Hazing in sport has been an ongoing issue, from the youth to elite levels, for many years. As Dr. John Heil says, “any and all athletes are vulnerable to hazing” (Heil, 2016), and it can be a traumatizing experience for those involved. Many athletes refer to hazing as “team-building” and “tradition”, while studies have shown that hazing can decrease team cohesion rather than improve it (Van Raalte et al., 2007). Professionals, parents, coaches, and athletes all should be informed about how to recognize and prevent hazing, and how to reduce hazing in sport.
According to Waldron (n.d.), hazing can diminish an athlete’s confidence by promoting self-doubt, depression, low self-esteem, and in the worst-case scenario, suicidal thoughts.
Some athletes think that hazing creates a group identity.
Fact: Research shows that group identity is established when the athlete joins the team (Van Raalte et al., 2007). Hazing does not build attraction to the group.
Some athletes claim that hazing is a tradition that builds character (Smith & Stellino, 2007).
Fact: New players may feel pressured into hazing if they want to be accepted by the older players on the team. This may be driven by a “sport think” phenomenon cultivated by veteran players, producing fear and persuasion. Once the new players become veterans, they often maintain the perspective of valuing hazing and create the cycle of hazing.
Why Does Hazing Happen?
When new athletes are introduced to a team, promoting a positive and constructive environment is key to a fluid transition. When this outcome is not achieved, harsh exclusion and hazing may take place. Given the inherent need for belonging and acceptance by the “in-group,” athletes may be vulnerable to hazing (Maslow, 1971). Many may succumb to the hazing ‘sport think” phenomenon and overlook potential consequences and risks. To justify these hazing behaviors to themselves, individuals frame them in a positive way through displaced responsibility, attribution of blame, and diffusion of responsibility (Heil, 2016).
What You Can Do: Strategies to Reduce Hazing in Sport
We are thrilled that after about a year of production and development, the ISCA Education Program has officially launched!
The program is available online internationally and features evidence-based curriculum developed by sport scientists specifically for swim coaches. Our modern education portal is easy to navigate and secure, with transcript tracking and interactive course content.
ISCA Certification is available for coaches that are ISCA members and also complete the six core science-based courses (Biomechanics 101 & 102, Physiology 101 & 102, and Sport Psychology 101 & 102). The science behind swimming is something that all coaches need to understand to be effective and successful–and we look forward to providing this crucial piece of education to coaches around the world.
Fundamental shoulder strengthening exercises for competitive swimmers
Written by Behnam Liaghat, recognized specialist by the International Federation of Sports Physical Therapy, based in Denmark at the University of Southern Denmark. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Following my recent blog about identifying joint hypermobility in swimmers, in this blog I will go through some of the top shoulder exercises for the competitive or elite swimmer to develop fundamental strength and neuromuscular control of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers.
In our recent research about young competitive swimmers with joint hypermobility (Liaghat et al., 2018), we found that swimmers with inherent shoulder joint hypermobility displayed reduced internal rotation strength and a tendency to poor activation of the scapular muscles. Another interesting finding was that swimmers with joint hypermobility not only display reduced absolute internal rotation strength, but these swimmers are weaker through the entire range of shoulder rotation. The suggested dry-land exercises in this blog can be designed to be beneficial for both hypermobile and non-hypermobile swimmers with few adjustments in range of motion, i.e. by increasing shoulder rotation to be as close as possible to the individual end range.
What are the benefits?
The four exercises specifically aim at improving shoulder retraction (refers to moving the scapula towards the spine), internal rotation and external rotations strength. To avoid injuries, it is important to target muscles on both sides of the shoulder to achieve a balanced intermuscular function. This is the rationale for including exercises for both internal and external rotation movements. Adequate strength in these movements has, besides injury prevention purposes, a positive effect on swimming stroke performance.
Some general guidelines for these exercises include performing them without producing any pain or discomfort and slowly through the entire range (approximately 6-8 seconds per repetition) to engage all important muscles. As there are no golden standard number of repetitions, you may want your swimmers to start with 3 x 30 seconds for the first 2-4 weeks and then move on to 3 x 8-12 repetitions with heavier resistance. Depending on the load applied and experienced level of muscle soreness, the exercises can be performed 3-5 times weekly. Make sure your swimmers breathe in a relaxed manner and engage the whole kinetic chain in all exercises.
