women around 40-60 yrs. One group did 6-10 x 30s separated by 2 min and another swam continuously for 1 h. Adaptations were similar with high- and moderate-intensity training, despite markedly less total time spent and distance covered in the high intensity swimming training group (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24812628). So this corresponds to the findings from the group of elite swimmers. As previously stated, the response also seem to be the same in children.

7. The low volume and high volume debate will always occur in swimming. What do you think is best training approach?

I think you need to swim a lot in order to improve your movement efficiency in water. But, I do not think that it is necessary to do 4-5 hrs of swimming hard aerobic intervals every day at the age of 10-16 in order to be a high level swimmer. I actually think that this type of training results in the loss of excellent swimmers that cannot find the motivation for the long training sessions. So an optimal training strategy may be to do a lot of swimming, but in a fun and motivating way with less focus on the physiological outcome. When that is said, I think it is of extreme importance to include high intensity swimming training sessions like the 8 x 50 m all-out separated by 2-3 minutes of rest 2-4 times per week. To put it short: Improve your technique; do sprint intervals and top off with a few hard aerobic workouts and a lot of fun.

8. Do you think one training approach is best for each athlete?

Yes, but this has not been scientifically proven. From personal experience, I have seen sprinters who have a really hard time doing the very long though aerobic sets and at the same time does not appear to benefit from them.

9. What other studies could clarify ideal training methods for swimmers?

There a still a number of studies to do. The difficult, but important, studies will be the ones addressing yearly training cycles. How is the optimal yearly interaction between high intensity swimming training (sprint and / or aerobic) and heavy resistance training and tapering? And how can ergogenic aids influence the training outcome? Is it possible to take a break for some years and then return to high-level swimming (some have tried with different degrees of success).

10. What makes your research different from others?

I am in an environment were applied exercise physiology is combined with molecular physiology. We strive to understand at a molecular level how one training paradigm differs from another. Thus, our conclusions are more broadly applicable.

11. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

During my Ph.D. studies I had Prof. Jens Bangsbo as a supervisor and he is one of the pioneers in scientific research related to high-intensity training. Jens have definetly influenced how I think about training and research in general.

12. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

We continue the work with high intensity swimming training vs high volume training in swimming. Hopefully we will have two new papers out this year, dealing will the mental stress of swimmers doing high-intensity training and muscular adaptations of arm and leg muscle. Additionally, we are currently looking into the importance of hypoxic exposure for swimmers performance. Stay tuned…

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SSP 012: Correcting Biomechanics, Louisiana Swimming, and Swimming Mentorship with Braden Holloway

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Braden Holloway, the head coach N.C. State University. Braden and I discuss a wide range of topics, from common stroke corrections, Louisiana Swimming History, and swimming mentors.

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:Braden Holloway

  • Common swimming biomechanic flaws in college swimmers.
  • Louisiana swimming history.
  • Swimming mentorship.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

SAY THANKS TO BRADEN!

If you enjoyed this podcast, tell Braden thanks on Twitter!

The post SSP 012: Correcting Biomechanics, Louisiana Swimming, and Swimming Mentorship with Braden Holloway appeared first on Swimming Science.

Strongman Training for Swimming Dryland Workouts: Part II

Take Home Points
1) Recent evidence suggests strongman training during swimming dryland workouts may improve certain dryland performance measures
2) Strongman training has several benefits not specifically noted by the literature
3) Coaches carefully decide if and where strongman training fits into a dryland program

In a previous post, we addressed strongman training, which has been made popular in the swimming world by Ryan Lochte’s well publicized Ryan Lochte and his strongman dryland swimming workoutsswimming dryland workouts. Along with Lochte, this form of training has become more popular throughout the swimming world. Though there is relatively little evidence on the effectiveness of strongman training as a supplementary training mode, recent evidence has shown it compares favorably to traditional training. But, before getting into that evidence, it is useful to have a general review of strongman training for swimmers.