When introducing these exercises to your swimmers, be certain that they can control the shoulder so excessive movement of the tip of the shoulder in either upward (towards the ear), backward or forward directions is avoided. In principle, reducing resistance and/or decreasing the range of movement may be applied to increase quality of shoulder control.
Active release of muscles before you start
Before instructing swimmers in performing these exercises, it is recommended to do some active release of the posterior rotator cuff muscles by standing against a wall with the arms perpendicular to the trunk and putting a pressure to the mid-point of the scapula with a lacrosse ball to target the infraspinatus area (Fig. 1). From here the swimmer can simply roll on the ball and add a shoulder external and internal rotation movement for up to two minutes to release tight and sore muscles (Fig. 2 A-C). The active self-release can be performed in supine for adding more pressure.
Now let us move on to the top dry-land exercises for fundamental shoulder strength
Exercise 1: Prone 1-arm diagonal lift
Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet and one arm. Apply resistance with an elastic band. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before lifting your arm with a 45 degrees angle away from the trunk´s midline. While lifting the arm, a maximum external rotation is performed in the arm so the thumb points towards the ceiling.
Level down by lifting the arm perpendicular to the trunk’s midline.
Level up by adding a back extension in the movement or lifting the opposite leg.
Exercise 2: Supine internal rotation 1
Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet. Apply resistance with an elastic band. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before turning one arm at a time internally as far as possible without losing shoulder control (e.g. protracting the shoulder towards the ceiling).
Level up by adding oscillation (fast movements back and forth) through the movement.
Exercise 3: Supine internal rotation 2
Description: Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet. Apply resistance with dumbbells. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before slowly turning one arm at a time externally in cranial direction and then back to vertical position in the underarm without losing shoulder control (e.g. avoid pushing the shoulder towards the ceiling).
Level up by adding more load and increasing range of external rotation.
Exercise 4: Prone external rotation
Lie on a gym ball supporting with your feet and one arm. Apply resistance with a dumbbell. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before externally rotation your arm with the upper arm perpendicular to the trunk.
Level up by adding more load and increasing range of external rotation.
Every swimming coach should be familiar with these top shoulder exercises and include them in some content as part of the dry-land routines for injury prevention and for enhancing swimming stroke performance.
A special thanks to the Danish swimmers Matilde Lerche Schrøder and Line Virkelyst Johansen for giving their photo consents.
Liaghat, B., Juul-Kristensen, B., Frydendal, T., Marie Larsen, C., Søgaard, K., & Ilkka Tapio Salo, A. (2018). Competitive swimmers with hypermobility have strength and fatigue deficits in shoulder medial rotation. Journal of Electromyography & Kinesiology, 39, 1-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2018.01.003
1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).
My name is Anne-Marie Elbe. I am an associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Copenhagen. Besides doing research on psychological aspects of elite sports I worked as an applied sport psychologist for many years. I am Vice President of the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) and section editor for the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
Nikolai Nordsborg: 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 phd 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 compared to traditional training regarding stress. Why did you decide to monitor stress and recovery?
When looking at the effects of new training methods it is important to not only focus on the effects it has on athletes’ performance, but also on how it affects their well-being. Some athletes do not pay enough attention to their recovery and a stress-recovery imbalance that lasts over a longer period of time can lead to overtraining.
3. What did your study look at?
We looked at two different types of swimming training and compared the psychological stress and recovery levels the elite swimmers experienced during these two training methods. One group of swimmers participated in high volume training, whereas the second group of swimmers participated in a reduced volume but high intensity training (HIT) over a period of 12 weeks. Stress and recovery was measured with the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for Athletes.
4. What do we know about stress, recovery, and performance?
Training stress is necessary in order to improve one’s performance. However, after training, sufficient recovery is necessary in order to be in an optimal state for the next training session or a competition. In addition, to the training load, athletes can experience a number of additional stressors outside of sports e.g. school pressure or relationship problems that can impact athletes’ overall stress level. Recovery can occur on different levels e.g. mentally, physically and socially. Only those athletes who are sufficiently recovered can show peak performance.
5. What were the results of your study?
Our study showed that a 12 week intervention of lowering the volume and increasing the intensity of the swimming training sessions had a positive impact on the athletes’ levels of general stress and general recovery. The swimmers that swam less distance, but at a higher intensity experienced significantly lower stress and higher recovery levels over the 12 weeks. A previously published study with this sample of swimmers could show that there were no performance differences between the two groups of swimmers.
6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?
It is of practical importance to note that the distance reduction of 50% and a more than doubled amount of high intensity swimming training for 12 weeks did neither improve nor compromise performance or physiological capacity in the group of elite swimmers as reported elsewhere (Kilen et al., 2014). Together with the current findings, this suggests that a period of high intensity training for up to 12 weeks can be used to reduce athletes’ psychological stress levels and might have a preventative function with regard to overtraining.
7. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, younger, or less trained swimmers?
We can only speculate about this since we did not conduct the intervention on other groups of athletes. The assumption, however, would be that the results from this study can be transferred to other swimmers as well.
8. What do you think of other methods of monitoring stress, like HRV?
AM: I am not an expert on HRV but I know assessing HRV is a lot more complex than using a questionnaire. Questionnaires have shown to be very easy to administer and evaluate and are very reliable measures to assess stress and recovery. In comparison to HRV, the questionnaire used in our study can assess stress multi-dimensionally. This means stress is assessed from a physical, mental and social perspective. Furthermore, the questionnaire differentiates between general stress and sport-specific stress. This kind of information can not be retrieved by using HRV.
Nikolai: There are to date no convincing studies that demonstrate HRV measurements as a tool to predict training effects and performance changes.
9. What do you think is the ideal training strategy for minimizing stress and maximizing performance?
Not sure I can answer this one because it also asks about maximizing performance.
10. Should swimmers alter their swimming training during emotionally stress life events (like school exams)?
This depends on the individual swimmer and one can not give a general reply to this question. However, I would suggest to very carefully monitor stress and recovery states during stressful life events to ensure that the athletes are receiving sufficient recovery.
11. What makes your research different from others?
It is a study with a fairly large number of elite athletes that changed their training for a substantial amount of time. I think this is what makes this study quite unique.
12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?
The colleague that influenced me most in relation to this study was Michael Kellmann. When we worked together at the University of Potsdam, Germany he introduced me to the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for athletes, which he developed together with Wolfgang Kallus and taught me a lot about the importance of sufficient recovery for elite performance.
13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?
I am working on a number of different projects related to the health promoting aspects of team sports. Currently, I do not have any ongoing projects about swimming but a lot of studies on the health effects of football, for example.
Modern evidence is evaluated based on the evidence hierarchy.
USRPT has been informally backed by volumes of research, but as never itself been tested in formal research.
There’s nothing wrong with backing by lower levels of evidence, so long as claims align with the actual level of support.
Perhaps nothing sparks heated debate in swimming these days like Ultra Short Race Training (USRPT). Part of the controversy stems from the endless debate of high mileage versus low mileage. But part of the controversy results from bold claims from the USRPT community about being “more scientific” than traditional training methods. In this post, we’ll explore whether such claims are justified based on modern standards of evaluating scientific evidence.
Despite some critical words about the USRPT science that I’ll write below, I currently use USRPT for my own swim training as a triathlete and have been training this way for one full season. So, I really have no axe to grind against USRPT. It is important to note that USRPT is more than just doing short reps at a fast pace. Dr. Rushall has outlined specific guidelines detailing nearly every aspect of programming and workout execution. Intentional failure is another key concept within the USRPT system that makes it inappropriate to lump it into generalized HIIT. So it would be a mistake to critique Dr. Rushall’s specific USRPT program as “nothing new” because it is in fact a very unique application of many different principles in physiology, psychology, and motor learning.
The modern convention for evaluating scientific evidence is the evidence based pyramid, which ranks evidence from highest quality to lowest quality. Meta analyses and systematic reviews rank highest, followed by randomized controlled trials, case series, down to clinical observation (which in the coaching realm might be called “coaching wisdom”). When conclusions of higher level evidence conflict with lower level evidence, it does not mean one is “right” or “wrong”. It simply means you might have more reason to follow the higher level conclusion, but in fact the conclusion from lower levels may be more appropriate for the individual situation.
Clearly USRPT has not been studied at any higher levels. One reason is that designing a formal long term study would be nearly impossible. Yet the same thing could be said for nearly any training approach. The best evidence we have of USRPT is anecdote from word-of-mouth and a few scattered internet postings. In other words, the best evidence for USRPT itself lies within the bottom rung of the formal evidence hierarchy. But the lack of formal evidence is hardly a conclusive strike against any methods.