Strongman training can be beneficial for several reasons. First, it can create a very motivating, team-building environment. There’s no doubt that throwing heavy objects around can be lots of fun and can get swimmers excited for swimming dryland workouts. Strongman exercises also incorporate full-body, multi-joint movements, leading some to consider this training more “functional” than other approaches. Though we don’t have any specific evidence to back it up, strongman does seem to enhance grip strength. Additionally, because many strongman events are designed for maximal or near-maximal lifts, this type of training can help get swimmers away from the all-too-common high rep “met-con” circuit training approach.

One recent study (for a complete review on this study and others, subscribe to the Swimming Science Research Review!) compared strongman training with traditional training for effects on athletic performance. In sum, both approaches showed improvements with strongman producing higher gains compared to traditional training in muscle mass, acceleration performance, 1 repetition maximum (1RM) bent over row strength. The study also found “[s]mall to moderate positive changes in 1RM squat and deadlift strength, horizontal jump, COD turning ability, and sled push performance were associated with traditional compared with strongman training.” (Winwood 2015)

 

Despite these results, caution is still required, as we described in the first installment. In addition to the reasons covered in Part I (overtraining, fatigue) also consider that evidence has shown anthropometrics may predict strongman performance (Winwood 2012). Now, you could also say that most traditional exercises function differently for different body types. But most traditional exercise modes are more easily adjustable for the individual user than the often unforgiving implements used in strongman training. Further, while many strength and conditioning experts are available to coach traditional lifts, there are far fewer true experts in strongman training for swimming dryland workouts. And there are even fewer strongman training experts with any experience dealing with swimming (Why Your Team Needs a Strength Coach).

Strongman Training for Swimming Dryland Workouts Conclusion

As with anything, consider individual responses when incorporating alternative training formats. While it is certainly a positive development when coaches think outside-the-box, we must also examine whether new approaches fit into the overall training plan. Even if an approach like strongman training produces favorable dryland results, we must also ask “at what cost?” That question does not only apply to strongman training, but to any form of training. However, with social media creating a “can you top this” mentality among many teams and athletes in their swimming dryland workouts, it is important to remain focused on the athlete’s ability to adapt to the stress when performing strongman exercises.

References

  1. Winwood PW1, Cronin JB, Posthumus LR, Finlayson SJ, Gill ND, Keogh JW. Strongman vs. Traditional Resistance Training Effects on Muscular Function and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Feb;29(2):429-39. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000629.
  2. Winwood PW1, Keogh JW, Harris NK. Interrelationships between strength, anthropometrics, and strongman performance in novice strongman athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):513-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318220db1a.

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

The post Strongman Training for Swimming Dryland Workouts: Part II appeared first on Swimming Science.

Swimming Turns and Starts Guide to Glide and Depth

Take Home Message:
1. The aim was to perform the analysis of the final time improvement at different swimming turns push-off intensities and glide depths of a former world-ranked swimmer
2. The velocity would be 1.50, 2.18 and 3.02m/s performing the push-off 0.75m deep at 1.1, 1.5 and 2BW, respectively
3. For this swimmer, the optimal depth would be between 1.25 and 1.50m.
4. He/she would be shaving between 0.029-0.034, 0.014-0.016 and 0.007-0.008s if the push-off would be done at 1.1, 1.5 and 2.0BWs, respectively.


Every now and then I get e-mails by coaches seeking my advice on different matters, ranging from swimming turns to starts to psychology. I have to say, they are quite friendly and generous complimenting my effort (probably not always so well succeed) to explain in a straightforward way the technological innovations that can be implemented in competitive swimming.

I got a few messages bringing my attention to the talks delivered in Doha by world-class coaches at the FINA Swimming Coaches Golden Clinic. You can find the lectures on the FINA’s YouTube® channel. I will share the talk delivered by Fred Vergnoux and from here you can easily find the remaining videos. Be prepared for some hours of great viewing on swimming turns, starts, and much more! I watched all of them back-to-back and a couple did it twice.

Why did I enjoy so much? Because the clinic did not feature a group of academics (I hope not to offend my peers…) that were explaining how innovation, science and technology helps the swimmers to excel. In most of the talks, top-class coaches were able to go straight to the point on how a given device or test can be used to implement a holistic evidence-practice. They not only explain the testing procedures and devices selected, but also showcased how the insight was useful for their daily practice. However, eventually all coaches acknowledged having advisers as very well-known and established swimming researchers.