In the absence of direct evidence, the next step would be to evaluate the evidence used to support the claims. If we can’t evaluate the method itself (USRPT), we can at least evaluate the evidence relied upon. Key point is that quality rules over quantity. Now, Dr. Rushall has cited volumes of information, but that alone does not determine a scientific basis. That said, the main point is that without direct study of a particular intervention (of which there is none for USRPT in the peer reviewed published literature), the best we can do is make inferences…no different than any other method.
Conclusion on USRPT and Standards of Evidence
USRPT might be the best program out there. Or it might not be. What’s important for this discussion is to evaluate claims against agreed upon standards of evidence. Sometimes “because it works” is the best evidence…and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if any claims are made about being more scientific or more supported than other methods, it is important to test those claims against the standards of the research community.
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.
Much of this post is taken from a free publication which can be accessed here.
If you follow SwimSwam or Swimming World Magazine you’ve certainly noticed the great interest in ultra-short race pace training (USRPT) and elite age-group professional swimmer Michael Andrew. Posts on these topics receive massive traffic and great controversy regarding training and many other topics.
As written previously, here are the differences between the various forms of training:
HIT: High-intensity training (HIT) involves performing maximal efforts with long rest. For example, 25s sprint on 3:00.
HIIT: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) utilizes maximal effort training with short rest. For example, 8×25 @ :10 rest.
USRPT: Ultra short-rest race pace training (USRPT) uses a similar approach to HIIT, but provides slightly longer recovery for avoidance of fatigue and a larger emphasis on motor skill learning. 30×25@~:10 – :20 rest, emphasizing one biomechanical improvement.
Traditional: Higher volume training emphasizing a period of oxidative (aerobic) training at slower than race pace or sprint pace.
High-intensity training (HIT), such as 4-6×30 s all-out exercise bouts interspersed by 3–5 minutes of rest, has proved to be a potent stimulus for muscular and cardiovascular adaptation in untrained persons and athletes. In untrained participants, as little as three sessions of HIT per week for 6 weeks causes a ∼7% increase of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) and reduces the respiratory exchange ratio ∼0.01 at 65% of VO2 max.
The swimming community has been shifting towards high intensity training over the past 30 years. Over the last couple of years, ultra-short race pace training (USRPT; a branch of high-intensity interval training, but very different) has gained popularity and prompted questions regarding traditional swimming training. Unfortunately, few studies have compared long-term adaptations of the two types of training, especially in elite swimmers.
Mohr (2014) split sixty-two sedentary premenopausal women with mild to moderate arterial hypertension into a high-intensity training (HIT), a moderate training (MOD) group, or a control group (CON). This study suggested HIT results in greater fat loss and similar results in improvement. However, can we extrapolate this study to elite swimmers…of course not!
HIT Adaptations in Trained vs. Untrained
At the muscular level in untrained subjects HIT induces mitochondrial biogenesis, reduces lactate production and increases capacity for lipid oxidation. In trained subjects, skeletal muscle oxidative enzymatic potential is not always improved, but has been observed to increase after one week of HIT in elite distance runners. Thus, the mechanisms responsible for performance improvements with HIT may be different in untrained and trained subjects. There is evidence that HIT leads to a reduction in plasma K+ concentration and increased ability to work at high intensities. Reduced plasma K+ appears to result from increased skeletal muscle Na+, K+ pump.
Once again, you can’t extrapolate results from untrained or older women to elite swimmers. Luckily, there is a new study on elite swimmers!
High Intensity Training in Elite Swimmers
Kilen (2015) had forty-one healthy Danish national level senior elite swimmers (30 males and 11 females) were recruited for the study. Age: 20.0±2.7 years, height 179.9±6.5 cm and body mass 72.0±10.6 kg. The athletes had been training and competing on a regular basis for a minimum of 5 years, and they were swimming 8–16 hours per week with an average weekly distance of 20.000 m–60.000 m. The enrolled swimmers primarily competed in 50 m–200 m events.
An intervention period lasting 12 weeks was carried out in the competitive mid-season from February to May. A two-group parallel longitudinal study design was used. Subjects from four different teams were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (HIT group; n=20, 14 males and 6 females) or control group (CON group; n=21, 16 males and 5 females). From each team, swimmers were assigned to both HIT and CON groups. In the HIT group, regular training volume was reduced by 50% and the amount of high intensity training was more than doubled. In the CON group, training was continued as usual. Additional dry-land training with focus on core-stability was performed for approximately 20 minutes per day and strength training with focus on upper body strength was performed for up to 2 hours per week.
Before (PRE) and after (POST) the HIT intervention period, participants underwent a series of physiological evaluations: body composition analyses; determination of swimming economy and swimming peak oxygen uptake in a custom built swim flume; a pool based 5×200 m freestyle swim test with increasing speeds and blood analyses. Additionally, performance was evaluated by analyses of 100 m freestyle all-out and 200 m freestyle completed in competition.
Performance of 100 m all-out freestyle was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT (60.4±4.0 s vs. 60.3±4.0 s; n = 13) and CON (60.2±3.7 s vs. 60.6±3.8 s; n=15) group. Likewise, performance of 200 m freestyle in simulated competition was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT (133.2±6.4 s vs. 132.6±7.7 s; n=14) and CON (133.5±7.0 s vs 133.3±7.6 s; n=15) group. Also, average speed of a 200 m freestyle performed after four preceding 200 m swims with increasing speed was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT and CON group (1.48±0.10 m×s−1 vs. 1.50±0.08 m×s−1; n=15 and 1.52±0.09 m×s−1 vs. 1.52±0.09 m×s−1; n=16). Stroke- rate and length was similar (Trial: p=0.39; Group: p=0.52; Trial×Group: p=0.65) during the paced 200 m before and after the invention in both the HIT (29.9±2.3 strokes×min−1 vs. 29.8±2.3 strokes x min−1; n=15) and CON (29.4±3.3 strokes×min−1 vs. 29.0±3.6 strokes×min−1; n=16) group.
VO2 max determined during freestyle swimming with increasing speed in a flume was similar before and after the intervention in both the HIT and CON group. In contrast, VO2 max expressed relative to body weight was affected by the intervention with a decrease in HIT (55.7±7.2 ml O2×min−1×kg−1 vs. 52.7±7.0 m lO2×min−1×kg−1; n=14) and no significant difference in CON (55.0±5.9 ml O2×min−1×kg−1 vs. 53.8±6.4 ml O2×min−1×kg−1; n=13). For the HIT group (n=16) the increase did not reach statistical significance (15.4±1.6% vs. 16.3±1.6%). In the CON group (n=17) body fat percent increased from 13.9±1.5% to 14.9±1.5%. The other variables were the unchanged.
Conclusions on HIT for Swimmers
Clearly, much more research on HIT and swimming is needed. However, for elite swimmers, it suggests HIT is a possible method of improvement. It is likely many coaches already implement a form of HIT in their training, but questions will persist if it is the only method needed for improvement. Unfortunately, this study does not answer that question.
Some will suggest, that HIT worked in this study as it worked with elite swimmers and they knew how to “push themselves” harder. However, earlier work has suggest age-group junior triathletes (Zinner 2014), age-group swimmers (Sperlich 2010) and teenage swimmers ( also perform similarly with HIT compared to traditional training. Therefore, the claims many make that HIT is damaging to long term athletic developed seems unwarranted and purely anecdotal, as HIT throughout the swimming career could be more as effective on performance and perhaps more effective in reducing injuries and increasing enjoyment. Think about, less strokes, less shoulder stress, reduced injuries with 50% the volume. Now, volume isn’t the only factor in shoulder injuries, but multiple studies correlate swimming volume with shoulder injuries (albeit they didn’t look at swimming intensity, which may negate the reduced volume) (Sein 2010). Also, if a swimmer can have similar results with HIT as traditional training and enjoy it more, then why not let them try it? The zealousness of both HIT and traditional based camps is amusing, as neither group works for everyone, as the second figure shows, some swimmers had improvement with each approach. In order to know more, longer term studies analyzing HIT and traditional training, as well as different types of HIT would be beneficial. Also, studies which have a fully mature swimmers switch between HIT and traditional training would be greatly beneficial. Unfortunately, this study design is expensive, time consuming, and potentially limiting the swimmers potential of improvement (all the switching of programming).
Nonetheless, the major findings were that more than a doubling of high-intensity training (HIT) in combination with a 50% reduction of training volume for 12 weeks did not change swimming performance, swimming specific VO2max, swimming economy, blood metabolic markers or body composition as compared to a control group. How you take this information is up to the coaches, as they can run their own experiments with their swimmers.
By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the owner of COR, Strength Coach Consultant, Creator of the Swimmer’s Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.
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