Swimming Turns and Starts

A concern that crossed over most talks was the swimming turns and starts. How to improve these two moments of the swimming race? Getting back to the e-mails that I got. Some people sought my advice on start & turns, while others suggested me to publish a post on the topic. Previously, I shared a piece on the dolphin kick. But, before the underwater kick there is the push-off and the glide. So, today let’s do the analysis of these two moments.

Swimming Turns Testing Push-Off

We do know that the swimming turns push-off must be as powerful as possible. How to measure this? Imagine that you weight yourself on a weighting scale and it displays 70kg. In your case, one body weight (to be accurate “body mass”) is 70 kg. Now, put the weighting scale on a track. You will jog and one of the strides must hit on the weighting scale. Ask someone to check the weight displayed in that exact moment that the foot strikes. The value was 210kg. Therefore, you stride at 3 times your body weight (210kg/70kg=3.0BW). In biomechanics, we have at our disposal some fancy weighting scales by the name of force plates. Not so different of the wi-fiit® though. If we set one force platform on the head-wall of the swimming pool it is possible to measure the intensity of a push-off (i.e. ground reaction force). There is evidence that good swimmers will perform the push-off between 1.1 and 1.5 body weights (BW) (e.g., Lyttle et al., 1999). In some extreme cases, they may go up to almost 2.0BW.

Swimming Turns Glide Tests

But, then we have another concern: what is the best depth for swimming turns glide? To learn that computer fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used (Marinho et al., 2009). CFD is applied in several settings and notably in motor sports. I went to my database and retrieved some old CFD data of one swimmer that our research group did the hydrodynamic analysis a long, long time ago. The swimmer used to compete on a regular basis at major international competitions (OG, WC) and has the anthropometrical features (i.e., height, weight, arm span, etc.) of a typical 100 & 200 finalist at freestyle and butterfly events. He/she as several swimmers used to perform the glide in the streamlined position at 0.75-1.0m deep.

Ok, now it’s time to advise my swimmer of the ideal swimming turns depth and push-off intensity. Let’s say that the race includes 4 glides (one at the start plus three turns). It can be the 100 SCM event or the 200 LCM (in both he/she must perform 4 glides). The question addressed to me would be: so what is the best depth and push-off? How much can I shave to the final time? I will have as a baseline a glide at 0.75m and be working from there to check what happens if he/she glides: (i) deeper or shallower than that; (ii) after a more or less powerful push-off.

Swimming Turns Push-Off

Intuitively we would say that, higher the intensity of the swimming turns push-off, the better. And the findings confirm that. He/she would have a velocity of 1.50, 2.18 and 3.02m/s performing the push-off 0.75m deep at 1.1, 1.5 and 2BW, respectively. These figures are in accordance to what can be found in the literature (Lyttle et al., 1999; Pereira et al., 2008).

If you do the push-off on an ice ring, your body will displace at a steady speed (i.e. uniform motion) because the ice and air resistance are rather low. In the water though, the drag resistance is a major player, leading to a sharp decay on the speed. That´s why we need to monitor the drag force by CFD or any other testing procedure. The bottom line is that the swimming turns push-off velocity is important, but to have an accurate estimation of the time shaved we must control the drag force and how it will affect the speed decay over the glide.

Swimming Turns Depth

Moving on to the next part of the question: the swimming turns depth. Gliding between the surface and the 0.75m or deeper than 2.5m (yes, you are right no one would glide so deep…) there is no improvement (Fig 1). Actually, the time impairs no matter the push-off intensity in these two bands.

For this swimmer, the optimal depth would be between 1.25 and 1.50m. He/she would be shaving between 0.029-0.034, 0.014-0.016 and 0.007-0.008s if the push-off would be done at 1.1, 1.5 and 2.0BWs, respectively. If the event includes 8 glides (200SCM or 400LCM) the swimmer would improve up to 0.032-0.068s.

Swimming Turns Depth

Swimming Turns Push-off and Glide Improvement

One may argue than an improvement of 0.014-0.068s it’s not exactly impressive, which is partially right. But then again, we are only analyzing the swimming turns glides and neglecting other race moments. If we add these 0.014-0.068s to other improvements, this is something to take into account. Here it is the typical marginal gain “theory” taking place as popularized by Dave Brailsford. Plus, we all are able to recall dramatic races that a swimmer won/lost a gold medal, got a record, did the cut-off to the national squad by 0.014-0.068s.

For those that are not so familiar with swimming, please refer to table 1. You will find the final times in one of the most exciting races in the recent swimming history: Men’s 200m butterfly final at the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am not suggesting that in this particular race the glide was the determinant factor. It is far more complex than that. The point here is to showcase to laymen that there are races decided by as little as 0.1s or even less.

table1A follow-up question would be how long the swimmer should glide. That is a very interesting point, and let me keep this hanging here. We might cover that topic some other time. Allow me to wrap-up saying that the data shared in this piece are only representative of this former swimmer and does not mean necessarily that are the optimal values to others. This kind of analysis must be tailored to the swimmer´s characteristics and race strategy.

Hopefully, I was able to showcase how innovation, science and technology can be useful; despite in a less brilliant way than the presenters at the Coaches Clinic in Doha.

Have fun watching the talks!

References:

  1. Lyttle AD, Blanksby BA, Elliott BC, Lloyd DG (1999). Investigating kinetics in the freestyle flip turn push-off. J Appl Biomech 15: 242-252
  2. Marinho DA, Barbosa TM, Klendlie PL, Vilas-Boas JP, Alves FB, Rouboa AI, SILVA AJ (2009). Swimming Simulation. In: Peter M (ed.). Computational Fluid Dynamics for Sport Simulation. pp. 33-61. Springer-Verlag. Heidelberg.
  3. Pereira S, Vilar S, Gonçalves P, Figueiredo P, Fernandes R, Roesler H, Vilas-Boas JP (2008). A combined biomechanical analysis of the flip turn technique. In: Kwon YH, Shim J, Shim JK , Shin IS (eds). 26 International Conference on Biomechanics in Sports. pp. 699-702. Seoul.

By Tiago M. Barbosa PhD degree recipient in Sport Sciences and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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Weekly Swimming Articles

Each week we aggregate recent swimming journals and blog posts relating to swimming biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, psychology, etc. If you wish to add, please add an article to the weekly swimming round-up in the comments section.

Journal Weekly Swimming Articles

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Weekly Swimming Articles

  1. #Nutrition | Calcium & vitamin D supplementation and bone mineral density in healthy males.
  2. Athlete Heart Rate Variability with Dr. Martina Maggioni, Ph.D.
  3. SSP 011: Planning a Swim Season, Adding and Subtracting New Training Variables, and much more with the Ohio State University Women’s Coach Bill Dorenkott.
  4. #Recovery #Prevention | Massage: Effects on Performance, Recovery & Injury
  5. Proprioception Doesn’t Improve Performance
  6. Swimming Coach Education
  7. Swim Practice Protein Intake
  8. #Psychology | Brain Endurance Training: Stress your Mind to Improve Sport Performance

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Athlete Heart Rate Variability with Dr. Martina Maggioni, Ph.D.

This is a written interview with Dr. Martina Maggioni, Ph.D. Dr. Maggioni is a leading researcher on athlete heart rate variability and a Assistant Professor of Physiology at the University of Milan. Here is her full list of publications and one of her recent studies on athlete heart rate variability in elite swimmers. Don’t forget to check our older posts on the subject:

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

After the Degree in Exercise Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan, I did my PhD in Human Physiology, Nutrition and Body Composition Assessment at the University of Rome 2. During that time I’ve always taught and coached swimming, mainly to young athletes and leisure participants. After collaborating with a Center of Sport Medicine for exercise testing, I became Assistant Professor of Physiology at the Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, Faculty of Medicine of Milan University. I taught Human and Exercise Physiology, and Physiology for Health. Since 2012 I am Guest Scientist at the “Center of Space Medicine and Extreme Environments Berlin”, Charité University Medicine, Berlin Germany.

My research is mainly focused on: 1) Body composition assessment. Study of different techniques to assess body composition in healthy, athletic and pathologic subjects (spinal cord injured people). 2) Exercise physiology. Effects of aerobic exercise on the cardio-respiratory and metabolic profile in healthy, athletic and pathologic subjects; metabolic cost of locomotion in healthy, athletic and in patients with neuromuscular pathologies. Effects of different training methods on sports performance. 3) Cardiovascular autonomic control and performance. Heart rate variability assessment as a method to determine training efficacy and avoid overtraining condition. Testing the hypothesis of heart rate variability as a predictor of performance. Study of orthostatic hypotension in elderly (in order to prevent falls); research on cardiovascular adaptation to postural changes (elderly) and in environment which mimic microgravity (water immersion).

2. You recently published an article on athlete heart rate variability (HRV). What is HRV and what are the possibilities of measuring athlete heart rate variaiblity?

Heart rate variability describes how the heart rate fluctuates around its mean value. These fluctuations contain information on the cardiac regulation by the autonomic nervous system, either at rest or during different physiological and psychological challenges.

3. What did your study look at?Athlete heart rate variability

We focused on the vagal and sympathetic cardiac control in short- and very short-distance elite swimmers and how indices of HRV can predict the swimming performances of these athletes.

4. How did your study measure HRV and are there other ways to measure HRV?

The participants of our study recorded their heart rate in the morning immediately after wake up. To this aim, they used a commercial heart rate monitor, which collect data on a beat-to-beat basis continuously for several minutes. There are several commercially available softwares that allow to extract indices related to the autonomic tone from these heart rate recordings. Moreover, there are also different devices that can measure the heart rate. Some of them are based on accelerometers, other on photoplethysmogram, but the best way to collect the heart-rate series beat by beat is through an electrocardiogram.

5. What were the results of your study?

We found that the athletes with the higher parasympathetic drive at rest are disadvantaged when performing a very-short distance race: the 50-m freestyle [front crawl]. However, this disadvantage disappears over a longer distance: the 100-m freestyle. We also found that the athletes with the higher cardiac sympathetic tone after their usual training where those with the best performances over the 100-m front crawl. These results suggest that a strong cardiac vagal control has no effect on short performances and is even detrimental to very-short performances, and that the capacity to powerfully increase the sympathetic tone during exercise may improve short performances, but does not appear to play a substantial role in very short performances.

6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

The practical implications are related to the building of a more effective training program, in particular to monitoring the effect of aerobic routines on the autonomic cardiac regulation through HRV analysis. Coaches could also select the proper distance race (shorter vs. longer events) for each athlete, on the base of the HRV indices monitored in the days before the competition.

7. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, distance, or untrained swimmers?

I think that these results are strongly related to the sample we studied, i.e. elite swimmers specialized in short-distance performances. For example with untrained swimmers a large amount of high volume training is probably needed to get the basis of a specific further preparation.

8. What do we know about HRV in endurance swimming or endurance sports?

Several scientific papers studied endurance sports with methods of HRV. For instance, HRV has been used to monitor training effects in endurance performances and to evaluate overtraining conditions.

9. What do you think of at-home HRV devices for HRV measurement? Is that a worthwhile investment for swimmers?

HRV measurement is certainly worthwhile for professional swimmers, but it requires also a specific preparation to correctly understand the results. For leisure participants is probably enough just to monitor the heart rate as usually done to evaluate training effort.

10. What other technologies should swim coaches keep an eye on or implement??

Miniaturized wearable sensors are currently been developed to efficiently monitor cardiorespiratory, energetic and biomechanics features in many sports. Some of these new technologies are also suitable for underwater use, thereby giving potentially important and highly synchronized information on biomechanics and energetics in swimmers.

11. What makes your research different from others?

The central novelty of our study is that also in short distance swimmers HRV could be a valuable tool to evaluate training effects and level of fitness-performance related of athletes. Until now, HRV has been taken into account only for endurance performance and was believed not to be useful for short distances (mostly anaerobic) competitions.

12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

I can’t state specific teachers, I‘ve always learned something from every teachers and every colleagues in my life, especially from Prof. Merati and Prof. Castiglioni, who also co-authored this and others m of my works.

13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

We are working now on long distance swimmers (specialist of 1500 m), to assess the use of HRV as a training tool among this specific group of athletes, which are strictly endurance specialist.

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